Work For Free? Not!

802 makes good on recording contract for New School students

Volume CVIII, No. 2February, 2008

Todd Bryant Weeks

Twenty-four-year-old Colin Dean is an 802 member, jazz bassist, bandleader, composer, and a recent graduate of the New School’s Jazz and Contemporary Music program. And now he can add one more title to that list of accomplishments: Advocate for Fair and Just Treatment for Jazz Musicians.

Dean, who graduated from the New School in 2006, stepped up to the plate along with a group of other student performers who were being denied compensation for a session they completed for the New School, which was released by EMI Records. The January 2006 date, a collaborative effort between New School students and faculty, yielded an arrangement of the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World,” seemingly intended for the winter holiday market. Dean and his peers were given no information as to how the music would be used, let alone marketed, and no contracts were ever presented. The recording was apparently to be entered in a competition. In November 2006, a CD entitled “Universidad Navidena” appeared on the EMI subsidiary, EMI Televisa Music — and the track was included. None of the students who participated in the session were ever informed of the release. Needless to say, no one was paid.

Ten months later, Lenart Krecic, who was also a New School student at the time, was trolling on the Internet, and he found the CD for sale on “My arrangement of ‘Joy to the World’ was there on the Web page as a sample track for the CD,” remembers Krecic. “I listened to it in a state of shock.”

Dean approached the New School Administration who were “very apologetic,” but seemed unable to take any action to help their students get paid. “They put us in touch with their legal department,” says Dean, “who told us that this was an educational recording and that therefore no one would be compensated.” The students were not happy with that response. “We made the recordings during winter break,” Dean says, “there was no class whatsoever associated with the work we did.”

Krecic and Dean had been through a class taught by New School instructor Jimmy Owens, “Business Aspects of the Music Industry.” Owens is co-chair of Local 802’s Jazz Advisory Committee and is that committee’s liaison to the union’s Executive Board. The students asked Owens about the issue and he suggested they contact Local 802’s Recording Department. It was verified that EMI was an AFM signatory and that the collective bargaining agreement between EMI and the AFM trumped any agreement — or lack thereof — that the New School had with its students. “The New School even went as far as to ask us to sign a release,” remembers New School jazz major Emanuel Harrold, who played drums on the date. “They were apparently trying to find a way to pay us. But what we found out was that going through 802 was much better for us in the long run.”

802 Recording Department Supervisor Jay Schaffner got on the case, and after much back and forth between EMI and the New School, EMI eventually agreed to cut checks totaling $7,419.74. Pension and HBP contributions raised the payment to $8,484.72.

Dean credits Jimmy Owens for teaching the students the nuts and bolts of the music business. “The musicians on the session,” Dean says, “knew that what was going on was wrong. It was obvious that the New School administration was not really on top of the rules governing recording — particularly in regard to contracts. We all learned something in the end.”

But what did the students take away?

“Now I know that you should be wary of anybody who doesn’t come forward with a contract,” says Dean. “With [the recording industry’s] teams of lawyers and all the capital that they command, the deck is always stacked against musicians from the onset.”

Is Dean already jaded at the ripe old age of 24?

“No,” he says, smiling, “I’m just trying to get my music heard. And get paid for my work. Just like anybody else.”