Tag Archives: talk show

New International Representative, TV Negotiations Update

I am pleased to announce that Dave Shelton, former president of Local 554-635 (Lexington, KY), has become the newest member the Federation’s staff as an International Representative (IR), filling a field position that became vacant May 2017 with the departure of Barbara Owens.

International Representatives are the first line of help and assistance for local officers in matters pertaining to day-to-day operations and governance issues in running a local. They are readily available to assist local officers with onsite training, preparation of operating plans, budgeting, and compliance issues relative to AFM Bylaws and Department of Labor regulations. IRs are a resource for the development and application of local bylaws, mergers, membership rosters, newsletters, membership meetings, and elections.

New AFM International Representative for Midwest Territory Dave Shelton

Dave Shelton is uniquely qualified for service as an IR with his broad experience as a versatile professional musician and as a local officer, symphonic negotiator, orchestra committee chair, union steward, and AFM conference officer. An outstanding musician with many years of orchestral horn and jazz piano performance experience, Dave graduated summa cum laude in 2007 from one of the world’s most respected music schools, the University of North Texas (UNT), with a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies. At UNT, he served as a teaching fellow and a jazz lab band director. Prior to his study at UNT, Dave earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky. He has performed as fourth horn with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra for nearly two decades, and also serves as pianist and arranger for that orchestra’s pops series.   

During his years of service as a local officer with Lexington Local 554-635, Dave excelled in fundraising and development activities, public relations, collective bargaining, and contract negotiations. He was elected as an officer of the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) in 2016, and currently serves as its vice president.

Dave now joins IRs Allistair Elliott (Canada), Wally Malone (Western Territory), Cass Acosta (Southeast Territory), and Eugene Tournour (Northeast Territory) who are each assigned a geographic territory of individual locals to maintain regular contact and visitation. The IRs’ activities are coordinated by Assistant to the President Ken Shirk, who is based in our West Coast Office, located in Burbank, California. We are delighted to welcome Dave as the newest member of the Federation’s staff. I know he will do an excellent job.

TV Negotiations Update—Respect the Band!

The Late Late Show band, members of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), (L to R) Tim Young, Hagar Ben Ari, Guillermo Brown, Reggie Watts, and Steve Scalfati demand fair pay when their work is streamed online.

On December 15, 2017, the Federation resumed discussions in Los Angeles with representatives from CBS, NBC, and ABC toward a successor agreement covering the services of musicians engaged to perform on live television. Despite three rounds of negotiations, which began 18 months ago, the talks have been deadlocked over the networks’ refusal to bargain over the Federation’s proposals for progressive payment terms for advertiser-supported and subscriber-based streaming of live and on-demand TV. Our proposals for better terms for musicians engaged in the production of live television programs made for initial exhibition on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu were also rebuffed.

Despite the networks’ stonewalling, our team was determined to break the bottleneck and find ways to turn up the heat. At my request, AFM Organizing and Education Director Michael Manley, together with organizers from Local 802 (New York City) and Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Recording Musicians Association President Marc Sazer, and player representative Jason Poss of Local 47 worked to develop a plan of action by arranging a series of meetings with musicians working on late night shows, award shows, and prime time variety shows. The musicians identified, discussed, and prioritized issues surrounding the producers’ lack of additional payment when their performances are free to watch online.

A concerted campaign with a catchy name, #respecttheband, emerged from those meetings and quickly gained traction. As the December negotiations got underway in Los Angeles, audience members waiting in line outside the studios on both coasts received leaflets outlining the issues. Musicians from the bands inside released statements to the press speaking out about producers’ lack of respect and fair treatment when their performances are streamed.

The Late Late Show with James Corden musicians released a photo from their green room displaying a #respecttheband banner.

“Other performers are all paid when Jimmy Kimmel Live! streams on YouTube or other online outlets, yet musicians are paid nothing. Musicians just want to be compensated for our likeness and our music,” says Cleto Escobedo III, musical director of Cleto and the Cletones. “I love Jimmy, the producers, and everyone we work with. We just need to make sure the networks treat us and all of our colleagues fairly.”

“This is about fairness. It’s a travesty that musicians are being treated this way. We are just asking the networks for a little respect—and the networks can certainly afford to treat musicians with the respect we deserve,” says Harold Wheeler, who is well known in the Broadway and recording scene and will be the Oscar’s music director in 2018 for the third consecutive year. He was also the original Dancing With the Stars music director.

Amen to brothers Cleto Escobedo III and Harold Wheeler, the Corden band, and our organizing team of highly motivated AFM staff, local officers and staff, and dedicated player representatives—bravo!

With a publicity push from AFM Communications Director Rose Ryan, the musicians’ concerted activities in support of their bargaining objectives received extensive coverage in Deadline Hollywood and Variety.

As a direct result, the networks have now agreed to engage and negotiate over the Federation’s proposals for fair and equitable compensation when musicians’ performances are streamed. Our next round of TV talks will occur this spring.

Reggie Watts: Musical Disinformationist

reggie-watts-mic-pointingReggie Watts of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) is making a definite mark on late-night television. For years, in his solo shows, he has entertained by disorienting his audience, referring to himself as a “disinformationist.” His funky looking sweaters, colorful socks, and bigger-than-life afro made him instantly recognizable to fans. In 2015, he become the leader of the house band for The Late Late Show with James Corden. 

Watts wasn’t looking for a “day job” when James Corden asked him if he’d like to be bandleader. Watts says he approached his decision to take the gig as a sort of experiment into an unknown realm. “I thought about it pretty hard for about a month,” he says. “It’s strange to have a thing repeat, and I entered into it interested in that idea, that paradigm.”

Watts seems to have found his place on the show. “They give me the space that I need and the leeway,” he says. “They trust me in what I do.” He says he also enjoys the freedom of being able to exploit his unique improvisational skills for much of the show.

Watts hand-selected his Late Late Show bandmates: Tim Young (lead guitar), Steve Scalfati (keyboards), Hagar Ben Ari (bass), and Guillermo E. Brown (drums), all members of Local 47. “The band is really great; we have a fun time always,” says Watts.

“We create great videos that I get to watch live during the show. I’m kind of half audience member and half bandleader. I appreciate the show from two perspectives,” he explains.

As bandleader, Watts has an egalitarian take on publishing. “I made the decision to give equal publishing to everybody in the band for new material we come up with,” he explains. “Splitting things evenly just makes sense. It’s a great incentive and gives a cooperative feel, so there is no hierarchy when it comes to the money made from publishing.”

reggie-watts-james-cordonWatts likes knowing that he and his bandmates are covered under union agreements should any problems arise. “It helps them to know they are in a union, that’s great!” he says. “It’s really about guidance and advice, especially when things aren’t moving smoothly. If there’s a technical issue—a problem with publishing, overtime, or things of that nature, it helps them. It’s a resource and kind of an ambient feeling to know I have this to fall back on. It’s also about camaraderie and knowing you have a resource for questions you might have.”

As a comedian and musician on The Late Late Show, Watts not only leads the band, but also participates in other areas of the show, acting as an announcer, as well as occasionally asking questions of guests sitting on the couch. “We get incredible combinations of people on the couch, and it’s really a lot of fun,” he says.

When it comes to his questions to guests, they are just as spontaneous as his music. Watts asked singer and guitarist Noel Gallagher, former frontman for Oasis: “As a person who lives on a very interesting island with a huge history, do you have hope that humanity will make good choices for itself for the future?” And asked actress Jessica Szohr: “Would you allow me to name a really hard-core metal band after your last name?”

Watts began honing his solo act way back in high school in Great Falls, Montana. “I always thought that music and comedy went together sort of naturally. When I was in drama in high school, we would perform in statewide drama competitions and I would do exactly what I’m doing now, minus the reverb pedals,” he says.

Among his many early musical influences he names Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder of Local 5 (Detroit, MI), James Brown, and Elvis. On the comedy side, he was a fan of Monty Python and looked up to many of the popular comedians of the 1980s: Gilda Radner, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and George Carlin, plus Carol Burnett and Danny Kaye.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-1-43-29-pmAfter high school, Watts moved to Seattle to study music at Cornish College of the Arts and became involved in as many as 20 bands, in a wide variety of genres. This early dabbling in new areas had a huge impact on his chops and continues to shape his act. “Whether it was a pop group, a dance band, a heavy metal group, a rock and roll band, a jazz fusion band, performance arts stuff, or creating music for modern dance choreographers, all of that has contributed to my history and my performance today.”

In his one-man show, Watts switches between numerous accents, while singing and speaking, breaking into convincing faux languages. His music moves from hip-hop to blues to funk and heavy metal.

In the late 1990s, Watts was singer with the band Maktub, which also explored a variety of genres. Though the group never formally split up they stopped playing together when bandmates ended up in different cities. “We continued to make a couple albums together,” he says. And it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they could one day create another.

Watts’ most recent project is the Netflix special Spatial, which he describes as a “hybrid stand-up, science fiction, variety show.” Debuting in December, it highlights Watts’ musical and comedic talents through sketches, singing, stand-up routines, and dance. The show, like all of Watts’ acts, is completely improvised.

reggie-watts-sing“I kind of just go for it; I’m listening to everything—my intuition, the audience, and even the soundprint the microphone might be making. I react to the moment,” says Watts. To accompany himself, he uses a small table full of tools—a Line 6 DL4 delay pedal, a reverb pedal, an Eletro-Harmonix 45000 four-track looper/recorder, plus a Teenage Engineering OP1 micro-synthesizer.

Watts first incorporated loopers into his show back in the late 1990s. At first, he used the Line 6 DL4 with his band Maktub, as kind of an idea sketchpad. “I could sing ideas that I wanted the band to play and loop it,” he says. “Then, I started to use if for harmony; I would sing my lead vocals and then harmonize with the sample.” That evolved into using the looping function to accompany himself in his solo act.

Very much into exploring gadgets and modern technology, Watts calls himself a “fan” of virtual reality (VR). To that end, he created the 360-degree VR video, Waves, which includes special effects, music, and philosophy. He describes the experience he showcased at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival as “visualizing his imagination.” He says that another VR 360 movie is in the works.

Watts’ advice to other musicians? “Keep believing in music and keep making art, at all costs.”