The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CIV, No. 5May, 2004

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The views expressed here do not express the views of Local 802. Please keep all letters to 300 words and send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Elsila, the editor, at


To the Editor:

On April 1, the National Labor Relations Board properly ruled against Real Time Music Solutions. I would like to add the following.

You really couldn’t have made this up. Here we had a company, Real Time Music Solutions, filing a complaint against Local 802 and the Opera Company of Brooklyn, complaining that the Opera Company was not buying its product.

I think the problem here is that the two Ph.D.’s who are the principals of Real Time Music missed the portion of their high school civics class that teaches about the U.S. Constitution. Our constitution guarantees everyone in this country freedom of choice. It the customers themselves who are requiring and stating their preference for live music, as opposed to the canned music from a system of synthesizers. Music and theatre companies everywhere exist only to serve their customers, and that is certainly what Local 802 and their members are doing and will continue to do. The Constitution permits and guarantees all interested parties that right.

So, keep on keeping on. Thank you.

–Bruce Lloyd


To the Editor:

I read with interest Daniel Rubin’s article “How ‘Sharing’ Music Hurts Real Musicians’” in the April issue of Allegro. (Allegro had reprinted this article, with permission, from the Philadelphia Inquirer.)

I read about the lack of sales of Megan Taylor’s CD, yet nowhere in the article does it explain how Taylor was “hurt” or took a financial loss because of lack of CD sales. I cannot believe that Taylor was depending on income from the sales of her CD, since a budding artist like her would not receive royalties from the sales of her CD.

I’d like to hear how downloading has actually hurt Taylor’s career, given the free articles and PR she has generated from her misdirected efforts. I did read a lot of hyperbole and innuendo, but no specifics.

Perhaps an article on the flow of money in the record industry might be really useful to musicians, so that they can really understand where the money is going and the role that file sharing plays in that model.

For instance, check out a story in the New York Times by John Schwartz that appeared on April 5. The story, “A Heretical View of File Sharing,” reports that downloading does not hurt record sales.

It is ironic that Local 802 and the AFM are defending a system that other musicians are putting down. For example, turn the page in the same issue of Allegro and see Don Henley’s piece, “Record Industry is Killing Creativity.”

–Michael Drapkin


To the Editor:

On March 10, the New York Times reported that, once again, the U.S. is meddling in Venezuela — at the expense of taxpayers and union members.

The article stated that U.S. tax dollars are contributing to the recall effort of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Even more disturbing to union members, the article also reported that the AFL-CIO is funneling money to the same cause! But this is not the first time this has happened.

In April 2002, the Times reported a similar story. The Times wrote that the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity gave $154,377 to “assist the main Venezuelan labor union in advancing labor rights.”

The Times noted that this union led the work stoppages that galvanized the opposition to Chavez. The union’s leader, Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who briefly replaced Chavez during the bloody, life-costing coup. The article ended up causing much embarrassment for the AFL-CIO.

Venezuela also came up in last month’s Allegro, where a member wrote a letter about police brutality against a cellist in Caracas. Examples of police brutality are not unknown even in our own nation. But even if President Chavez is waging a campaign of violence against his opposition — which was never the given reason for a recall — it is for Venezuelans to sort out what to do without outside unlawful secret funding from our corporate-dominated government.

The AFL-CIO would do better to fund populist leaders in the first place, but openly. This would be better for workers in South America and Central America — and for workers here in the U.S., too.

I hope that 802 members will express disagreement with our AFL-CIO participation in this undemocratic perfidy, and call their senator and representative about this secret underhanded use of tax money.

–Henry Nowak


To the Editor:

Bill Moriarity threw down the gauntlet for the new administration in his interview in the January Allegro when he (correctly) identified the developing new technology as one of the major challenges facing our union.

This is an area where the union, particularly the AFM, has failed repeatedly in the past.

From the inception of phonograph records, radio and sound films in the early days, and television after World War II, the Federation has a miserable record of mishandling the new advances in automation technology. Employment and salary for musicians was lost unnecessarily in each of those instances.

Today, with computers, synthesizers, virtual orchestra machines and who knows what else, it is even more important for those who run the union to be informed and current on the new developments that can seriously affect our employment opportunities.

This means not only knowing that these things exist as early as possible, but understanding how they operate and being able to evaluate their potential threat.

Clever musicians will always find new artistic uses for the new devices but unscrupulous employers will also try to use them to reduce their payrolls at the expense of the musician.

Having genuine knowledge never hurt anyone but the lack of it can get us killed.

–Murray Rothstein