Tag Archives: vice president

The COVID Blues

Ugh! What a time this is: May 15, 2020. Everything below is based on my view from today. What the world looks like when you read this will/could be completely different. As of this writing is a phrase you should put in front of everything below.

When I let my imagination run, I speculate what the folks experiencing the Spanish flu in 1918 must have gone through. As much as we keep updating information every day about this pandemic, is it really helpful that we can disseminate information so fast, or does it work against us, keep us in a constant state of panic, because just as soon as we settle on a “truth,” new information unfolds that changes it? Masks are not needed; yes everyone needs to use masks; and maybe now, again, they don’t really accomplish much, but hopefully remind us of what’s going on and that we need to be careful, so wear them. Then there is all the speculation about when we can reopen for business. Whatever I might hypothesize today will probably have changed 10 times by the time you read this, and, it’s different from state to state, county to county. There is no national strategy.

We have to stay nimble and we have to determine ways that we can use this tragedy as an opportunity for making systemic change, work to come out stronger on the other side. When it comes to reopening, no one has the answer. Clubs may be the first to reopen in the entertainment world, but in Seoul, South Korea this week, the entertainment district has been shut down again after a surge of infected citizens can be traced back to several clubs. Concert halls have a whole different set of challenges because of the sheer numbers, and it’s not just about physical distancing, it’s also about time, as the longer you are in a closed space with people, no matter how well distanced you are, it’s possible for the level of coronavirus “droplets” to build in the environment, and then in your system, leading to a level where you can become infected.

What I do know is that many groups are working on this issue of “how to open safely.” Each state is determining their own guidelines, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has standards that they’re building, but most importantly, what will make the audience, as well as the workers, feel safe in our venues? Our orchestras, operas and ballets are all looking carefully at the issue, but there are a couple of outside organizations that I’m aware of that are also focused on this in the venue/club side. One is called the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and the other is called Reopen Every Venue Safely (REVS). As of today, these are brand new organizations, but I believe that it is critical for us, musicians, to be part of the discussions with all these organizations about safely opening, as we will be the workers on the line.

It’s our safety that needs to be critically looked at, especially given that we will be spending more time, hence increased risk, in the venues. Additionally, NIVA appears to be looking for funding to help sustain the venues through this period. It is my opinion that anything they are able to attain should flow through to the musicians as well. Maybe this is an opportunity to change the power dynamic that exists between the venue owners and musicians, a way to create a more level playing field (can you say, fair pay).

I encourage you to look throughout your communities, to find organizations that are working on these safety issues, and find a way to insert your voice into the conversation so that when we can perform again, we find ourselves in a better place than when the pandemic began. Every challenge can be an opportunity.

Stay safe out there.

Bruce Fife headshot

A Month in the Life of a Union Officer

As musicians, we all live in a world that has us running constantly. If you work in the symphonic world in an orchestra, just that “one” job can be incredibly busy, but it is still often not your only gig: You teach, and you still probably have gigs outside of the orchestra. If you’re a freelancer, in whatever style of music or part of the industry you’re in, well, the word says it all—you’re running from gig to gig, maybe all on top of a “day” gig as well.

In the 25 years that I performed full time, it was clear that few outside our realm have any idea how hard we work, all to be on stage for those few hours, performing at a level that we are proud of and that our audiences go away appreciating. It’s some of the hardest, but most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.

That said, now that I’m a union officer at both the local and international levels, the work can be just as exhausting and daunting, but fulfilling as well. I’m often asked what it is I do, by both members and non-members, and while I could go down the rabbit hole on any single activity listed here, I’m going to try and give a “snapshot” of the activities, for both the local and Federation, that I’ve been involved in over the last month.


• A meeting between myself, accompanied by a rank and file musician, with one of our US congressman and staff, to request support for our TV/Film negotiations. The congressman followed up with a letter to the companies, urging support for a fair contract for the musicians. A win!

• Two trips to Los Angeles for separate rounds of bargaining with the networks and film companies. We’re getting their attention, but we have a long way still to go.

• As chair of the education committee, I attended a three-day AFM officer training in Silver Springs, Maryland. Another great group of local officers left the training with organizing campaigns in hand. A win!

• Conference call with DC staff of Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to discuss his concerns with the CASE Act, legislation that the Federation has endorsed, with a follow up appearance at a Wyden town hall event, speaking directly with the senator and staff on this issue, as well as the Butch Lewis Act.

• Worked with the IT department at the Federation to finalize work on our new Officer List Serve that should be live by the time you read this.

Local 99:

• Mediation based on a grievance filed with one of our employer CBAs. Mediation failed, leading to threats of an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) and/or going to arbitration. After rounds of negotiations, we ended up with a settlement that got all musicians paid per the terms of the contract. A win!

• Committee meeting focused on round two of our musician loading zone initiative. The trial period has been a total success, so we will be expanding the number of locations available for musicians. A win!

• The Library Project, which I wrote about a year or so ago, that, unfortunately, provided free permanent downloads of music for library card holders, announced their round two for submissions in which the free download component has been removed. A win!

• Portland Opera Orchestra committee meeting and full orchestra meeting to discuss the significant changes to the leadership of the employer organization and how we can play a role in building a more positive management/union relationship.

• Two Local 99 Executive Board meetings and budget approval for 2020.

• New member orientation.

• Two days of auditions at the Oregon Symphony.

• Representation meeting for a musician in the Oregon Symphony.

• Jobs with Justice annual dinner and the monthly steering committee meeting.

• Meeting with local industry advocacy group, focused on our relationship with city hall and the creation of a new Policy Council, which will have a direct line to city hall on musician issues. Local 99 is a key participant on the council. 

• Four MPTF project requests processed.

• AFL-CIO political coordinators meeting.

• Dealt with Oregon Ballet Theatre management issues, as well as personnel issues.

• Got up on the local’s roof and cleaned out the gutters before the Oregon rains are unleashed.

• And lastly, on this non-comprehensive list, got out to listen to great music in our community performed by Local 99 members.

All this in between the daily routine of answering the onslaught of phone calls and emails, member and non-member drop-ins, planning for future negotiations and organizing plans, etc.

This is not the workload of every local officer, given the Federation duties I have, but there is never a shortage of work to be done by any officer. While some of these duties are just handled directly by the officer, many of them require member participation to be successful.

As a member, you must remember that you are the union, and when your local leader is working on a project that needs your support, please step up and lend that hand, because when we all work together, we can achieve so much. Trust me, I see it every day!


Exploit Legislative Relationships to Further Our Causes

One of the themes presented at our AFM Officer Training programs that take place just prior to our regional AFM Conferences is the importance of the relationships we create with our communities and our elected officials. In the last several months in Oregon, Local 99 has had the opportunity to deal with the trifecta of our legislators: city, state, and federal. I thought it worth sharing the stories as they highlight what can be accomplished with the help of those relationships.

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Finding Renewed Purpose Following a Summer of Change

The last six months have been a very busy time for me. In addition to the work of running a mid-sized local and my duties as AFM International Vice President, the AFM initiated its new Officer Training program that I worked with others to create. Training has taken place in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Madison, Wisconsin; Orlando, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In addition to those training sessions, I also attended the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) and International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) conferences. Through all of this work, there developed a theme that I felt was worth sharing. This has been an important time for revitalization and regeneration at multiple levels of the AFM. Let me explain.

Starting with the Officer Training program, it has been years since the AFM had such a program in place. The work that local officers do is complicated, time intensive, and never ending. Combined with the fact that there are not many “kudos” and pay is not what it should be, you have a recipe for burnout. That said, those who take on these local leadership positions, do so for the good of all. It’s truly a calling for the best of those officers and their commitment cannot be underappreciated.

As we’ve gone through each of our training sessions, the feedback has been almost universally positive. It’s not just what officers learn from staff and trainers, but what they learn from each other, as well. As they grow their relationships, they have new allies to contact when there are problems to discuss or for cross collaboration between locals. For those officers who have been in place for a while, there is a sense of regeneration and rededication to their duties. For those who are new to their positions, they now know where to turn for answers and support. It’s exciting to feel the energy and see the interaction and relationships that build during these two or three-day sessions.

Moving to ROPA and ICSOM, both of those conferences have new leadership at the top and this was their first round of conferences. You could sense a slightly different dynamic and energy in each of those conferences. It’s not that the previous leadership wasn’t great, it’s just that, as someone new steps into that role, they bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm that refocuses the direction and creates a revitalized organization, ready and energized to face challenges head on.

Lastly, Local 99 (Portland, OR), my local, has gone through a transition. Dennis Lynch, secretary-treasurer of Local 99 and a pillar of the AFM, has retired. He joined the AFM in the mid ’70s, and first became the secretary-treasurer of Local 689 (Eugene, OR) in November 1978. Then, the AFM hired him as the AFM Western Region International Representative (according to Dennis, on April Fool’s Day 1984). He served in that position for 20 years, until 2004. In 2008 he became secretary-treasurer of Local 99. We thank Dennis for the incredible contributions and his years of service to the AFM and wish him the best in this new phase of his life.

Filling those large shoes at Local 99 is newly elected Secretary-Treasurer Mont Chris Hubbard. To continue the theme, you can feel the resurgence of energy at the local. He is doing all the things that a new leader must do. While he is learning the ropes, understanding the work and the depth of what must get done, he is also challenging the status quo. He is making us look at the way we work with a new set of eyes and experiences. We will all learn from the transition taking place. I believe we will end up with a stronger, revitalized, and more efficient and effective local.

What this summer of change brought into clear relief for me is the importance and value of a fresh set of eyes, or a new backdrop for the work we do. I’m not just talking about local officers and the AFM. I’m talking about all of us. Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at your career and where you’re at. Are you in a rut? Does it seem like new ideas for moving forward have stalled? Do you have writer’s block? We all need to change our perspective, whether it be through classes or training, a change in routines, time away from work (vacation), or even looking at some of our multiple work commitments and deciding whether they are moving us forward or holding us back. The process of “challenging” our status quo can lead to renewed energy, commitment, and a revitalized focus on our work.

Maybe it’s easiest to think of this as a reboot. It just might be time to take a good look at ourselves, our bands, the work we do, and make this our season of change.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

The campaign to get musicians paid for showcasing at the BreakOut West festival in Edmonton this year spawned three weeks’ worth of radio interviews, print, and online media coverage, as well as social media jousting, and effectively polarized two viewpoints. While most articles were fair in representing the views of the CFM, as well as the festival’s organizers, the notion that musicians should be paid for their performances should have been a clear winner in the opinion polls, especially with effective adhesion to the social justice issue of a fair minimum wage.

Yet out of the woodwork came arguments so ludicrous (albeit to me) that I had to stifle the chortles and guffaws. Somewhat miraculously, those arguments were embraced by a portion of the media and, by extension, their readership. I think it is noteworthy to review, if for no other reason than to apprise members.

One assertion by the festival organizers was that many of the musicians were, in fact, being paid to perform through individual grants from the provincial government or their music industry association, and in some cases, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR). They claimed that this was the “model” of the future. This claim was usually followed by, “There was once a need for a musicians’ union, but not anymore.”

I consider this to be one of the most ludicrous positions ever presented. The notion that musicians should no longer encumber an employer with such trivial things as fees and pension, in favour of asking for government handouts as a means for surviving in the music industry, borders on ridiculous. Only an employer would have the audacity to suggest this and musicians are the only genre of worker that would give it a morsel of credibility. Imagine the response from actors, directors, screenwriters, or stagehands were it communicated that they should no longer look to the film producer for remuneration, but instead seek government grants to provide for their families.

As for the value judgement on a need for the AFM, that rhetoric is not new. It’s used by every employer to dissuade every member of every union in the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) from participation. It is part of the perpetual attack upon the labour movement, right-wing style.

Another offering by the press suggested that it should be the musicians’ choice whether they wish to donate their services, or that perhaps the whole thing should be treated as a large audition, not a gig. Perhaps this would have merit if the organization involved was a charity, not a well-oiled machine that makes deliberate “policy” to pay everyone involved, except the musicians (who, by the way, are the folks the event is all about).

In addition, these nonpaid “showcases” take place in licensed venues, packed with festivalgoers and making huge profits from liquor sales. A venue that would normally be required to pay for their entertainment, during the festival, gets to watch the bands sweat the night away for free. As for treating it as an audition, I pick no. Real auditions are in a private room to a select few, not in a club where the audience dances, tickets are sold, and beer is swilled. You audition to find work, not to be selected for a chance to perform gratis at yet another festival, and then another. And no, there is no major label A&R person waiting to sign you at 2:00 a.m. in an Edmonton bar.

Finally, the big carrot offered by the festival—a wristband; in other words, a free pass to your own show. By my loose calculations, each band spends hundreds of dollars for travel, accommodations, and food, but are not offered even the price of parking.

The bottom line is that festivals providing no remuneration for services have no regard for the music industry at all. If they did, they would acknowledge that musicians are a fragile part of the music ecosystem, the roots if you will, and must be nourished and fostered to encourage them to seek music as a viable career option. Instead, these festivals choose to build an industry that, as a part of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is larger than mining and lumber combined, yet there appears to be no sustainable livelihood for the musicians.

So in the end, the BreakOut West Festival did, indeed, impart great wisdom upon those musicians in attendance, a message of enormous gravity and substance: Don’t quit your day job.

BreakOut West

BreakOut West—Still No Deal Do Not Work for BOW

While talks have continued with the executive director of the Western Canadian Music Awards, which presents the BreakOut West (BOW) festival, there is still no appetite on their part to enter into an agreement for the services of musicians. While the CFM has pitched a three-year deal to cover minimum basic fees, pension, and distribution of recorded performances, BOW is refusing to bargain even one year.

The festival is employing a classic “divide and conquer” maneuver. Artists who they consider headliners and therefore essential to the visibility of the festival, are paid handsomely. But the vast majority of the musicians showcasing—in excess of 250—will receive no compensation. Additionally, they are presented with a contract that states they can be recorded and BOW will be held harmless from any payment for the use of any such recordings, in perpetuity.

Since the festival continues to be listed on the AFM International Unfair List. Musicians must not provide services for BreakOut West.

Let me repeat that: Do not perform at BOW!

As unsavoury as this is for everyone, there is much more at risk than what some musicians may consider valuable “exposure.” There are many important festivals in Canada, and failing to get an agreement with one, risks similar consequences elsewhere. All employers everywhere must be held to the same standards: if you engage musicians, they must be properly compensated and treated as professionals.

As AFM President Hair has stated many times, “An injury to one is an injury to all. Together, we are stronger.”

Another important factor in this scenario is the venues. While BreakOut West is not providing compensation, neither are the clubs that are being used for the performances. They can expect a packed house, high liquor sales, and no-cost entertainment. Free music. Anyone who performs under these circumstances is merely contributing to the “pay to play” problem.

Our issues with BOW are not so different from dark recordings that went on years ago, when there were several important recording studios in Toronto. The business representative at the time, Murray Ginsberg, would often visit studios to ensure that the employer on the gig was signatory to the Sound Recording Labour Agreement.

The players would, of course, be annoyed by a visit from Murray “the Mountie” and the disruption but, in the end, extremely grateful when they were paid appropriate session fees. In addition, there was the increase in the monthly pension payout upon retirement, and also the cheque from the Special Payments Fund, which arrived each year for five years after any such sessions. Not only that, but recordings that were properly documented on B4 Report Forms were subject to new use payments, for subsequent release in other medium or when otherwise repurposed. The promise of “50 bucks cash” could turn into tens of thousands, when it was done properly.

By not obligating the employer to sign a contract for appropriate fees and pension, you are letting them off the hook, cheating yourself, and making it that much harder the next time. By giving BOW your services for free, and not having a contract in place to protect any recording that ensues, you are doing yourself a huge injustice. It also sends the message that your product has no value. The minimum you perform for becomes the maximum employers are willing to pay.

The time for solidarity is now!


While Talks with WCMA Hit a Wall, New CBC Agreement Comes to Fruition

The Canadian Office continues to bargain with music festivals, award shows, and music industry events, with a view to having all such work under a union scale agreement. We were successful recently in negotiations with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), who each year present the Juno Awards, along with several days of young artists performing live in venues surrounding the host city. The three-year deal represents significant enhancements, including a pension and a streaming component that is separate from the broadcast deal. We are currently working on a similar agreement with the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA), another major event held in a different Canadian city each year. Saskatoon is the choice for 2017.

WCMA Stalemate

In pursuing what is best for musicians, we have run into the proverbial brick wall with the West Coast Music Alliance (WCMA), which since merging its event with both the Western and Prairie Music Awards, has hosted a festival and awards week called Breakout West. After several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a more than reasonable agreement, the WCMA has refused to come back to the table.

There is much more at stake than making sure the awards show and live streaming are properly contracted and paid. Inexplicably, the position the negotiators took was: “Musicians should not think of Breakout West as a paid gig. They should consider it a networking opportunity.” In other words, showcasing at the event pays zero. There is no payment, no pension, and no protection against unauthorized recording and streaming.

Yet the organization receives roughly a half-million dollars in government grants and private sponsorship, let alone what it charges for admission and participation. Where does all that money go? Therefore, the CFM office had no choice but to request placement of the West Coast Music Alliance, and its board of directors, on the AFM International Unfair List. Members must not perform at, or in association with the Breakout West event in September 2017. While we continue to be open to bargaining, we are committed to all the pressure we can administer in an effort to bring fairness to this unconscionable working environment.

New CBC Agreement

On a more positive note, after two years of on/off bargaining, a new agreement has been reached with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Along with substantial increases in fees, there are now residual payments on underscore and themes for episodic and dramatic series, along with older programming from the CBC archives (subject to limitations). Our agreement with Canada’s public broadcaster remains the only union contract to contain a guarantee of yearly expenditure.

Final language will be completed in the next few weeks, followed by the ratification process. I would like to personally thank members of the CFM negotiating committee, who dedicated many days of their time to ensure a fair deal for our members. They are: Eddy Bayens, president of Local 390 (Edmonton, AB); Doug Kuss, secretary-treasurer of Local 547 (Calgary, AB); Michael Murray, executive director of Local 149 (Toronto, ON); Francine Shutzman, of OCSM  and president of Local 180 (Ottawa, ON); Robin Moir, secretary-treasurer of Local 180; Luc Fortin, president of Local 406; and Varun Vyas, secretary-treasurer of Local 571. Also special thanks to Canadian Office staff members Executive Director Liana White, Administration Director Susan Whitfield, Contract Administrator Dan Calabrese, and Symphonic Services Canada Director Bernard Leblanc.

SoundExchange Acquires CMRRA

Of interest to Canadian artists and publishers, SoundExchange has acquired the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA). For many years, CMRRA collected mechanical rights for artists and also handled synchronization rights. But for the past few years, CMRRA passed that responsibility along to the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA). SoundExchange, now the largest Collective Management Organization (CMO) in the world, is expected to keep the operations separate, at least for the time being. Watch for more information in this regard.

Small Spark of Hope for Ontario Status

The 420-page final report Ontario’s The Changing Workplaces Review, by C. Michael Mitchel and John C. Murray, was released in late May. As previously reported, the review is designed to provide a framework for upcoming changes to the Ontario Employment Standards Act and the Ontario Labour Relations Act. The CFM provided submissions and recommendations, specifically stressing that musicians are not sufficiently protected under existing laws, and that the only resolve for a largely freelance community is provincial status of the artist legislation. To that end, our submissions included a comprehensive comparison of federal status and Quebec status, as well as suggested language.

While arts and entertainment was certainly not centre stage in the review, it did find its way into the report in section 11.6.3, page 364, describing how artist groups have “… urged us to adopt some of the philosophy and general approaches of the Quebec status of the artist act, modified to some degree …” While no direct credit is given to the CFM, footnote 498 is a direct reference, stating “… very late in the process, we received a draft model act from one group but there was no opportunity to discuss it, much less consult with respect to its contents …”

On the negative side, the employers have been working hard at recommending the status quo. For example, the Canadian Media Producers’ Association (CMPA) made this statement: “… the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), which is involved in English language television, film, and digital media production, has warned us about the high costs of the Quebec system, including constant negotiations, labour relations instability and competition, and a lack of certainty, which is antithetical to the needs of a project-oriented, time-sensitive industry … the association argues that the sector is already heavily unionized, highly organized on a craft and sectoral basis, and successfully serves the needs of the various interest groups and, therefore, should not be interfered with.”

More importantly, the report goes on to seemingly disregard the CMPA and finalize the section with this recommendation: “… that Ontario conduct an inquiry and consultation with all affected interest groups to examine potential changes to the laws, which affect how personal services and labour are provided in the arts and entertainment sectors of the economy, for the purposes of supporting the artistic endeavour in those sectors and those who work in them.” While consisting of only a small speck in a large document, this capsulizes the most significant recognition of artists’ dilemma with collective bargaining to date, and with it, a glimmer of hope.

CFM General Counsel Alan Minsky generously summarized other aspects of the report. Proposed changes include:

1) Raising the general minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 1, 2019.

2) Changing various features of union certification and first contract dispute resolution procedures, including:

  • extending card-based certification to the temporary help agency industry, the building services sector, and the home care and community services industry, where a union can show 55% support in the proposed bargaining unit;
  • allowing unions to access employee lists and obtain employee contact information where they can show 20% support in the proposed bargaining unit;
  • making access to remedial certification and first contract arbitration easier, giving the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) more power to ensure votes are conducted fairly, and allow telephone and electronic voting;
  • providing just cause protection from the date of certification to the date of the first collective agreement.

3) Important changes to regulations governing unions, including:

  • successor rights for building services contracts;
  • empowering the OLRB to consolidate bargaining units;
  • strengthened protections for striking workers, including grievable just cause protection and a right to priority in rehire, even where a strike exceeds six months;
  • increased penalties for violating the Labour Relations Act;
  • reviewing exemptions to the Labour Relations Act (no immediate changes are set out in legislation).
  • 4) Improvements to minimum employment standards,
  • three weeks of paid vacation for employees with five or more years of service;
  • changes to simplify public holiday pay calculations and clarify how overtime is calculated when an employee has multiple jobs with the same employer;
  • equal pay for part-time, casual, temporary, and seasonal workers relative to full-time workers performing the same work, and for temporary help agency workers relative to permanent workers, subject to certain exceptions;
  • enhancements to Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) and other leave provisions;
  • new scheduling protections for workers;
  • several changes to Employment Standards Act exemptions and a review process for remaining exemptions.

5) Measures to provide better enforcement of employment standards, including combatting the misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

Now begins the process of providing Ontario locals with a script with which to go to their MPP and make the most of this slim opportunity to add compulsive collective bargaining as a component to the CFM toolbox.

CFM Focuses on Festival/Award Show Negotiations

Members were recently advised that the newly-negotiated agreement with the East Coast Music Association was overwhelmingly ratified. This was the first time in many years that the Canadian Office was directly involved with a primary labour dispute. While the necessity of such action is regrettable, status quo was not an option and neither was the absence of a workable agreement for musicians.

At the last meeting of the Canadian Conference in June 2016, the delegates were presented with some agreement templates suitable for use with festivals and award shows, particularly ones that change venue/city from year-to-year. While there is always room for negotiations, the conference deliberated on format language that could serve as the basis regardless of location. As a result, when the ECMA first indicated they were not interested in renewing the previous agreement, the CFM had no choice but use all means available to reverse that decision.

With the Juno Awards less than a month away, our office is on the verge of signing a national agreement, which—again according to Conference mandate—would follow Junofest to wherever the event will take place in the next few years. Like the ECMA contract, we are working on pension being applicable to the showcase performances, as well as contracted events and the award show.

We have also entered into negotiations with the Western Canadian Music Alliance, with a view to establishing an agreement to cover the Break-Out West festival, which takes place in the fall. This year, it travels to Edmonton, Alberta. At the crux of these negotiations is the fact that this festival has evolved into a “networking” opportunity, making this a nonpaid event. Again, status quo is not an option and having no agreement in place to protect the musicians is unacceptable.

Next up will be the Canadian Country Music Association, with their event taking place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, later on this year. We have just begun to make contact, again with a view to establishing a mobile, national agreement.

While I am ex officio as a member of the negotiating team, our Standards Committee has come up with a workable format to spread the workload of bargaining. Therefore, International Representative Allistair Elliott will also serve, along with an officer from the host city where the event takes place in the current year, as well as officers from the previous and next host cities.

It’s important to understand how these negotiations impact upon you, the members. Without a CFM negotiated agreement in place, there would be no minimum standard fee. Without a CFM agreement, pension could not be paid. And finally, without a media agreement outlining the parameters of what can be recorded, for what purpose, and at what additional fee, there would be no control over ownership, replays, or other new uses of the tracks.

These events are also popular venues for emerging artists, many of them not yet AFM members. In Canada, we are able to extend our umbrella to protect them by establishing a Temporary Membership Permit (a version of the Rand Formula), which allows nonmembers to work under a union contract, if they pay a fair share of the cost.

Of particular importance is pension. While the subject matter of a retirement fund is a conversation most young musicians are not willing to have, we must bear in mind that our pension is a reality because of past generations of musicians who contracted for and negotiated pension into their contracts, in order to ensure that future members would have a comfortable retirement. The responsibility lies upon each of us to do the same for ourselves and generations to come. By not contracting for pension, you are letting the employer escape an obligation, and making it difficult for our pension to survive through a poor investment market. Please do your fair share so that we all may benefit for years to come.

The CFM is committed to establishing agreements with all festivals and award shows that feature live performance of musicians to establish fair wages, pension, and a level playing field for all musicians. It’s the right thing to do.

Canadian Orchestra

Recommendations for Amendments to Canada’s Copyright Board

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

Last month, I spoke of our renewed efforts to bring Status of the Artist legislation to Ontario. This month, it’s the CFM submission to the Committee of Banking, Trade and Commerce, part of the Senate of Canada, on the operation and practices of the Copyright Board of Canada. With Heritage opening the door to examine and revise so many aspects of the laws that affect culture—and musicians—we felt that it was best to separate our recommendations for the Copyright Board (which are procedural and regulatory in nature), and treat the 2017 s.92 Copyright review as a separate issue.

One of the major issues is the backlog of decisions, which can sometimes take years, as well as sometimes erratic rulings when setting new tariffs. I will skip many of the details of our submission, and focus on the four major recommendations.

Voluntary Agreements

One approach to relieve the board of the backlog of tariff certifications is to consider voluntary licensing, a regime used in countries such as Finland, France, Greece, Israel, and Mexico, which have no rate-setting procedures. In the UK, collective licensing for remuneration is voluntarily agreed upon by contract between the parties. When consensus cannot be reached, a tribunal is utilized to play a part in the process. In Holland, the tariff for performers’ rights are made by agreement with the users, and distributed to phonogram producers and performers on a 50-50 basis. Upon disagreement of share, the High Court in The Hague has exclusive jurisdiction.

Mandatory Mediation

We recommend that all tariff matters before the Copyright Board be subject to a prehearing mediation process, using the mediation programme and case management under the Ontario rules of Civil Procedure as a model.

Expedited Process

An expedited process can be found in the Australian copyright law, which requires that “… proceedings shall be conducted with as little formality, and with as much expedition, as the requirements of this Act and a proper consideration of the matters before the Tribunal permit.” The UK and the US copyright tribunals provide for similar expedition in the case of simple matters.

Another avenue would be to set out specified timelines in the regulations for any matter before the board.

Criteria for Rate-Setting

The CFM was among 70 music organizations that publicly opposed the Tariff 8 decision, which set royalty rates for noninteractive webcasting services in Canada. The decision also brought into focus the need for rate-setting criteria that includes consideration of existing marketplace agreements. The rate, in fact, ignored international standards that support the growth and development of the industry in world markets.

A report written by Marcel Boyer, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Montreal, for the C.D. Howe Institute entitled: “The Value of Copyrights in Recorded Music: Terrestrial Radio and Beyond,” concluded that the value of recorded music is approximately 2.5 times greater than the level of royalties certified by the Copyright Board. Boyer continued that the approach used by the board consistently undervalued copyrights in the context of the commercial terrestrial radio industry, and that this flawed approach has been carried over into the determinations for noninteractive webcasting tariffs.

The CFM recommends that specific criteria be used for rate setting, including recourse to comparative market value analysis under s.66.91 of the Copyright Act.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all members to embrace the spirit of love, compassion, and giving that is prevalent at this time of year. We sometimes take for granted how fortunate we all are, to have health, family, and relative peace in our time. I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, and the best to you and yours for a wonderful and prosperous new year.