Scandia Symphony Becomes Signatory To AFM Phonograph Agreement

Shining A Light On Dark Recording Dates

Volume CI, No. 4April, 2001

David Lennon

On Feb. 22, at the conclusion of a Music Performance Trust Funds concert and just prior to what had been planned as an “off the books” recording session, Scandia Symphony became signatory to the AFM Phonograph Agreement.

Local 802 representatives attended the performance and spoke with the musicians afterward, informing them that, although the concert they had just performed was filed under the proper union contract, management had not yet signed an agreement for the recording session scheduled to take place in 30 minutes. Business reps remained available to answer any questions while 802 representatives met with management. Scandia Symphony is directed by Dorrit Matson. Approximately 20 minutes later, the union informed orchestra members that the proper contract was in place and that they were now working under the AFM Phonograph Agreement.

As a result, not only were proper wages and benefits secured for the musicians who performed that day, but all future recording sessions for the Scandia Symphony will be subject to the agreement’s terms and conditions.

Local 802’s intervention had the immediate effect of nearly doubling the musicians’ wages and providing health and pension benefits for the date, as well as additional wages and benefits that will be due should the recorded material be used commercially. However, it also raised many issues we all face in compelling employers to compensate professional musicians at area standard rates.

In this situation, musicians had been told they would receive $100 beyond the Trust Fund performance rate for the recording session. Some were told that these wages exceeded union scale, which was not the case.

The difficulty of earning a living in our business sometimes compels musicians to accept whatever dollar figure the employer offers to pay, or claims to be able to afford to pay. And members cannot, individually, fight these inequities. That is where the union should and must come in. But while many musicians expressed appreciation for 802’s intervention, some were disturbed that the union had come to the job site to press for the higher wages and benefits they were entitled to.

It should be noted that this employer was contacted by Local 802 prior to the engagement, but chose to ignore the call. None of the musicians hired for the date had contacted the union to alert us to the recording date.

In this case, an agreement was finally achieved with little difficulty. But certainly it would have been preferable to negotiate an agreement before the engagement, using less drastic options than visiting the job site. That is why Local 802 encourages members who are engaged for such work to call us confidentially, even anonymously, ahead of time.

The employer tried to treat half of the activities that occurred on the engagement as a “union date” and the other half as a “nonunion” date. The fact that he was already receiving Trust Fund monies for the portion of the date that was filed properly makes these actions all the more unacceptable.

Although even some of our most active members accept this sort of work on occasion, the union does not have the option of being “union” one minute and “nonunion” the next. Nor should we. Our members would be justifiably outraged if they learned that 802 was aware of such an engagement and did not make every effort to bring it under contract.

Ultimately, by securing this session under the AFM Phonograph Agreement, musicians’ wages were increased to $176.08 for a three-hour session, plus 10 percent pension and a $10 health benefits contribution. Additionally, for every 15 minutes of recorded product used commercially beyond the first 15 minutes, musicians will receive an additional payment of $176.08 plus benefits.

Our goal to bring all recording work under contract is achievable. But it will be a far more uphill battle to “shine a light on dark dates” if the union has to find the flashlight all by itself! We urge you to call Local 802 if you are asked to play a dark date. All calls will be treated with the utmost confidentiality.