When I was graciously invited to contribute some words to address ICSOM members through Senza Sordino, the world was a different place indeed. Recording musicians and the AFM had just inked and ratified a successor agreement for film and television scoring, and we were looking forward to negotiating with the TV networks for our Live TV contract.
Then came COVID-19.
Without commenting on the degree to which this pandemic will have a deeper and more dangerous impact as result of the failures of our own US government, we now all know that the effects on musicians worldwide are devastating. We are symphonic, opera, ballet, and theater musicians who tour, play in clubs, perform chamber music, perform on Broadway, record on scoring stages for film and television, and play for late night and variety shows on TV. We are all in this together.
The economic toll this is taking on us as individuals varies in the short run, but loss of income is sure to be widespread. For recording musicians, daily reports of cancellations of sessions, productions shutting down, shows going off the air and studio lots closing down threaten millions of dollars of AFM wages—that is, paychecks for musicians.
One consequence of the pandemic will inevitably be a tremendous loss of revenue for Locals and the American Federation of Musicians. This could threaten programs we know to be crucial: organizing, research, and education. Our union will still need to bargain, administer, and enforce our contracts. This hydra-headed disruption is unprecedented.
President Hair has called on Congress to act on our behalf. Local AFM leaders from around the country and our Player Conferences have stepped up, quietly but with determination, to do what we can. The new side letter to the Integrated Media Agreement spearheaded by ICSOM and ROPA leadership working together with AFM staff is a shining example of Player Conference leadership on behalf of musicians.
Events are moving so rapidly that it is difficult to envision what the headlines will be by the time you read this article. The one thing we can be confident of is that we will need to remember our common needs and goals. We will survive COVID-19, as we have survived all along: together.
Note: the author is the president of the Recording Musicians Association.