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September 11, 2019IM -
by Pat Varriale, AFM Electronic Media Services Division Director and Assistant to the President
It’s hard for me to believe, but, in October, I will be celebrating my 45th anniversary at the AFM—all of them in the Recording Department/Electronic Media Services Division. For a little perspective, when I was hired, Gerald Ford was in the White House. The AFM New York City office was located across town at 641 Lexington Avenue, and the Secretary-Treasurer’s Office was based in Newark, New Jersey, before merging with the New York Office in 1975 at 1500 Broadway. The West Coast office was a two-person “satellite” office. It’s difficult to try and capture all my experiences in this one article, but here is a sampling.
It all began when I answered an ad in the newspaper that simply stated: “Clerical assistance needed, knowledge of music helpful.” So I made an appointment and met with the legendary Bob Crothers who was executive assistant to then-President Hal C. Davis and head of what was then known as the Recording Department. I got the job and for the first three or so weeks I did nothing but sort session recording form B contracts (these contracts are now known as B Report Forms). In those days, they were different colors. I remember the B-4 (sound recordings) was green, the B-5 (demonstration recordings) blue, the B-6 (commercial announcements) yellow and the B-7 (motion pictures, TV films, live TV) pink. Was it tedious? I’ll say. But that helped me to get a grasp of which scales go to which recording agreements and which companies were signatory to our contracts. That and overseeing control of the signatories to our various agreements served as the foundation for my future at the AFM.
After my clerical “apprenticeship,” the real challenges began as a contract administrator. I was assigned to administer the Television and Radio Commercial Announcements (“Jingles”) Agreement and National Public Television Agreement. I was very fortunate that all of the agreements the Recording Department administered were far less complex at the time—there was no Internet, video games, satellite radio—and I was able to learn them starting at that level.
For instance, the jingle agreement had, for the most part, two rates—a national scale and a Single Market Advertiser rate, as well components for foreign use and Sideline (on camera) work. Through various rounds of negotiations, new provisions were added including two regional rates, two local rates, provisions for initial use, informational changes, non-broadcast, Internet, and All Media Use. For the public television agreement, it also included the task of overseeing the side letter for Children’s Television Workshop, which produced shows for Sesame Street.
That side letter had provisions in it that brought in a huge volume of payments to musicians for this widely popular show. One provision covered co-productions where music from the Sesame Street library would be licensed for use in foreign co-productions of the show. They would be used in countries throughout the world. We had a special rate for those co-productions and I remember one such grouping of co-productions that netted the band $360,000. That was amazing for that time. The 1970s marked the beginning of the “Pat and Pat” team. Pat Havey and I worked together for 30 years until his retirement in 2003. To this day we stay in touch.
In the 1980s, the West Coast office expanded and became a viable extension of the Recording Department. Dick Gabriel, who would later succeed Bob Crothers as head of the department, was brought on to begin building that office. The West Coast office administered all facets of the Basic Theatrical Motion Picture and Television Film Labor Agreements and handled the “new use” of sound recordings into motion pictures, TV films, and commercial announcements. And, with music videos becoming the rage at networks such as MTV and VH1, we negotiated with the Recording Industry the Video Promo Supplement. This brought compensation to musicians that were engaged for miming to the record tracks. As the 80s moved on, I became more directly involved with the Sound Recording Labor Agreement and the session reports for sound recording sessions (B-4 form) which is the blueprint for billing for New Use payments. I worked with the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund and the Music Performance Trust Fund. I also developed relationships with the Recording Industry representatives which helped tremendously in the administration and problem solving of the complex SRLA.
In 1981, I attended the first of many AFM conventions as a “runner” for Convention Coordinator Bob Crothers and Lew Mancini. Lew showed me the ropes during these early days. This gave me the opportunity to learn the inner workings of the AFM apart from electronic media. For each of the last two conventions, I have served as co-coordinator working with Ken Shirk and our talented crew to make sure that things ran smoothly.
As the 1990s came in, we began developing new agreements such as the Local Limited Pressing Agreement, the Made and Played Local Commercial Announcements Agreement, and the Bandstand Agreement (which became the Joint Venture Agreement), and negotiated low budget provisions into our Motion Picture, Television Film and Sound Recording Labor Agreements. We were also in the early stages of creating agreements for Internet projects as well as video games. These created significant employment opportunities for musicians. The personnel in the New York and West Coast offices grew to accommodate the increased workload.
The 2000s saw video games and Internet come to the forefront, creating new agreements that provided income streams for musicians. We developed a CD jacket initiative project where musician information from the liner notes is distributed to the locals where the sessions take place to see if the B-4 Forms are properly and completely filed. This initiative is still active and results in forms being filed after the fact, thus protecting the musicians’ product and improving our success rate for securing New Use payments because we had the B-4 forms confirming the participation of the musicians at the session(s).
In 2008, I was appointed as the first-ever assistant director in the EMSD. I remember I was home with the flu when the phone rang on a cold February day and it was Dick Gabriel letting me know of my promotion.
In 2010, Ray Hair led a new administration to the AFM. President Hair took a much more aggressive approach to the monitoring of our major agreements. In fact, some of the agreements had not been negotiated in years beyond their expiration and left musicians without pay increases—not to mention that violations of these agreements had previously been left unchallenged. As a result of the aggressive approach implemented by President Hair, lawsuits were filed against major film studios and the settlements that resulted netted close to $2 million for musicians.
In addition, the signatories to the film agreements began complying with the reporting provisions of our agreements. This added to our New Use and clips collections. Around 2011, the International Executive Board approved the Independent Film/Festival Film Agreement that brings in more work for musicians. The responsibility for billing and collecting Jingle New Use (sound recordings and motion picture scores licensed into commercial announcements) payments was transferred to the New York EMSD. Due to the aggressive and extensive research, our collections have more than tripled each year.
In January 2015, President Hair promoted me to the position of director of the EMSD. I was honored to be given a title once held by my mentors, Bob Crothers and Dick Gabriel, and I take great pride in continuing their work in representing recording musicians.
I also participated in the Officer Training Program that took place prior to AFM conferences, utilizing our “Demystifying the EMSD” PowerPoint presentation for local officers attending the program to work with our agreements.
Nowadays the challenges continue. We have an ongoing organizing initiative in place as we are determined to bring meaningful new media streaming residuals provisions into our film and live TV agreements as we follow consumption. And licensing has become a major function of this office. In addition to the improved reporting from the motion picture and TV film companies, we are receiving similar reports from the record labels as the result of provisions we negotiated into the Sound Recording Labor Agreement for low-fee traditional uses, non-traditional uses, mobile applications, foreign licensing, etc. These provisions have brought in significant and much-needed revenue to the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, the Music Performance Trust Fund, and the Pension Fund. We are monitoring it closely to ensure that the provisions are being followed properly.
With the complexities of our agreements, I am proud of the staff that takes great pride in making sure that recording musicians are represented to the utmost in administering the agreements and functions they oversee. I could not have asked for a greater set of folks.
It’s been a long ride with many invaluable experiences, and I am enjoying every bit of it. I have made many friends and formed relationships along the way. And yet at times it feels like it was only yesterday that I walked into the AFM for first time and started sorting B forms…