Tag Archives: business

Your Local Business Rep: A Valuable Tool for Recruitment and Organizing

A very valuable and often overlooked position in each AFM local’s personnel is the on-site representative (sometimes referred to as a “business agent”). Each local is required to have at least one person designated as such, as prescribed by the AFM Bylaws Article 5, Section 13, which states:

Each local shall have at least one representative whose duties shall include communicating with musicians who perform in that local’s jurisdiction for the purpose of securing such musicians’ support of and participation in the attainment of the membership’s collective goals as set forth in Article 2.

The wording of this bylaw has varied somewhat over the years, and so has the application. Anecdotally, I have heard stories of how local reps would visit each venue to “check the cards” of every musician on the stand, and were prepared to pull the band if the number of nonmembers exceeded a predetermined limit. Retrospectively, this seems extreme; however, the intent was more to send a message to the employer that only union musicians could be utilized. In the day, this activity was very effective, although the reps were thought of like police.

In my own experience, Local 149 (Toronto, ON) had at least three reps visiting clubs, particularly those that offered live music six nights a week. Some were our peers—musicians we knew who were part of bands and took part-time work as reps for the local. It was not an imposition by any means, and it felt strangely comforting to know that the AFM was in the house.

What is the benefit of reps to the local? Oftentimes, it’s difficult to keep track of which venues have ceased using live players, which ones have started to, or what kind of music is played. Locals with an active booking referral programme may not know who is playing with what band, the repertoire, or the level of polish. A visit by the rep answers all these questions, plus can put you in touch with nonmembers or travelling bands coming through your jurisdiction. In addition, regular contact with venue owners and others who may employ live musicians is an opportunity to develop relationships, which may be extremely beneficial over time.

What is the benefit to the members? Certainly, as a travelling musician, performing in a strange town had its challenges. I recall some locals who prepared a package for travellers that contained information and directions to find the local, as well as laundromats, grocery stores, liquor/beer stores, music stores, and all-night gas stations. There was always a work dues bill enclosed, of course.

When the rep would show up during the performance, it was an opportunity to ask questions and gather information. What other venues of similar type/price range were around? Who are the other musicians of note playing in town? Or perhaps there were difficulties with the venue owner or contract, which the rep could assist with. It was also an opportunity to ask questions about the services and benefits of AFM/CFM membership, and how to access them.

Another area where reps are invaluable is when recording is taking place. Perhaps it’s a “dark” jingle or scoring session, in which case the rep can usually speak with the employer and leader, and a proper contract (with all of the ensuing benefits and residuals) can be the result. When cash work is allowed to flourish and replace signatories and AFM report forms, everyone ultimately suffers. The fee will be low, pension not paid, papers not filed, and therefore, no Special Payments, new use, or other residuals. Rep visits can eliminate much of this underground economy and help musicians receive the fees and benefits to which they are entitled.

I left for last what is probably the most important aspect of having a rep make contact with musicians in the field: organizing. Much of the dialogue will be in the form of “internal” organizing, where existing members are apprised of what they may be missing out on. Knowledgeable members will pass that information along to musicians who are not members. And, of course, reps speaking directly with nonmembers can only result in a positive outcome in terms of recruitment. A local that has reps regularly visiting musicians on-site cannot help but increase visibility, which in turn creates the opportunity to recruit and increase member density.

If you are an officer in a local who does not have a business rep, you should find a way to appoint one as soon as practicable. If you are a musician who is lucky enough to have a rep visit you on site, use that opportunity to learn more about the AFM and its services.

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Tax Credits

Film and Television Tax Credits: Big Business and Critical to Entertainment Industry Labor

by Marc Sazer, President Recording Musicians Association

Tax CreditsBeginning in 1995 with a federal tax credit program, and followed soon after by provincial tax credit programs, Canada began investing in both creating a domestic film industry, and luring production jobs from elsewhere to Canada. Producers quickly followed the money.

Providing taxpayer funds for motion picture and television production has now become a worldwide phenomenon. The payroll company Entertainment Partners provides financial services to companies that exploit these incentives. Their website, www.epfinancialsolutions.com, gives a good overview of the scores of governments that provide incentives. We are in the midst of an international arms race for film/television tax credits.

These incentives rarely create new jobs for movies or television shows—they move jobs from one place to another. When a studio based in Burbank, Culver City, or Hollywood produces a movie with tax incentives in London, new jobs aren’t created, they’ve just been moved, displacing the vast majority of workers, including grips, drivers, camera operators, carpenters, and many others.

Music scoring has fallen into this same “arms race” of tax credits. While London has long had a vibrant recording industry, dozens of motion pictures produced by US companies take their scoring projects there now, reaping generous tax dollars (as well as avoiding the obligation to make health care and pension contributions that would be due on behalf of AFM musicians). The AFM remains number one in terms of motion picture film scores in the Western world, but the UK has lured an increasing number of “our” jobs to London.

Production and post-production work differently on any given film or television show. Production describes the filming, while post-production refers to editing, sound—and music. Post-production, which includes virtually all of the music scoring, happens on the tail end of the process.

Like London, New York has created a generous post-production tax credit that rewards producers for bringing scoring, editing, and mixing jobs to New York. It has taken a few years to take off, but in his October 2016 article in the Allegro, AFM Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi noted that a record number of film scores were recorded in New York last year, including scores by Danny Elfman of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Rachel Portman, and Nico Muhly. It is clear that the work follows the money!

Working with rank-and-file musicians, Local 47 President John Acosta is helping lead California to implement a music scoring tax credit there, tag-teaming on the existing $330 million annual tax credit program in that state.

If you are planning on pursuing film/television tax credits in your state or province, please reach out and let us share our experience and expertise with you. RMA’s goal, from coast to coast, is to work within the existing worldwide system to support good, industry-standard, union jobs. We are committed to helping musicians achieve these goals anywhere, anytime.

dan beck

MPTF’s 2016-2017 Year Off to a Fast Start

dan beckby Dan Beck, Trustee, Music Performance Trust Fund

The Recording Industry’s Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) began its 2016-17 fiscal year May 1. The usually busy summer months of live music events, free to the public, are a tradition extending back 68 years since the MPTF was founded in 1948. The Trust Fund’s work is to enrich communities with music culture and entertainment, while providing valuable supplemental income to professional musicians across North America.

This year, we are committed to maintain our primary grant budget at the $500,000 level. Revenues have declined unabated for the past two decades, since they are based almost entirely on the sale of physical product (CDs and vinyl). However, it is our desire to support as many ongoing events as possible, due to their importance to local communities throughout the US and Canada.

The MPTF continues to focus on co-funding programs at hospitals, schools, senior centers, parks, and public locations, where free musical events educate, influence, and impact quality of life. Through nearly seven decades, the organization has provided tens of millions of dollars to enhance inspired community programs featuring the best musical talent.

The upgraded grant management system now in place continues to provide cost savings, quality control, and improved capabilities. The MPTF staff has worked with program developers to simplify the process, including reducing the need for repetitive input. Our grant managers will be attending the AFM’s 100th Convention to demonstrate the system and answer questions on how best to use it. We invite you to visit us at our booth in Las Vegas in June!

Despite the declining revenue, the MPTF implemented a new senior center initiative this past year called MusicianFest. Thanks to a grant from The Film Funds, we were able to initiate more than 600 free senior center performances in the US and Canada. The National Council on Aging’s National Institute of Senior Centers oversees the request applications from senior centers across the country. The MPTF then solicits AFM locals for their ability to fulfill those requests and provides the funding to pay the musicians. This year a budget of $100,000 has been established, above the regular Trust Fund grant budget allocation, to make this program work.

While the grant levels are a challenge and a draw on the MPTF’s reserves, we have continued to reduce overhead costs every year. Those efforts, and their impact, can only last for a limited time before more radical efforts will be required to maintain the Trust Fund’s involvement in supporting live music and the musicians who perform it.

While our grants support a wide range of citizenry, they are most felt by professional musicians. The value of the MPTF to musicians themselves will ultimately determine the future of our efforts.   

FMSMF Update

Kim-RobertsWinding Up 2015 and Moving Forward into 2016

by Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, Executive Director Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund

The Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF) works to serve the film, television, and music communities. To this end, the FMSMF is pleased to provide ongoing updates for the benefit of AFM members.

On September 30, the FMSMF completed the first six months of its 2016 fiscal year. It’s a great opportunity to look at the final results from fiscal year 2015 (ended 3/31/2015) and to look ahead now that we’ve reached the halfway mark of the fiscal year 2016.

“New” Films: For FY2015 the FMSMF received residuals for 274 “new” titles! Most of these newly reported titles were films and TV shows first released in 2012, 2013, or 2014, although some were older films and series that generated secondary market receipts and residuals for the first time.

The “new” titles for FY2015 included feature films such as Earth to Echo, The Fault in Our Stars, The Maze Runner, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Million Dollar Arm, Jersey Boys, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Among the TV titles reporting for the first time during FY2015 were Arrow (2013-14), The Normal Heart, and Red Band Society, to name a few. FMSMF will post the FY2016 new titles on our website at www.fmsmf.org/filmtitles/new-films.php as we get closer to the end of this calendar year.

New Musicians: There’s an urban myth that suggests the same small handful of musicians continue to participate in the residuals collected. That’s not true! Each year, musicians are enrolled into the fund for the first time because they were credited with secondary market residuals for the first time. For example, in FY2015, 751 new musicians were added to the rolls. 670 musicians earned residuals and were added for the first time through their work in original scoring, sideline, or music prep. Another 81 musicians earned residuals for the first time because of new use of their sound recording in a film or TV program.

2015 Distributions: More than15,600 payments were issued to musicians and their beneficiaries in the July 1 Regular distribution, and more than 830 payments were issued in the September 15 Omissions distribution.

More musicians are now enrolled in direct deposit and “go paperless.” Almost 4,000 musicians participate in the services, and more enroll each month. Going paperless saves money and is good for the environment. So, if you haven’t signed up yet to go paperless, sign up at http://www.fmsmf.org/gopaperless and join your fellow musicians who are helping us go green!

Website Upgrade: The upgraded FMSMF website went live July 1, with a new look, better organization of pages, and some new features to make access to services easier. We will continue to upgrade the website in the months and years to come. If you’ve not visited the website since July 1, check out the new look at www.fmsmf.org.

Tax Time: The tax season is just around the corner! Remember that FMSMF will send out W-2s and related tax forms in January. Please make sure we have your correct address! To report an address change, please visit the website https://www.fmsmf.org/musicianresources/address-change-form.php. Also a reminder for next year: if you intend to change your withholdings for the next distribution in July 2016, you must provide an updated W-4 to the FMSMF on or before June 1, 2016. NO changes will be accepted after June 1, 2016 for the July 1, 2016 distribution. For more information, please see www.fmsmf.org/musicianresources/fund-dates.php.

Do We Have Money for You? Don’t forget to check our website: www.fmsmf.org/musicianresources/unclaimed-checks.php to see if we have unclaimed residuals for you or a musician you may know. Please spread the word to fellow musicians to check this website.
As Thanksgiving and the holidays approach, best wishes from all of us at the FMSMF.

Spotify Pulls Music After Nonpayment to Artists

Spotify Pulls Music After Nonpayment to Artists —On October 19, Victory Records’ catalog of music was pulled from Spotify after it failed to properly pay publishing revenues due to Victory Records’ artists in blatant violation of US Copyright laws. Spotify also pulled down a very large number of albums that Victory is not the publisher for, proving that their internal systems are inadequate.

“We asked that our catalog not be pulled, that we would amicably work with Spotify, and they haphazardly removed our content regardless. 53,000,000 streams, as per Spotify’s statements, were identified with no publishing royalties being paid by Spotify,” says a Victory Records’ spokesperson in a statement issued October 20.

Spotify had sent Victory a document giving Spotify mechanical clearance to use the music. “We could not sign said document for a variety of reasons,” says the Victory spokesperson, explaining that it put them in direct violation of their agreement with music distribution service Audiam (www.audiam.com). “The issue of nonpayment for songwriters and composers is a widespread problem and not exclusive to Victory Records’ artists.”

senza sordino

A Look at Both Sides of the Audition Process

by Nathan Kahn, Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Division

All orchestral audition candidates are looking for the same thing in the audition circuit: a fair chance to compete for a symphonic position, and to be treated as a professional in the process. On the other side of the process, audition committee members and orchestra management encounter their own set of challenges. An understanding of the issues each side faces will promote a more fair and enjoyable audition process for everyone.

Challenges for Candidates:

Expenses—Whereas job candidates in other professions are often reimbursed for their interview travel expenses, that is certainly not the case with symphonic auditions. I have yet to hear of any symphonic orchestra who pays the expenses of preliminary round candidates. However, many orchestras do pay the travel expenses for finalists called back to audition in final rounds.

Orchestras may even require audition candidates to send a deposit check. As long as the candidate shows up on audition day, the check will be returned or destroyed.

Audition scheduling—Suppose you open your copy of International Musician and find that there are five forthcoming and very desirable orchestra violin vacancy auditions, and all of them are scheduled for the exact same day. This happens more often than you might think. To minimize this problem, the AFM Symphonic Services Division maintains an audition scheduling website for AFM orchestra personnel managers. This service is free of charge and benefits both the candidates and the orchestras. If your AFM orchestra’s personnel manager has not yet availed themselves of this service, please have him/her contact me at nkahn@afm.org.

Just getting in the front door—Getting admitted to an audition can be almost as challenging as the audition itself. While there is no AFM bylaw that requires any orchestra to grant a live audition to union members, the AFM can sometimes assist candidates who are seeking acceptance to an audition by convincing personnel managers and audition committees to hear “just one more.” Appearing at an audition without having been invited, although some candidates still insist on doing this, will get you nowhere and is strongly discouraged.

Audition conditions and requirements— Audition candidates have the right to warm-up and audition in an environment that is sufficiently comfortable and that is free of any considerable distractions. Candidates should not be expected to put their instruments in any type of weather-related danger, or to spend excessive amounts of money on difficult-to-acquire music.

The Audition Committee View:

The process of filling a vacant seat varies widely among orchestras, but these are some factors that management takes into consideration:

Whether to hold an audition—The audition committee must first decide whether or not to hold an audition. In lieu of a live audition, some orchestras may decide to appoint a certain musician who, for example, may have performed successfully with the orchestra in the past. They can do this through a previously negotiated “appointment” procedure within the orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement, or by some other mutual agreement between the audition/orchestra committees in conjunction with their local union and the management.

I often get complaints from audition candidates demanding that the AFM should “force” the orchestra to have a competitive audition for a position. There is no requirement that any orchestra hold a live audition for any vacancy, unless otherwise specified in the orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement. Even then, the audition/orchestra committees in conjunction with their local union and the management could agree to waive that requirement.

In some instances, a group or an individual will try to force the local orchestra to hold a competitive live audition when the prevailing sentiment was to appoint a certain person. This only results in the orchestra going through a farce of an audition where no one is hired and the original appointment proceeds regardless, wasting the time, energy, talent, and money of audition candidates.

How to screen the candidates—If the audition committee does decide to hold an audition, they must also decide how large a field of candidates to seek. Some orchestras want to hear every candidate who applies, while others may specify in their advertisement that they will only hear “a limited group of highly qualified candidates.” In such circumstances, it is much less likely that the AFM can assist in getting someone admitted to the audition if the audition committee has refused to grant them a live audition.

Some orchestra vacancy advertisements include the following language: “The Audition Committee reserves the right to immediately dismiss from the audition any candidates who do not exhibit the highest professional performance level at these auditions.” These orchestras want to hear as many candidates as possible, but their time is limited. A candidate will often complain that he/she was cut off one minute or less into the audition. I refer the candidate back to that statement in the advertisement; it means what it says.

Scheduling auditions times for candidates—One method for audition scheduling is to assign a window of time to an entire group of candidates, and then have the candidates draw lots to determine the order in which they audition. While this tends to alleviate the problem of time flexibility for the audition committee, it has the opposite effect on the candidates. Some candidates may have to perform their audition with little or no warm-up time, while others may be forced to wait around for hours.

The other method is to assign specific audition times for each candidate. There are, at least, two problems with this approach. First, audition committees complain that such a tight schedule prevents them from hearing as much as they would like in order to be able to make an informed decision. Second, is the problem of no-shows: musicians who have been assigned an audition time, and for whatever reason, fail to appear. When multiple no-shows occur, personnel managers must either round up other candidates to fill in the empty time slots or require the audition committee to wait for extended periods of time for the next group of candidates to appear.

Recurring auditions for the same position— Sometimes an audition is inconclusive. Perhaps the voting procedure in the audition process failed to produce enough votes to select a winning candidate, or perhaps no candidate was deemed qualified for the orchestra. In these cases, the orchestra reserves the right to continue to hold auditions until a successful candidate is engaged.

Use or non-use of screens—In the 1970s, the Saint Louis Symphony and the Boston Symphony started using screens to protect the identity of the candidates, and many other orchestras followed suit. Now, it seems that more orchestras are reversing course and removing screens in the audition process, since some audition committees and music directors have expressed that they feel the need to see, as well as hear, the candidates. Neither the AFM, nor the Code of Ethical Audition Practices, takes any position on the use of screens. That determination is made on the local level; often through the collective bargaining process.

Fixed auditions—Proving that an audition outcome was predetermined is extremely difficult, and investigations are often inconclusive or show that the orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement, in fact, allows for what may appear to be a “fixed” result. For example, some collective bargaining agreements automatically advance musicians who have successfully subbed with the orchestra, who have reached a certain level of professional experience on their résumés, or who may have been in the finals of a previous audition in this or some other orchestra.

When it can be demonstrated that a predetermined audition did occur, the local union, combined with the AFM, works to get candidates reimbursed for at least their travel expenses.

Playing Fair
As competition for some orchestral positions increases, so should vigilance on the part of local unions and their audition committees to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the conduct of auditions. At the same time, candidates should be aware of the difficulties in taking auditions and should understand that not every orchestra is willing and able to grant a live audition to all who may apply, even with the AFM’s assistance to candidates who may request it.

Musicians who have symphony audition complaints should contact the AFM Symphony Audition Complaint Hotline at 330-322-2265. All complaints are handled anonymously unless the nature of the complaint requires identity.

Getting Your Promo Kit Together

by Mike King, author and instructor for Berkleemusic.com

The music industry tends to be a jaded group to start with, and nothing raises the ire of these folks more than a poorly planned and executed promo kit. A poor promo kit is sure to keep your demo or finished CD unopened and not listened to, and the rest of your kit is sure to be sent to the circular bin “with a bullet,” as they say. The good news is, the elements that make up an effective press kit are straightforward, and the essentials will not change much from band to band.

You should create a press kit with several folks in mind—club bookers, radio DJs, and the media—and while the details may change very slightly, there is one thing that you have to keep in mind:

When putting together your promo kit, the first rule of thumb is to put yourself in the shoes of the people that receive these things on a daily basis. The music writers at major US and Canadian local papers, like The Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune, receive dozens of promo kits per day, and the same thing goes for the popular clubs in your area.

These people have seen it all, and while you may have the urge to create a leather-bound CD wallet, monogrammed with your band’s name, that really stands out from the crowd, I urge you to reconsider and instead let your music, bio, and press clippings do the talking for you.

Common Promo Kit Problems

I worked at an independent record label for a while, and saw more than my share of press kits. And I’m telling you straight up that spending a day in the water of the river Styx in Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell may be only slightly less preferable than going through amateurish, unsolicited promo kits. Bad promo kits may make you mad, but really bad promo kits make you sad, too. Before we get to the ingredients of a killer promo kit, I want there to be no confusion on what makes up a bad one. For everyone’s sake, please avoid the following:

Too much information—Unless you are in the superstar category, there is no reason to have a dozen pages describing the conditions under which you recorded the record, your political leanings, what the songs are about, etc. The biographical information in your press kit should be informational and concise.

Poor grammar—Misspelling the recipient’s name on your package or cover letter is a big problem. And while it may be cool to avoid punctuation and capitalization in your e-mails and My Space page, it is definitely not cool when you are writing to someone asking them to play your record or book you a gig. You may be an artist, but this is one place where you are going to have to exhibit some professionalism.

An overreaching package—Again, unless you are on a major label or have the dough to send program directors promo items (even then, it doesn’t really matter unless the promo items you’re sending are American Express checks), there is no need to create some grand package to really “wow” the recipient. The truth is, if the music isn’t any good, it really doesn’t matter that you enclosed cookies with your package (true story).

Not enough information—You covered all your bases, your demo is hot, you addressed it to the right person, you’ve got some momentum, and the writer/booker is interested in finding out more. But wait, who are you? Always be sure to put your contact info all over the package. Writers and bookers may not be the most organized bunch and things can easily get separated. Clearly mark your name on the CD, on the cover letter, on your bio—and if you can, make up some cards and drop a few in the package.

Poor research/no prior contact—It’s fundamental that you send your kit to the right person. Never address your promo kit: “To whom it may concern,” or “ A&R.” This is a sure-fire way to get your kit into the trash since many folks don’t take unsolicited kits. Find out who the right person is through a phone call. Also, be aware of what kind of music the organization you’re sending your kit to is into. If you are sending your package to a hard rock label, it’s pretty unlikely they would put out a collection of classical accordion covers. (Unless they rocked, of course!)

Bad tone—Another big turn off is a demanding promo kit. Remember, the goal of the kit is to present your band and your music in the best possible light, and the language you use is important. Be nice. I recall, in particular, one promo kit that came in from what looked like twin sisters who sang folk music. Not only was the cover letter off-putting in tone, but they demanded we send the kit back after we reviewed it! Bad form.

What Makes a Good Promo Kit?

Like many things in life, simple really is better. An effective press kit contains five or six key things: cover letter, bio, your demo or finished product, photo, press clippings, and sometimes a tour schedule.

1) Cover letter—Your cover letter should be addressed to the proper recipient, and attached to the outside of your kit with a paper clip. Tone, content, spelling, and grammar should all be checked. You want this letter to be warm and relatively formal, quick, and to the point. Explain what you are looking for from the recipient as concisely as possible.

2) Biography—In my opinion, the bio is not a place to get cute or overly creative. Present the facts: the history of the band, interesting individual background and/ or accomplishments of the members, the band’s highlights so far, and perhaps some key press quotes.

3) Your demo or finished product—This is the most important part of your kit. No matter how good the rest of your kit reads and looks, if the music is not good or presented incorrectly, you’re sunk. If you’ve got a finished CD together, include a copy in your package. If not, you should prepare a three- or foursong demo.

Song order is very important. You should absolutely lead off with the song that you feel kicks the most ass. And that song needs to kick ass immediately. No one has time to listen to a two-minute intro before the song gets moving. For example, if you are a rock band, you want “Black Dog” as an opener, not “Stairway to Heaven.” And as I mentioned above, it is incredibly important to have your contact info all over your kit, especially the CD.

4) Photo(s)—This is the visual representation of your band. Again, be a bit careful about how artsy it is. The photo should try to capture what one might expect from listening to the music.

5) Press clippings—If you’ve had some past success with the press, your promo kit should include a “Paste-Up” of this media coverage. Format is important here. Any editorial your band gets should be cut out from whatever else surrounds it in the paper. Cut out the masthead of the publication, affix it on a piece of paper with the article below, and be sure to format it all so it looks nice on an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper.

6) Tour schedule is optional—If you have an amazing tour schedule, it may make sense to include an itinerary of upcoming shows as well. If the recipient of your kit is not all that familiar with your band and they see you’re playing places like the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., or Yoshi’s in San Francisco, they’ll know you are the real deal.

Package all these items up in a straightforward folder and you’re all set. Again, no need for oversized glossy kits. Keep it simple, baby. It’s easier for you, and I guarantee that, even if they don’t say it, the folks that receive your kit will thank you as well.

Mike King is the associate director of marketing at Berkleemusic. Prior to working at Berklee, he was the marketing/product manager at Rykodisc, where he oversaw all marketing efforts for label artists including Mickey Hart, Jeb Loy Nichols, Morphine, Jess Klein, Voices On The Verge, Bill Hicks, The Slip, Pork Tornado (Phish), Kelly Joe Phelps, and Frank Zappa’s estate. King is also the course author/ instructor of several online marketing courses at www.berkleemusic.com, as well as the author of the book Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail (Berklee Press, 2009).

teaching private lessons on bass

How to Get Started with Teaching Private Lessons

Musicians with years of experience, and even those new to professional music, often find it rewarding to spread their experience and knowledge. Offering private lessons can help make connections in the community and foster personal musical development, and by introducing new people to the joys of performance, you can make a difference in your students’ lives. So as summer comes to an end and school starts up again, think about ramping up efforts in education and really making an impact through private instruction.

Back to Basics

You must first decide what age group to teach. The age of your students will not only determine what and how you will be teaching, but it will also determine your weekly teaching hours. High school and grade school aged students, along with working professionals, require afternoon, evening, or weekend hours and college students or retirees may have more flexible schedules. Try to think about your daily routines and how you will balance teaching with your rehearsal and performance schedule. You must also set aside time for setting up a curriculum and a system for evaluating student progress.

It’s important to research which books and teaching materials will be effective for your students. Resources are available through national organizations including the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) at www.mtna.org and National Association for Music Education (MENC) at www.nafme http://www.nafme.org/.org, as well as their local chapters. For a mix of new-and-innovative and tried-and-true, the best teachers combine methods from their own musical beginnings with more recent innovative techniques.

Prospective students or their parents will ask you about education, previous teaching experience, references, and the types of music that you teach. Tailor the information you have in your working bio to answer questions students may have about your background. It’s important to highlight diversity and variety in your skills, and experience in many different musical settings–band, orchestra, solo recitals, and work in various genres.

Keep enough free time in your schedule to allow flexibility when it comes to setting up lessons, especially when balancing private teaching with commitments to another job. Students and their parents keep busy school-year schedules as well.
Another important consideration is how much to charge for lessons. Factors in determining fees include income levels in your area, length and level of the lessons, and whether you’re teaching children, adults, or both.

Online and on Paper

There are a lot of online resources you can use to set up a successful teaching studio. The AFM’s GoProLessons.com is a directory of professional musicians offering lessons. Students looking for a teacher can search for a professional teaching musician in their area. As an AFM member you can post a profile with your bio and photo. A personal website or a profile on a social networking site like MySpace can include recording samples, along with a bio, photos, and other information.

The websites for MTNA and MENC offer listings to members according to instrument and location. MTNA also offers opportunities for professional development, including a national certification process. Once established, you should consider taking this step; it carries with it the possibility of awards and national recognition for your teaching work.

Designing a flyer to be placed at local music stores–even if it’s just a sheet with little tear-off strips at the bottom with your name, phone number, and e-mail address–is also a good starting point. Some music stores also house teaching studios; inquire if there’s an opening or a need for an additional teacher for your instrument.

Onward and Upward

To expand your teaching from a handful of students to your own studio, involvement and interaction in your community are crucial, and networking will be a valuable asset. Connections with classroom music teachers will help in seeking out budding talent. Friends and colleagues who teach in local schools can point out concerts and recitals to attend, and may recommend you to students and their parents, including those who wish to continue their study when school is not in session.

Always keep promotional materials updated and on hand; every trip to a school, rehearsal or performance site is another chance for further exposure. As music in public schools is gradually and tragically being phased out, private music instructors can fill the void in arts education.

The Best Defense Against “Right to Work”

The Best Defense Against “Right to Work”: Organize!

Todd Jelen, Negotiator, Organizer & Educator, AFM Symphonic Services Divisionby Todd Jelen, Negotiator, Organizer & Educator, AFM Symphonic Services Division

It has been my privilege to visit orchestras around the country to discuss so-called “right to work” legislation. This simple slogan does not explain the resulting destruction to the middle class and working people in states where “right to work” laws are enacted. When a state passes a “right to work” law, there is an immediate decrease in the average wage. This translates to about $6,000 less per year than the wages in free bargaining states. “Right to work” states also consistently report lower household incomes, less employer sponsored health insurance coverage, and weaker unemployment benefits, than states without “right to work” laws.

In addition to taking money out of our pockets, “right to work” laws undermine democracy in our workplaces. When we decide to form or join a union, we vote. To choose our representatives, we vote. For all of the union’s business, we vote. “Right to work” laws seek to weaken our collective will by purposely providing loopholes in the membership requirements that workers have negotiated with their employers—agreements that the Supreme Court has upheld in free bargaining states. Proponents of “right to work” legislation often cite contractual freedom as a reason to pass these laws, but this is ironic considering that they are actually stifling workers’ freedom to make agreements with their employers.

Without a union contract our workplace rights are at the whim of our employers, whereas we can personally oversee the maintenance and enforcement of our agreements, if we are unionized. Employers know this, and that is one of the reasons behind the current wave of “right to work” legislation. By dividing us into different categories, employers are attempting to weaken our will and effectiveness as organized workers. We must realize that there is nothing that says we have to opt out of union membership. We can and should refuse to be divided by these laws! If we see past the laws in our states and learn about the Federal protections offered to us, we realize that we have a larger toolbox than we thought we had. Too often, orchestras don’t embrace the tools they already have to manage their own contracts.

“Right to work” does not have to mean the destruction of our workplace rights, if we work to ensure that we are organized. You may be thinking, “this won’t work in my city or state,” but I assure you that it will. I have found models for organization that exist in places considered unfriendly to labor. As a result, these locals enjoy more activity, visibility, and greater membership density. Together we have been able to begin to change the culture and perception of the local towards greater respect and congeniality. If you would like to learn how you can organize your orchestra and make your local more relevant in the eyes of your musicians and management, please contact me. Together, we can turn the tide of “right to work” laws toward a brighter future for orchestra musicians!

Orchestra Committees

The Role of Orchestra Committees

by Christopher Durham, Chief Field Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Divisionby Christopher Durham, Chief Field Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Division

Employees who work under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) are represented by a labor union that was authorized by the first employees who worked under the original agreement. When the union was established, the membership elected officers to handle the negotiation, enforcement, and administration of the agreement. Other union responsibilities and procedures are prescribed by either law or internal bylaw. The musicians who perform in orchestras elect orchestra committees and ancillary committees to assist the union in the negotiation, enforcement, and administration of the agreement.

This structure, while common in our union, is somewhat unique to the labor movement. Over time, symphonic bargaining units have assumed, through their various committees, a prominent role in the day-to-day governance of the agreements. A consequence of this expanded role should not be to disregard, ignore, or place the union in a subordinate role. The union, as the certified bargaining agent, has the legal responsibility to oversee the performance of the agreement as well as the liability for the action of its agents. It’s important to have an effective working relationship between a rank-and-file committee and the union in order to provide strength through communication and unity. The union is the pivot for members who may not work in the bargaining unit. It has important relationships in the greater community that, when properly networked, can make the difference by providing outside influence during times of hard bargaining.

Orchestra committees who seek the authority to administer the agreement must also acknowledge the responsibility and liability for decisions made under their watch. There is no hiding, denying, or abstaining from the same duty of fair representation that is expected from the union. Symphony orchestra committees are not your fathers’ civic or fraternal organizations, where you serve your time or complete your project and all is well. Representing the business interests of your colleagues and their families is a huge responsibility.

In all matters relating to the agreement, the committee must measure when and what to report to the membership. It is responsible for handling day-to-day business, including variances, and processing and investigating grievances in a timely and thorough manner. Committees must also bring experience to the bargaining table. They are responsible, by their recommendation, for directing the unit to accept or reject tentative agreements or final offers. Committee members don’t have the luxury to pick and choose the grievances that they want to handle nor to limit themselves to decisions that won’t cause confrontation. Conversely, the rank and file is well-advised to listen to the debate respectfully and to not attack a committee they have elected when it is serving in their best interest.