Tag Archives: working musician

Eating Healthy on the Fly: Don’t Let Fast Food Slow You Down

Eating HealthyFor musicians on the road, eating healthy food can be hard. Restaurants and mini-mart offerings can add unwanted calories quickly, but they are often the only option.

Choose beverages with no added sugar or with few calories. Most stores stock fat-free or low-fat yogurt, fruit packs, and trail mix. Keep in mind that some prepackaged foods look like single servings, but actually contain multiple servings. Avoid obvious bad choices: fried food, high-fat meat, and milk shakes. Instead, choose sandwiches with fewer toppings and no cheese. Opt for salads with low-fat or fat-free dressing, replace French fries with sliced fruit, and swap out fried meats for grilled options or fish.

The good news about health halos is a bit more complicated. Fast food chains use the symbol to indicate a healthier option. This claim, however, usually overestimates the healthfulness of an item. Researchers note that consumers frequently confuse low fat with low calorie, resulting in overconsumption. Some veggie dishes pack nearly 1,000 calories, while a burger may have as few as 250.

According to the Food and Brand lab at Cornell University, “Consumers chose beverages, side dishes, and desserts containing up to 131% more calories when the main dish was positioned as ‘healthy,’ even though the main dish contained more calories than the ‘unhealthy option.’” The rule of thumb is always read the nutrition facts before ordering. (Now that restaurants are adding calorie counts to menus, it’s becoming easier to riddle out how much you will be taking in.)

Other recent studies done by the Food and Brand Lab found that “low-fat” labels on snack foods encouraged people to eat up to 50% more than those who saw labels without the low-fat claim. “Simply seeing the words low-fat encouraged people in these studies to consume 84 extra calories! This happens because when consumers see the low-fat label on a product, they automatically assume it has fewer calories.”

Got a smart phone? Get an app to count calories. The Fast Food Calorie Counter app ($1, for iPhone or Android) lists more than 9,000 menu items. Also, eat small with pint-size portions. The kids’ menu can save you calories. If it’s unavoidable to eat unhealthy at one meal, make sure the next choice is a healthy one.

Dehydration can cause sweet and salty food cravings. Stay hydrated and you will be less likely to snack. Fruits can add to overall hydration: lettuce and some vegetables have high water content, as do watermelon, peaches, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, and blueberries.

Banana, beans, greens

Maximize protein and plant-based foods. Plant-based foods plus plenty of protein keep energy levels up. Generally, avoid refined grains, sugary snacks, and fried foods. Called a super fruit, bananas are high in B vitamins, calcium, and other minerals, such as magnesium and iron. Dark leafy greens, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and fruits, and foods high in probiotics (fermented foods) all boost energy. High-fiber and nutrient-heavy plant foods that will burn for hours. Low-fiber and nutrient-light foods—simple carbohydrates—burn quickly. When you’re eating plant-strong, you won’t have the energy highs and lows.

Kale, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, and broccoli are high in nutrients and contain glucosinolates, which inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Swiss chard and spinach have similar nutritional value. What’s more, they are available throughout the year, and both are rich in iron, which carries oxygen to the blood.

Egg, salmon, almonds

Nuts are satisfying proteins that fill you up, although try to find the “no salt” option. They have heart-healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and fiber. 

Eggs pack a punch, too. More than half the protein is found in the egg white, along with vitamin B2, and whites are lower in fat and cholesterol than the yolk. Egg whites are also rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12, and minerals, like zinc, iron, and copper.

If you like it, fish is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Like nuts, it is plentiful in omega-3 fatty acids and the vitamin D, a nutrient that most people are deficient in. It functions like a steroid hormone in the body. (Of the many unhealthy options at a McDonalds, the Filet-O-Fish contains a rather modest 380 calories.)

college band

Calling All College Students: If You Want a Career, Look to the AFM

A while back I had an opportunity to speak to students at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, about the business of music. It was an interesting experience. The questions were fast and furious. The energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Many of the students weren’t aware of the American Federation of Musicians and the benefits of being a member of the AFM going forward into a career in music.

The Crane Library not only features issues of the International Musician, but has many books about the AFM as well, and extensive reading material on careers in music. However, a lot of today’s college students don’t know the AFM exists. Being a member is an opportunity to be a part of something big. It’s an opportunity for networking, career advancement, pension, and a decent wage. College students who are going out into the world of music want to make a good living. They need guidance and support. Many aren’t aware of the benefits of a union contract. It can mean getting paid and paid fairly. It means not playing for free, for low pay, or for anything but a fair wage. For professional musicians, playing music is a living, not a hobby.

In AFM Organizing & Education Division Director Michael Manley’s IM article last month, he said “no one is impressed by underpaid work.” No one is impressed when you work for substandard wages, and working for “pay to play” or “exposure” does not lead to working with the influential first-call musicians, agents, promoters, and people with whom you hope to share the stage as your career develops.

You must know your worth, whether it is Broadway, symphonic, freelancing, recording, clubs, or onstage. Sometimes musicians need to know when to say “no.” AFM members are professionals. Playing music is how they make their living. Getting a living wage is paramount when you are a member of the AFM.

The International Musician will be at this year’s NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. Music retailers, manufacturers, industry veterans, and music legends will be there, as well as some AFM officers. Music colleges from all over the country will be sending some of their students. Many of the educational sessions will talk about the benefits of the AFM. There is a wide range of opportunities in today’s music industry for music school graduates. The future of the AFM is with the young musicians of today. We have to look ahead.

If you’re a college student picking up this publication in your college library, it might be time to look into joining the AFM (if you’re not already a member.) Many of the locals offer a student membership. This is a great time to be a member!

joe ely

After Years on the Road, Joe Ely Takes a Literary Turn

joe ely

Writer, musician, and longtime Local 433 (Austin, TX) musician Joe Ely says the solidarity and protections of the AFM are important to him. He’s been inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame, was named 2016 Texas State Musician, and most recently was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.

Joe Ely of Local 433 (Austin, TX) was recently inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters, which he says came as a shock, something he never saw coming. But it’s storytelling, after all, and no one tells a story like Ely. He’s been writing songs since he was a kid growing up in Amarillo, and later, in Lubbock. Ely says, “I was always listening to things, background noise, the wind blowing a branch against a screen window.”

Ely has kept journals for years and often sketches to have a visual. He recalls Tom T. Hall once telling him, “Some people can travel all around the world and not see a single thing, others can travel around the block and see the whole world.” “That made me continue to keep writing down observations and eventually building them into a form,” says Ely. The University of Texas eventually published some of the journals as raw material titled Bonfire of Roadmaps.

As a songwriter turned novelist, it was difficult for Ely not to keep the words to a minimum. “Instead of a line in a song, it’d have to be three pages in a book. It was the first thing I had to overcome,” he says. Like Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy—of whom Ely is a fan—he draws on the landscape to deliver the emotional depth of his characters. In his autobiographical novel, Reverb (2014), he writes of Lubbock in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s a gritty world, but Ely digs into the story of young working-class men, usually in trouble, driving barren roads, living with the threat of going to war.

It’s easy to imagine the narrative running through his life. Ely left home at 16, went to Fort Worth and joined a band. From there, he went to Houston and Los Angeles. “My daddy died a few years before that and I was not doing good in school. I just didn’t see any future in Lubbock. I was playing in bands. I was kind of the sole breadwinner in the family. I’d play till midnight or one in the morning and try to go to school the next day. After school, I washed dishes at an old fried chicken place. I didn’t see an end,” he says.

In the mid-1960s Ely would periodically return to Texas to appear before the draft board, which at the time, he remembers, was drafting about 50,000 kids a month. “I’d always come back and regroup and go somewhere else, from one coast to the other,” he says. In New York City, he ended up joining a theater troupe and going to Europe. “That’s how I started traveling and collecting songs, during that era.”

In the summer of 1971, back in Lubbock, Ely teamed up with friends Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore to form the country-folk group, The Flatlanders. The band toured extensively, headlining small shows and opening for bigger acts. Among these, remarkably, was the punk rock group The Clash. (In fact, Joe Strummer was supposed to record with Ely’s band, but died before it happened—one of Ely’s greatest disappointments.)

Such offbeat arrangements are not unusual for Ely, who once made a record with German opera conductor Eberhard Schoener. Ely says, “He had the first Moog synthesizer, which he bought from John Lennon—who hated it. We worked with that synthesizer and two acoustic guitars and did an experimental piece. A couple of years later, I bought an Apple computer and started working on songs as an experiment. He kind of inspired me.” 

Ely has always been something of an artistic maverick, seamlessly moving between country music and rock and roll. In the 1970s and 1980s, especially, he championed the progressive country scene in Austin. “At a young age, I discovered Woodie Guthrie, who lived in Amarillo for a good part of his life. In my teenage years and early 20s, I just happened to run across some of the songwriters who would influence me for the rest of my life,” he says.

Ely has played with mandolinist Chris Thile of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) on A Prairie Home Companion and with Bruce Springsteen of Locals 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and 399 (Asbury Park, NJ), James McMurtry, The Chieftains, Tom Petty of Local 47, and John Mellencamp. With Guy Clarke, Lyle Lovett of Local 257, and John Hiatt he formed a group that played 40-50 shows a year for about 20 years. “We’d go all over the states, a different city every day. We’d all sit on stage together in a guitar pull, where one person does a song and passes it on to the next.”

On his albums, Ely likes to incorporate cover songs, especially ones he feels have not gotten their due. When he was working on Letter to Laredo, he was just about finished with the record when he went to Europe for a few gigs. “I was in a bar in Norway and heard a song on the jukebox about a guy who crossed over into the US with a fighting rooster and went up and down the coast of Texas and California trying to win enough money to buy back the land that Pancho Villa stole from his family,” he says, explaining that the song eventually made its way onto the album.

A member of the AFM since 1972—when the first Flatlanders’ record came out in Nashville—Ely says the union is an important part of being able to make a living, especially as a traveling musician. That solidarity informs his work. The Flatlanders song, “Borderless Love,” (2009) about the fence on the US-Mexico border, is even more relevant amid today’s political tumult so the band has reintroduced it to live sets.

“I think you take from what’s been and give to what will be,” says Ely, who now lives in Austin and works with a number of young musicians there. Just after the 2015 release of the more literary and deeply personal Panhandle Rambler, he was inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame and was named the 2016 Texas State Musician, an honor previously bestowed on Willie Nelson of Local 433 and Lyle Lovett.

Along with 25 albums to his credit, the 70-year-old Ely has about five books of poetry written, which he hopes to compile into a single collection. He’s led symposiums for Texas Tech University; he recently conducted a solo acoustic tour in the Midwest; and for the next couple of months, he will tour Texas and California. “I like to mix it up. Playing with a band full time can be restrictive. You’re always herding people. I prefer to go out, me and the guitar and a bag of stories.”

Flipper Flanagan’s Flat Footed Four Celebrates 50 Years

Flipper Flanagan’s Flat Footed

Flipper Flanagan’s Flat Footed Four, members of Local 591 (Thunder Bay, ON), are celebrating their 50th anniversary this month. (R to L) are: Brian Thompson (mandolin, guitar, spoons, bodhran), Bob Balabuck (banjo, fiddle, mandolin), Jamie Gerow (guitar, Irish bouzouki), and Jack Wall (bass).

Flipper Flanagan’s Flat Footed Four, members of Local 591 (Thunder Bay, ON), will celebrate their 50th anniversary with concerts and events across the region beginning June 15 at the Magnus Theatre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. According to band member and guitarist Jamie Gerow, the concerts are retrospective of all the songs their audience has enjoyed over the years.

Bob Balabuck and founder Brian Thompson, are the original members. Gerow and Jack Wall joined about five years later. Thompson and Balabuck formed several folk groups in the mid-1960s. Among the distinctive genres, the one that eventually stuck was Irish music. Their drummer at the time, Rick Lazar of Local 149 (Toronto, ON) and founder of Samba Squad, suggested “Father Flanagan’s,” and later added “Flat Footed Four.”

Back in the day, the band was known for their raucous performances, and they were even banned from one university because audience members destroyed some furniture. No subject off limits, Gerow says, they were also kicked out of a high school assembly for performing a song called “The Pill.”

They’ve long since redeemed themselves. In 1983, the band was presented with an achievement award for their contribution to the City of Thunder Bay and they have been recognized twice by the city as distinguished citizens.

Gerow is a former school principal, Balabuck a retired special education teacher, Thompson is a social worker, and Wall is a sound engineer (who graduated in the first class of Radio and Television Arts from Confederation College in 1969).

They cheekily refer to their style as progressive pub. Gerow says, “We start with rock songs and do them as bluegrass and do bluegrass as Irish tunes, stealing the progressive name from jazz musicians. In the bluegrass world, they say, ‘If you make the same mistake twice, call it jazz.’”

Gerow credits the group’s harmony on stage and off for their longtime partnership. He says, “It’s been years of friendship unequaled. We’ve enjoyed each other, centered around music, and that’s what the music scene should be.” He jokes, “Hatches, matches, and dispatches.”

Two of the members are cancer survivors. When Balabuck developed focal dystonia, he was told he’d never play the banjo again. “So, he learned to play with his left hand and now does both. To our knowledge, he’s the only five-string banjo player playing both left and right handed banjo in the world,” says Gerow.

The band still holds rehearsals at Balabuck’s house, which, Gerow says, is not more than 300 meters away from his. “I can hear Bob practice his banjo on his front porch—and he practices all the time!”

Dawn Hannay: Shining Light on the Union

Dawn Hannay of Local 802 (New York City) looks back on her career and activism as a violist with the New York Philharmonic.

Dawn Hannay of Local 802 (New York City) practically grew up on the stage of the New York Philharmonic. Having joined at 23, in 1979, the violist was one of a handful of women performing with the orchestra at the time. Now comprising more than half women, the oldest ensemble in the country is steeped in history and tradition. Hannay, who retired from her position last October, says she learned quickly, “I was always a bit of a rabble rouser so it wasn’t long before I was elected chair of the musicians’ committee.”

Back then, for an “inexperienced young woman,” there was a learning curve. Hannay explains that in those days music schools did little to prepare string players to master the overwhelming orchestral repertoire. “You had to be a great sight reader and fast learner,” she says, remembering the first time she played Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe suite in Studio 8H at NBC with the mics on, no rehearsal. “It’s like jumping on a speeding train. You have to be tough, especially as a young and very naive woman in what in those days seemed like a good ole boys club, complete with poker games, chain smoking, and even occasional fisticuffs!”

Hannay inherited the torch from those older and more experienced musicians who had fought so successfully to improve the lives of orchestral musicians. She says, “I took on the challenge, and spent decades doing my utmost to improve the working life of my colleagues, negotiating contracts and helping to resolve disputes.”

“The union is crucial in maintaining fair wages and working conditions for all musicians. Younger musicians who prefer to remain independent need to learn the history of their business, and how essential the union is in ensuring that musicians could earn a living from their craft. It is easy to take for granted the 52-week season, health benefits, and pension that we enjoy today,” she says.

What distinguishes prestigious orchestras like the New York Philharmonic from the Vienna Philharmonic? She says it’s “the communication between older players and the next generation. There are many traditions of phrasing and tempi, of fingerings and articulations, of tone quality and bowings, and even jokes that are handed down, such as applauding in rehearsal at the false ending in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.”

Hannay explains that a wise conductor lets an orchestra play, shaping his or her own interpretation, but allowing the unique character of the orchestra to shine through. She says, “There may be fewer than a dozen musicians left in the orchestra who played West Side Story under Leonard Bernstein, but they still play the score like nobody’s business. That’s tradition.” 

Not long ago, playing in an orchestra was among the most precarious of livings. Hannay explains, “It’s almost unheard of nowadays in any profession for people to stay in a single job for 30, 40, or even 50 or more years. It’s the norm here. We owe this extraordinary stability to a whole generation of musicians who fought to make it so. Their work created the continuity that enables the unique musical traditions to be carried forward from generation to generation. Through the efforts of the past generation there are contracts and fair wages.” 

Orchestra standards were set by flutist Julius Baker, clarinetist Stanley Drucker, trumpeter Phil Smith, and concertmaster Glenn Dicterow, of Local 802. Bassist Orin O’Brien of Local 802 shattered the glass ceiling and became the first woman in the orchestra. Legendary players Buster Bailey, Bert Bial, Ralph Mendelssohn, Newton Mansfield, and John Ware created and added to the history and traditions that make today’s daily performances possible. 

Hannay performs chamber music, appearing often with the New York Philharmonic Ensembles. She spends the summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, playing with the Grand Teton Music Festival, where she is a founding member of the string quartet Wind River 4. In 2001, she was a featured soloist and guest principal viola with the London Chamber Players on a tour of South Africa.

Streaming

Streaming Predominates, Do We Get Our Fair Share?

by Deborah Newmark, AFM Symphonic Services Division Director of Symphonic Electronic Media

Streaming is everywhere. It is on your smartphone, Apple watch, laptop, and any other device that connects to the Internet—including Wi-Fi in your car. Never has our recorded music been so readily available worldwide. While technologies continue to advance, making it easier to bring our music to the listener, artist compensation is not yet equitable to the billions being generated by the relevant industries. Advances have been made, both on the negotiated front as well as in Congress through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recording (DPRA), but there is still a long way to go to ensure musicians get their fair share.

What has already been accomplished?

Congress enacted the DPRA in 1995. Under DPRA, there are three categories of digital transmission: nonsubscription broadcast transmissions, which were exempted from any performance right; noninteractive Internet and satellite transmissions, which are subject to a statutory license; and on-demand interactive Internet transmissions, which are subject to the full exclusive right.

This amendment to the Copyright Act established a long-sought public performance right in sound recordings applicable to digital transmissions. The passage of the DPRA enabled US performers and owners of the copyright of recordings (usually record companies)—for the first time in the decades-long struggle between the broadcasting and recording industries—to collect a royalty when a recording that they owned, or on which they played or sang, “aired” in a digital format. 

Noninteractive streaming services must pay a compulsory, statutory license for the right to use our product. These include companies like Pandora, Sirius XM satellite radio, terrestrial radio stations that stream broadcasts, and others where the end user does not get to choose what they listen to (i.e., noninteractive). They pay royalties based on rates set by a copyright arbitration panel, which vary and are not always favorable to us. Royalties are paid into SoundExchange, which is a US collective for copyright holders (typically record labels and in the symphonic world, most often orchestra employers), as well as featured artists.

The orchestra employer has taken on the role as copyright holder for many of the recordings created in the past 10 years, at a time when our media agreements shifted to a model where the orchestra has to retain ownership and copyright. For the purpose of featured versus nonfeatured shares, the musicians of the orchestra are deemed the featured artists, along with any soloists and/or conductors. Symphonic featured artists and nonsymphonic, nonfeatured artist royalties are distributed through the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund.

How do we fare with interactive streaming services?

Apple Music, Pandora Premium, Amazon Music, Spotify, and Tidal are examples of interactive streaming services. These services provide choices for the listener through subscription-based systems. Featured artists are paid in accordance with royalty agreements made with the record labels. In addition, payments are made to AFM-EP Fund, the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, and the Music Performance Trust Fund, based on existing terms in the AFM’s Sound Recording Labor Agreement.

What are the roadblocks to achieving fair compensation?

In the symphonic community, while we do receive upfront payments for the creation of the recorded product, the back end suffers. This is an integral part of the financial structure of our agreement. Primarily it suffers due to the fact that the symphonic employers, as owners of the copyright, often fail to enter into robust licensing agreements that will benefit both the musicians and the institution. The Integrated Media Agreement (IMA) provides for a 60/40 split of back-end revenue (60% to the musicians) derived from the exploitation of product on the Internet (and in other formats). If the employer doesn’t succeed in making the best deal possible, musicians suffer the loss of potential revenue.

A prime example of this, as a great, untapped resource, are fees paid to copyright holders from Internet videos where ad-supported streaming proliferates—like on YouTube. According to Robert Kyncl, the company’s chief business officer, YouTube paid $1 billion in revenue to the recording industry in 2016. Where is our share?

How is this revenue calculated?

CPM, RPM, and eCPM determine revenue. CPM is the cost per 1,000 ad impressions for the advertiser to pay when their ad is showcased. RPM is the revenue per 1,000 views. YouTube takes a 45% cut of ad revenue generated by a channel from total RPMs. eCPM is a formula for earnings/monetized playbacks x 1,000. YouTube analytics help explain how YouTube pays the copyright holder on advertisements once they reach 10,000 lifetime views. The IMA considers this back-end revenue, which is shared with the musicians and the employer.

In what other areas is the AFM at the forefront of seeking fair compensation?

The AFM is a member of the MusicFIRST Coalition that is working on getting legislation passed in Congress that will ultimately improve the working lives of musicians. Two pieces of legislation have recently been introduced.

The Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R 1836). The bill introduced March 30, 2017 by Jerrold Nadler, (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Conyers (D-MI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Tom Rooney (R-FL) aims to ensure that all forms of radio, regardless of technology or platform used, would pay a fair market rate for music performances. The legislation also aims to restore fairness for artists whose songs were written before 1972 and end satellite radio’s special “grandfathered” below-market rate.

The PROMOTE Act: The Performance Royalty Owners of Music Opportunity to Earn Act of 2017 (PROMOTE Act) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) to attempt to right a decades-old wrong. This effort was spearheaded by the AFM as part of the MusicFIRST coalition. Coalition Executive Director Chris Israel says, “The US is the only developed country where music creators have no say when it comes to traditional AM/FM radio stations playing and profiting from their hard work, but without receiving a dime. Congressman Issa’s PROMOTE Act addresses this glaring inequity by empowering music creators to seek fair compensation when their works are played on terrestrial radio.”

As you can see, these are complex issues in an ever-changing marketplace. The AFM has been and will continue to be at the forefront of finding ways to ensure fair compensation for our members. Successes thus far achieved show that when we stay vigilant in fighting for the rights of musicians and we remain united and support one another we can accomplish a great deal.

33rd Annual Conference of the Regional Orchestra Players’ Association

ROPA’s 33rd Annual Conference and Guiding Principles

by John Michael Smith, Regional Orchestra Players Association President, and Member of Local 30-73 (St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN)

As I am in the final days of planning the 33rd Annual Conference of the Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA), my first as president, I find myself looking back on earlier conferences that I attended. I think of the wonderful and informative presentations I have witnessed, the people I have met, the discussions, situations, and issues, which  came up that educated and empowered me, my colleagues, and others who have attended our conferences.

In 2011, at the ROPA Executive Board’s mid-year meeting in Phoenix (the location of this year’s annual conference), the board participated in a strategic planning session. The goal was to create a guiding document that would assist the board in defining ROPA and its role in the leadership of the organization.

What is ROPA? We are professional musicians of medium and small budget symphonic, chamber, ballet, and opera orchestras with AFM collective bargaining agreements. We are a service organization with more than 5,000 musicians and 86 orchestras represented in our membership. We represent these regional orchestra musicians as members of the AFM at national and international forums.

Who does ROPA serve? ROPA serves the musicians of our orchestras. We serve future musicians by protecting today’s jobs for tomorrow. We serve all orchestras—what affects one affects all. We serve the AFM. We serve the communities our orchestras play in. And we serve the elected representatives of those orchestras, the ROPA delegates, and orchestra committees of our orchestras.

Why does ROPA exist? ROPA exists to provide knowledge and tools to our musicians to assist them in establishing fair working conditions and to educate them about industry standards, labor law, procedures, and practices. ROPA also empowers and enables our colleagues to better their lives in their workplace and to organize and communicate with colleagues and their community when there are those intent on dismantling organized labor nationwide.

ROPA is a place for our member orchestras to turn to for support. We have established a forum for discussion of concerns, current trends, and solutions. ROPA provides assistance for orchestras in crisis with advice and information, and works to create fair collective bargaining agreements, working conditions, and compensation.

In what ways do we seek to accomplish our goals? Information sharing is key—orchestra to orchestra, musician to musician, players’ conference to players’ conference, and with the AFM; this is vital to our mission. Information is shared through email lists, our website, Facebook, telephone calls, our quarterly newsletter The Leading Tone, and of course, our annual conference. Within ROPA orchestras, we work to create an atmosphere of concern and commitment for our common cause. This is primarily done through our network of ROPA delegates selected by each orchestra and AFM local.

I encourage all AFM members who have an interest in orchestras, especially regional orchestras, to attend our annual conference August 1-3 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Westin Phoenix Downtown Hotel. You can get more information and register for the conference and hotel on the ROPA website: ropaweb.org/support/2017-annual-
conference/. Members of ROPA orchestras and other interested AFM members may join our moderated email discussion list:
ropa-discussion@googlegroups.com.

We are stronger together!

Finally, I wanted to give a huge shout-out and thanks on behalf of ROPA to the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, members of ICSOM, for the generous contribution of $10,000 to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s endowment campaign. This campaign included a provision where funds could be specifically designated for productions with live orchestral music. In 2005, the 49-member Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra was nearly eliminated in a cost-cutting move with the announcement of the use of recordings for the entire season. While the orchestra was able to return the following season, it was cut from five to two productions a season, where it has remained ever since. This is a huge show of support for their local ROPA colleagues!

Traveling Engagements

Traveling Engagements—Who Plays and Who Gets Paid?

by Joseph Parente, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA)

Over the next several months, outdoor venues will be presenting various types of entertainment in many locals throughout the Federation. These engagements provide added employment to many musicians. However, there seems to be an issue as to which musicians are to be employed for this work and what is the correct scale for these traveling engagements.

A symphony orchestra traveling to another jurisdiction to perform a symphonic concert is normally covered by their collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and is not at issue here. However, in cases where symphony orchestras are hired to travel to other jurisdictions to back a name act or to perform the soundtrack for a motion picture or video game, there have been problems.

AFM Bylaws cover both types of engagements. Article 14 Section 3(a) states:

A symphony orchestra may travel freely for the purpose of giving concerts of a symphonic type … That seems to be clear. Article 14 goes on to say: In the cases where a symphony orchestra travels as a back-up unit to an artist or in a commercial venture that is not self-produced … or the orchestra is not the main attraction … the wage scale of the home Local or the Local having jurisdiction over the engagement, whichever is higher, shall be payable to the musicians …

Again, this means playing for an act, motion picture, or video soundtrack.

Article 13 covers traveling engagements defined as … an engagement in which any member performs outside the jurisdiction of that member’s home Local. This applies to symphony orchestras as well as freelance orchestras traveling to other jurisdictions.

Article 13 Section 10 states:

Except for services that are covered by a CBA with the home Local or the AFM that provides for wages and other conditions of employment … the minimum wage to be charged and received by any member … for services rendered on a Traveling Engagement shall be no less than either the Local wage scale where the services are rendered or the Local wage scale where the musical unit has its base of operation, whichever is higher.

So there is no misunderstanding, other than an orchestra traveling to give a concert, the orchestra’s CBA is irrelevant. Terms of employment are governed by the local’s (either home local or destination local) wage scale book. Obviously, a promoter or presenter would love to pay only traveling expenses (per diem, lodging, etc.), while the cost of the orchestra is being paid by the orchestra’s management who is burning services under their weekly scale.

Incidentally, this situation doesn’t merely occur during the summer. There are just many more engagements in the summer because of outdoor venues. Similar engagements take place during the year with regional “mini-tours” such as Il Volo, Salute to Vienna, Mannheim Steamroller, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. These are usually freelance engagements, but the same rules apply. Contractors, locals, orchestra committees, and musicians need to communicate with each other before these jobs take place so there is a level playing field for all musicians involved. Once the job takes place, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make things right. Local musicians should not and cannot be cheated out of work that is theirs in order to accommodate others who circumvent the AFM Bylaws.

Right to Work

Protect Your Union Against National Right to Work

by Todd Jelen, AFM Symphonic Services Division Negotiator, Organizer, Educator

“Right to work” laws may soon be coming to every state in the union. On February 1, Representative Steve King (R-IA) introduced a bill crafted by the National Right to Work Foundation that would make private sector workplaces in every state right to work. This means that employees would receive the benefits of collective bargaining without being required to be union members. In addition, the bill would alter the Railway Labor Act, making railway and airline jobs right to work, which will not only affect our brothers and sisters in those industries, but could possibly make our airlines and rail systems less safe. The arguments against right to work have been well documented in the International Musician over the past few months. I would like to discuss what each of us can do to fight against the effects of these laws and to grow our power in the face of coming adversity. Following are a few simple things you can do to prepare your contracts. 

1) Negotiate multi-year contracts before the law takes effect. Contracts in place when the law takes effect will be enforced (including the union security clause) for the life of the agreement. Use this time to organize and get ready for the future.

2) Don’t eliminate union security clauses. Despite what management may assert, retaining your current union security clause is not illegal; these clauses are just unenforceable. In the event right to work legislation is later repealed, your union security clause will once again come into effect.

3) Don’t alter work dues check-off language or forms. Management often tries to convince the union that dues check-off is a part of right to work. Dues check-off is, instead, governed by several National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) cases and is unaffected by right to work legislation. Management acts only as a pass-through for dues remitted pursuant to an agreement between the union and its members.

4) Maintain the role of the union as exclusive bargaining agent. Management may attempt to dilute this role through “artistic policy” committees or through musician representatives to symphony boards. By discussing wages, hours, and conditions of work under the guise of “artistic policy” or board privilege, they hope to circumvent the union and its agents, the orchestra committee. Don’t agree to provisions in your contract that would overempower these committees. Be vigilant of management pressuring musicians who serve on committees into overstepping their roles.   

In addition to the above precautions, the single best practice against right to work has always been to organize your members. For those of us currently in free bargaining states, it is time to start analyzing your workplaces for possible fault lines. You should have an accurate idea of what everyone’s issues and concerns in the workplace are so you can effectively address them all. Create short and long-term plans to realize each issue and include members in their planning and execution. 

As we analyze our workplaces, we must also analyze ourselves. Do we truly hear others’ opinions or do we brush them off? Do we include minority opinions in our conversations, or do we push on without regard to them? Organizing is difficult and takes time to do effectively. Well-meaning advocates can often perpetuate the very divides we are trying to heal when they cut corners. We can only engage everyone in the process when all are heard and given an opportunity to participate. Inclusion leads to ownership, which leads to solidarity and true power to fight for our interests in the workplace!

For those of us already in right to work states, this may seem like business as usual, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many cases in process that seek to challenge, as well as to expand, right to work laws and national right to work may be ineffective for some time, pending the outcomes. In addition, you are about to see your brothers and sisters in free bargaining states come together to combat right to work.  Now is your time to join their call to action to bring the fight to all 50 states. If we all work together, we can improve our circumstances no matter what congress and corporate interests try to impose on our workplace democracy!

William Bell: Longtime Soul Man Creates New Legacy For Young Musicians

With a career spanning more than 50 years in the recording industry, Local 148-462 (Atlanta, GA) member William Bell received his first Grammy this year in the category Best Americana Album. The honor was fitting for This Is Where I Live, a retrospective album that also marks Bell’s return to Stax Records, where he began his career all those years earlier.

william bellWho knows what would have become of the Memphis native if not for the music emanating from 926 East McLemore Avenue. “Jim [Stewart] and Estelle [Axton] established Stax Records right in the heart of the deprived neighborhood we lived in,” explains Bell. “It kept us out of trouble. We went to the record shop and listened to songs. All the neighborhood kids had an outlet there.”

Aside from the music they heard hanging out at the record shop, he and friends like David Porter and Isaac Hayes, listened to disc jockey Rufus Thomas who worked for WDIA, the only black radio station at the time. “We heard everything on the radio—country and western, blues, and rhythm and blues. It was just an extension of our lives,” he says. “Music was everywhere—on the radio, in the clubs, and on the street corners.”

William Bell began singing in church, but by age 16 he’d moved on to singing “secular” music and won a Mid-South Talent contest and a trip to Chicago to perform with the Red Saunders Band. Upon return to Memphis, he spent the next five years working with and learning from the Phineas Newborn Orchestra.

Bell wrote his first hit song, “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” in a New York City hotel room during a tour with the band. “We had a night off and it was raining. I’m sitting in the hotel room and missing the girl back home. This song just came to me,” he says. He recorded it with Stax, and even though it was the B side of the record, it ended up being one of the record company’s first hits.

Bell says many of his songs come from a personal place, while others are inspired by the people around him. “I’m a people watcher. I’ll go to a party and sit in the corner and watch the human factor take over. I write about life and things I think people can relate to. Other times I just come up with an idea and construct a song.”

That’s what happened when he wrote “Born Under a Bad Sign” with Booker T. Jones of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA). “It was back in the ’60s when everyone was talking about zodiac signs. I’d finished a bass line, one verse, and a chorus. I was at the studio doing an Albert King session. He didn’t have enough material. I sang it for him and he just fell in love with it, so Booker and I finished
it overnight.”

“We knew that we had something special. But we didn’t know it would become so iconic,” says Bell. One of the most covered blues tunes of all time, Bell wasn’t too keen on recording it for This Is Where I Live when producer John Leventhal of Local 802 (New York City) first suggested it.

Leventhal said he wanted to do a stripped down version, very “back porch-ish.” When Leventhal presented him with a track, the first thing Bell noticed was that the iconic bass line was gone. But after living with it a couple days, he found himself humming along. “The more I listened to it, the more I came to like it,” he says. “We captured it on the first take, so I guess it was meant to be.”

Such open-mindedness has been key to surviving in an industry that has seen tremendous change over Bell’s career. “Technology has changed the playing field. When you record something it’s for the world. You put it on the Internet and everybody hears it at once. You have to really do your homework and create a great product,” he says.

“Years ago, we went into the studio with eight or 10 people and created. That instilled discipline because you had to get it right the first time. Now you can keep going over a part until you get it just like you want it, but it’s a little sterile,” he says. “I’m still from the old school. I like the bodies in the studio so we can feed off each other.”

Bell says the union has helped him tremendously throughout his career. “And they are still fighting,” he says. “Technology has created some new problems for us to get paid. And the new generation thinks it should all be free. But creators have to make a living. We need that body to speak for us. The union kind of levels the playing field a little bit.”

Coming back to the Stax label brought back memories from the early days of Bell’s career. Somewhat of an oasis in the 1960s, Bell recalls that race and gender didn’t enter into the mix at Stax. “We accepted a person for what they could bring to the table in terms of creativity and musicianship,” he says.

Touring with Stax Revues in the early ’60s, the interracial tour was unusual. “We were like 50/50 with the band and the artists,” says Bell. “We caught a lot of flack, but we tore down a lot of barriers because we were a tight-knit organization. If we stopped somewhere to have lunch and they would not accept blacks in the restaurant, none of us went in.”

“We would go to little towns where it was horrible to even stop for gas,” he says. “We set our parameters. Some cities wanted to have two performances for blacks and whites and we insisted on one performance for everybody. They would put the blacks upstairs and whites downstairs, but at least they were all in the same building.”

The 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis brought the racial unrest from the rest of the country to the forefront. Behind the walls of Stax the music continued under the shadow of grief.

“Sadness hovered over the studio, over the city. We had also just lost Otis Redding [in a plane crash],” Bell recalls. “Outside of the studio the whole atmosphere had changed. It was a bad scene for a while in Memphis. There was burning and looting and practically every building in the neighborhood was touched except for Stax. They had a reverence for us. We would walk the white participants out to their cars and say, ‘Hey guys, they are a part of us.’ They would back off.”

Other things had begun to change at Stax. Longtime distributor Atlantic Records had been sold to Warner Bros. in 1967. When Stewart was unable to reach a distribution deal with Warner Bros., the company refused to return Stax’s master tapes.

When Estelle Axton left in 1969, new vice president Al Bell began rebuilding the catalog, recording 30 singles and 27 albums in eight months. Though it was a period of some success, the atmosphere had changed. “Our tight-knit family became a corporate structure,” recalls William Bell. “Some of the musicians were unhappy. Booker moved to L.A. and I moved to Atlanta.”

“But that’s not why it went under,” he continues. “It was systematically put out of business. It was one of the largest black-owned corporate structures; the year before it filed for bankruptcy it cleared more than $20 million in sales.” The company’s cash flow was affected by its inability to distribute the hit records it was recording, then the minute the company couldn’t pay its debts it was foreclosed upon. The unpaid debt totaled just $1,900 when the bank took everything in December 1975 and escorted the owners out at gunpoint.

“A lot of us artists hung in there until the very last, in lieu of getting our royalties. We wanted Stax to pull out of that downward spiral. Some artists lost homes and cars when it folded. Thank goodness I was in the creative end of it as well, so I could still write and produce for other labels,” says Bell who was so disenchanted with the music industry that he took up acting.

Bell never thought he would record for Stax again. But when Concord Records bought the label in 2004, it began reissuing the classics, as well as creating new records with Stax artists.

Despite the building being torn down in 1989, 926 East McLemore Avenue also saw a rebirth thanks to Bell and other former Stax musicians. “It was a vacant lot with beer bottles thrown about,” he says. “It was heartbreaking after we had spent 14 years, almost 24 hours a day, on that corner.” They just hoped to erect a monument, but once they got the ball rolling through fundraising concerts, community leaders and philanthropists also stepped in and together they formed the Soulsville Foundation.

They unearthed the original blueprints for the building and erected an exact replica, founding the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in 2003. Later they created the Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School, which together cover a whole city block. The current generation of talented Memphis children now has a place to go to learn a craft just as Bell had in his youth.

Bell’s dedication to the next generation doesn’t end there. He is politically active, lobbying for music education through Grammys on the Hill.

He, along with a number of other Memphis artists, including Bobby Rush, Mavis Staples, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ben Cauley, and Charlie Musselwhite, shared their music legacy through the Take Me to the River film, tour, and an educational curriculum developed through Berklee College of Music. The 2014 documentary (available on Netflix) brought together iconic Memphis musicians, popular young musicians, and students to create music.

“We are working with a lot of organizations promoting and preserving the legacy and teaching the origin of the music. Kids have gotten into sampling so much. We are trying to teach them how to create their own sound,” says Bell, who continues to tour with Take Me to the River. “Teach kids the ground roots of the development of the music, and not only from the ’60s, but all the way back so they can get a good foundation. Once the get a good foundation, they can survive in it.”

Of the proceeds from the film, 75% goes to the Soulsville Foundation and organizations that support musician well-being.

Bell says they are now working on Take Me to the River Part 2 with New Orleans’ musicians. He is also active with the Notes for Notes, which gives kids access to instruments, recording studios, and mentors/educators to teach them about the music business.