Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.
As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.
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Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.
November 6, 2015IM -
Whether you are a concertmaster of a symphony orchestra, a touring musical theatre conductor, or a first-call studio trumpet player, you may enjoy the opportunity to negotiate wages or other “perks” that are above and beyond union scale minimum terms and conditions. Here’s a quick guide to ensuring your overscale deal works for you, not against you.
The most straightforward overscale deal comes with no strings, and is simply a fixed additional amount paid on top of the minimum wages. It is inclusive of no other potential fees. In this model, an in-demand drummer paid $100 more than the minimum performance scale, or a star cellist commanding double scale on a recording date, are each paid above scale solely for their exceptional artistry. If there are other incidental payments, for example, if a performance goes overtime, these are paid in addition to the negotiated overscale amount. This “fixed” model is clean and straightforward, and therefore the most ideal.
However, some overscale deals are variable. In these overscale deals, the overscale is structured to build in certain incidental fees or work that may occur. For example, it is common for a touring theatre conductor’s overscale to include some rehearsal hours. Additional unplanned-for expenses may also be built into the overscale, such as possible travel penalties, or the overtime referenced above. In this case, employees are being paid their contractual minimums for all services, including these incidental penalties and fees, but the overscale amount is effectively being reduced to cover the cost of these events. For example, if a lead trumpet player is making $200 per week in overscale, and there are overtime penalties that total $45 in that same week, then our lead trumpet player’s overscale would be $155 for this week, in this variable overscale model. These variable overscale deals are not prohibited, so long as the employee is never being paid less than the minimum terms and conditions guaranteed by the contract.
While building in certain tasks or fees can give a musician more leverage in negotiating an overscale arrangement, it is crucial to clearly define what is included—and what is not. As stated, the variable overscale deal cannot be structured in a way that results in less than the minimum union terms and conditions. Can a weekly overscale cover a few hours of rehearsal per week, if needed? Yes, assuming the overscale amount is equal to or more than what the contractual rehearsal hours would be. Can an overscale cover “any and all” rehearsals needed? Absolutely not—it might result in the musician being paid less than what the contract minimums require. For example, if the overscale is equal to or more that the cost of five rehearsal hours per week, an employer may ask for “up to five hours of rehearsal per week” in negotiating the variable overscale. But the employer may not ask for “up to six hours of rehearsal per week” in this same case, since the payments due for the rehearsal hours total more than the overscale amount.
Neither the musician nor the employer may agree to an overscale framework that violates a collective bargaining agreement, or local union scales and conditions. For example, an employer may not pay an overscale amount in lieu of a contract’s health and welfare or pension payment. Also, an employer may not include potential revenue from other work or contract sources. For example, performance overscale may not cover payments that are due for separate media work, such as recordings, commercials, or digitally streamed or downloaded content. These examples all fall under the jurisdiction of AFM media contracts, and are therefore treated as separate employment events.
The AFM’s Short Engagement Touring Musicals Agreement contains a revenue-sharing component, called “overage,” which is tied to some theatrical overscale deals. The same rules apply—overscale amounts cannot replace a weekly overage due, but overage can—with care and scrutiny—be part of a variable overscale deal. It is best to contact the AFM Touring, Theatre, Booking and Immigration Division directly if overage is being considered in an overscale deal.
The best course is to be as specific as possible when including anything in the overscale deal. “Up to and including ___ rehearsal hours” is preferable to “any and all rehearsals” or “rehearsals, as needed,” phrases which are open-ended and unquantifiable.
When in doubt, call the union—we are here to help! Also, remember to send a copy of your personal services contract to the appropriate national or local union representative.