With the recording industry changing as it has over the years, we have witnessed too many orchestras lose recording contracts and syndicated radio deals. Some musicians now believe we must find new ways to allow our orchestras to market themselves through broadcasts and recordings. Some believe we must reassess the funding models for recording projects. Some fear that changes benefiting one area of the recording industry might damage other areas that have worked well for them and their orchestras.
Two years ago, as an outgrowth of discussions about such issues, questionnaires were distributed to solicit opinions about the various recording agreements and their terms, including revenue and distribution options. Needless to say, we found that orchestras had differing opinions about these issues—to the point that there was even disagreement over whether media agreements should be local or national. The ICSOM Electronic Media Committee (EMC) has met regularly to discuss these issues and to explore the positions and needs of diverse orchestras—those that are recording and those that are not now recording but would like to.
Recently, however, with local media agreements being made—either in collective bargaining agreements, as was done in Cleveland and Philadelphia, or in a side agreement as in New York—and various orchestra managers exerting pressure on their orchestras to do the same, the EMC came to the conclusion that we must reach consensus and solutions soon. Further, the EMC now believes that a national agreement covering self-produced recordings will best serve our orchestras. (“Self-produced” is a term used to describe live-concert or location recording projects where the orchestra management, rather than a commercial recording company, retains ownership and rights to the product. Those rights may be licensed to third parties for a limited period, but the orchestra management would ultimately retain all rights.)
ICSOM’s EMC membership reflects a broad spectrum of the symphonic recording industry. Currently, the EMC includes musicians from Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, Nashville, National, New York, Philadelphia, Saint Louis, and San Francisco. However, as members of the EMC, we do not represent our individual orchestras. We all strive to take input from around the country, discuss the issues among ourselves and with other orchestras’ leadership, and find solutions that will work for the industry as a whole, trying our best to balance the special needs of orchestras of varying sizes and recording histories.
With all the ideas, pressures, and questions on media brewing, AFM President Thomas F. Lee called a media summit in Chicago on February 21, 2005. The summit was well attended, with 44 musicians representing 36 ICSOM orchestras, 12 musicians from 11 ROPA orchestras, and 31 officers from 24 locals among the participants. Speakers included AFM President Tom Lee, ICSOM Chairperson Jan Gippo, ROPA President Barbara Zmich, OCSM President Francine Schutzman, RMA President Phil Ayling, AFM General Counsels George Cohen and Patricia Polach, SSD Director Laura Brownell, SSD Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Debbie Newmark, as well as the heads of the ICSOM and ROPA media committees, Bill Foster and Jennifer Munday. In addition to scheduled speakers, there were open microphones and time given for everyone with comments or questions to be heard.
The scheduled speakers gave a number of presentations that covered all types of recording. However, much of the discussion seemed to focus on the concept of a national agreement for self-produced recordings.
ICSOM’s EMC shared a list of principles it thought would be key to any national agreement covering self-produced recordings. The committee had spent a great deal of time discussing these principles over the past few months, and we were pleased that the vast majority of representatives at the summit agreed with the EMC’s call for a national agreement to address self-produced recordings.
As a result of the consensus reached at the summit and the agreement from symphony managers to begin talks, the following AFM press release was posted on Orchestra-L and at the AFM website:
We are pleased to announce that Federation negotiations for a new Symphonic Recording Agreement are due to begin on April 4–5, 2005. These negotiations are an outgrowth of the Symphonic Media Summit that took place on February 21, 2005 in Chicago. At that meeting, attended by musician and local officer representatives of symphony, opera and ballet orchestras, a consensus was reached on the concept of creating a new Federation agreement for self-produced recording.
The Federation negotiating committee will be meeting with the Managers’ Media Committee at the offices of AFM counsel, Bredhoff and Kaiser in Washington, DC. Leading the negotiations for the AFM will be George Cohen, AFM General Counsel.
The Federation negotiating committee comprises members of the ICSOM EMC, ROPA and OCSM representatives, AFM officers, local officers, and AFM General Counsels George Cohen and Trish Polach. While negotiations were originally intended to begin on April 4, key members of our negotiating committee were unavailable at that time. Instead, on April 4, those members of our negotiating committee who were available met to discuss the negotiations, focusing on the principles developed by the EMC.
On April 17, management representatives made a presentation regarding their concerns about the existing AFM electronic media agreements. During the evening following that meeting, the Federation negotiating team caucused to discuss its response. The AFM team decided to present several of the “ICSOM principles” to the managers. On April 18, the entire day was dedicated to discussing those principles with the management team. The meeting had positive, open discussion about expectations regarding self-produced recordings.
The next negotiation sessions are scheduled on June 19 and 20, following the ASOL Convention. As always, we encourage any thoughts on the subject of these negotiations from any ICSOM orchestra.
Over the past two years, the ICSOM EMC has been involved in negotiating the Audio-Visual Agreement and extending the Audio Internet Agreement. We were consulted during the extension of the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) when, for the first time, downloaded product was included for sales and special payments credit. It has also been the committee’s task these past two years to examine other symphonic media contracts, including syndicated radio and the Radio-to-Noncommercial Agreement (RNC). Unlike the negotiated national agreements, the syndicated radio contract and RNC are promulgated agreements, with rates and terms set by the AFM International Executive Board in consultation with ICSOM, ROPA, and others.
The ICSOM EMC continues to discuss all recording and broadcast agreements. Many of our national recording agreements have firewalls and favored-nation clauses that must all be kept in context, especially in relation to job security issues for our colleagues in the commercial recording field. It takes time to consider the possible ramifications of changes, and identifying what is best and most beneficial for our orchestras is never easy.
The ICSOM EMC is your voice to the AFM during negotiations and ongoing discussions. Please do not hesitate to contact any member of the committee. Members of the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee are:
Bill Foster, Chair (National Symphony, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Paul Frankenfeld (Cincinnati Symphony, CinSymVla@aol.com)
Jan Gippo (St. Louis Symphony, email@example.com)
John Koen (Philadelphia Orchestra, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Steve Lester (Chicago Symphony, email@example.com)
Cathy Payne (San Fransico Symphony, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Brian Rood (Kansas City Symphony, email@example.com)
Laura Ross (Nashville Symphony, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fiona Simon (New York Philharmonic, email@example.com)
Rich Weiner (The Cleveland Orchestra, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Laura Ross is ICSOM Secretary and a member of the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee. Bill Foster is chair of the Electronic Media Committee.