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Home » Symphonic Services Division » Challenges and Opportunities

Challenges and Opportunities

  -  Director of Symphonic Electronic Media

We all work in environments where change is a constant part of the equation. But how does this affect the symphonic community? We see a considerable amount of turnover in management positions on an annual basis, we have changes to our orchestra committees in accordance with player association bylaws, and there are also changes to the local officers who represent us due to regular elections.

Dramatic changes took place during the pandemic as many employers reduced staff, which required a reorganization of existing employees, many of whom ended up doing the work of three people. Most orchestras have started to rebuild their staff, but with this significant gap of almost three years, a lot of new hires can’t rely on the institutional knowledge that normally gets passed from one departing employee to a new hire. This amount of disequilibrium can be a particular challenge when pursuing media projects. All participants need to be up to date on all steps necessary to see these projects through from start to finish. All it takes for the process to come undone is for one of the participants to lack the required knowledge.

What steps in this process are most affected? In the case of symphony, opera, and ballet orchestras, the first step is determining the correct agreement to use for the project. It isn’t always the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). A bit of experience paves the way toward understanding that. For non-IMA projects, the Symphonic Services Division (SSD) works with the AFM’s commercial recording department as we move through the steps necessary to bring those projects to fruition.

In an IMA project, there are several steps in the process. In the earliest phase of a multi-platform release project, the employer needs to share financial information as well as proposed licensing details with the committee as part of their evaluation. These are vital steps in the approval process. If the committee receives scant details, it can’t properly evaluate the project.

When this information is presented well in advance of the project, things tend to run relatively smoothly. If not presented in a timely fashion, the unique collaborative process in the IMA breaks down. This causes enormous frustration as committees are left scrambling to process whatever meager information they receive, in many cases, close to the date of the proposed recording. Some projects are rejected as a result.

Another area where we see problems due to the high rate of turnover, is in the processing of the paperwork required under all AFM media agreements. This is where an experienced local officer can step in and remind the employer of those obligations and deadlines. New officers require training, and we actively work with them to ensure they know what the obligations are for each media agreement the orchestra may work under.

The proper filing of B report forms is a required step in all our media agreements. This part of the process includes filing the forms that accompany the wage payments, pension contributions, as well as possible health and welfare payments. This too is an area greatly affected by the constant turnover of personnel. It has become a major problem. We all need to continue to step in (AFM staff, orchestra committees, and locals) to help the employers follow the correct procedures and understand what is required of them.

We recognize that this is an unusual time, and we want to be a resource to help each institution create systems that will help pave the way to smooth media operations. The AFM is always available to provide training for media agreements and help employers, committees, and locals with specific media projects. We also work with third-party producers for commercial projects. We are only a phone call, email, or zoom session away from assisting and supporting all our AFM symphony, opera, and ballet orchestras. For further information and assistance, I can be reached during business hours at and/or via cell phone at 646-269-1823.

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