Summer is here and there’s a lot to report this month. First of all, our article in the May issue about the American Symphony Orchestra and Bard College went viral, attracting the most views of any article we’ve published in recent memory. As you may recall, the article was about how Bard College has created a new student ensemble called OrchestraNOW. The problem is, this ensemble appears to be intentionally taking jobs away from the American Symphony Orchestra. This is another example of a student or “training” orchestra undercutting work from professional musicians, and it may indicate an unwelcome trend. It’s easy to believe that this is a conscious strategy by orchestra managers and boards. It appears that they are trying to get audiences used to the idea that cheaper amateur or student or community ensembles can replace professional musicians. We need to get this issue out in the open where we can fight back. One idea we’re considering is hosting a summit made up of representatives of major orchestras as well as reps from the various music schools. Please weigh in on this issue. To get the background, read the article “Replaced! What happens when a ‘training orchestra’ undercuts professional work,” by Tom Olcott.
Now for some better news. In early June, we announced a first-ever collective bargaining relationship with the venue 54 Below. This is our first contract with a major NYC nightclub, and it will provide union wages, benefits and protections to our many members who perform there. This agreement was a long time coming, and congratulations to everyone who helped us get there.
In other positive news, Local 802 is once again making a very significant investment to co-sponsor “Piano in the Park” at Bryant Park this summer, which lets passersby enjoy the sounds of live music. When it comes to live music, we put our money where our mouth is. See the complete schedule at www.BryantPark.org/plan-your-visit/piano.html.
Finally, congratulations to the musicians of “Fun Home,” which won this year’s Tony for best musical and also best original score, and to the musicians of “The King and I,” which won best revival of a musical. “An American in Paris” won best orchestrations, which includes the work of Local 802 member Don Sebesky and others. There really are no losers when it comes to the Tonys: congratulations to all Local 802 members who make the magic of live musical theatre.
BACK FROM BELGRADE
AFM President Ray Hair and I recently returned from Belgrade, where we took part in meetings of the Societies’ Council for the Collective Management of Performers’ Rights. As I have reported previously, many foreign collective management organizations (CMOs) collect performance rights money under the provisions of the Rome Convention and its successor treaties when U.S.-made content is consumed in their respective countries – but not all of the CMOs forward the remuneration to the U.S. artists and musicians who made the recordings.
The AFM has been aggressively pursuing fair remuneration for session musicians in the U.S. through the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund, which is the CMO in the U.S. that distributes to our musicians. In 2011, that fund collected just over $17 million. Four years later, in fiscal year 2015, the fund has collected just over $49 million and currently has more than 30 bilateral agreements with foreign collectives all around the world (with most of the agreements in Europe). The fund still collects 70 to 80 percent of its revenue from domestic sources – but foreign collections are steadily on the rise. In fact the audiovisual revenue this year from Spain alone topped $9 million. The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund will collect between $50 million and $60 million this fiscal year.
Having a presence at these conferences and meeting with the CMOs is integral to growing the distribution from foreign collections by negotiating more bilateral agreements. For more information, see www.SCAPR.org.
The case of the New York City Opera just took another strange turn. The New York Times has reported that the opera company stands to receive a bequest of millions of dollars from a benefactor who died in 2013. Because of this development, the question now on the table is whether or not NYCO will be selling off its assets – or instead reorganizing the company. There are currently two parties involved in the bankruptcy, each vying for an opportunity to take over NYCO. Both parties will have an opportunity to present a plan of reorganization, but the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan will make the final decision. Local 802’s position is that whoever wins final control of NYCO needs to pay musicians what they are owed and negotiate a fair contract for future performances.
We’ll keep you posted.
SCORING IN NYC
In early June, we co-hosted a program on the future of scoring and recording in NYC. In the last several decades, composers and musicians have faced shrinking music budgets, increased pressure for buyout contracts and offshoring of recording work. Recording studios in New York have been forced to close, and some of the world’s greatest musicians have found their jobs outsourced. We believe this trend can be reversed. At the forum, we talked about tax incentives to encourage studios to return, as well as the array of resources New York already has for film scoring. The panel of composers, contractors and other experts came from our own staff and musicians as well as the RMA, the Post NY Alliance, the Society for Composers and Lyricists, SonicScoop and others. There were two main take-away messages from the evening:
- Producers who record their film scores in NYC should be applauded. Other producers should be made aware of the advantages and tax breaks of doing scoring and post-production in NYC.
- Composers can earn union benefits by appearing on union contracts as music copyists, orchestrators or arrangers. Composers shouldn’t have to act as the employer: that’s the job of producers. For more details, contact the Local 802 Electronic Media Department at (212) 245-4802.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE OF ALLEGRO
As usual, we’ve got great content in this issue. Check out the following stories:
- The American Ballet Theatre celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. We interviewed members of the orchestra to get their favorite memories of playing with ABT.
- In his column this month, John O’Connor talks about the labor movement’s response to climate change, and why musicians (and everyone who cares about the future of the planet) should get involved.
- We have some great human interest stories this issue. Local 802 member Dave Roth contributed a story on the annual Broadway iPod drive to bring the healing power of music to Alzheimer’s patients, and why this is especially meaningful to him. Separately, we have a very inspiring story about a Local 802 member who teaches songwriting to prisoners, youth at risk and even expectant mothers.
- Our feature interview this month is with clarinetist John Moses, a Local 802 member since 1966. Read about his eclectic career in music.
- Each year, Broadway musicians play outside in a free show called “Stars in the Alley.” It’s a great way to promote live musical theatre.
- Harvey Mars writes about a new Supreme Court ruling that may protect songwriters, artists and anyone using avant-garde imagery.
BROADWAY NUMBERS ARE UP
The Broadway numbers are in for the 2014-2015 season, which began May 26, 2014 and ended May 24, 2015. During this time, 37 productions opened, which included 15 musicals (10 new, and five revivals). I’m happy to say that the report shows a very robust live musical theatre scene in NYC. The following information is from a press release by the Broadway League.
For the season, total attendances reached 13.104 million people, and Broadway shows yielded $1.365 billion in grosses, the best attended and highest grossing season in Broadway recorded history. All new and continuing productions ran a total of 1,626 playing weeks, a record that shows this was Broadway’s healthiest season. The season concluded with attendance up 7.3 percent, grosses up 7.6 percent and playing weeks up 8.7 percent.
Broadway attendance for the 2014-2015 season topped those of the ten professional New York and New Jersey sports teams combined. Broadway surpassed the combined sports teams by over 2.6 million attendances, which is the largest difference since 2005.
UNION UPDATES AND REPORTS
- At this June’s membership meeting, there was a presentation on the AFM pension fund with some very experienced voices, including AFM President Ray Hair; Maureen Kilkelly, pension fund administrator; Will Luebking, pension fund director of finance; Vinni LoPresti, pension fund director of benefits; and myself. One of the focal points of discussion was the legislation passed in 2014, called the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act. This law modifies the multiemployer rules governing pension plans to ensure that plans that are deeply troubled have tools at their disposal to enact remedial measures to remain solvent. Fortunately, the AFM pension plan is not facing insolvency and therefore not required to enact any of the available remedies as prescribed in the law.
- You can find three bylaw amendments that will be voted on at the Oct. 14 membership meeting. Please read them carefully; this is the only issue of Allegro in which they will appear (although they will remain online). The Executive Board has reported all three amendments favorably and supports their passage.
- Once again, we are in an election year for Local 802 officers. The official notice of elections appears in this issue.
- We would like to thank Tony Gorruso for his service to Local 802. Tony recently resigned from the Local 802 Trial Board after nearly six years of service. The Executive Board is contemplating an appointee to fill his vacancy. We will report as soon as a decision is reached as to whom his replacement will be.
- Local 802 recently achieved an agreement covering musicians performing in the Off Broadway production of “Clinton: The Musical” at the New World Stages. Those musicians will now earn union wages, benefits and protections. Remember, anytime you are called to play live musical theatre, even if it’s a reading or developmental production, please make a confidential call to the Local 802 theatre department at (212) 245-4802. Let us help you get the wages and benefits you deserve.
- A Canadian court recently ruled in a situation involving AFM Local 145 (Vancouver). Local 145 had claimed that the AFM bylaws were “unenforceable” under British Columbia labor law. Fortunately, the court decided otherwise and reinforced the AFM’s ability to oversee national contracts such as film scoring, sound recordings and videogames. This was a crucial ruling in support of the AFM’s mission to ensure fair standards for the use of electronic media across the U.S. and Canada.
REST IN PEACE, SUZANNE
There are many employees at Local 802 who work tirelessly behind the scenes for musicians. Many of these workers never get the spotlight, but our union couldn’t function without them. I’d like to offer our condolences on the passing of Suzanne Simonetti, who worked at Local 802 in various capacities since 2001. More recently, for the past nine years, Suzanne helped musicians with their health care through the Local 802 Musicians’ Health Fund. Suzanne died on June 4. We send our sympathy to Suzanne’s sister Rosemarie, brother John, sister-in-law Linda, nieces Dana and Nicole and all her family. Rest in peace.
REMINDER TO CONTRACTORS
We recently had a case of a major Broadway recording session that was not reported to the union in advance. Contractors: please remember that anytime you contract a recording session – including a Broadway cast album recording session – you should notify the union in advance. Call the Electronic Media Department at (212) 245-4802.
In our article in the May issue called “Alan Shulman and the Golden Age of Music in NYC,” we incorrectly identified Congressman John Rooney (1903-1975) as from the Bronx. He was from Brooklyn.