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Broadway Is Back on the Road

by Ray Hair, AFM International President

I am pleased to report that the Federation has completed negotiations with the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions for an extension to the Pamphlet B Touring Theatrical Musicals and Short Engagement Touring (SET) Agreements and for a comprehensive Health and Safety Manual (“Safety Manual”) applicable to all musicians performing under those agreements. The predecessor Pamphlet B and SET agreements expired of their own terms on March 15, 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic erupted worldwide, effectively shutting down the entire live entertainment industry, including 23 touring Pamphlet B and SET productions.

League producers restarted touring musical productions in Dallas on August 3 with Wicked. Touring productions of Hamilton resumed soon thereafter in Atlanta and San Francisco. Additional Broadway tours are scheduled to either open or resume touring itineraries in the fall, with bookings set through 2022.

The extension agreement applies and extends all terms of the expired predecessor Pamphlet B and SET agreements. It was concluded as a prelude to more difficult and comprehensive negotiations over the Safety Manual, which contains protocols necessary to minimize the risk of the virus and deal with the prevention of COVID-19 while on tour. The Federation and the League have agreed that the prevalence and incidence of COVID-19 and efforts to prevent and transmit it will be continually assessed for adequacy based on the changing nature of COVID-19 and its variants. You can view the Safety Manual in its entirety at www.afm.org.

The Federation and the League also recognize that the Safety Manual may require adjustments to protocols based on new knowledge about the virus. If changes are necessary, they may occur with prior notice and negotiations between the League and the Federation, and if needed, on an individual show or location basis.

Several key improvements were eventually achieved (over provisions the League initially proposed) for musicians working on the road:

  • Portable HEPA air filtration is required in the orchestra pit.
  • Additional compensation is required for any mandated health and safety training or education.
  • A stipend of $250 is required if a musician must travel away from home to undergo a COVID test on a day when not working for a producer.
  • If a musician is required to quarantine, all hotel expenses, reasonable food delivery expenses, and per diem will be paid by the producer.
  • If the tour moves to the next location before quarantine is concluded, the musician will be reimbursed for ground transportation to/from the plane/automobile transporting musician to next tour location.
  • Musicians will receive up to eight extra sick days for quarantine or isolation related to COVID.

The League, its bargaining partners, and producers proposed, and the Federation subsequently agreed, that all members of any touring company (including musicians) are required to be “fully vaccinated.” Fully vaccinated means the employee received an FDA authorized or WHO authorized vaccine, and more than 14 days have elapsed following the final dose of the vaccine. Proof of vaccination must be provided no later than the first rehearsal of a production.

Members of a tour who cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a qualifying disability or a sincerely held religious belief must contact the employer to request an accommodation.

We believe the extension and Safety Manual are affirmatively good results, extending the expired provisions of the Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Theatrical Tours Agreement and implementing achievable protocols and guidelines for musicians’ care and protection via the manual. All of this was gained without sacrificing economic benefits and working conditions bargained over the Federation’s long history of negotiations with the League, its bargaining partners, and producers.

We owe a huge debt of thanks to AFM Touring, Theater, and Booking Division Director Tino Gagliardi and Associate Director George Fiddler for their unparalleled industry experience, focused advice, and superb ability to keep touring musicians’ issues at hand and in mind during these negotiations. Similarly, the contributions provided by Theater Musicians Association President Tony D’Amico, together with superb rank-and-file representation from players Elaine Davidson of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth) and Susan French of Local 802 (New York City), both veterans of decades of roadwork, kept our negotiating team focused on the real needs and lives of musicians performing with the shows.

Thanks are also due for the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of the entire negotiating team, including AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, AFM Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck and Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto, AFM IEB Member and Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) President Terry Jares, Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) President Kale Cummings, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) President Stefanie O’Keefe and Vice President Rick Baptist, Local 72-147 President Stewart Williams, AFM IEB Member and Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Ed Malaga, and Local 2-197 (St. Louis, MO) Secretary Vicki Smolik. Finally, I wish to thank Federation Counsel Russ Naymark and Jennifer Garner for their legal expertise, insight, and assistance at all stages of negotiations.

Record-Breaking Royalty Payments for Session Musicians

More than 42,000 session musicians and vocalists in all 50 states and Canada will be sharing $62 million in royalties collected by the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund—the largest distribution in the fund’s history.

The average payment to studio musicians and singers is approximately $1,500, but some performers are receiving well above that amount. The fund distributed $60 million in royalties in 2019 and over $430 million since it was created in 2008.

“This is great news at such a difficult time for musicians,” said AFM International President Ray Hair. “This fund provides for session players who live gig to gig, and there has never been a greater need for royalty income than right now, with the extensive cancellation of live performances.”

“The music industry has been massively impacted by COVID-19, and no one more so than performers whose touring work has been halted and whose recordings are mostly cancelled,” said SAG-AFTRA’s COO and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “We’re proud of the fund’s commitment and diligence in ensuring that the distribution of royalties will reach tens of thousands of performers at a time when that financial security is needed more than ever.”

Established by AFM and SAG-AFTRA, the fund distributes domestic royalties from non-interactive digital streaming providers like Pandora and Sirius XM to non-featured performers (session musicians and background singers). The fund, a non-profit organization, also distributes royalties from various foreign performance rights’ organizations to US artists.

Hair and Crabtree-Ireland explained that the fund makes every effort to contact all artists who may have earned royalties, but there is insufficient information to process payments for some performers. Both union leaders are encouraging all musicians and vocalists to check the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund website at www.afmsagaftrafund.org/unclaimed-royalties.php to see if they may be owed money.

“I am incredibly proud of our staff, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this distribution went out on schedule to the performers who so greatly need it during these difficult economic times. Their dedication to the mission of the fund and its participants is unparalleled,” added AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund CEO Stefanie Taub.

ran blake

Ran Blake to Receive 2020 Jazz Journalists Association Boston Jazz Hero Award

Pianist and composer Ran Blake is the 2020 recipient of the Boston Jazz Hero award from the Jazz Journalists Association. Blake, a member of Local 802 (New York City), is one of 27 jazz heroes in 23 cities across the country chosen as “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz.”

ran blake

The Jazz Journalists Association, in partnership with New England Conservatory (NEC) where Blake has taught for 52 years, presented the award to Blake during a virtual event at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 23. The event also included a solo piano performance by Blake and a short interview by veteran jazz writer and JJA board member Bob Blumenthal.

“As founding chair of the Third Stream/Contemporary Improvisation program, Ran’s impact on the curriculum and culture of NEC has been transformative,” said NEC President Andrea Kalyn. “But his full influence reaches far beyond, reflected in the work of generations of musicians who—under Ran’s guidance—were given both the tools and the freedom to develop their own individual artistry. He is a true musical hero, and we extend our warmest congratulations on this most fitting honor.”

New Bedford Symphony Orchestra Musicians Ratify First CBA

Musicians of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (NBSO) voted by an overwhelming majority in April to ratify a first Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Boston Musicians’ Association (BMA), Local 9-535. The NBSO was founded in 1915 and becomes the AFM’s newest member orchestra. 

In December 2019, NBSO musicians voted in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 1 election to recognize the BMA as their legal bargaining agent. As a result of the cooperative negotiations which followed, parties came to a four-year agreement providing employee status to all musicians, sick pay, a tenured roster with non-renewal and appeals protections for roster members, grievance and arbitration, and solid annual wage increases.

Special Auction to Benefit Musicians

Tarisio, the leading international auction venue for fine instruments and bows, has launched GiveBack — a special benefit auction with all commissions donated to musicians around the world who have been affected by COVID-19. The commissions from this sale, which are expected to exceed $100,000, will be divided into $600 grants and awarded on a lottery basis. Any musician, anywhere in the world is welcome to apply.

“As we navigate these unprecedented times, supporting our communities is essential. Musicians around the world are our community, our clients and most importantly, our friends. Orchestras have been furloughed, contracts have been canceled, freelancers are left without work. We will do what we can to help,” the company stated in a press release.

The auction will be unique in that it will feature 10-20 exceptional instruments by known, collectible makers. Already committed to the sale are instruments by Fagnola, Bisiach, and Capicchioni. Tarisio will be announcing highlights leading up to the sale going.

The catalog will be posted online on April 15 and the auction will end on May 1.

 The deadline for applications is April 25. The grants will be awarded on May 7 and disbursed on May 31. 

Anyone who would like to participate, contribute, or take a virtual viewing, contact Tarisio at info@tarisio.com.

Learn more about the sale and apply for a grant here: https://tarisio.com/giveback/

United States Travel Ban Extended to Europe

Travel bans have further affected orchestras’ performance schedules, both in terms of planned international tours and the ability of international guest artists and conductors to enter the US.

Beginning March 14, the US banned all travel from Europe for 30 days. The United Kingdom was at first excluded from the order, but the ban was then extended to Great Britain and Ireland effective March 16. Already, bans had been ordered to restrict any foreigners who have visited China or Iran within 14 days prior.

At the time of this writing, the US government advised reconsidering travel abroad and the Canadian government advised avoiding all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice and closed its border.

Orchestras Rally to Put Digital Solutions in Place

Orchestras are rapidly considering how they can continue to serve their communities, exploring streamed concerts and digital-learning capabilities for education programs. A side letter to the AFM’s International Media Agreement was quickly negotiated as the crisis unfolded, allowing orchestras to more easily offer audio or audio-visual streaming of certain performances to their audiences in exchange for commitments to continue compensation to all musicians even when live work cannot proceed. A similar special agreement was created to cover streaming by Canadian orchestras. Other orchestras are availing themselves of streaming rights that already exist within the IMA.

The Philadelphia Orchestra became the first US orchestra to livestream a concert in response to the coronavirus pandemic. On March 12, the orchestra announced the cancellation of its events through March 27, including a concert that had been scheduled for that evening. The same day, a plan was put into place to livestream that evening’s performance as well as record it for radio broadcast. More than 5,000 people tuned in to the Facebook Live broadcast—more the twice the seated capacity in the orchestra’s hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies were performed for the digital audience, as well as the world premiere of a new work by composer Iman Habibi, who was permitted to attend in person.

A Minnesota Orchestra livestream and one from the Toledo Symphony followed the next night. The Windsor Symphony on March 14 and the Vancouver Symphony on March 15 live-streamed concerts performed in empty halls. Among other efforts thus far, on March 16, the Metropolitan Opera began making available a free nightly stream of an encore presentation from its Live in HD series and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has made its “Replay” archive of past performances available free of charge for one month.

AFL-CIO Calls for Workplace Standard on Infectious Diseases

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently decried the Trump Administration for being unprepared for the current coronavirus contagion spreading throughout the US—as well as being incompetent in its federal response to the outbreak—and called for an emergency workplace standard on infectious diseases to protect workers from the virus.

“The reports I’m hearing from our affiliate unions are deeply troubling,” Trumka said in a March 6 speech to a roundtable of reporters. “Guidance from federal authorities have been inconsistent at best and dangerous at worst. Many employers are woefully unprepared. And the virus continues to spread.”

Trumka said the federal government had a permanent infectious disease workplace standard in the works, but President Trump halted work on it when he assumed office in 2017. “This is part of the Trump Administration’s pattern of reckless and dangerous deregulation,” he said.

Trumka said an emergency workplace infectious disease standard would “be a step in the right direction” and set in motion a six-month timeline to create a permanent standard so the US is better prepared if and when the next outbreak occurs. “A protective OSHA standard is even more important now that the Trump administration rolled back CDC-recommended protections, leaving working people at greater risk,” he said.

The nation’s largest union also sent an email to its members—and created a campaign on The Action Network—urging all members to call their federal representatives and advocate for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases.

“There is no existing OSHA standard or basic regulatory framework that comprehensively addresses an employer’s responsibility to protect workers from infectious diseases,” the campaign statement said. “In the absence of a set of mandatory infection control requirements that employers must implement, there is no assurance that all workers will be protected from infectious diseases like COVID-19.”

To learn more about the AFL-CIO’s position on protecting workers from infectious diseases and to view a list of resources about the COVID-19 outbreak, visit www.aflcio.org.

Limited Exception to Lacey Act Authorized

The US Agriculture Department has authorized a limited exception to the Lacey Act requirement that all imported products containing wood and other plant products be accompanied by a declaration disclosing all wood in the products. The new “de minimis” rule exempts any product with no more than 5% of the weight of the individual product, provided that the total weight of the shipment does not exceed 2.9 kilograms. The rule is effective on April 1, 2020.

At the present time, only two categories of musical instruments—pianos and “other stringed instruments”—require a declaration, but the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Agriculture Department (APHIS) has indicated that it will expand those categories later this year. APHIS has adopted a phase-in of the import declaration requirement.

The Lacey Act, first enacted in 1900, is the United States’ oldest wildlife protection statute. It combats trafficking in illegally taken wildlife, fish, or plants. The act was amended in 2008 to require importers to submit a declaration at the time of importation for certain plants and plant products. The new exception was created to relieve the burden on importers while continuing to ensure that the declaration requirements fulfills the purposes of the Lacey Act.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra Ratifies Contract Early

Seven months in advance of the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), musicians and management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) ratified a new contract in January. The new agreement takes effect September 7, 2020 and runs through September 5, 2023.

The CBA will increase base salary by 5.1% over three years and will add an additional week of performances in the third year. Musicians will donate up to four services per year to support high-profile performance opportunities and will continue to have the choice to opt in for community performances. The contract adds a new orchestra position in year two, bringing the orchestra complement from 87 to 88 musicians.

Under the new contract, paid family leave will increase and musicians will take on a greater share of the cost of health insurance premiums.

Principal Horn Karl Pituch, chair of the negotiating committee and a member of Local 5 (Detroit, MI), said he believes the contract will allow Detroit Symphony Orchestra to continue to attract the best musicians in the world. The organization shared that the contract is in line with the parameters set in DSO’s 10-year plan for fiscal and artistic sustainability, introduced in 2013.