Tag Archives: executive board member

“We the Willing”

by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

We’ve all been through a particularly rough year and a half, but the situation is improving, people are gathering, and work is coming back. It’s exhilarating to reconnect with colleagues and bandmates and perform in front of live audiences again. But there’s something else: we have to remember that the “good old days” were not so good. Many workers struggled to cover basic needs, even while working long hours providing essential services. We have an opportunity to change the narrative, to build power and create a better future. I firmly believe that musicians and music making are an essential part of achieving this generational correction.

Music is a universal language that brings people together, a natural bridge, a unique artform that breaks down barriers. Diverse audiences attend concerts and shows, listen to bands in local establishments, experience shared humanity in real time and enjoy music together. We’ve spent so much time isolated and surrounded by “news” preying on our differences. There needs to be a rebuilding of a sense of community and musicians are uniquely qualified to fulfill that need.

However, along with the ability to provide this essential service, there also must be a change in the way that music making is understood and valued. This change is not only necessary generally, but also within the music community. We know what it takes to make music that people want to hear. It’s a lot of work! Though it’s often joyous, sometimes it is not. Besides investing a significant amount of time, we also have to invest in our instruments, equipment, concert clothes, transportation, and rehearsal space. Music making should not be compromised due to lack of resources. The false narrative of the starving artist needs to be put to rest. It undermines our profession. We deserve to be fairly compensated for our work.

Somewhere the sense of value was redirected. This is terrific for those who depend on our services to benefit themselves. For example, there’s the rubber stamp symphony board members who like to list the “service” on their resumes, while not actively doing the necessary work to raise funds for the whole organization, not just the shell of management. Another example is the club owner who gives musicians the “opportunity” to perform while pricing their wares at rates that cover all business costs, with the exception of the musical services that draw people into the establishment.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and those coming after us, to commit not only to making music, but to actively participate in re-establishing the values necessary to maintain our profession in all its forms. Go to the AFM website (www.afm.org) and read Article 2, Mission Statement, in the AFM Bylaws.

Now, close your eyes and envision your career in your community. Are you satisfied with the work you perform, but also generally with how musicians in your community are perceived? Are musicians treated respectfully as professional people or is there a sense that making music isn’t a “real job”? What changes are necessary to improve the lives of musicians in your community? Get involved in your local by participating in or starting a committee. You don’t need to know how; the most important step is to be willing! Thank you for your work!

I Look Forward to Working on Behalf of All AFM Musicians

by Ed Malaga, AFM International Executive Board member

It is truly an honor to have been elected to the IEB at the 101st AFM Convention, and I wish to offer my sincere gratitude to all of the delegates and to Team Unity for the opportunity to serve the AFM in this capacity. By way of introduction, my instrument is double bass and I have been serving as president of Washington D.C. Local 161-710 since 2011. As an AFM member of 30 years, I would like to share some experiences which have made a lasting impact and helped inform my perspective as an AFM officer.

After graduating from New England Conservatory, I moved to Washington D.C. and joined Local 161-710 in 1989. My union baptism came soon after. I had been hired to play Don Carlo with the Washington Opera in the fall of 1991 when I learned that contract negotiations had stalled and the orchestra had been locked out by management. I joined the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra (KCOHO) musicians on the picket line at the Kennedy Center—my first labor action—and it made a powerful impression. The KCOHO musicians prevailed in that struggle, but would find themselves on another picket line two years later.

It was sometime after that I began to learn more about the history of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and their various struggles since their founding in 1931. As a substitute there, I had made the acquaintance of Bill Foster and Fred Zenone, but I wasn’t aware of the important roles they had played on behalf of their orchestra—Bill as Orchestra Committee chair and Fred as chairman of ICSOM. A memorable image is the photograph of NSO Music Director Mstislav Rostropovich locked arm-in-arm with Bill and Fred on an NSO picket line from 1978.

Several years later, I found myself on the committee of the Washington Ballet Orchestra as we worked to get our first contract with management. A pick-up orchestra for many years, we were interested in gaining job security and the ability to bargain for wages. We accomplished this in 1999, negotiating our first agreement with the company. It was in December 2005, during the annual Nutcracker performances, when we learned that the ballet dancers were struggling with management on their own first contract. We met with the dancers to hear their story. Pay was very low, and the working conditions were not good. We held a meeting and voted unanimously to support the dancers.

Halfway through that Nutcracker run, management shut down the production, locking everyone out. We picketed in front of the Warner Theatre with the dancers and their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), as well as International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 22 stagehands who provided an inflatable rat. The lockout would continue for six months, but AGMA eventually secured their very first contract with The Washington Ballet. The demonstration of support by the various trade unions throughout this process was inspirational and the importance of union solidarity was clear.

The musicians of the AFM are no strangers to adversity; in fact, our union was born from it. As I write this, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has now been locked out for two months. At the AFM Convention in June, a powerful message of support for the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony and Local 40-543 was evident. At the AFM Convention in 2013, it had been a lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra which initiated an impromptu donation from the floor, resulting in another overwhelming demonstration of AFM support.

I consider myself fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had to perform amazing music with amazing musicians, and when the opportunity arose to work for their best interests as a local officer, there was no hesitation. I have the greatest respect for all of those who paved the way for us to be where we are now. Organizing and bargaining are the lifeblood of our union, but it is our compassion, our empathy, and support for our colleagues who are treated unfairly by their employers that are the heart and soul of our union.

We are artist workers. Every orchestra contract, every theater agreement, every situation under which AFM musicians are employed has its own unique story to tell, and this history must be passed on to successive generations.

Together in unity, I know that we are capable of overcoming any challenge before us. I look forward to working on behalf of all our AFM musicians.

The Music Performance Trust Fund Is Back!

I am very happy to report that the new revenue stream from online interactive digital distribution bargained by the Federation in 2017 is paying real dividends. A recent report from the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund reflects that this revenue is now more than $1.5 million, which translates to an additional $250,000 available for distribution from the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF). This new revenue stream has brought the MPTF back from the dire straits in which the fund found itself just a decade ago.

The newly revitalized MPTF is a valuable resource that locals across the country can take advantage of by pursuing projects and partnerships with community organizations for events that meet the guidelines for MPTF grants. Among the possible projects are educational programs, park concerts, and music festivals. Free to the public events are perfect for the mission of the MPTF and offer our locals the opportunity to strengthen relations with diverse constituent groups in their municipalities and regions. 

From an organizational and recruitment perspective, MPTF projects open the door for local officers to connect with musicians performing within their local jurisdiction. They will be able to discover what bands are popular and drawing big audiences in the local clubs and whether or not they have a connection to the union. If not, local officers can provide them with information and guidance about tapping into MPTF resources. This can be an effective introduction to what our union can do for them. By building a local MPTF event, such as a music festival, you are not only creating real relationships with the communities you serve, but also offering meaningful opportunities for local musicians to perform, all under an AFM agreement.

Many public events are funded in part by grants from state and local arts councils. Approaching organizations that rely on such public funding with an offer to bolster their events with musical groups offering diverse styles of music, along with 50% funding for the musicians employed, will get their attention. AFM President Ray Hair’s February 2019 President’s Message in the IM goes into further detail on these types of community-based organizations. I urge everyone to take a look.

The reinvigoration of the MPTF provides all AFM locals with a real opportunity to build bridges and create authentic connections, not only with our communities, but also with the musicians who call those communities home. Regardless of genre—jazz, classical, hip hop, folk, rock or any of the other genres in which our members expresses themselves—nothing brings people together like live music.

I have been asked by President Hair to help connect with locals that may have been missing out on the wonderful resource available to them from the MPTF. My goal is to support your efforts in this regard, whether they involve finding ways to make existing projects fit within MPTF guidelines or developing new and creative initiatives that advance the mission of the MPTF and enhance your local community. Email me at tgagliardi@afm.org. I look forward to working with you to help you remind your communities of this fundamental truth: Live music is best!

In Troubled Times, Stand Up and Fight Back

by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and
Vice President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

—Leonard Bernstein’s response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy

We’re in a pivotal time in the history of the United States. We can agree to disagree on many things, but as musicians, we have to acknowledge the great wealth that immigrants brought to our country. The music we make and listen to every day carries the voices of many cultures intertwined to create beauty in the moment. The idea of closing our borders and shutting out the artists of our future is simply not acceptable to me. Families being separated has undertones of ideas and behavior that cannot be allowed. We have to maintain a legal, ethical program allowing for immigration. Compassion should have a place in such decisions.

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Joint Venture Agreement

Are You Using the AFM Joint Venture Agreement to Protect your Intellectual Property?

dave pomeroyby Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

How does it work?

The AFM Joint Venture Agreement is designed for self-contained bands who want to document their recordings and business relationship with a no-cost contract that protects everyone involved. For every successful band, there are many more who don’t make it, and loose ends can come back to haunt you. When you are in your creative and exploratory mode, it’s not always easy to talk business with collaborators. But at some point, it is important to make sure you are all on the same page. A handshake agreement is great until it doesn’t work, and then it really doesn’t work! Along with completing the process of publishing your original tunes, you need to protect the intellectual property rights of your musical performances as well.

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nightlight office

Nightlife Office and Advisory Committee

by Tino Gagliardi, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 802 (New York City)

Across this country, musicians are playing in bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, and other performance spaces in an effort to hone their craft, share their artistry, and make a living. American art, performance, and music have been born, bred, raised, and developed in the nightlife establishments of our cities. These musicians play an outsized role in shaping the cultural heritage of our nation. As a result, the nightlife that drives municipal economies and our nation’s culture, owes a great deal to the musicians and performers of our nightlife industry. Yet, does our society adequately support those individuals who make it vibrant and strong? No.

In New York City we are working on changing that. New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal (Democrat, District 37) recognizes the role that the city’s nightlife industry plays in its economy and began working on legislation that would create an Office of Nightlife and Nightlife Taskforce to address issues frequently faced by nightlife establishments and their communities.

Though this office was originally conceived as a combination industry liaison and issue resolution facilitator between the city, small businesses, and communities, we at Local 802, saw this as an opportunity to provide support for a frequently ignored community of workers that has traditionally been exploited, discriminated against, and undersupported.

With the council member’s support and partnership, we were able to expand the original scope of the office and taskforce, advocating for language in the legislation that would commit the office to addressing workforce issues like wage theft and misclassification, and require them to make policy recommendations that would benefit performers and workers by addressing some of the industry’s unique issues. On August 24, the bill passed. We are closer to the creation of an Office of Nightlife than ever before.

Advocates and performers who live and work in the nightlife scenes of other cities should pay attention—the Office of Nightlife could be worth replicating.

This Office of Nightlife could provide a new type of government partner for performer advocates to work with to address issues that countless musicians face on a nightly basis: exploitation, misclassification, pay-to-play schemes, and more. The challenge is providing the tools with which the office can effectively and efficiently do its job.

There are many agencies and offices that regulate small businesses and mandate specific employment practices and safety requirements. However, the tools available to these agencies often do not apply to the unique nightlife industry or are ineffective in addressing common business practices at bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels. How do we mandate fair employment at a performance space where it is arguable who the employer legally is? This is just one example of how complicated the nightlife industry is.

If this office is to be impactful, and if other municipalities are to follow New York City’s example, the Nightlife Office must work with locally elected community leaders and administration to develop regulatory mechanisms that empower the director to protect performers who are otherwise unsupported and unprotected. Without impactful regulatory and enforcement frameworks, the city will lack the ability to prevent pay-to-play and unfair employment practices, and will be unable to help us in our work to ensure that all musicians have the opportunity to make a fair living that dignifies the contributions they make to our common cultural heritage.

Luckily, New York City is the perfect test case for such an office. Mayor Bill de Blasio has shown that he understands that the city’s nightlife is an important part of our economy. As a former consumer affairs commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin has experience developing both consumer and worker protections. Council member Espinal has shown sensitivity and appreciation of the challenges that workers and performers face.

These leaders must be applauded for their advocacy and vision. We are extremely hopeful that this office will soon play an important role in advocating for musicians. We will work closely with these leaders and this office to support our union’s agenda—raising the wage floor for musicians and ensuring that New York City remains a place where musicians are celebrated and where performers can live, work, and raise a family. This work is important, not just for New Yorkers, but for musicians across the US.

Music Makes the World Smaller

dave pomeroyby Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

These days, as I talk to young musicians on a regular basis, I see more and more awareness of the need to treat the music business as just that—a business. There’s nothing uncool about getting paid what you and your skills are worth. That’s where the AFM comes in. Otherwise, there would be no standards for wages and working conditions, and it would be an inevitable race to the bottom. Even in these times of technology overload and countless entertainment options, music has long-term, tangible value. Think about it. Imagine movies, TV shows, or even commercials without music—boring! Music brings people together under many different circumstances. It is still the common thread in the complex fabric of life in the 21st century.

One way that I describe this phenomenon is to say that music makes the world smaller. This became apparent to me in 1980, when I began working with Don Williams. I worked for Don on and off for 34 years. Don, who just passed away in September, was a Texas born and raised folk singer turned country artist with little or nothing in common with his huge following in the United Kingdom. Those fans hung on his every word as if he was the local priest giving out the secrets of getting to heaven. We played to big crowds overseas. Most of those folks had never been to America, yet they had a strong connection to the everyday truths contained in Don’s music. As they say, it all begins with a song, and Don instinctively understood what his audience wanted to hear. Talking to fans after a show, we soon discovered that they knew more about the minute details of our music and who made it, than we did!

I learned many things from Don Williams about music and life in our time together. I learned how to make records by watching Don and his co-producer Garth Fundis work their magic in the studio. I tried my best to be a fly on the wall and just observe their process. It was a great education. When I finally got my chance to work with Don in the studio, I was ready. I learned how to play fewer notes and make them mean more and to listen closely to the lyrics and complement, rather than compete with, their message. The old cliché, “it’s not what you play, it’s what you don’t play” is not only true, it applies to the whole record and not just the playing. Leaving space in an arrangement or final mix can enhance the power and message of a song. Just because you can fill every space with something, doesn’t mean you should.

Of all the lessons I learned from Don, the most important was respect. He always treated us as equals, and not just his backing band. When we would do TV shows, and the producers would want to push us to the background and put Don way out front, he would simply shake his head and say, “We’re a band. I’m just the singer. I need my guys.” It took me time to realize that not all my friends who worked the road were treated by their bosses as well as we were. As I transitioned into studio work and got off the road, those same lessons I learned from Don applied, no matter what kind of music I was playing.

Passing on the type of respect for musicians I received from Don was a driving force in my increased involvement in AFM Local 257, culminating in my election as 257 President in 2008 and to the AFM IEB in 2010. I am grateful to be able to pay it forward by helping younger musicians figure out this increasingly complex business and making sure that our older members’ work is protected in every way possible. That’s what the AFM does, and we are here to help you in every way possible.

building a strong union

Building a Strong Union

by John Acosta, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 47(Los Angeles, CA)

Recently in Los Angeles, the California State Labor Federation, along with state labor federations from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, held a conference to address what is deemed to be the inevitable implementation of national “right to work” legislation by the current US Congress. Several hundred union leaders gathered to discuss best practices for unions already facing right to work. Invaluable information was distributed to those in attendance.

While many locals in the Federation have already been faced with the challenges of right to work, we who are in states that are currently not right to work may be joining this not-so-prestigious club. Some of you reading this article might consider me to be an alarmist, and I hope to be wrong, but the labor movement in California is taking the approach of, not if, but when right to work becomes the law of the land.

Our one choice should be to organize. We as a movement cannot remain stagnant or paralyzed, and we must rethink how we can organize internally to strengthen our ranks; not only resisting the challenges of right to work, but positioning ourselves to fight back. In the current climate, unions cannot be defensive. We must take the offense in our thinking and approach. Some of the recommendations that have come out of the right to work labor conference emphasize member engagement, strengthening workplace structures, and engaging new members.

When a musician joins the union, their first interaction should be a positive one. Too many times musicians learn about our union because they are required to join under our agreements. If we can get out in front of this by creating and maintaining an outreach program in music schools, we may be able to make the first interaction a positive one.

Local unions should look at broadening outreach into the community, building alliances, and finding common ground with our community in areas of shared interest.

Our message is critical. We must remind our colleagues that our union is working people standing together; that real people, not just “union officials,” comprise our union. We need to do better in ensuring that the face of our members is the face of our union. In addition, we need to tell real stories. Let’s dig deep in the well of our experiences to demonstrate how our union has helped our members in tough times, and how, without our union, there would be no safety net for working musicians.

Unfortunately, all of our locals are too overburdened and under-resourced to be effective in all the ways I suggest. Our challenge is to find the means to accomplish our mission, despite this lack of resources. That’s why I believe the key is to get membership to take the lead in these critical internal and external efforts. Without direct member involvement, these goals are unreachable.

Light Summer Reading: A Real-Life Fairytale

by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

Once upon a time there was a musicians’ local of the AFM. They didn’t really know much about the ways of the nonmusician or “civilian” world. The local did its best to assist member musicians. They were generally happy in their musician world, talking about music and instruments, telling and listening to stories about their lives and gigs, and solving problems in the symphonic workplace. But they weren’t satisfied. Musicians were still struggling to find work and they could tell the civilians were being deprived of the amazing art form that had been developed and passed along through generations.

The local knew they would have to do something different. They sent one of their officers out into the world to meet with civilians and start communicating through different, nonmusical means. The local wasn’t sure where they were going but knew it was the right path.

The officer ventured out slowly, testing the grounds and becoming braver. With the encouragement of another member musician, she joined a local service organization where she was one of only two musicians. She observed their meetings and learned to communicate with them. She told them the stories of musicians and the members of the organization became interested in supporting the musicians.

As the officer gained more knowledge of this strange world, she was introduced to the local arts community. She started attending and then volunteering for their events. She told them the stories of the musicians, the difficulties they faced, including a city ordinance that made it more expensive to have live music and dancing, which was influencing potential venues to choose other forms of entertainment.

She made friends and eventually was appointed by the mayor to serve on the arts council. She learned from the arts commissioners that politicians could make decisions that would help the musicians, so she volunteered to chair the legislative and lobbying committee.

Political figures were people on TV or in the newspaper but, nervously, she decided to treat them like people and quickly discovered they were flesh and blood just like musicians. One of her friends on the arts commission decided to become a politician, ran for a city council position, and was elected!

This friend quickly became very busy learning a new job and performing a new role in the community. A few years went by, but he never forgot the musicians and the problem created by a particular city ordinance. He stayed in touch with the local officer and eventually the time was right for them to go to work to change the ordinance. The local officer introduced him to the new generation of officers. They worked together rewriting the ordinance and the city council voted for their changes, supporting musicians in a way they never would have thought of themselves. The End … beginning!

Have an enjoyable summer and please be involved with your local and your community. Without the encouragement, support, and expertise of the musicians of the local, none of the above would have come true

Traveling Engagements

Traveling Engagements—Who Plays and Who Gets Paid?

by Joseph Parente, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA)

Over the next several months, outdoor venues will be presenting various types of entertainment in many locals throughout the Federation. These engagements provide added employment to many musicians. However, there seems to be an issue as to which musicians are to be employed for this work and what is the correct scale for these traveling engagements.

A symphony orchestra traveling to another jurisdiction to perform a symphonic concert is normally covered by their collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and is not at issue here. However, in cases where symphony orchestras are hired to travel to other jurisdictions to back a name act or to perform the soundtrack for a motion picture or video game, there have been problems.

AFM Bylaws cover both types of engagements. Article 14 Section 3(a) states:

A symphony orchestra may travel freely for the purpose of giving concerts of a symphonic type … That seems to be clear. Article 14 goes on to say: In the cases where a symphony orchestra travels as a back-up unit to an artist or in a commercial venture that is not self-produced … or the orchestra is not the main attraction … the wage scale of the home Local or the Local having jurisdiction over the engagement, whichever is higher, shall be payable to the musicians …

Again, this means playing for an act, motion picture, or video soundtrack.

Article 13 covers traveling engagements defined as … an engagement in which any member performs outside the jurisdiction of that member’s home Local. This applies to symphony orchestras as well as freelance orchestras traveling to other jurisdictions.

Article 13 Section 10 states:

Except for services that are covered by a CBA with the home Local or the AFM that provides for wages and other conditions of employment … the minimum wage to be charged and received by any member … for services rendered on a Traveling Engagement shall be no less than either the Local wage scale where the services are rendered or the Local wage scale where the musical unit has its base of operation, whichever is higher.

So there is no misunderstanding, other than an orchestra traveling to give a concert, the orchestra’s CBA is irrelevant. Terms of employment are governed by the local’s (either home local or destination local) wage scale book. Obviously, a promoter or presenter would love to pay only traveling expenses (per diem, lodging, etc.), while the cost of the orchestra is being paid by the orchestra’s management who is burning services under their weekly scale.

Incidentally, this situation doesn’t merely occur during the summer. There are just many more engagements in the summer because of outdoor venues. Similar engagements take place during the year with regional “mini-tours” such as Il Volo, Salute to Vienna, Mannheim Steamroller, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. These are usually freelance engagements, but the same rules apply. Contractors, locals, orchestra committees, and musicians need to communicate with each other before these jobs take place so there is a level playing field for all musicians involved. Once the job takes place, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make things right. Local musicians should not and cannot be cheated out of work that is theirs in order to accommodate others who circumvent the AFM Bylaws.