Tag Archives: ima

Deborah newmark

In Times of Crisis – Finding New Ways to Communicate

by Deborah Newmark, AFM Director of Symphonic Electronic Media

As I write this, we are 15 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and on the threshold of transitioning back to normal in the US. At the start of the pandemic, as musicians all over the world were sent home without any idea of when they would be able to return to work, orchestras in the US found themselves in uncharted waters. The AFM recognized, from the very beginning, that we needed to act fast to make it viable for orchestras to stream content as quickly as possible, while at the same time ensuring that our musicians would continue to be compensated.

The first agreement in March 2020, which was a side letter to the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA), got us through the balance of the 2019-2020 season. The next IMA side letter covered the 2020-2021 season. We now have a new IMA side letter for the 2021-2022 season, which hopefully will be the last one and may not even be needed through the entire season. That would be terrific news!

So how do you measure success under these circumstances? Certainly, the most successful measure by far is that most symphony, opera, and ballet musicians continued to receive compensation at either 100% or at a fairly significant percentage of pre-COVID wages. Most employers worked to ensure their artists would be able to survive, keep their homes, and take care of their families. A small handful of employers chose not to do this, treated their artists abysmally, and left them without any means of support. In our field, they were gratefully in the minority.

And what about our loyal audiences? The introduction of these streaming side letters made it possible for orchestras to release existing content, and in many cases, create new content, to make sure the connection with their audiences remained strong throughout this crisis. The streamed music kept those connections alive and brought solace to our audiences as we all went through this shared, frightening experience.

We saw a burst of creative ideas born out of necessity as we grappled with how to create new content under compromising circumstances. At first, musicians recorded music alone at home. Very few musicians have professional recording equipment at home. Many struggled using their smartphones to capture their performances. The next discovery was the composite video that appeared like a zoom screen where individuals contributed tracks to a unified whole. As the year progressed and small groups of musicians were allowed into venues, we started to see small ensemble programming of chamber music. And finally, we saw venues open to larger ensembles who were then able to start recording traditional symphonic repertoire.

Through all of these stages, opportunities were created for employers and musicians to think outside the box. Musicians provided countless terrific ideas that took advantage of the reduced forces. Musicians found themselves playing repertoire they would not normally play in a traditional symphonic, opera, or ballet setting. It opened the door to a lot of new and interesting musical choices. There is an inherent desire to connect with music. This crisis created an environment of opportunity to create something truly meaningful for both the performers and their audiences.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic produced content outdoors at the Hollywood Bowl, playing to an empty 18,000-seat arena. A drone recorded the vast, empty expanse, capturing the moment in time. The San Francisco Symphony found interesting ways to incorporate musical content into documentaries about the history and culture of their city.

A few opera companies rose to the challenge when faced with restrictions on placing singers in the same room as musicians. The singers and the musicians were recorded separately, and the final product was assembled to great success. In order to do this successfully, we recommended use of the new media provisions of the AFM Basic TV Film Agreement for these direct to streaming releases. We also saw a lot of activity in educational programming created by many orchestras and shared with pre-K, elementary, and high schools all over the US, including classes on Zoom.

Members of the New York Philharmonic took to the road on the back of a bright red open-bed truck, in some cases accompanied by countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. He joined these spontaneous pop-up concerts all over the five boroughs of New York City. To avoid crowds, none were announced in advance. However, the faces of the appreciative audiences they found at every location showed the power of music.

Times of great challenges can bring opportunity and our orchestras found many new ways to engage in the art form while streaming. They gained valuable experience along the way, which will only help produce better content in the future.

May we never have to experience something like the past 15 months ever again, but what we learned from this time will reap enormous benefits now and in the future.

IMA COVID Side Letter – Take 2

On March 8, the AFM reached agreement with the Employers’ Electronic Media Association (EMA) on a new Integrated Media Agreement (IMA) COVID Side Letter for the 2021-22 season. This agreement is available to IMA signatories whose musicians are guaranteed compensation for the 2021-22 season.

We had certainly hoped that we would return to some semblance of normalcy over the course of the 2020-21 season. That did not turn out to be the case, although we do have some orchestras performing in front of live audiences. However, it has become evident that we need to continue with the model we had in place for the current season for those orchestras that want to continue utilizing the free streaming rights contained in the 2020-21 IMA COVID Side Letter in exchange for a commitment to once again guarantee to compensate musicians at one of four tiers available in the agreement.

In August 2020, the AFM entered into the first full-year IMA COVID Side Letter with the EMA to help orchestras navigate the expected challenges for the 2020-21 season during the COVID crisis. Many orchestras took advantage of the side letter. In addition to the EMA version, we also offered a version of the side letter to those orchestras signed to the Individual Employer IMA. Eligibility to use the side letter required the employer to commit to a level of guaranteed compensation for the current season. The level selected put an orchestra into one of four tiers. Each tier came with a package of free streaming rights—the higher the tier, the larger the monthly streaming package. Signatory orchestras were able to post programs using existing archival material and those orchestras working at Tiers 3 and 4 of the IMA side letter could create new content in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

The 2021-22 IMA COVID-19 Side Letter

The new agreement is essentially identical to the 2020-21 COVID Side Letter. It retains the same tier structure and compensation requirements, with the same allocation of monthly streaming minutes tied to each tier. The agreement permits archival streaming in all four tiers, educational content in tiers 2, 3, and 4, and in the top two tiers offers the ability to stream newly created content of “performances” and provides some expanded volunteer promotional recording. The number of available minutes of content for both archival and new content varies by tier.

As in the 2020-21 side letter, the “Newly Created Capture” provisions (available at Tiers 3 and 4) address the issue of what constitutes a “performance” for purposes of media capture when there is no audience present in the hall or even a reduced audience. The regular IMA permits capture in performance (and in some cases, rehearsals) for a variety of releases under the agreement but establishes a separate “special call” rate for services called solely for the purposes of recording when no audience is present. The AFM and the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) media committees felt strongly that “performances” without an audience present must not be allowed to morph into multi-take recording sessions, and the agreement reflects that commitment. The IMA signatory orchestras that choose not to work under the side letter with a Tier 3 or 4 compensation commitment, but who want to create new content in the absence of an audience, must pay their musicians the special call rate for the capture plus the applicable release rate under the IMA.

Under the side letter, the media wages for the amounts and types of streaming distribution covered by the agreement are waived, so long as the employer maintains compensation and benefits, including health insurance, at the level required. All other terms of the IMA remain in place.

Term of Agreement

The one change from the 2020-21 IMA COVID Side Letter is the term of agreement. The employer’s right to use the provisions of the side letter will be available until 180 days after such time as the relevant governmental authorities permit resumption of public performance without restriction on audience capacity (no COVID-related restrictions on the number of patrons permitted to be present in the hall) and the employer is actually able to resume public performance without COVID-related restrictions on the number of patrons permitted to be present in the hall or June 15, 2022, whichever comes first.  This will allow for some additional time to transition and to continue using the side letter even after audiences are allowed to return.

The same circumstances we faced at the beginning of the 2020-21 season remain as we head into next season. Some states will open the doors to concert halls sooner than others. Vaccination numbers continue to rise. However, we are not yet at a point where we can safely get the entire orchestra back on stage and full-capacity audiences back in our concert halls. Streaming remains vitally important.

We continue to work closely with the ICSOM and ROPA media committees about how best to help our organizations through this challenging time in ways that will provide streaming content, both old and new, to share with our audiences while at the same time ensuring compensation for our musicians.

It is our fervent hope that our orchestras will soon return to performing in front of their beloved audiences. In the meantime, this agreement will continue to make it possible to maintain that connection as we await our return to the concert hall.

If you are interested in learning more about the agreement or you would like to discuss your IMA orchestra becoming signatory to the new agreement, please contact me at dnewmark@afm.org or by phone at 646-269-1823 or 212-869-1330 ext. 225.

ICSOM orchestras

Promoting Your Orchestra Using the New Integrated Media Agreement

by Deborah Newmark, Director, Symphonic Electronic Media

Promoting Your Orchestra Using the New Integrated Media AgreementTo familiarize the 70-plus orchestras now working under the new Integrated Media Agreement (IMA), and for those that may work under the agreement in the future, it is helpful to examine some of the provisions that are designed to assist orchestras in promoting themselves and building audiences into the future. The IMA negotiations were a hard-fought battle against forces that believe that everything we do can be described as promotion, and should therefore be free. We succeeded in fending off this attack, but ultimately agreed to allow for some expansion of the promotional opportunities, while maintaining the upfront payments and revenue sharing that are key components of the majority of the agreement.

To be a signatory to the IMA, an orchestra must have a collective bargaining agreement with their local, a permanent roster, and an orchestra committee. The 70-plus eligible orchestras signed to the new IMA will be able to take advantage of these new, expanded provisions. There are 50-plus orchestras still working under the older IMA and they will continue to use the news and promotional provisions under the older agreement.

The promotional language in the new IMA (2015-2017) is divided into subsections: Use of Captured Material for Promotion; Promotion via Performance Streaming; Volunteer Promotional Recordings; and Gifts to Donors, Corporate Sponsors, and Subscribers.

Footage for these promotional pieces will be captured at live services (rehearsals or performances). The one exception to this form of capture is the volunteer promotional recording provision (discussed later in this article). There are time limits on the amount of capture and use for all promotional pieces.

From Capture to Finished Promo

The new provisions make it possible for orchestras to greatly expand their time and presence on social media. Typical uses would be the institution’s Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as other social media sites. It also covers use in cell phones or wireless transmission, streaming e-mails (perhaps to subscribers), podcasts, and use in kiosks or monitors in promotional locations. The material can also be used by institutional sponsors or partners for their websites, as long as the material isn’t being sold.

The agreement also provides an opportunity to stream a performance that was free to the public for 45 days in order to expand the institution’s community outreach. In addition, there is a new provision that (with orchestra approval) allows for one concert that was not free to the public to be streamed for the same 45-day period.

Volunteer Promotional Recordings

Lengthy discussions took place at the IMA negotiations over the issue of the employers’ and potentially the musicians’ interest in being able to participate in audio or audiovisual interviews and activities that, in addition to talking, include individual demonstrations on their instruments for promotion. An example of this type of promotion might be an employer’s interest in featuring a new player in the orchestra, or asking a player to demonstrate an excerpt of a piece from an upcoming concert.

Our negotiating committee felt that the only fair way to do this was to make it voluntary for the interested musicians, plus create rules that had to be followed to ensure consistent application of this new provision. Musicians can accept or decline the offer without affecting their status in the orchestra. These recorded interviews cannot be used in any kind of disciplinary procedure. The recording can be done at a time and place chosen by the volunteer musician. Recording time is limited to 45 minutes and the final product can be no longer than 15 minutes. It is available for two years from the date of posting. Musicians that participate have approval over the repertoire and have final say in whether or not the product gets used.

This new provision is designed to create some order in what was previously a chaotic approach to these types of projects. As it is a new provision, the AFM will be collecting information about these projects along the way to evaluate how well it is working.

Gifts to Donors, Corporate Sponsors, and Subscribers

In the past, the Federation has assisted individual orchestras that wanted to make a gift of a CD to their donors during major fundraising campaigns. Special agreements were created by the AFM and approved by the musicians of each institution. These agreements allowed for the creation of a CD to bring in needed dollars to the orchestra as part of a major fundraising drive. In an effort to codify an existing practice, the AFM agreed to include such provisions in the agreement.

There are now two donor paths that an orchestra must choose between to create one project per season. The first path allows for the creation of a CD, DVD, audio download, or AV download to be distributed to donors as a gift. There are minimum donation requirements and limits on the number of copies. This product can’t be sold or broadcast.

The second path an orchestra can choose is to create a donor portal on the orchestra’s website (or a third party website, if the orchestra doesn’t have the ability to host the portal on its own site). Once again, there are minimum levels that must be met by donors and limits on the amount of music that can be posted. Access to the portal must be password protected or otherwise restricted. The material will be available for on-demand streaming—no downloads. The orchestra committee has artistic and project approval for either path. There is also a new provision that allows the possibility of providing a CD or DVD gift to a major corporate sponsor or underwriter up to one time per year (with Federation approval).

The final promotional category covers the release of product for subscribers or multi-ticket buyers. This is an opportunity to provide them with a taste of what a donor gets as a possible enticement to move them up to the donor level. Up to two times per year, the employer can provide them with a free download (or another perk like a maximum two-week period of access to a donor portal) in connection with a targeted marketing program specifically approved by the Orchestra Committee. There are time limits for the product posted.

Time will tell if signatory institutions take advantage of these wide-ranging opportunities to promote themselves. The resulting reported activity will inform the discussion when the time comes to bargain the successor IMA.