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Home » Recent News » Former AFM Director Dick Gabriel (1940-2015), A True Friend to Recording Musicians

Former AFM Director Dick Gabriel (1940-2015), A True Friend to Recording Musicians


Former AFM Director of Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) and Assistant to the President Dick Gabriel passed away at the end of November. Gabriel had retired from the AFM in 2014 after more than 35 years of service. He first worked for Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and then  the Federation, in a variety of capacities.

An accomplished professional musician, Gabriel brought his skills to the AFM’s West Coast Office in 1980. From the then two-person operation, he built that office into the powerhouse it is today, including developing the New Use Department, which bills more than $4 million annually. Gabriel was especially proud of this achievement because it greatly benefited musicians whose previously recorded materials were used for different purposes.

In late 1985, Gabriel took over as head of the AFM’s Recording Department when Bob Crothers retired. Gabriel participated in numerous EMSD contract negotiations and projects over the years.

He had a knack for spotting talent and he encouraged people fortunate enough to work with him to grow and take on the complex and daunting responsibilities of the EMSD. He was a skilled negotiator, able to analyze a project and determine what could be done to make it work, without undermining the standards we achieved over the years.

“Dick was unassuming and patient with everyone, with a knack for finding the way to fit a square peg into a round hole. I’m not sure I ever truly appreciated the depth of his knowledge and history of the AFM until I became vice president and started working with him on a regular basis. We lost one of the good guys,” says AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife.

Alongside six AFM presidents, Gabriel built a stellar reputation in his interaction with colleagues, local officers, staff, player conference representatives, industry representatives, labor attorneys, and most of all, musicians. His unique skill as a problem solver created employment and payment opportunities for our members.

Gabriel was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of AFM contracts, electronic media history, and people. Perhaps his greatest strength was his lifelong commitment to keeping his door open to all working musicians and making their lives better.

Aside from his work in the office, Gabriel participated at trade shows and music conferences, where he patiently counseled young musicians on the virtues of AFM membership and protecting their recorded products. He always felt it important to reach out to musicians to explain the importance of tending to the business side of their craft. After spending the entire day at a booth and on panels, where his voice would become noticeably hoarse, he still found the energy to go out to the places where the young musicians were performing to support their efforts.

Ironically, when Gabriel first hit the trade show circuit the AFM was not well-received; in fact, we were shunned. But, before long, he turned that around and we were not only in demand at the booth, but on panels and at other conferences as well.

Gabriel was a mentor to many. He had a passion for representing and helping musicians, especially recording musicians. The AFM, the EMSD, and musicians across the country owe a great deal to Gabriel for his great work, dedication, and the sharing of his wealth of knowledge. Recording musicians lost a true friend in Dick Gabriel.

He was passionate in the way he looked out for their interests.
“I have known Dick Gabriel for more than 35 years, witnessing first-hand his sincere dedication and tireless efforts to better the lives of recording musicians. He was a treasured friend and devoted family man,” states Pat Varriale, EMSD director/assistant to the president.

“Dick Gabriel was one of the first Federation staffers that I met following my election as President Local 72 (Fort Worth, TX),” recalls AFM President Ray Hair. “He was always there from the very beginning to help me understand the Federation’s complex media agreements. Dick provided a world of knowledge. Every musician who has ever recorded under an AFM agreement owes Dick Gabriel a debt of gratitude.”

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