As you can see from our cover story, our Justice for Jazz Artists Campaign recently entered new territory. Up until now, we’ve confined our protests to the sites of the various jazz clubs. But due to limited response from the employers, we decided to ratchet up the pressure a notch. Musicians and union activists visited the home address of one of the owners of the Blue Note and staged a musical demonstration outside of his townhouse on the Upper East Side. This is just the beginning. In other news, our campaign has recently been endorsed publicly by Lakecia Benjamin, Bobby Sanabria, Harold Mabern, Roy Campbell, Gaudencio Thiago de Mello, Andrew Lamb, Ron Jackson and “Sweet” Sue Terry. To those musicians, we say thank you and welcome to the campaign! A note to the jazz club owners: return our calls and meet with us now. See more on page 8.
LABOR HISTORY MONTH
May is Labor History Month, and our annual calendar of Labor History events appears here. This year we are commemorating the 100th anniversaries of three historic events in the history of American labor: the silk weavers’ strike in Paterson, New Jersey; the Italian Hall disaster in Michigan; and the strike that resulted in the Ludlow Massacre. Because mainstream America often tries to wipe out the history of labor struggles, these stories may be new to you.
What do any of these have to do with music? I urge you to read John O’Connor’s essay and learn how music and art have actually kept these stories alive. Reading about past labor struggles gives us inspiration and strength in our own struggles today, and can help us remember that music and art don’t just entertain – they’re also a life force that can help repair the world.
Another beacon of labor culture was union songwriter and activist Joe Hill (1879-1915). Joe Hill may be the most famous singer-songwriter you’ve never heard of, but a new book about him sheds light on his legacy and how he gave hope and courage to workers everywhere through his music. See our story in this issue, where we also reprint the music and lyrics to one of Joe Hill’s most famous songs: “The Preacher and the Slave.”
Also, in the spirit of labor history, we’re offering up a history of our own Local 1000, the traveling singer-songwriter local of the AFM. Local 1000’s history is intertwined with an event now known as the Great Labor Arts Exchange, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Click here for the story.
Finally, as Allegro goes to press, we’ve learned that workers at the Guitar Center music instrument store have demanded union recognition. Those workers are protesting an unfair pay structure. We support them in their demands; please see their petition on our Facebook page, at www.Facebook.com/Local802AFM. The next issue of Allegro will feature a full story on their campaign.
“THE RITE OF SPRING” AT 100
We celebrate the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” with several humorous and poignant essays written by our members (look for the articles with the subtitle Reflections of “Rite of Spring” at 100 in this issue). Once you play the piece, you never forget its emotional impact. On a personal level, the few times I had the opportunity to perform the work, it was uplifting, enlightening and challenging. It was also humiliating to a certain degree. I don’t mean the kind of humiliation that is meant to demean, but rather the kind that acknowledges that there is still so much to learn about how we express ourselves musically through these types of great works. Stravinsky knew how to take the compositional technique required to express himself through his music to that higher level of inspiration and communication.
Unfortunately, I have to also mention one other thing. It makes no sense that such an incredible ballet as “The Rite of Spring” could ever be performed to canned music. But Australian producer Baz Luhrmann is planning to do just that, later this year – at City Center of all places! This is just another example of ballet producers depriving audiences of the fire and spontaneity of a live orchestra, just to fatten their balance sheets. Stay tuned for more information.
“BAND ROOM” AT 30
Another birthday we’re celebrating this month is the 30th anniversary of Bill Crow’s popular Allegro column “The Band Room.” To honor this occasion, Bill is revisiting his very first column. The stories and jokes from 30 years ago are just as funny and fresh now as they were then.
Adam Witkowski has joined the Local 802 Organizing Department as our newest business rep. After growing up in a musical family, Adam began playing drums at the age of 12, guitar at 15, and has been playing regularly up and down the east coast ever since. After graduating from Vermont’s Johnson State College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance, he took some time to explore his interest in politics by becoming a field organizer for the 2008 Obama campaign. After Obama’s victory, Adam returned to Vermont to seek work as a freelance performer. While there, he was employed as a community support director, working with at-risk youth and their families in rural Vermont. In the fall of 2011, Adam found himself in Asheville, NC, performing as a freelance musician. He was there until last September, when he was hired by Local 802 to use his organizing skills for the benefit of working musicians in the single engagement and club date fields. Adam can be reached at (212) 245-4802 ext. 157 or at Awitkowski@Local802afm.org.
COMPOSERS: LISTEN UP!
AFM President Ray Hair recently chaired a meeting for T.V. and theatrical film composers here at Local 802. Yanna Collins, executive director of the New York Post Production Alliance was a featured presenter. We talked about how the New York State tax incentive for post-production works for composers. Recording Vice President John O’Connor led a discussion about the union’s strategy to bring more New York film work under AFM agreements, and what this means for composers as well as for recording musicians.
Finally, Ray and I moderated a discussion about the AFM’s Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF). Surprisingly, despite the fact that the Fund has been around so long, there are still many misconceptions among musicians and producers on just how the agreement works and what the actual payment obligations to the FMSMF are. We continually hear the word “buyout” as the solution to all of our woes regarding recording under this agreement, yet few seem to fully recognize that the payment structure in the agreement can be less burdensome than a buyout.
First of all, let’s take a look at what a secondary market is. In the case of motion pictures and TV film, secondary markets are the sales of DVD’s in the home DVD market as well as the downloading of DVD’s via iTunes or the rental or streaming of movies on such subscription services as Netflix. It also includes cable TV fees, free TV release and in-flight licenses when movies are shown on airplanes.
The money distributed to the musicians that participate in the FMSMF is based solely on the distributor’s gross revenue for the sale of the motion picture or TV film in the secondary markets as described above. That means that the residual payment obligation is determined by the success of the movie beyond theatrical release. If the production is a hit, and the producer brings in this additional income, the musicians who performed on that movie get a good payment. If it’s not a hit, then…not so much.
Here’s an example: If the distributor of a motion picture or TV film makes $1 million from DVD’s, then the residual payment to all the musicians combined is less than $2,000. The contribution rate is 1 percent of 20 percent of the distributor’s gross (or 0.2 percent), from which they can deduct foreign taxes and other costs. The bottom line is that the payments are not triggered unless the producer has enjoyed significant success with the film. Even then, all of the musicians share just 1 percent of the producer’s net. A higher initial scale (or buyout) would drive up the up-front cost for every producer, large or small, thereby discouraging them from filing an AFM contract in the first place.
Here’s another take-away message to composers: if you get a job to write music, please remember that it pays to do the recording in New York. Tell your producer or music supervisor that there are tax breaks available in New York. Hire New York musicians. Make it union. We can help with all the details. Call (212) 245-4802 and ask for the president’s office.
This issue contains the financial reports for Local 802 for the period Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2012. I am pleased to report that the news is good: Local 802 made a gain of $261,591 last year. We are on very stable ground, which is no small feat for a union during a recession. I thank all of the Local 802 members and staff who contribute to making this a vibrant and prosperous organization. You can read the audited reports in the printed version of Allegro, and the reports by Financial Vice President Tom Olcott and Controller Cathy Camiolo.
Local 802 has endorsed John Duane for City Council (district 19) and Antonio Reynoso for City Council (district 34). For information on the Local 802 endorsement process or how to get involved in political campaigns, please contact my assistant K.C. Boyle at Kboyle@Local802afm.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.
As some of you know, Local 802 has decided to turn over delinquent work dues bills to a collection agency. If you owe the union work dues, why risk your credit rating? To see how much work dues you owe the union and to pay over the phone with a credit card, call Avelon Ramnath at (212) 245-4802, ext. 128.
RECORDING SALES NUDGE UP
The New York Times reported in February that global sales of recorded music rose last year for the first time since 1999. The increase was tiny – only 0.3 percent – but we may hope this to be the beginning of a turnaround. Digital sales of music are the new business model, and the union must continue to make sure that musicians get their fair share.
Also in recording news, the AFM has renewed its fight for performance royalties for musicians when their music is heard on AM/FM radio. For more information see www.MusicFirstCoalition.org.
REST IN PEACE, BILL WHITED
Pianist, arranger and copyist Bill Whited, 76, died on March 15. He had been a Local 802 member since 1968. I had a few opportunities to play with Bill in the Club Room over the years and he will be missed. His arrangements were some of the best I’ve been lucky enough to read. I know I’m not alone when I say that the Club Room on Wednesdays just won’t be the same.
Let me finish on a light note. It’s spring, and it’s ball season. Thanks to increased interest, Local 802 is now sponsoring two softball teams. You can watch our teams in action Mondays at noon and 2 p.m. at the Heckscher ballfields in Central Park (enter at 62nd Street and Central Park West). Come out, enjoy the beautiful weather, and support our teams! If you’re interested in joining, there’s still time. Contact Clint Sharman at Clint@TromboneMan.com or (917) 440-5566.
In the April issue on the letters page, the name of Henry Foner’s band was incorrectly printed as “Suspended Spring.” The band was actually named “Suspended Swing.”
Also in the April issue, we neglected to credit the photographer of the photos of Lakecia Benjamin. The photographer is Elizabeth Leitzell.