2011!

Dear Colleagues,

We have a full plate for this new year; 2011 will see RMA working on your behalf in a variety of different areas.

The Sound Recording Labor Agreement negotiations between the AFM and the major labels begin with a caucus day on Monday, January 10, and will continue through that week. President Hair will be leading an AFM team including Rank-and-File Representative Neil Stubenhaus. I will be participating as RMA President, along with Bruce Bouton, President of RMA Nashville and RMA representative for Intellectual Property Rights. Tom Wild will be there on behalf of RMA Nashville, and RMA New York President Roger Blanc, along with other members of the RMA New York Board. We will be joining IEB Officers, Local Officers and AFM Staff in these crucial negotiations.

The Live TV/Videotape Agreement (The Tonight Show, David Letterman, American Idol, SNL, The Grammys, etc) remains open and unresolved. Musicians on late night TV shows, awards shows, and variety shows will be well served by a new contract, including New Media provisions covering Song Downloads and Internet Broadcasts. We hope to conclude negotiations that lead to a successor agreement in that field as well.

RMA is working to help the AFM study the most effective and economical ways of organizing and delivering electronic media services. We are looking at some of the core functions that need to be prioritized.

One of the most significant jobs of the AFM is identifying and securing appropriate payment for new uses of our music. As technology and business models evolve, employer profits are increasingly driven by using music from different media. Commercials, TV shows and videogames are now frequently scored in total or in part by licensing sound recordings. New media outlets for TV, motion picture and other industries regularly feature songs, ringtones, videos and other fruits of our musical labor. Newer generations of musicians understand these trends intuitively, and regularly create and produce music meant to be sold on ITunes but also licensed into commercials. Frank Sinatra made records in order to make records; many independent artists today make records in order to break into commercials, television or motion pictures.

The opportunity this presents us as a union is manifest. The AFM can and will be in the forefront of securing compensation for musicians when music is used for purposes other than that for which it was originally recorded. Each time we are successful in tracking down payment for uses of our music, the whole AFM benefits. Players don’t just get a check, they get value for their membership in their union. Acting aggressively to protect uses of music will help musicians see the value of AFM membership, and the value of ensuring that the appropriate AFM contracts are filed. And, for each new use payment secured and distributed, work dues flow, ensuring a healthy future for our union.

Sound recordings are at the center of many of our use of music challenges and opportunities. We need to craft strategies for reaching out to independent artists in order to bring musicians under the protection of the union umbrella. Helping players understand and feel confident in our ability to track new use payments will play a role, but we will be reaching out to gather information about other ways of strengthening our relationships.

Another area in which we will be doing our best to assist the AFM craft smart strategies is in Videogames. The AFM sponsored meetings last November between musicians and Officers from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and a great deal of useful dialogue, mutual respect and communication helped us move to rebuild our internal relationships. Musicians need to be fairly compensated for their work in this multi-billion dollar industry. RMA will be helping the AFM craft a strategy that will serve musicians for employment in this industry throughout the United States and Canada.

Fair compensation for our music also requires legislative solutions. Countries all over the world have passed Performance Rights laws, and the United States remains a laggard in requiring fair payment to the musicians who created the music. Bruce Bouton is the RMA representative for Performance Rights, and will be participating in monthly conference calls with representatives of our sister Player Conferences and Hal Ponder, the AFM Director of Government Relations. Bruce’s experience with publishing and performance rights, and his extensive set of relationships in the recording industry will serve us well as the AFM pursues fairness for musicians from the U.S. government.

This new protocol of legislative conference calls is just one of the ways in which the AFM has opened doors that had been closed, and reached out to make full use of rank-and-file resources. The partnership with President Hair and all of the new Officers of the AFM has already begun paying dividends for our whole union. In December, we stood together to help members vote to raise dues for recording musicians. The new willingness to communicate has already helped us begin to heal old wounds, and move to plan a more effective and successful union.

As we ring in a New Year, and a new decade, we can’t escape the reality of colleagues whose livelihoods have been shattered. We have lost Honolulu and Louisville, the Detroit Symphony remains on strike, and other symphonies have suffered dramatic cuts. Touring shows have had players supplanted by machines or non-union pits. Management consultants help anti-musician policies metastasize. Likewise, when musicians are unfairly exploited in one recording industry, news travels fast. Producer talks to producer, attorney talks to attorney…no contract is an island. All of our musical efforts are interrelated because our employers are interrelated.

Yet we have reason for real optimism. There is solidarity in the air, and there is strength in solidarity. We have the opportunity to participate in a more perfect union. I am excited by the prospect of helping create real change, and real progress.

I wish all of you a healthy, happy and fulfilling 2011.

Sincerely,

Marc Sazer
President, RMA

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