Sound Recording Labor Agreement 2011

Dear colleagues,

We have a new successor Sound Recording Labor Agreement between the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and the Recording Industry.

The new Agreement includes improvements in wages for recording musicians as well as some changed terms and conditions. The experimental ultra low budget scale in the old Agreement has been eliminated (which was a key goal of the AFM caucus). There is a new provision for low budget informal location recordings that may be used for recording such events such as performances at an Apple Store.

Key areas of discussion across the table centered on industry proposals to completely transform the basis for New Use payments. In certain limited areas we have agreed to enter into a new era of experimentation with our employers.  In order to use a record in, say, a toy or greeting card with a sound chip that plays music, the Label will now contribute a percentage of the revenue they receive from the toymaker for the use of the recording rather than making a full new use payment to each musician.

In this new Agreement, recording musicians have stepped up to the plate to support Funds that benefit all AFM musicians. As a result of the new percentage payments mentioned above, there will be a new stream of contributions to the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund and the Music Performance Trust Fund.

One hallmark of these negotiations was the insight that came from sharing observers with our sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). AFTRA remains in negotiations with the same employers for their Sound Recording Code, and our new AFM Administration invited AFTRA observers to our negotiations.  AFM EMSD Assistant Director Pat Varriale and I participated as observers in AFTRA’s negotiations as well, and our connections strengthen all of us.

The final day of negotiations, which ended just before midnight on October 27, 2011, was a culmination of rounds of meetings that began on January 10 of this year.  The many days of negotiations, spread out over 10 months, were undertaken by an AFM negotiating team that represented our union and its members with intelligence and wisdom. President Ray Hair led throughout with careful attention to the voices of musicians who work under the Agreement and experience the good, the bad and the ugly on the ground and in the studio. The AFM International Executive Board was represented by President Hair, International Vice President Bruce Fife, Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio and IEB Officers Vince Trombetta of Local 47, Tino Gagliardi of Local 802 and Dave Pomeroy of Local 257.
Our  Rank and File representative Neil Stubenhaus brought literally decades of insightful and passionate experience into the room, and I participated in my role as RMA President, joined by RMA Second Vice President Roger Blanc, and RMA New York Officers Juliet Haffner and Shem Guibbory. Other participants included President Garry Matts of Local 10-208 in Chicago, Chicago Electronic Media Director Dean Rolando, Local 149 Toronto Executive Director Jim Biros, Local 802 Electronic Media Director Steve Dannenberg, and Local 47 Vice President John Acosta. The caucus relied upon AFM Counsel Jeff Freund teamed with Patricia Polach to provide expert legal advice and support, and we benefited from Anne Mayerson’s assistance in earlier rounds as well. AFM Staff who were members of the team included Director of the Electronic Media Services Division Dick Gabriel, Assistant Director Pat Varriale, and Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Deborah Newmark.

I would also like to thank the RMA Officers and Committee members who helped craft smart proposals that served us well throughout, as well as the RMA Officers and other Rank and File musicians who joined us in previous rounds, including RMA First Vice President Bruce Bouton, RMA and RMA NY Officer Lanny Paykin, RMA NY Officers Chris Parker, Andy Schwartz and Gail Kruvand, David Finck, Tom Malone and Rafael Rishik.

The democratic and open structure and tone of your AFM caucus has served our whole union well. Perhaps the most important outcome of these negotiations was not what we achieved – and we did well – but how we got there. Our greatest strengths were embraced, from Player Conference Rank-and-File, to Staff, Officers on both the Local and Federation levels, and sister unions. As a result of how we got there, we are all now part of a stronger union.

Marc Sazer
President, RMA