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Home » Member Profiles » Patrick Varriale: A Legacy of Dedication to Electronic Media Services

Patrick Varriale: A Legacy of Dedication to Electronic Media Services


Remembering Pat Varriale, AFM Electronic Media Services Division Director and Assistant to the President

We tragically said goodbye to AFM Electronic Media Services Director Patrick Varriale who died suddenly on May 13.

If you knew Pat Varriale, you knew of his deep love and dedication to the AFM, its member musicians, and his colleagues. He never missed an opportunity to recognize those who worked with him and looked out for the cause of recording musicians. The following article written by Varriale on the occasion of his 45th anniversary with the AFM (originally published in the September 2019 International Musician). It details his long career and demonstrates his commitment to the AFM. For nearly 50 years, he was dedicated to negotiating recording agreements and, most of all, ensuring recording musicians were paid fairly.

My Years in the American Federation of Musicians Office

by Pat Varriale, AFM Electronic Media Services Division Director and Assistant to the President

It’s hard for me to believe, but, in October [2019], I will celebrate 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 1501 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, nonbroadcast, 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 (SRLA) 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 coordinators 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 [Assistant to the President] 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 AFM 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.

Remembering Pat …

“Pat had been a valued member of our team since he was first hired in October 1974 into what was then known as the recording department by Bob Crothers. Throughout his career with the Federation, Pat worked to improve the lives of musicians throughout the US and Canada. There are hundreds of thousands of musicians who do not know Pat by name, but his work enabled them to receive the money they deserved for their electronic media recordings and performances. His decades of dedication, diligence, care, determination, and doggedness to protect our members and get them paid was unmatched. We are indebted to his wife Patricia and son Nick, who shared Pat with us for nearly 50 years. We are all better for it. We will all miss him more than words can express.”­

—Ray Hair, AFM International President

“Pat was at the heart of the AFM family. Over the past nearly 50 years, almost everyone across the Federation came to know Pat as a tireless advocate for musicians. Often arriving first in the New York office (hours before others) and the last to leave, Pat had a work ethic that was unequaled. He understood the importance of building relationships with members, local officers, and employers alike. His comprehensive knowledge of electronic media contracts and his understanding of the negotiating history gave him unquestioned credibility. Pat’s avuncular nature often smoothed the way with employers avoiding confrontations that, handled differently, could have otherwise created an impediment to achieving an amicable resolution. Soft spoken but determined, Pat often achieved the desired results with the least amount of fanfare. He is deeply missed, and his passing has left a hole in our hearts.”

­—Jay Blumenthal, AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

“What started out in 1990 as an even-tempered voice on the other end of the phone, calming me down from my panic-stricken exasperation over trying to understand a media agreement, quickly evolved into respect and admiration for not only the knowledge base, but for Pat Varriale the person. While he had already been with the AFM for 20-something years by then, he never displayed any impatience or gave the impression I was a bother. Rather, he seemed genuinely encouraged that someone was taking an interest in his world. And it was his world, indeed—the gatekeeper for the electronic media division for half a century. To say he will be missed is an understatement since we have lost someone who not only lived and breathed AFM, but was a problem-solver, mess-fixer, information source, mentor, exceptional human being, and a dear friend.”

—Alan Willaert, AFM Vice-President from Canada

“There truly aren’t enough words to describe the impact that Pat Varriale had on my life. From the days when I started as an administrative assistant working at Local 802 through my time at the Federation as his assistant director, Pat was not just a consummate professional, but also the best mentor, guide, and supervisor you could ask for. His hard work and dedication shone through in everything he did, but at the same time, his positive attitude, sense of humor, and, let’s face it, love of a good pun made him an absolute delight to work with. We are all better for having known him. They don’t make them like Pat anymore, but his legacy will be carried forward with the AFM forever.”

—John K. Painting, AFM Electronic Media Services Division Assistant Director

“The first full conversation I had with Pat was upon the retirement of Pat Havey; I called Pat V. to ask for a little biographical background for a thank you letter we were preparing for Pat H. Pat V’s response was surprising and powerfully emotional and caring of his longtime colleague; right then I knew I was talking with a deeply compassionate human being. Pat’s iron dedication to his work and his sweet gentleness towards all were combined into a rare, decent, and completely authentic person. Recording musicians have lost a friend—and so have I.”

­—Marc Sazer, President, Recording Musicians Association and AFM Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) Vice President

“I first met Pat in the early 2000s when I was a Local 257 (Nashville, TN) executive board member and president of Recording Musicians Association (RMA) Nashville. He was an invaluable help to the AFM and Local 257 as we navigated through the many challenging areas in our business. Pat was a problem solver par excellence, and did so much for so many, with no ego or agenda attached. Pat earned my respect and admiration in every way possible. We are all better off for having known him, and so are the many thousands of AFM members he has helped over the years. I could never thank him enough for all he did for our members, and all that he taught me, both directly and by example.”

—Dave Pomeroy, International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257

“Pat was a fixture at the AFM for almost 50 years and served as the director of the Electronic Media Services Division as well as assistant to AFM President Ray Hair. He taught me everything I know about the recording industry and AFM contracts that protect musicians’ rights. I worked closely with him while in the Federation office. He was a true advocate for union musicians, a great friend, and I will miss him dearly.”

—Tino Gagliardi, President of Local 802 (New York City)

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