This has been an intense summer and it’s only just begun. As I write these words, the nation is still recovering from the horrific attack that took place in mid-June at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The thoughts and prayers of musicians across New York City and beyond have been with the families, friends and victims. We were all touched in some way by this horrific tragedy. Violence, terror and hate are diseases that can only be conquered by love, solidarity, collective action and community support. In times like these we must unite and keep fighting for justice and equity for all. Three days after the shooting, a wonderful group of musicians – including many Local 802 members and Broadway actors – donated their time to create a benefit recording of the Hal David/Burt Bacharach song “What the World Needs Now is Love.” (See photos of the session here.)
While all of this was happening, preparation for the historic 100th AFM Convention of Delegates was underway. In my June column, I reported to you that the AFM had decided not to propose a dues increase this year, which was welcome news to musicians. The resolutions and recommendations to be voted on at the convention were printed in the May issue of International Musician, which can be accessed by members at www.afm.org. I urge everyone to take a look. This is also the convention that will determine who our AFM officers will be for the next three years. On a personal note, I want to wish my best to everyone who is willing to serve. I’ll report on the results of the election in my next column and also on the newly-adopted resolutions and recommendations that will guide our union going forward.
Another piece of work in progress has been our effort to lobby lawmakers in Albany as the legislative session wound down for the year. Our political director Chris Carroll has worked tirelessly to promote one bill that was good for musicians – and to oppose another bill that was bad for musicians. The “good” bill was a tax break to encourage more music recording all over New York. The “bad” bill threatens one of our most hard-won victories in New York state labor law: the establishment of the principle that professional musicians are considered employees (not independent contractors) when it comes to workers’ compensation. Chris gives an update on our efforts in his column.
REPORT FROM REYKJAVIK
In early June, I was honored to be an AFM delegate to the Congress of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM). The FIM Congress is akin to the AFM’s Convention of Delegates. Rules are voted on and enacted, and elections for the presidium and the executive committee are conducted. Performance rights for session musicians continued to be a main focus, as this is an issue that affects musicians on a global level. The fight for fair remuneration for internet streaming – whether interactive or non-interactive – continues. We are working with FIM on two very important issues that face musicians. The first is the ban on ivory and precious wood, of which many of our instruments are constructed. We need to find a way to make it easier to travel with our instruments – which brings me to the other issue: the right to carry our instruments on airplanes. We have accomplished a lot in that area, but it still not enough. Reports of flight attendants and pilots dictating whether or not an instrument can be brought on board are rampant. In some cases, musicians are prohibited from carrying on their instrument, even though it fits in the overhead compartment or under the seat. These are important issues that we hope to tackle together with FIM for the benefit of musicians worldwide.
I am pleased to report that AFM International President Ray Hair was elected to the FIM presidium. Alan Willaert, the AFM’s vice president from Canada, was elected to the FIM executive committee. It is important that we continue to strengthen our relationship with FIM. Our employers are global – and so musicians need to be as well.
As Allegro goes to press, the Broadway contract was close to being finalized and ratified. Naturally, I can’t report on the details until the musicians vote on it, so it will have to wait until the next issue. In the meantime, congratulations to the Broadway musicians who play in the show “Hamilton,” which won 11 Tonys this year (including Best Musical), after garnering a record-breaking 16 nominations. We also celebrate the musicians of “The Color Purple” (which won Best Revival) and “She Loves Me” (which won Best Scenic Design). As I look through the list of winners, it’s obvious that there are no losers. Every Broadway musical is a celebration of live music, and every show features Local 802 members playing our best.
In other Broadway news, the League has released its annual press release with end-of-season statistics for the 2015-2016 season. Total attendance reached over 13.3 million and Broadway shows yielded over $1.3 billion in grosses, the best attended and highest grossing season in Broadway recorded history. All new and continuing productions ran a total of 1,648 playing weeks, a record that shows this was Broadway’s healthiest season.
Average paid admission for the season was $103.11, which represents a decrease for the first time in recorded history. Last season’s average paid admission was $104.18. The 2015-2016 Broadway season concluded with attendance up 1.6 percent, grosses up 0.6 percent, and playing weeks up 1.4 percent. Broadway attendance in the 2015-2016 season topped those of the ten professional New York and New Jersey sports teams combined. Broadway surpassed the combined sports teams by over 2.7 million attendances.
During the season, 39 productions opened, which included 11 new musicals and five revivals.
OFF BROADWAY UPDATE
Local 802 recently achieved agreements with AMAS Musical Theatre and a production of “Bull Durham.” Any time you’re called to play musical theatre of any kind, please make a confidential call to our Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We can make sure you’re getting the wages and benefits you deserve.
OUR NEW MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS
We recently hosted labor movement activist, strategist and journalist Katie Unger at our June membership meeting. She led us through a presentation and discussion about anti-union lawsuits and legislation and how we can fight them. We then hosted a networking opportunity for musicians. This is all part of our effort to re-boot the Local 802 membership meetings. Let’s talk about the industry together and how we can strengthen the music community in New York City. Our final membership meeting of the year is on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. here at Local 802. Put it on your calendar now…see you there!
MARY WHITAKER UPDATE
As many know, Local 802 member Mary Whitaker was murdered on Aug. 20, 2014 at her home in Chautauqua, New York. She was only 61 when she was killed and she had been a member since 1976. Both defendants pled guilty, and their sentencing has finally been concluded. Both received long federal and state sentences. For some of us, this represents closure, although a long journey of healing still remains. We will always be a part of Mary’s community of friends and colleagues. Rest in peace, Mary.
I wish everyone a restful and peaceful summer, and I’ll see you again in these pages in our September issue.