The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVII, No. 1January, 2007

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Local 802. Letters must be 300 words or less. 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 behalf of all the musicians who recorded the theme music to the CBS “Saturday Early Show” back in 1999, as well as Joel Beckerman (the composer and leader on the date), I would like to say thank you to Jay Schaffner and his staff for resolving this ongoing dispute between CBS and the musicians’ union.

It was due to the tireless effort and tenacity on Jay’s part that helped to recover over $173,000 in wages and penalties. I thank him (as always) for going the extra mile on behalf of the players.

–Jim Hynes


To the Editor:

When we walked into the Executive Board on Dec. 12 with a petition honoring member Jack Gale for all that he has done for Local 802 and union democracy, we expected an easy sell. After all, the nearly 250 signatures that we collected in just 48 hours came from members across a broad spectrum of political affiliations. What a pity some Executive Board members could not put aside their differences and do the right thing. Unlike our members, some union officers just don’t get it — that “reconciling differences” and “working together” are not just political rhetoric, but principles we should all live by. But don’t worry. The membership will honor Jack Gale, with or without the union administration. Stay tuned for details.

–Bruce Bonvissuto and Bob Haley

A response from Mary Landolfi and Bill Dennison: Executive Board member Jack Gale asked that the petitioners’ request to name the Local 802 building after him be withdrawn from consideration by the Executive Board. The incoming Executive Board intends to find an appropriate way to honor those long-serving members like Jack who have contributed to the union over many years.


To the Editor:

Trumpeted in the December Allegro, a “New Kind of Agreement for Recording Musicians” gives a group of unknown nonunion employers a better deal than those who sit down to bargain with us. The article specifically mentions giving up “back end payments” (though already non-existent) and “doubling.” Evidently, hiring one woodwind player to play multiple parts without added remuneration is desirable, while additionally creating a threat to the doubling component of our other agreements.

Following is a partial list of absent provisions:

  • No call length. Get a three-hour call, stay as long as needed, conflicting with next engagement — terrible for freelancers.
  • No overtime rate. No overtime rate until after eight hours as per New York state law.
  • No overdub payment. Instead of 20 strings, hire four and overdub five times, further legitimizing a problem prevalent in jingles and records.
  • No session cancellation notice required. Is it a week, 96 hours or on arrival at the studio?
  • No language stating when session payment is due. Are you paid next week, month, year?
  • No rest breaks specified. Other agreements: five minutes per hour for jingles, 10 minutes for film or 20 minutes per three hours for sound recording.
  • No lunch break. Currently half-hour minimum between sound recording sessions, hour between film/TV sessions. Perhaps hungry musicians play better.
  • No proof required that recording session be for video games. There is no prohibition on use of music for live venues, i.e. Broadway shows, ballets etc. Musicians called to do the “Lion King video game,” could in fact record all the cues for the “Lion King” Broadway show.

The IEB in its infinite wisdom has now “pragmatically” adopted two contradictory video game agreements.

–Michael Comins
The writer is a founding member of the RMA and CAC.

To The Editor:

Mr. Comins’ opinion (above) can be dismissed, out of hand, as “unconstructive criticism.”

To put it simply, it contains inaccuracies as to how this contract will play out in the real world. How he came to vote to approve the contract, despite these opinions, I’ll never know.

Unfortunately, Mr. Comins has found what he considers wrong with this situation, and vamps on it — incessantly. But what he does not do is try to provide a solution to the most pressing problem facing us: the significant decrease of employment for AFM musicians in the recording field in general, and in the video game market in particular.

The main reason for this is that some of the provisions in our contracts have truly priced us out of the market. As one contractor put it, “they [producers/developers] only use us when they have to.”

Considering that the video game market is truly revolutionizing entertainment, for the AFM to continue to do business as it has — with virtually no participation in the market — will prove disastrous for the AFM.

Mr. Comins displays far more of a fondness for “phonebook size” contracts than for the musicians those contracts are supposed to serve.

Indeed, it is sentiments like that, which prompt a refusal to adjust to the changes in the market, that are in part responsible for us adopting a contract like this one, with provisions missing that we would prefer to have.

To put it another way, Mr. Comins might as well be trying to sell gasoline for $4 a gallon.

–David G. Weiss

To the Editor:

Mike Comins’ letter is very interesting, since he was present at the various meetings of the Recording Musicians Committee that discussed the game music proposal.

In fact Mike voted for the proposal at the meeting where it was adopted.

Mike was free to raise his “criticisms” in the committee, and it would have shaped the committee’s discussion.

However he chose not to do so for whatever reasons.

–Jay Schaffner