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Home » Music Business » A Year of Strong Organizing in the AFM

A Year of Strong Organizing in the AFM


Financial Health Restored

AFM Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio announced in the May IM that the financial health of the AFM had been restored thanks to cost cutting measures. He also announced that the AFM was considering the possibility of purchasing a space in lieu of continuing to rent. In the June issue, AFM President Ray Hair explained the advantages of ownership: appreciation value of New York City real estate; building equity; and the stability of a fixed rate mortgage, versus ever rising rent. However, the proposed purchase has been postponed, due to the unacceptable financial risk that the AFM would incur if it went through with the purchase at this time.

Other Developments from the AFM

By the start of 2014, more than 75 orchestra institutions had signed on to the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). Discussions began in December 2013 to update and improve the agreement. A successor agreement has not yet been reached. The next meeting was scheduled for this month.

AFM President Ray Hair addresses the 3rd International Federation of Musicians (FIM) International Orchestra Conference (IOC) in Oslo, Norway.

AFM President Ray Hair addresses the 3rd International Federation of Musicians (FIM) International Orchestra Conference (IOC) in Oslo, Norway.

In February, AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Symphonic Services Director Jay Blumenthal, and a symphonic conference delegation attended the International Orchestra Conference (IOC) in Oslo, Norway, hosted by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM). At the conference, Hair spoke of the AFM’s mission in an international workplace and the need for a worldwide union for professional musicians.

The Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) announced its new Theatre Contract Data Repository in February. Located on the TMA website, it is a collection of data formatted to compare important aspects of theater CBAs from many different locals. It is available to TMA, AFM International, and local officers.

In August, Michael Manley was appointed AFM Director for Touring/Theatre/Booking and Immigration following the retirement of former Director Steve Gelfand. In September, an “AFM on the Road” Facebook group was launched, in order to foster and build better communication and solidarity among musicians who travel. The touring and theatrical communities took center stage in the International Musician’s November 2014 issue.

AFM Marks Progress on the Political & Legislative Front

The AFM began the year with a new TEMPO campaign designed to foster a greater sense of value, identity, and purpose. Local 94 (Tulsa, OK) Secretary-Treasurer Tammy Kirk became its chair. Since its inception, the TEMPO account balance has doubled in size, and the Signature Campaign has 60 new members.

As the Second Session of the 113th Congress convened, AFM Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard asked AFM members to lend their voice to two important legislative actions that impact a large segment of membership: funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill and the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA).

As Congress was to pass an Omnibus Appropriations bill in January, Pollard asked members to continue to let their voices be heard in support of President Obama’s FY 2014 proposed NEA budget levels. The House Subcommittee on the Interior had slashed the NEA budget by 49%, but then the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee voted to restore funding. When Congress released its final bill, it contained generally good news for arts and education, restoring nearly all pre-sequester levels, including $146 million for the NEA and $25 million for the Arts in Education program. The AFM’s NEA letter writing campaign generated 1,004 actions, sending 2,982 messages to 286 legislators.

Pollard emphasized the AFM’s strong opposition to the LRFA, calling it a step in the wrong direction for AFM members who would like to secure a performance right on intellectual property broadcast on terrestrial radio. “There is no doubt that the AM/FM radio broadcasters who play our music over the airwaves want to prevent the adoption of legislation that would provide royalty payments to musicians on sound recordings,” says Pollard.

The MusicFIRST Coalition celebrated as 2013 drew to a close and thanked labels, artists, unions (including the AFM), and trade groups for victory over the Internet Radio Fairness Act and it’s proposed 85% pay cut for artists.

As the primaries were about to begin, Pollard urged AFM member participation. He posted the AFM Voter Guide for the 112th Congress, which focused on votes related to issues supported by working musicians.

One major political focus this year has been to try to find a workable solution for the problems traveling musicians have encountered under CITES and ESA guidelines relating to the importation of protected species woods and plant components. Pollard and AFM President Ray Hair have been trying to find a workable solution.

Following the release of USFWS Director’s Order No. 210 (the ban on the importation and trade of ivory effective February 25), Hair sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking for clearer guidance. The AFM is seeking an exemption from the ban for musical instruments that contain very small amounts of ivory. In June, Hair submitted testimony to the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs oversight hearing about the burden the ban puts on musicians. The AFM has joined an Ivory Group Coalition that has reached out to Obama Administration officials.

The AFM has also continued its efforts to advocate for consistent guidelines for musicians traveling with instruments as carry-on items. Hair, along with a carry-on coalition, met with Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, major and regional airline representatives, and other stakeholders twice in 2014. In July and September, talks were held in order to assist the DOT in the carry-on rulemaking process.

Numerous articles in this year’s IM offer guidance and advice to traveling musicians. The Federation is also creating an informational webpage, which will be a one-stop site for specific details on airline requirements for musicians traveling with instruments.

In May, the Future of Music Coalition (FMC), of which the AFM is a member, sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Tom Wheeler urging him to keep the Internet open and free to everyone. Among those signing the letter were dozens of AFM musicians and other creators.

Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN) introduced and sponsored The Film Incentive Reform Act of 2014, which is supported by the AFM. It would modify Section 181 of the American Job Creation Act of 2004, which provides tax subsidies for domestic film production. Peterson’s proposed legislation would require a subsidized film production to spend 100% of its production costs in the US, effectively keeping taxpayer dollars at home.

Updated EMSD Agreements Finalized

In January, Bill Thomas took over as director of the AFM Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD), following the retirement of Dick Gabriel who had worked for the AFM for more than 35 years. This year, the AFM was involved in negotiations for successor media agreements with the film, jingle, and recording sectors. These negotiations dominated the agendas of AFM President Ray Hair and EMSD Director Thomas in early 2014.

The Motion Picture and TV Film agreements are among the Federation’s oldest. By last January, the AFM had gone through five rounds of negotiations with the film producers. Talks are scheduled to resume January 7, 2015 (which will be a caucus day) and meetings with industry will follow on January 8 and 9.

Negotiations for a successor Jingle Agreement began in early 2014. The Federation and the advertising industry reached a three-year Jingles and Spot Announcements Agreement that contains an upfront 6% wage increase for applicable recording sessions and re-use payments, among other features. It became effective June 5, 2014 and will run through June 5, 2017.

With the collaboration of Microsoft Corporation, the AFM developed a new Video Game Agreement. Effective June 10, it improves wages and preserves producer obligations to pay musicians additional fees for nonfranchise use. The agreement extends through December 31, 2016.

AFM Renews Focus on Organizing & Education

AFM President Ray Hair addresses the crowd at the Los Angeles launch of the Listen Up! campaign.

AFM President Ray Hair addresses the crowd at the Los Angeles launch of the Listen Up! campaign.

Members were introduced to the new AFM Organizing & Education Division focused on working with musicians on local, national, and international levels to organize for musicians’ rights in our communities. Organizing & Education Division Director Paul Frank outlined the division’s new programs, including a pilot project for intensive on-site assistance for locals to develop and maintain their own organizing programs.

Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA) was the first to join the pilot project and hired an organizer in February. The local is developing a robust Fair Trade Music campaign to organize freelance musicians working in clubs, cafes, and other live venues. That local is identifying other potential organizing opportunities, as well. Local 99 (Portland, OR) has also joined the project and hired an organizer. Other locals are preparing to come on board in 2015.

On April 10, the AFM officially launched its Listen Up! campaign against the offshoring of film and TV soundtrack recording by major film companies, such as Lionsgate Entertainment, that are not signatories to AFM agreements. The launch in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York City coincided with the opening of Lionsgate’s movie Draft Day. From the film, Lionsgate took $5 million in public funds from Ohio taxpayers, then sent the music to Europe to be scored by a Macedonian company. Local, state, provincial and federal taxpayers have subsidized hundreds of millions of dollars to Lionsgate productions over the past several years. In 2014 alone, the company reported receiving $82 million in tax credits. Between 2011 and 2013, only two of Lionsgate’s more than 20 films were scored to industry standards set by the AFM.

In October, the New York City Council passed Resolution 207A supporting the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign, which seeks to improve the lives of musicians working in New York City’s jazz clubs by addressing workplace issues, by providing retirement security through fair pay, pension contributions, protection of recording rights, and a reasonable process for addressing grievances.

Orchestra Scene Shows Encouraging Signs of Improvement

Many orchestras in 2014 successfully negotiated new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), and most of them contained modest increases in salaries and/or other benefits. Among those were: Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and Chattanooga Symphony and Opera.

Other good news came from The Cleveland Orchestra announcing a balanced budget, a growing endowment, and record-breaking fundraising. St. Paul Chamber Orchestra ended FY 2013 with a $283,264 surplus and reduced deficit, while Detroit Symphony Orchestra celebrated its third straight year of subscription growth and strong attendance. Orchestra of St. Luke’s had a modest surplus. Houston Symphony reported record contributed income and ticket sale revenue. After several years of financial difficulty, The Oregon Symphony saw a record $7 million in ticket sales. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra received its largest two gifts ever, totaling $32 million, and reported record breaking ticket sales and fundraising. Ticket sales for Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra are also up; and Charlotte Symphony Orchestra ended in the black for the first time since 2002.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians looked back at lessons learned during their 16-month lockout as they continued the long process of recovery focused on creating a strong future. Pictured (L to R): Committee members  Tony Ross, Tim Zavadil, R. Douglas Wright, Marcia Peck, Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN) Secretary-Treasurer Tom Baskerville, Local 30-73 President Brad Eggen, and Kevin Watkins at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians looked back at lessons learned during their 16-month lockout as they continued the long process of recovery focused on creating a strong future. Pictured (L to R): Committee members Tony Ross, Tim Zavadil, R. Douglas Wright, Marcia Peck, Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN) Secretary-Treasurer Tom Baskerville, Local 30-73 President Brad Eggen, and Kevin Watkins at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra called for emergency funding as the year began, announcing that it was in dire financial trouble and needed to raise $5 million due to an inadequate endowment. For the seventh time in 11 years musicians were asked to make concessions that included cuts to orchestra size, plus changes to their health plans and scheduling. On January 2, they ratified a number of mid-term modifications to their CBA, which expires August 2015.

Ten Minnesota legislators called for the resignations of Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson, Board Chair Jon Campbell, and Chair Richard Davis. The legislators also called for the Minnesota Orchestra Association to immediately end the musician lockout. On January 14, the lockout finally ended after a devastating 16 months. A new contract went into effect in February. Along with some changes in work rules, the musicians agreed to a 15% reduction to base and overscale salaries in the first year, followed by modest increases in the following two years. They will also contribute more toward healthcare, while management agreed to a revenue sharing of endowment returns if they average more than 10% over three years.

The Minnesota Orchestra musicians and other supporters called for the return of director Osmo Vänskä, who had resigned in frustration during the lockout. Vänskä had implied that he would only return if Henson resigned. Shortly after Henson announced that he would step down in August, the Minnesota Orchestra board approved a two-year contract reinstating Vänskä. Interim CEO Kevin Smith was made permanent in November.

Memphis Symphony Orchestra announced plans to restructure following depletion of its cash reserves. Immediate action included staff job and pay cuts, and adjustments to costly programs. After holding several benefit concerts and receiving two $100,000 donations, the orchestra announced it would be able to save the season.

Following an all-night contentious bargaining session, musicians and management of The Metropolitan Opera reached an agreement August 18 that avoided a threatened lockout.

Oregon Symphony musicians signed a one-year contract extension through August 2015. Though musicians have made numerous concessions over the past few years, salary levels will remain the same under the extension. New contract negotiations will resume in spring or summer 2015.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians were locked out after their contract expired September 6 without a new agreement in place. At the end of September, Stanley Romanstein resigned as ASO president and executive director. ASO musicians have continued to perform concerts around Atlanta and protest outside the orchestra’s home, the Woodruff Arts Center. An agreement was reached in early November and concerts resumed.

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