SRLA Round Three

Dear Colleagues,

Negotiations for a successor Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) were conducted in New York City this past May 23-26 and will resume again in the second week of July. The SRLA is negotiated between the AFM and the major Record Companies and covers not only Record Dates but also covers Music Videos and Concert DVD’s.

The SRLA is the most widely used AFM Media Agreement. Unlike various Film and TV Agreements, which are most commonly used in those Locals with large post production facilities, the SRLA is used all across the US and Canada. It is used by young rock bands beginning their careers, chamber musicians, pop artists, rap musicians, symphony orchestras, jazz bands, bluegrass musicians and many others. Accordingly, President Hair invited dozens of different AFM Locals and a wide cross section of rank and file player representatives to participate. Those who were unable to attend were invited to send proposals and concerns for the AFM Caucus to consider.This round of SRLA bargaining was my very first opportunity to see President Hair lead a negotiation.

It is a dramatic and welcome change from what had long been a very dysfunctional AFM environment. While negotiations with Industry are difficult and complicated, it is clear that President Hair is creating an environment where everyone on the Union side; be they Rank and File members, Federation Officers, AFM Staff, Local Officers or Local Staff, all feel free to express strong and divergent opinions with no fear of reprisal.

In the end, this means full and frank discussions and democratic decisions on our side. Our new AFM President commands respects ─ rather than needing to demand it ─ and that is making us stronger and more united than I have ever seen at a negotiation.

I attended on behalf of the RMA International Executive Board as a sub for President Marc Sazer who was unable to attend. Neil Stubenhaus is again serving as the Rank and File representative. There is no way we can appropriately thank Neil for his many years of service and sacrifice to advance our best interests. His background and history in these negotiations is invaluable.

The short story is that this SRLA negotiation is going very slowly, but President Hair and all the other participants from various AFM Locals are much more interested in getting a fair deal than a “quick” deal. We are very lucky to have people on the case who care.

While it is not appropriate to discuss specific proposals from either the AFM or Industry a couple of general observations can be noted. Wages, Pension, and Health & Welfare contributions which are always a traditional focus of Electronic Media Agreements are a little more in the background now.

We are all aware that the Record Business has moved from the selling of a physical product to online sales and downloads. While Industry has been hurt by piracy, they have also been helped by a reduction of costs through the increased efficiency of digital sales and distribution. We are still looking to get more for the Special Payments Fund and we are also mindful of our joint commitment with the AFM to protect and grow the Music Performance Trust Fund.

The Record Companies are interested in much more than solely selling recordings to the general public. Just as occurred at last year’s Motion Picture and Film TV negotiations, New Media and New Business Models are at the center of discussions.

The Labels are trying to create many new businesses for themselves by finding all kinds of secondary uses for Sound Recordings. In addition to Video Games and the other obvious New –Uses, like placing records in TV shows, Movie and Jingles, they are already repurposing our music for Greeting Cards, Key Chains, Christmas Tree Ornaments, Toys, Dolls and a host of other consumer items.

In many case they are doing this without paying us or without informing the AFM as the SRLA requires. We are supposed to receive regular reports from the Record Labels about their licensing of our recordings, but most of them have not been very good about complying.  As a practical matter, the AFM is the guardian for the world’s largest music library, and handling the New-Use and Re-Use of our recordings in a way that protects us is now a priority of the new AFM Administration.

As Industry wants to move into even more new licensing areas, our Union quite correctly wants to get a full accounting and payment for substantial monies already owed to us. This is not only directly important to us as individual working musicians, but this is important to retirees and beneficiaries too. No matter where we are in our careers and what kind of music we play, this is also important for the future financial health of the AFM and that will benefit everyone. Recording Musicians have been owed money for a long time and President Hair and the new IEB actually want to collect money owed to us rather than using our value to Industry as a way to play politics.

This is a big change from the last decade.

This past round of bargaining included numerous members from the RMA New York Chapter in attendance. They were Juliet Haffner and Shem Guibbory; as well as Lanny Paykin and RMA NY President Roger Blanc who also serve on the RMA International Board. Rank and File bassist David Finck also participated.

In addition, there were Officers and Staff from Locals 802 (NYC), 257 (Nashville), 47 (Los Angeles), 10-208 (Chicago), 149 (Toronto) and Local 99 (Portland). AFM Executive Officers in attendance were Vince Trombetta, Dave Pomeroy, Tino Gagliardi, Vice President Bruce Fife and Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio. Dick Gabriel, Pat Varriale and Debbie Newmark participated as Federation staff and Jeff Freund and Anne Mayerson served as Legal Counsel.

I believe that we have great representatives at the negotiations on both the Rank and File and AFM level and they are committed to securing a fair deal. It was my privilege and pleasure to be at this round of bargaining and see our Union at work on your behalf. As mentioned earlier,  SRLA Negotiations will resume in New York City, the second week of July.

Very Best Regards,

Phil Ayling
President Emeritus, RMA