The RMA stands up for musicians

Volume 116, No. 12December, 2016

Roger Blanc

Would you like to see more recording work in New York? If so, you’re not alone. The Recording Musicians Association is a nonprofit advocacy group for recording musicians that strives to benefit union recording musicians in both the United States and Canada.

Originally formed in New York City in 1969, RMA became a national organization in 1983 under New York-based leadership, and in 1987 achieved the official status of a player conference to the AFM. By the 1990s, RMA had become intimately involved in all aspects of collective bargaining negotiations for the national recording agreements its members worked under. Not only was RMA involvement accepted by AFM leadership, its rank-and-file representation was actively sought and welcomed at the bargaining table.

RECORDING, UNION STYLE: Local 802 musicians recently recorded the score to the 2016 Coen brothers' movie "Hail, Caesar" at the DiMenna Center under a union contract. Photo: Walter Karling.

RECORDING, UNION STYLE: Local 802 musicians recently recorded the score to the 2016 Coen brothers’ movie “Hail, Caesar” at the DiMenna Center under a union contract. Photo: Walter Karling.

RMA representatives continue to be involved in every aspect of AFM activities affecting recording musicians, ranging from contract negotiations to the education of its membership, the general public and elected officials. Some of RMA’s primary goals are to:

  1. Protect the rights and interests of its members through participation in all applicable AFM negotiations with the industry.
  2. Consult with union negotiators before, during and after all recording contract negotiations.
  3. Give members a unified voice within the AFM and its locals. This has been crucial at times when the views of union officials have differed from those of working recording musicians.
  4. Assist AFM leadership in adapting to today’s constantly changing recording business and new media environments. Whether analyzing the technicalities of a particular new technology or devising a broad strategy for addressing new markets, RMA plays an essential role.
  5. Encourage recording under union contracts by offering members and their potential employers accurate and easy-to-understand information regarding the various recording agreements and their associated AFM paperwork.

RMA continues to play a vital role in the constantly evolving union recording landscape. The various chapters play similar roles at the local level. Individual membership in RMA supports the organization’s work and helps ensure that each individual can potentially provide input into any AFM recording contract negotiation.

An ongoing activity of RMA is keeping the lines of communication open with our fellow player conferences: ICSOM, ROPA, OCSM and TMA. Staying in close contact helps ensure that our mutual interests are kept in sight, enabling us wherever possible to offer or request assistance as needed.

Another important focus has been on advocating for tax credits for recording work. This has been a long-term goal of both the RMA and the union. In recent years, our efforts have borne fruit in a variety of cities and states (including New York), taking the form of a variety of different credits, all of which encourage greater amounts of union recording.

RMA plays an ongoing role in educating recording musicians about the various union funds from which they may receive additional income for previously performed recording work, including the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, and the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund. This last fund, led by former RMA president Dennis Dreith, benefits from provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and is growing at an extremely impressive rate. (Local 802 president Tino Gagliardi was recently appointed a trustee of this fund.)

Copyright protection and intellectual property rights in the digital world are other areas that the RMA is increasingly involved in. RMA continues to provide insight to its members about this important topic, which takes place in a complex legal landscape.

Lastly, RMA continues to be active in its core function, providing useful input during the recent negotiations of AFM national recording agreements, most notably the successful renegotiation of the Live TV/Videotape agreement. As with all player conferences, RMA plays a vital role in the lives of union musicians, a role which is only made possible through the continuing support of its members.

To join the New York chapter of the RMA, start at or send an e-mail to Roger Blanc at

This article written by Roger Blanc on behalf of the RMA-NY board.