Tag Archives: fair pay

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.

wage chart

Use of the Comparative Analysis Feature of the AFM’s Online Wage Charts to Prepare for Negotiations

by Laurence Hofmann, AFM Symphonic Services Division Contract Administrator, Communications & Data Coordinator

Gathering facts and understanding the desires of each member of the bargaining unit are two essential components of preparation for collective bargaining negotiations. Negotiators may wish to integrate a variety of data from the AFM’s wagechart.afm.org website.

The AFM’s dynamic and interactive database is designed to filter the huge amount of data collected in the wage charts of player conference orchestras. In the July 2016 International Musician, I wrote an article that detailed the features and capabilities of the database hosted at wagechart.afm.org. The wage chart, specifically the “Comparative Analysis” section of the website, is a useful tool to organize schematic and graphic reports about an orchestra’s historical data, as well as orchestra status among peer orchestras. This article will illustrate how effectively the wage chart website and its sections can be utilized in negotiations.

The data contained on the website is complex and not always uniform across player conferences. Data is collected from collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), as well as furnished by the union and the employer. When management refuses to deliver financial information, it may be drawn from the nonprofit employer’s tax returns (IRS Form 990), which are public records. Finally, this data needs to be complemented by analysis of the socio-economic and cultural environment for bargaining.

The “Historical Review” feature of the comparative analysis may be used to visualize the historical growth of the orchestra and to highlight peaks (and valleys). Events that provoked those changes should be investigated by the negotiators: the resuming of an orchestra’s stature after a strike/lockout, a new management, renewed abilities to engage funding and to apply for grants, or successful ticket and subscription sales due to talented musicians or effective marketing. Other questions of interest about the socio-economic and cultural impact on the orchestra’s growth might concern the citizens’ consumption of culture, their preference for outdoor activities, their general level of education, the main industry in the region, and more.

By comparing an orchestra with its peers, negotiators can both identify and bolster realistic bargaining positions. Peer orchestras can be found by using the “Filter by Criteria” feature and applying one or more of the five filter criteria (season length, musicians currently employed, orchestra budget, minimum annual salary, minimum weekly salary) and by indicating a range of desired values for each filter. To extend comparisons among Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and even Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) orchestras, some allowances may need to be made to allow for differing structures (e.g., season length determined by number of services vs. number of weeks).

Given all these premises, the historical review search should be followed first by a comparative one using a combination of three criteria: “orchestra size in terms of employed musicians,” “season length in terms of services guaranteed per season,” and “orchestra budget.” Then, to narrow the search further, it is best to use the five criteria all together. The scheme resulting from the search is enriched by additional items like: CBA expiration date (to understand if other orchestras may be negotiating as well), employer contribution to health care, pension fund, endowments, funds (city, state, regional, and federal funds and the proportion between public and private funds and investments), percentage of expenses dedicated to the musicians’ salary and benefits, and pertinent costs (to consider the impact of wage increases in the orchestra overall budget). The data about last season’s gains/deficits could be added to this scheme by consulting the wage charts for each individual orchestra in the “orchestras” section of the website.

A proposal that not only reflects the aspirations of the bargaining unit but is also supported by data available on the wagechart.afm.org website will have a greater likelihood of success. We all work together towards a successful negotiation. The “Comparative Analysis” is a go-to instrument to better understand the symphonic world. It will be continuously adjusted to the needs of users. This is why your suggestions, personal experiences, and comments are always welcome.

I conclude with a note from Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck:

There is a Benjamin Disraeli quote apropos to this subject: “As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.” Harvard Professor William Eisen has a mantra that he repeats over and over to his students: “You can never have enough information.” The vast information collated [at wagechart.afm.org] gives us all the tools we need to enter orchestra negotiations with a deep understanding of the marketplace. The filter tools and the historical review permit us to drill down into very specific details tailored to fit every negotiation. It would be impossible for us to collect all the data that we have at our fingertips, instantly, 24-7, and it has proven to be an invaluable resource. We would be lost without it.

Bonnie Raitt: Slide Guitar Legend Digs in Deep and Speaks Out About Fair Pay

_images_uploads_gallery_bonnieraitt-6by Matt MindlinBlues legend, accomplished guitarist, and Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) member Bonnie Raitt was fortunate to have early opportunities to play with legends of the genre. Throughout her career, the singer songwriter has never been shy about standing up for causes she believes in. For the daughter of musicians John Raitt and Marge Goddard, both music and social activism are in her blood.

Though Raitt started guitar lessons at age eight, her real passion didn’t begin until a few years later when she first discovered slide guitar and the blues. “I didn’t even hear slide guitar on a blues record until I was about 13 or 14. It was a record on Vanguard called Blues at Newport ’63. I turned the record over and combed through the credits,” says Raitt. She soon soaked the label off a Coricidin cold medicine bottle, put it on her middle finger, and began teaching herself slide guitar.

Interested in culture and politics, Raitt began college at Harvard/Radcliffe studying social relations and African studies. Between classes she spent her time playing music at local coffee houses. About three years into her studies, she decided to pursue music full-time.

That was about the same time she joined Local 374 (Concord, NH). “You couldn’t make a record unless you were part of the union [in those days],” she says. “Musicians need to band together to make sure they are treated fairly. There’s power in the union and talking about issues that affect us all—collective bargaining for better deals, health insurance, making sure that people get paid, and tracking is really important.”

Learning from Legends

_images_uploads_gallery_bonnieraitt-5 Marina ChvezRaitt soon found herself opening up for some of her heroes: Fred McDowell, Son House, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker, to name a few. It was a world that you might assume would be intimidating to a young woman, but she says it was just the opposite.

“When I met these older blues artists and they heard me play, they got a kick out of it, just like they were thrilled with all the people who played the blues,” she reflects. “Of course, if you were good they admired you, and if you weren’t good they probably just wrote you off; that was the same for any musician—you either had the chops or you didn’t.”

In fact, the blues musicians were so accepting to Raitt that she feels it gave her an advantage. “I was lucky to have my foot in the door a lot more than other female singers that would have loved to have had a career in the business. I played the blues and that was a little bit unusual. It set me apart,” she says.

She studied from her mentors—how the music fit together, the function of the rhythm section, and which guitar or piano parts were important. She was also schooled in some intangible qualities. “Aside from just soaking up the authenticity, deep groove, and passion,” Raitt says she studied the way band members interacted and the interplay of the rhythm sections.

“I watched how they worked the crowd and built the set with dramatic pauses, how it just came naturally and how incredibly erotic and playful [it was], and the heartache on the slow songs,” she says.

Digging in Deep

_images_uploads_gallery_bonnieraitt-1 by Marina ChavezAbout 45 years later and 20 albums into her own career, Raitt’s latest project, Dig in Deep, still reflects all the emotion and technique she’d absorbed decades earlier. “All the topics of the songs I picked because they mean something to me at this time,” she says. “Having it be the 20th album, I’ve covered a lot of heartbreak topics before. I worked very hard on having a new thing to say and a new way to say it.”

As usual she didn’t shy away from tough topics. For example, she says, “‘Comin’ Round Is Going Through’ was something that was really burning in me to express how frustrated I am with money and politics—how democracy has been hijacked by big business and corporations that are influencing our policy too much. Regardless of your political leanings, I think everybody agrees that the system is kind of broken.”

“I think we are citizens first and we are musicians, artists after that. If you feel strongly that something is wrong, you should speak out as a citizen. We have responsibility, if we have the luxury of being well-known and having a microphone, to at least be informed and passionate,” she says. “I think all of us should speak out if we care about something and we want to help.”

The album’s title takes a line from the lead song, “Unintended Consequence of Love.” “It seemed to describe how deep the band was digging into these grooves,” says Raitt. “There’s something about a unit that has been together this long that just digs deeper. It’s effortless, like an unspoken language amongst ourselves. We instinctively know where the others are going and consequently don’t have to plan the arrangements. It’s very organic.”

Band members include Local 47 members James “Hutch” Hutchinson (bass), Ricky Fataar (drums), and Mike Finnigan (keyboards), and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) member George Marinelli (guitar). Raitt has played with Hutch and Fataar since the early ’80s. Marinelli has played guitar with Raitt on and off since 1993, and has been a permanent band member since 2000. And even though the newest member, Finnigan, has been with the band for just four years, Raitt has known him since the ’70s.

Going Indie

_images_uploads_gallery_BonnieRaitt_ConcreteStairs_Credit_MarinaChavezDig In Deep is the second album that Raitt has released on her own label, Redwing Records. The first, Slipstream, released after a seven-year recording hiatus, achieved success beyond what even Raitt had expected. It earned her a Grammy (her 10th) for Best Americana Album in 2012, and was one of the best selling independent albums for that year, selling more than a quarter million copies.

Raitt says that one of the keys to their successful label launch was the research and prep work they did. “We had been getting coached for several years before we suited up and started our own label. We watched a lot of people who have gone independent and learned by talking to them and finding out what we could do better and what they would have done differently. It is a strong learning curve, a lot of effort, but it’s really satisfying,” she concludes.

“It’s great to be able to own your own music and make a little more per CD, but it costs a lot to have the people to run your company. It’s a question of having a team willing to put in the savvy and expertise—accounting and reporting back. It’s a lot of work for the mighty group of three women running Redwing,” she continues.

“It’s exhilarating and it’s fun. The drawback [to independence] is the level of work. We have a large extended team, not just in our office—great people in my band and crew. I think the important thing is to pick people who are good to their families and good to work with. When you have quality people with integrity, then it’s a pleasure. You also have to be honest when it’s not working.”

This new world of music self-promotion, while satisfying, can present a challenge for new artists, admits Raitt. “Starting out, there are just thousands more out there competing for the same print or Internet interview time, or radio time. It’s tough to be independent, if you are not already famous. I feel sorry for people who are just starting up,” she says, advising, “You just have to stick with it. Take a look at other artists whose careers are going in the right direction and who seem to be handled smartly and try to do what they are doing.”

“But, man, it’s hard to keep up! Every time I think I just found my next 10 favorite new songwriters, a week later I’ll get another bunch. I’m so excited about the quality of music coming out—the avenues for new music and old music. The younger generations go across the musical aisles and get immediate links to people like Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and endless links to great jazz artists. I don’t think there’s ever been a more exciting time to be a music fan or a music creator,” she says.

Earning a Living

_images_uploads_gallery_bonnieraitt-3 by Marina ChavezHowever, she cautions that in all this openness and availability, we need to continue to strive for fair wages for everyone involved in the industry. “More musicians I know are staying on the road because that’s the only place they can sell CDs—after gigs, spending an hour signing them,” she says. “But, there’s a lot of people involved with songwriting and production of a record; they create the music we all enjoy and they don’t have the luxury of going on the road, so they can’t make a living. At some point it’s important to understand that buying music is critcal … do not assume that people are playing for free.”

“We need to make sure all the journalists, engineers, and bus drivers can make a living continuing to put great music out,” she says. “We have to figure out a way for that to be more fair and to have the musicians sitting at the tables, making the deals for streaming.”

“Let’s talk about what is the fair amount to get paid and how we are going to track how many plays we got. There are people not as lucky as me to be able to go out on the road and make a living. Songwriters are getting cut because the industry is shrinking. I don’t want to see that happen,” she says.

“I’m glad I got my foot in the door and got famous before this happened, but I’m going to pull everybody along with me,” she continues. “It’s just too important to have a wide variety. That’s one of the reasons independents and Americana format and public radio stations are important—to get the fringe music out there. Not everybody is going to be a Bruno Mars, you know?”

Supporters of Hartford Symphony Orchestra Rally at Connecticut State Capitol Building

playing to prepare for rallyOn September 8, Hartford musicians, Local 400 President Joseph Messina and Secretary Candace Lammers, and their supporters gathered outside the Connecticut State Capitol building to rally in support of Hartford Symphony Orchestra, which is fighting for a fair contract. Their last contract expired in 2013, and management has asked them to concede to fewer services and 40% pay cuts.

Among those who came to the Connecticut Capitol to show their support were AFM President Ray Hair, Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, and Symphonic Services Division Director Jay Blumenthal; ROPA Treasurer Donna Loomis; ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge; Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Treasurer Lori Pelletier; Connecticut AFL-CIO President and Executive Director AFSCME Council 4 Sal Luciano; Connecticut AFL-CIO Trustee Mark Espinosa; Connecticut AFL-CIO President Emeritus and longtime leader John Olsen; representatives of Danbury and Hartford Central Labor Councils; State Representative Andy Fleischmann who is a longtime friend of the labor movement, as well as arts in the schools; Connecticut Education Association representative and former House speaker Chris Donovan; workers from IATSE, AFSCME, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFT Connecticut, and FCIU; plus retirees and other concerned citizens.

Ray Hair gave a rousing speech at the rally where he called out David Fay, president and chief executive officer of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for trying to cut the musicians’ already meager $23,000 salaries, and in effect, destroy the orchestra.


“Nobody can live on $23,000 a year,” explained Hair. “That’s why they schedule rehearsals at night, during the week, to allow symphony musicians to supplement their jobs with daytime teaching and other things. Management wants to cut the workload down to about 115 [from 185] services annually for about $15,000 a season—a reduction of 38%. And what’s worse, that 38% pay cut is in the context of having daytime services. That forces musicians who make ends meet with multiple employers to choose between one job or the other. It’s a no win situation.”

All this is despite perfect concerts, recordings, and sold out shows, he continued. “The spirits that we raised here in the community and the money that we made for the businesses here are not enough for David Fay anymore.” Hair went on to detail more figures: Fay earned $400,000 last year; The Bushnell, Hartford’s performance venue, has assets of $43 million and posted profits last year; and the symphony has assets of nearly $10 million.

people at rally

“I think it’s time for David Fay to face the music in Hartford,” concluded Hair. “The concessions that David Fay is asking this orchestra to concede are completely and totally unjustified. For the employer/employee relationship to function there has to be a fair bargain. If we don’t put a stop to this union busting attitude, not only here in Hartford, but everywhere else, nobody’s ever going to do it. It threatens to destroy what much of labor has achieved over the past century and it’s about to destroy the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.”

Following the rally, Hartford Symphony Orchestra musicians and their supporters marched to The Bushnell and back while carrying signs and chanting.

Support Fair Play, Fair Pay

On April 13, I had the honor of joining members of Congress Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), many well-known musicians, AFM President Ray Hair, and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President David Pomeroy to introduce HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015. This federal legislative protection has been a long time coming, and would have a great effect on our members in greater New York, and throughout the country.

Continue reading

apwu logo

USPS/APWU Reach Impass

apwu logoThe American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and USPS failed to reach an agreement before the expiration of the current contract in May. According to an APWU news bulletin the USPS is insisting on severe cuts in pay and benefits, though progress has been made on many non-economic issues. “Management’s economic demands and proposed changes to the workforce structure were completely unacceptable,” says APWU President Mark Dimondstein.

Among the Postal Service proposals are:

  • eliminate of current cost-of-living adjustments.
  • Increased employee contribution to healthcare.
  • Permanent lower payscale for future career employees with reduced benefits.
  • Increased percentage of noncareer employees.
  • Weakened layoff protection.

APWU proposals include fair and reasonable wage increases, limits on subcontracting, more career jobs, improvements for Postal Support Employees, limits on excessing, and better service for our customers, explains Dimondstein. The talks will now go to mediation.

New York Creates Fast Food Wage Board

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a Fast Food Wage Board to investigate and make recommendations on an increase in the minimum wage for the fast food industry. The board is set to hold four public hearings in June before it issues its recommendations this summer. The recommendations will be subject to approval of Cuomo’s labor commissioner and cannot be blocked by legislature.

According to the Associated Press, the New York State Restaurant Association is critical of the panel. Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut says Friday that she believes Cuomo has already decided to increase the minimum wage for fast-food workers and that the wage board process is just a formality.

“The minimum wage is supposed to be a wage that allows people who work full-time to earn a decent living and provide for their family—but for too many fast-food workers, that is simply not the case,” says Cuomo. “We must raise the minimum wage to restore that promise of opportunity and help people across the state move beyond poverty. With this Wage Board, New York is stepping up for fast food workers, and we are going to challenge every state in the nation to follow our lead in doing what is right and what is fair.”

The Pandora – Naxos Deal: Fairness for Professional Musicians?

Below is an opinion article I authored in response to a recent deal between Naxos and Pandora, which apparently bypasses direct payment to members of performance rights royalties for digital radio through SoundExchange and via the AFM and SAG-AFTRA Fund. Digital royalties from webcasters like Pandora have been growing quickly. Unfortunately, US law also allows record labels to cut direct deals outside of SoundExchange. The new performance rights bill introduced by US Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) would ensure that statutory performance royalties are paid to performers. Continue reading