Tag Archives: srla

Build Audiences with MPTF— Musicians Will Beat a Path to Your Door

As previously reported, new streaming and licensing revenue from the sound recording industry via the Federation’s 2017 Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA), has infused new money into the AFM-EP Fund and has revitalized both the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF) and the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF). MPTF, throughout its more than 70-year history, has worked closely with officers and staff of AFM locals to co-sponsor thousands of live, admission-free musical performances each year throughout the United States and Canada.

MPTF was nearly out of money in 2016 and was forced to plan for the unwinding of its operations and the eventual cessation of business, pending the outcome of our negotiations with the labels. The problem was the changing trends in music consumption. From its inception in 1944 in settlement of a strike with the record labels, MPTF revenue was derived from a small royalty on sales of physical product, such as vinyl records, cassette tapes, and compact discs. Today, with 90% of label revenue attributable to streaming, MPTF and SPF would be out of business without streaming royalties to replace and reverse the decline in revenue from physical product.

Here is the good news: By the March 31, 2020 close of its current fiscal year, MPTF will have provided over $1 million in co-sponsorship funding during that 12-month period, compared to less than $500,000 in funding during the 2016 period. MPTF Trustee Dan Beck has advised that the April 2020 funding allocations will continue to rise due to the growth of streaming revenue.

The favorable developments concerning future MPTF funding underscore the need for locals and their members to work together to develop popular, successful performance programs that will benefit your community and generate new employment. Dynamic and diverse programs will build appreciative audiences, and promote recognition for MPTF, the Federation, our locals and our members year after year. A great local MPTF program works wonders for membership recruitment and retention.

Legendary jazz drummer and University of North Texas Professor of Music Ed Soph leads an MPTF project performance in Denton, Texas, at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival. He was accompanied by UNT jazz faculty colleagues Mike Steinel, trumpet, and Rosana Eckert, vocals. All are members of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas).

A well-rounded local MPTF program is built by fostering a variety of constructive, enduring relationships with producers of admission-free public events and with schedulers of entertainment for institutional purposes, such as hospitals and assisted living centers. Local community-based institutions, arts and civic organizations, neighborhood associations and entities that manage entertainment events and recreational programs for city parks, indoor and outdoor shopping malls, and suburban town squares, are always on the lookout for dependable partners that can provide first-rate talent for events that will promote goodwill for their venues.

How can you identify potential MPTF co-sponsors in your area? Your local city, county, and state arts councils are a good place to start. Arts councils, many funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, provide foundational support for community-based arts organizations, including some that may offer admission-free programs of professional musical performances.

A big buzzword in the arts council world is “collaboration.” The prospect of access to MPTF funding could encourage arts council officials to promote partnerships with locals and community affiliates for the presentation of public musical performances.

Visit with your area shopping malls, neighborhood associations, shop owner “main street” associations, and city parks and recreation departments. Invariably, there is someone employed by those organizations to create free entertainment programs for the enjoyment of patrons and citizens of their communities. Find out who selects the musical offerings for those programs and contact them to pitch the obvious benefit of MPTF co-funding and local union talent. Any program coordinator juggling an entertainment budget will listen intently when it dawns on them that not only can you deliver first-rate talent, you’ll also help them pay for it.

Another area of interest is the promotion of MPTF-funded programs of musical performances by professional musicians in public schools. A programming opportunity may arise if an established ensemble of professional musicians seeks to partner with a public school system to present concerts for elementary, middle school, and high school students in the public schools. MPTF can help where public school budgets have limited or no money for such programs and, particularly, where music department directors and school superintendents understand the educational benefit of enabling students to see and hear musical performances presented by outstanding professional musicians. In-school concerts by suburban symphony orchestras, jazz ensembles and big bands, and other musical styles are another creative way to introduce the community to the advantages of MPTF co-sponsorship.

Community leaders are always seeking recognition. They receive it by sponsoring and promoting public events where families can come together and enjoy good music in a community setting—the park, the town square, the mall, the neighborhood, the school auditorium. Not only do we perform the music, but, through MPTF, we can help our communities afford it.

Go out into your communities and look for opportunities to apply the MPTF advantage. Build a balanced performance program by establishing productive institutional, community-based, and business-related partnerships to bring fine musical performances to an appreciative public. Build a program that builds audiences, and every musician in town—and your community—will beat a path to your door.

Legendary jazz drummer and University of North Texas Professor of Music Ed Soph leads an MPTF project performance in Denton, Texas, at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival. He was accompanied by UNT jazz faculty colleagues Mike Steinel, trumpet, and Rosana Eckert, vocals. All are members of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas).

New Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) Reached

As this issue went to print, AFM’s negotiating team, comprised of recording musicians and our union’s leadership, had reached a new Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) with the major recording companies including Hollywood (Disney), Sony, Universal, and Warner. The tentative three-year contract is a huge win for musicians who record under the SRLA, which sets minimum wage scales and working conditions for audio recordings—both studio sessions and live performances. When ratified, musicians will see improved pension and health care contributions, and 3% wage increases in each year of the contract.

“With music consumption transitioning away from CDs and downloads, we fought hard to connect our residual and pension funding to streaming. For the first time, the SRLA obligates the companies to contribute a portion of interactive streaming revenue to our Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF) and the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF). New provisions also require the companies to make substantial guaranteed annual payments to the AFM & Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) from streaming,” says AFM President Ray Hair. “Negotiations are not always an easy or quick process, but when musicians stand together—we have the power to do anything!”

In the coming weeks, musicians who work under the SRLA will receive a ratification letter and voting information about this new and improved contract. Look for additional details of the new Sound Recording Labor Agreement in Hair’s March column.

Ray Hair

Changing Channels: from Pamphlet B to SRLA, Network Television

I am pleased to announce that the Federation has concluded negotiations with the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions for a successor Pamphlet B Agreement. The new agreement establishes wages and conditions of employment for musicians working on the road in touring theatrical musical productions. The Federation’s Pamphlet B Agreement is administered by the Federation’s Touring/Theatre/Booking Division (TTBD), headed by Assistant to the President Michael Manley.

Despite a rough start in our initial round of bargaining, the Federation, Disney, and the League were eventually able to find common ground during subsequent negotiations, ultimately reaching a progressive agreement that will become effective retroactively after ratification to March 11, 2016 and extend through March 15, 2020.

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Record Labels Return to the Table: Seeking Successor to Sound Recording Labor Agreement


As I write this column, preliminary caucus meetings have just concluded in preparation for the opening round of talks with major labels representing the sound recording industry toward a successor Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA). The existing agreement was reached October 2011, expired February 2015, and has been extended indefinitely while negotiations are in progress. Formal across-the-table negotiations begin September 28 in New York City.

In addition to setting wages and conditions covering musicians performing sessions called by the big three labels (Universal/Capitol/EMI, Sony/BMG/Columbia, and Warner/Atlantic), their owned subsidiaries, Disney’s Hollywood Records, and other covered independent labels, the agreement provides additional special residual payments to session musicians for five years following an original session through the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF). It also establishes a royalty from sales revenue for the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), which is of critical interest to the Federation, our locals, and our members.

The current round of negotiations will convene against a backdrop of litigation recently initiated against the major labels by the Federation and by the American Federation of Musicians’ and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF). The pension fund’s legal action centers on the labels’ failure and refusal to make appropriate pension payments on foreign streaming. The Federation’s action concerns Sony Music’s failure to comply with contract provisions that require additional payments for new use, domestic, and foreign licensing. The day of turning a blind eye toward industry’s noncompliance with the SRLA is done; thus, as a last resort and to demonstrate our resolve toward strict contract enforcement, the Federation and the AFM-EPF have turned to the courts for relief from the games the labels play to avoid paying our members the wages and benefits due.

The negotiations will also take place amidst rapid changes in the public’s consumption of music—away from physical products like compact discs and DVDs, and away from permanent downloads, toward web-based digital distribution that includes interactive and noninteractive streaming. In the realm of interactive streaming, digital service providers like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube are paying labels hundreds of millions of dollars for rights to access entire catalogs of tunes, but most featured artists do not have the leverage to demand and obtain a fair royalty from the labels. Session musicians, the unsung heroes behind the labels’ treasure trove of hits, get nothing.

The bottom line is that consumer spending on recorded music and record industry revenue are moving swiftly from physical product and digital downloads to streaming. And as we watch our traditional royalty positions in physical and download sales decline precipitously, threatening the very existence of MPTF and SPF, pursuit of new money for those funds will prompt a new sense of urgency in the upcoming negotiations.

Our negotiating team is an inclusive, well-rounded mix of international officers, local officers, rank-and-file recording musicians, AFM staff, and attorneys. It includes AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, International Officers Tino Gagliardi of Local 802 (New York City) and Dave Pomeroy of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President Marc Sazer, RMA rank-and-file representative Neil Stubenhaus of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Local 47 President John Acosta, Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) President Gary Matts, Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck, Local 10-208 Electronic Media Director Dean Rolando, and Local 802 Electronic Media Director Steve Dannenberg.

Also represented in our SRLA negotiating team are a host of talented rank-and-file recording musicians whose knowledge and experience from the field is essential in building a credible approach toward industry. We will have expert assistance from AFM EMSD Director Pat Varriale, and an invaluable trio of lawyers featuring AFM General Counsel Jeff Freund, Associate Counsel Trish Polach, and In-House Counsel Jennifer Garner.

We expect that negotiations with industry will be long and difficult. For the first time in recent history, the Federation and AFM-EPF have initiated legal action to enforce compliance with SRLA provisions. Those actions have served notice to industry that, when we are left without proper paychecks and benefit payments, and attempts to correct those actions are stonewalled, there will be consequences. The industry also knows that the Federation is acutely aware of the rapid changes in consumer spending and how those changes have adversely affected MPTF and SPF.

Your negotiating team will bargain hard to ensure that our successor SRLA will be a progressive agreement and will promote, preserve, and protect the interests of the Federation, our locals, and our talented recording musicians both today and throughout the years ahead.