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February 09, 2009

Comments

Sessionman Posts:

"What a great post. Good FACTS presented also. Ultimately this "war' is about one mans quest for power
and his ability to surround himself with people that will not challenge him. If someone does step up and question his 'Wisdom', then he spends a crazy amount of time trying to destroy said person or pretending they don't exist, as in the case of the RMA.
The only reason the other player conferences, especially ICSOM, don't step up is because they are in charge of their own business. All the AFofM does is rubberstamp the contracts. Compare that to some of the Promulgated agreements that LEE and company have created for recording, with absolutely no input from the musicians that actually do the work."

Perfect description of Ayling or Sazar

Interesting post on SOUNDS.

On the one hand, Lee and/or the IEB were wrong to not allow Phil Ayling to participate in the meeting to which he was invited. I cannot imagine "finding facts" without talking to Phil.

If it's true that Phil wants to talk about settling the lawsuits, of course that wouldn't be possible or appropriate since Phil is not a litigant in either of the 2 lawsuits against the AFM. That is, unless Phil is actually pulling the strings and coordinating the lawsuits in some way. If that's true, then of course Phil would be the guy to talk to about ending them, as apparently occurred in the ill-fated IEB meeting where allegedly the RMA demanded that their people be installed in the AFM West Coast office or some such thing.

In the end, Lee is President and has the power. Tearing down the AFM with lawsuits, whether as a power play for bargaining, an attempt to bankrupt the AFM into submission, or for whatever reason, the lawsuits seem to be the primary impediment to negotiations and moving forward. Nobody likes to negotiate at gunpoint, and that's exactly what those lawsuits represent at this point. As I've said before, when lawyers get involved, everything changes, and usually not for the better.

more facts. check out the SOUNDS blog.

What a great post. Good FACTS presented also. Ultimately this "war' is about one mans quest for power
and his ability to surround himself with people that will not challenge him. If someone does step up and question his 'Wisdom', then he spends a crazy amount of time trying to destroy said person or pretending they don't exist, as in the case of the RMA.
The only reason the other player conferences, especially ICSOM, don't step up is because they are in charge of their own business. All the AFofM does is rubberstamp the contracts. Compare that to some of the Promulgated agreements that LEE and company have created for recording, with absolutely no input from the musicians that actually do the work.

I would love to see this discussion split into its three natural threads, and am wondering if there's any way that Robert can manage it.

The first thread could be around the merits of buyouts versus back-end payments, and whether the AFM is well-advised or ill-advised to pursue what appears to be its course of action to move away from them.

The second thread could be whether it's the AFM's job to bring recording work to all its members around the Federation, and shepherd the parsing out of work to the many points across Federation-land; or whether it's the musicians' job who want the work to locate themselves in industry centers and/or support the existing AFM (and, incidentally, AFTRA/SAG/IATSE) contract models in their own market centers.

The third thread could be about the AFM's tactics vis a vis the recording musician establishment, which we could arguable refer to as RMA and those non-RMA musicians who benefit from RMA's work. Common trade union wisdom says that a union's obligation is to represent the workers who already have the work. Common trade union wisdom would, therefore, indicate that the AFM's present tactic of disenfranchising RMA is wrong. However, our business is, and always has been, rather wacky, and accordingly difficult to fit into a traditional union model.

An optional fourth thread could be about the personalities involved. I know that since becoming President, Tom Lee has deeply resented the influence that RMA and its elected personalities wield both with musicians and industry. It started with Dennis Drieth, who Tom contacted early on in his presidency asking Dennis to stop answering members' contract questions, because they ought to be asking Tom, as president. Dennis, of course, refused, asking how he, in good conscience, could decline to help someone who asked for it. It went downhill from there, culminating in an episode where Tom Lee tried to get Nick Counter to fire Drieth as head of the SMSPF. Phil Ayling, on the other hand, who is as smart and experienced as Dennis but not as pragmatic, has not found a way to co-exist with Tom Lee and the two have mixed like oil and water, with very a dysfunctional seven-year relationship arising as a result. This thread could examine whether a serious personality conflict such as this should be driving Federation policy, or whether someone should be turning the other cheek, and why. This optional fourth thread, by the way, has occupied, either directly or indirectly, the attention of three AFM conventions as well as that of the IEB for many years. And then there's Sam Folio, who has never embraced the whole notion of players' conferences having formal influence in AFM policy-making.

The back-and-forth verbal guerrilla warfare on this blog has not led to any enlightenment on any of those points, having descended into name-calling, claiming the existence of incontrovertible proof for both sides' positions, which is never forthcoming, and on and on. In the meantime, the various points of Robert's thoughtful prose never gets discussed.

In my personal view, the presence or absence of the PMG changes very little of the underlying points in contention. If there was no PMG, there would still be a war going on, over the same issues set forth above. The same personalities would still be in conflict, and the advocates for all points of view would still be advocating their positions strongly. PMG came very late into this game - 2006 or 2007. A lot of water had already gone under the bridge before PMG popped up.

Robert, any way you can manage something like this?

Oh, and by the way, using Seattle as the example as to why "something" must change really doesn't cut it. What happened in Seattle is far deeper, more complicated, and actually sillier than anything anyone has written about here. The film scoring came to Seattle quite a bit later than the Seattle Symphony's decertification in 1988. Seattle certainly part of the problem now, but it began in a far different manner.

Looking forward to the verified details, 802fiddler! As I said, I'm ready to revise my thinking on things if there's more to learn.

Regarding Sazer and the PMG, the mission of that organization, which is in direct competition with the mission of the AFM, is clearly stated on the PMG website, and Sazer is an officer of the PMG last time I heard. Those are verifiable facts, just visit the PMG website at http://www.professionalmusiciansguild.org

Again, from downbeat:

"but just like with 802fiddler and his "verifiable facts" about indie films and special payments, saying something a lot doesn't make it true."

And "saying something a lot" about Ayling, Sazer, PMG, lost work, etc. also "doesn't make it true."
BTW, I hear that the verifiable facts will appear shortly.......

I know Tom Lee. I served with Tom Lee. And you, downbeat, are no Tom Lee!

Sorry, aREALrecordingmusiiain, but just like with 802fiddler and his "verifiable facts" about indie films and special payments, saying something a lot doesn't make it true. You and sessionman (same person, I assume) have this unhealthy preoccupation with my identity, so perhaps we should discuss yours?

Phil Ayling, I assume. So, Sessionman/Phil, help us out here - what's the next lawsuit?

With regard to downbeat's continued assertions that he is, in fact, NOT Tom Lee, methinks the lady doth protest too much. I can't imagine any reasonable person still would be buying into this line any more.

From downbeat:

"802fiddler said that his data about indie films was verifiable. Then, he refused to provide a single number to verify it. I'm not "hung up" on data, I simply asked him to provide some, which of course he refused to do. Yet another example of opinions masquerading as facts around here."

The facts are available at the FMSMF, downbeat. Go get them for yourself. I'm not your reporter/waterboy. Oh, I forgot - this is not about facts, but about your agenda, hidden or otherwise.

Sessionman, I've never been to an IEB meeting, event, or anything else like it. I'm not sure I could even name all the IEB members if I had to! Sorry to ruin your fantasy (wet dream?) - but honestly, do you think with all the fires Tom Lee's got to deal with right now, he'd waste his time gossiping around this blog? Doubt it.

Your persistent curiosity as to my real identity is interesting, since you also use a nickname here. I wish I could say I was curious as to who you are, but frankly I'm not. I'd much rather talk about issues than guess at identities. You could be Ayling, Sazar, some RMA guy, or the last guy in the last row of the 2nd violins, it doesn't matter to me.

802fiddler said that his data about indie films was verifiable. Then, he refused to provide a single number to verify it. I'm not "hung up" on data, I simply asked him to provide some, which of course he refused to do. Yet another example of opinions masquerading as facts around here.

Any of you "inside" guys want to give us not privy to these kinds of things an update on the film/TV negotiations? I'm interested.

Downbeat , I noticed you disapeared from action during the last IEB meeting. Where you there? Perhaps you could fill us in.

From the committee of another recording musician.
"Downbeat,

You nailed him, he knows it.

WELL DONE! "

Well, it's now turned into a sporting match.
I would think, since Downbeat is so hung up on data, he could use his connection at the Federation to give us the real numbers in regard to what is or isn't being done on a contract. then we could make a true financial comparison.....oh, but wait the Federation doesn't have real numbers.

Downbeat,

You nailed him, he knows it.

WELL DONE!

downbeat queried:

"Still waiting on those numbers from you, 802fiddler..."

Since I'm not in an official position to give you those facts, why not ask the FMSMF yourself. Of course, I'm sure you either already know the answer or you're fishing for info for your buddies (or yourself) in an effort to blow more smoke about the PMG, RMA, FMSMF, etc.

In my lengthy time as an AFM member, I've never known real data to trump AFM politics. Therefore, giving you real data would not deter you from your current course of obfuscation in the guise of so-called "friendly discussion."

Sorry, downbeat - no cigar.

802fiddler wrote:
"Another verifiable fact: Much of the new revenue coming into the FMSMF is from "Indie" films that some posters want to take out of "back-end" contracts. "

Still waiting on those numbers from you, 802fiddler...

Anthony,

I do love it when you folks think you know who's posting... I've heard the RMA's pablum and it's all only half the story.

They say, "more sessions than ever", but they don't say that it represents a further 4% loss in wages over the previous year. In fact, if you cared to check, Antony, you'd find that the RMA's work is down between 40% and 50% over the past 6 years.

What do you check to verify it? The Local 47 annual audit report, you can even find it online. I could have asked the Secretary for it, but considering the trouble others have gone through asking for it I got it myself.

Have you not noticed all those "A listers" going for live Orchestra work or small scale church work they would never do just a few years ago? When I either play or go to orchestra concerts I'm amazing at those "WORLD CLASS" recording musicians who are now doing low paying orchestra jobs they'd never do 5 years ago. Have you noticed all those A listers now doing sidelining, Antony? Done that work yourself Antony? Remember the old days Antony, when the RMAers said that you're only a professional musician if you made your full living from recording? Oops,.... eh Antony?

Keep blowin that smoke Anthony, but don't expect those who live in LA to buy it. We see the reality.

Let they excuses fly, Anthony, we expect nothing less.

Robert,

Wrtie to a few composers and have them forward you a copy or two of the contacts they receive that spell out clearly, NO AFM, NO WAY, NO HOW. That's not BS, that's not conspiracy, That's reality. It's only reality because of the backend. It's not the scale wages.

Downbeat,.. bravo on your points.

Let’s break this down to the roots here:

Identification
First, the blatant double standard. Downbeat has consistently asked for civil debate without attacks. He clearly has no problem with ‘another’ not only attacking, but going on a nasty diatribe regarding RMA leadership. Db sympathizes with ‘another’ and condones his rant and his reasoning. Why? Db identifies with ‘another’.

Perhaps Mr. Levine can now see exactly what RMA has dealt with for years here. Db espouses pound for pound - right down to the lingo - what Lee says.
Another espouses the COMMITTEE rant also right down to its lingo and content. How curious.

There is no doubt in my mind that db and 'another' are in touch, as are Lee and Chuck.
Lee identifies with Chuck, hence the relationship and the common goal to break down the successful LA musicians. If either of these posters did enough work to receive a decent SMF check, none of this would be happening!
Musicians don’t lobby to give away their money.


Entitlement/Sentiment
Very telling is that Chuck refers to “a few media composers”. That’s his base - a few. He draws sentiment only from his small sphere. If just one of those composers should happen to break into the higher end of the business, Chuck and that composer would part ways in a minute. And that’s what this is all about - sentiment, not real data. Chuck and his few are cock sure that the are entitled to success in this business. So instead of pitching their bid based on talent with perseverance, they opt to break down a system that is working in spades. And with the help of the AFM, no less!! The system in fact is working for many, not few.
I am sympathetic to those who want very much to be in the upper end of this business and are not at this time. Reality is that no one is entitled simply because they are a musician.
Chuck and company seem to think otherwise.

Business Model
The entire film business works on low upfront costs and back end compensation - actors, directors, writers, etc. To engage the lower budget “indie” films, two low budget tiers were established for the existing contract in 2005 - 10M and 2M. Both thresholds have full SMF participation.
Bottom line - they are huge success! Establishing a buyout here would be giving money away for nothing.

Real Numbers
Real numbers are available. Chuck/another makes up numbers that suit his plight. He also twists relative statistics from no source other than his personal agenda.
No wonder Levine’s allergies are kicking in.

Theatrically released films are followed closely both before and after they are released.
What is known is how many films score AFM and how many don’t, which ones go to Seattle, and which ones go to Prague, etc. Non- AFM scoring has stayed at a similar percentage of ARM scoring for decades. It is convenient that Chuck and his few say that the non-AFM work is increasing, but it is not. Theirs is a mantra to suit their emotional needs. And call call 1000 or so selfish? Lobby a union to break down a successful business model? Who’s selfish here?
As Robert says, it’s “the reverse”.
Real numbers are gathered constantly and documented by the RMA and the Secondary Markets Fund. Why? Because its their business!

What will happen when the Secondary Markets Fund releases their numbers?
Downbeat/Lee will deliver his standard mantra.
What will happen when SMF, RMA and RMAC show their data?
Chuck/another will deliver their standard mantra.

I do hope I’m wrong about both of these predictions.

802fiddler wrote:
"Another verifiable fact: Much of the new revenue coming into the FMSMF is from "Indie" films that some posters want to take out of "back-end" contracts. "

Fair enough - I'm willing to consider new information here. Please post the numbers you used for this (previous, current, and the breakdown by production type) and let's verify.

Another recording musician speaks.....
" Try uncovering your eyes and call a few media composers, those who hire musicians and ask them if the back-end makes a difference!"

Composers make money from publishing royalties so they aren't necessarily going to be concerned with whether a musician may or may not have the opportunity to receive a special payment on the back end of a successful DVD sale. Composers are employers for the most part.

" Speaking of that, what do you have to gain by carrying their water? You don't commute to LA or Nashville to record, do you?"
I think Robert realizes what this Federation stands to lose if they continue to demonize the recording community . The RMA would like nothing more than to have a strong Federation. We continue to reach out and push for healthy , productive discussion with the IEB. Unfortunately many recording musicians are getting frustrated with the apparent lack of progress. This is something the RMA can't control.

One unassailable fact being overlooked in these posts:

Over 18,000 AFM members receive checks in July from the FMSMF. That's about 25% of the current suspected AFM membership. Granted, many of those checks are not in large amounts but I wonder how 18,000 musicians would react to their disappearance.

Another verifiable fact:

Much of the new revenue coming into the FMSMF is from "Indie" films that some posters want to take out of "back-end" contracts.

A third verifiable fact:

The FMSMF is on track ($85+million) to break its record once again this year.

I have to agree with Robert that a stupendous load of bullshit is flying around in some of these posts.

Please don't play stupid here. By your own admission, if you are the one who's behind this weblog, you are an orchestral musician in the Milwaukee Symphony, you only know what you read here or accept as truth from your RMA bud's about recording. And they are by no stretch of the imagination un-biased.

I love "by your own admission." Apparently I'm doing something slightly shameful by being "behind" this weblog (and there's no "if" about it, by the way). Perhaps I should rename it "Robert Levine's AFM Oserver?" That's about the only thing I could do to make it more apparent who's running this thing. (I know! A live webcam of me writing in my PJs at 5 AM! That'd sure drive traffic to this site.)

I wonder who's "behind" anotherrecordingmusician. I'm pretty sure that's not his/her name in the AFM dataase.

And I've never claimed that the RMA was "un-biased." I've pointed out time and again that they have a bias. Unlike those who trash them, however, they also have some data.

Speaking of that, what do you have to gain by carrying their water? You don't commute to LA or Nashville to record, do you?

What an interesting thing to say. The only reason I could possibly have for doing what I do is to get a recording gig? Perhaps I'm running for the IEB instead? Or maybe I'm getting paid off in some other way. In AFM land, apparently there is no reason for doing anything other than direct financial self-benefit.

I'm not sure why you're so willing to be played by and carry the water for these RMA koolaide drinkers, unless you too have an obsessive dislike for Lee, which means it's an "Enemy of my enemy is my friend" situation.

Actually I've always liked Tom, and have voted for him every time he ran for office except once. I don't like what's going on now, but I've concluded that the IEB as a whole is responsible. Whether Tom is "behind" what's going on or not, it's the IEB that's making it possible. Certainly no one on the IEB is trying to disabuse any of us of that notion in the only way that would matter – going on the record.

As someone who's dealt with the RMA true believers for years, the moment you don't preach the gospel according to Phil, they'll have no use for you, regardless of the sacrifices you've made for them, truly fair weather friends.

"Sacrifices?" You mean like not being invited to serve on AFM convention committees? I wasn't invited to do things like that before I started being "behind" this blog either.

Try uncovering your eyes and call a few media composers, those who hire musicians and ask them if the backend makes a difference! Call some contractors other than the chosen two and ask the reality.

There's been way too much of that kind of "research" done already. I'd like to see the real kind; the kind that doesn't start with preconceptions one way or the other. Frankly it would surprise me if the back end didn't make a difference. But, if LA is so expensive, why is so much scoring still behing done there? Why does the amount appear to have gone up?

Obviously I don't have a great understanding of this labor market. If I ran a labor union that made a good chunk of its revenue (and much of its prestige) from representing recording musicians, I'd want to know a lot more about this market before I started dismantling its fundamental compensation structure.

Maybe that makes me "gullible." Or maybe I'm just allergic to bullshit.

Tina - just to clarify, I was commenting that the AFM is the only major *recording* organization worldwide that does not offer a buyout option. I wasn't trying to compare the AFM to "all organizations", just all major recording organizations including top recording orchestras, symphony orchestras, etc. that I know of worldwide.

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