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July 20, 2009

Comments

RL: "National CBAs are hardly "top-down control" of the film industry."

That's right but RMA control over those processes is.

RL: "But clearly "merit" and "productivity" are closely related. What makes LA musicians so good is precisely what makes them so productive; their ability to get it right the first time."

Not necessarily; merit and productivity are not necessarily related at all. It's true LA musicians are productive at the high end and in a certain way. But obviously getting it right the first time is not the only component to productivity or the only consideration in increasing productivity. Not every product our there is high end -- a lot, maybe most, isn't. Porsche just merged into VW. High end doesn't necessarily mean survival. My statement remains not understood; to ensure a strong American recording industry more than merit should be considered. It is basic economics.

RL: "You are assuming that, by lowering the wage rates in the agreements... the pie will get bigger. While this may seem intuitive, the experience with the videogame agreement suggests that it's not always the case, especially with this industry."

I'm not assuming anything, nor do I believe RMA numbers. What I'm referring to, as above, is the fact of worldwide competition today. It is not theory. Leadership and strategies for the future may keep recording competitive within the union framework. They may not. But many musicians are ready willing and able to be competitive, whether the RMA likes it or not. And by the way, who is doing the "competitive" dark dates in LA?

I do believe however that absent RMA LA militancy and abuse of power it would certainly be easier to make progress vis-a-vis the IEB and Tom Lee.

Then you haven't been paying attention. The whole point about this particular episode is that ICSOM, ROPA and OCSM are treated precisely the same way by Tom Lee as was RMA, absent any "militancy" on their part at all.

And what did that lack of "militancy" get them? Their views were ignored in just the same way as RMA has been ignored.

When we talk about the music business or industry we're talking about an economy of scale. It is a different perspective -- a perspective that the AFM must necessarily deal with in a different way than a specific market.

??

Aside from the notion that top-down control of an industry is always dangerous...

National CBAs are hardly "top-down control" of the film industry.

The most saliet point is that markets do not function on the basis of merit, they function on the basis of productivity.

But clearly "merit" and "productivity" are closely related. What makes LA musicians so good is precisely what makes them so productive; their ability to get it right the first time.

Different policy goals: the size of the pie not who gets the last slice.

You are assuming that, by lowering the wage rates in the agreements (or by removing the back-end payments), the pie will get bigger. While this may seem intuitive, the experience with the videogame agreement suggests that it's not always the case, especially with this industry.

Your "demands" in pursuit of your policy goals are only likely to preserve the status-quo as there is virtually no rational expectation of AFM/Lee capitulation. The usefulness of the status-quo militancy is questionable, especially in light of the dramatically changing worldwide marketplace.

If RMA members object to paying AFM dues they can resign from the AFM and join the Guild. That might bring us closer to a market solution.

Let me add another point: there is talk about "world's best" and the best player gets the call etc. These concepts are meaningful but only to an extent. When we talk about the music business or industry we're talking about an economy of scale. It is a different perspective -- a perspective that the AFM must necessarily deal with in a different way than a specific market.

Aside from the notion that top-down control of an industry is always dangerous, an economy of scale requires an almost impersonal understanding of markets. The most saliet point is that markets do not function on the basis of merit, they function on the basis of productivity. This is a fundamental reality that no one seems to recognize. The AFM has a mandate to deal with an economy of scale; whether it does so effectively or not is another topic but it is the AFM's particular mission. Different policy goals: the size of the pie not who gets the last slice. Like governments and other institutions the policy goals of the union mothership sometimes diverge from those of the individual.

If we look at the big picture, as we should and must, it must be understood: economies do not function on the basis of merit, they function on the basis of productivity. The implications of this are worth thinking about. To imperil the common good to accommodate the needs of the few is bad policy, and an international union, the union to the music business, cannot and should not follow that kind of policy.

As the selection of the new SSD Director points out, working with the AFM means working with an institution that seems incapable of functional process.

President Lee recently sent out an announcement about the hiring of a new staff person to lead the Electronic Media Services Division. The RMA has a consultative role mandated by the AFM Convention, yet no one in the AFM Player Conference was even apprised of an opening, let alone a search. The EMSD Oversight Committee could play no role because Lee refuses to allow its existence. No musicians who actually work under the affected contracts had an inkling that this was happening. This is like hiring a new conductor for an orchestra without even telling the players that there is a job opening.

Why the secrecy? Who benefits?

This is not an outlier; this is just another part of an ongoing pattern.

In the absence of institutional process, all we are left with is personal politics. For years now, we have been asking for the AFM to put politics and personalities aside, and focus instead on healthy process, factual reality and real representation.

For some, the prospect of real democracy and real competence on behalf of members is chimerical; not possible given the structure of the AFM. I see things differently.

I see no reason to stop demanding appropriate behavior from the AFM Officers whose salaries are paid by working musicians.

Bruce: "He told me he couldn't understand why there was this disconnect between the RMA and the Federation."

I'll give you my take on why: My beef with the RMA has never been based on strong feelings about the fine points of negotiation between the RMA and the AFM. I would never assert that there have not been or aren't problems at the AFM/IEB level. I also have no beef with RMA Nashville or NY for that matter except their continuing association with LA. NY RMA holds a minority position in the 802 power structure and the market conditions and circumstances in Nashville are probably just as you describe. I have no reason to doubt that.

But LA is a different animal. My objection to the RMA LA has to do with what I consider the systematic abuse -- yes abuse -- of power in the marketplace. If you read this blog, and others, you see that the RMA LA adamantly denies this. I just as emphatically continue to assert that it is true. The RMA in LA is just too powerful in my opinion, even if they have some points wherein they are correct. When a group or faction becomes too powerful -- look out. I will say it again; the RMA LA has hijacked the union and exercises oligarchic control. Their power effects the lives of musicians in ways they have no right -- legal or moral -- to exercise, in my opinion. This is not to say that musicians aren't partly to blame, through complacency, fear and cowardice.

In LA there are plenty in Group B -- to refer to my earlier post -- ready, willing and able to compete with Group A. The talent pool in LA is wide and deep. A robust marketplace would change the balance in determining distribution and contractual circumstances of work, something the RMA will not allow. For example: "No buyouts at any time for any reason" is their Credo.

When the RMA SF disassociated itself from LA I thought that was a sensible move. I'm still not sure I understand the loyalty of Nashville, some in NY, and Robert Levine in supporting the RMA LA, except the desire to make the RMA a national organization. Maybe everyone has their own reasons. I have often thought it is because people don't really understand the LA "street." I do believe however that absent RMA LA militancy and abuse of power it would certainly be easier to make progress vis-a-vis the IEB and Tom Lee.

The concentration and abuse of power to the detriment of of the larger LA musical community is the reason I use Marxist references in describing the RMA LA, references I continue to assert are accurate

It's my opinion, but , under the circumstances I think it's the truth. Why? Because there are scales for every economic circumstance and "Back end" is only applicable if the project is successful. In the case of the Video agreements the RMA gave away the back end. All we wanted was an assumption agreement for new use. In other words, if they recorded game music for the ridiculously low scale that we agreed to, then the least they could do was upgrade us if the music was exploited in a film. A pretty simple concept if you ask me.
I actually met with an executive of one of the biggest gaming corporations in the world and he told me that he would gladly pay four times scale to avoid back end. When I asked him about new use he said that he had no problem with that . He went on to say that the AFM offered him such a good deal that he had no choice but to take it. He was referring to the promulgated Video Game agreement that was created by the IEB.
He told me he couldn't understand why there was this disconnect between the RMA and the Federation.
This most incredible thing that he said was that he would rather use LA musicians than use players from anywhere else because they were the most efficient and easiest to work with.. He went on to say that he could get great tracks first or second take when he worked in LA compared to other towns.
The RMA came up with a very practical video agreement last summer. It took us four months to put together. The IEB ignored it. When I asked what happened to our agreement,, at the IEB, RMA meeting in LA, I was told that it had" disappeared into the abyss".
All this stuff is to bizarre to make up.

Bruce: "All this nonsense about being competitive is nothing more than political diatribe."

Are you opining or asserting absolute Truth?

Ric
Give us a break. Whether or not these "B" folks get work has to do with everything except for Union agreements. You gotta be good enough, you need to play well with others and you need a lot of good luck. There's barely enough recording work left for the "A" team much less all of the upstarts. The Federation would do better focusing their resources on the preservation of intellectual property and boosting awareness of piracy issues instead of dumbing down contracts.At the end of the day the same people will get hired no matter what the contract says. If the federation destroys what's left of the legitimate recording business the best musicians will still work. They'll just work for less and course the "b" musicians will work for less and so on .
Trust me..I know. I started as an "F" and spent twenty years working me way up to a "B +"" . There's still guys that get called before me. It has nothing to do with the recording agreements.
All this nonsense about being competitive is nothing more than political diatribe.
I heard it at the convention. Tom spoke about breaking down the contracts so that all the little towns across the US could have more recording work. The convention ate it up.
Truth of the matter...There's a reason why there are recording centers. Basically it's about infrastructure , both artistic and mechanical. Trust me, if a town can deliver it will get the work but to say that recording contracts are preventing the opportunity is disingenuous to say the least.
The reality is that the Federation is not including the Recording musicians in the decision making process and hasn't for the past six years. I know . I've been in the middle of it.
Bruce Bouton (Musician, Real Person)

RL: "So, in a word, they’re like most professional musicians? They care about making a living, and they view the AFM as a way of helping them make a better living. They’re rather proprietary about what they view as “their” work, and they don’t care all that much about other musicians; certainly not to the extent of sacrificing work and income." .... "That sounds like most of the professional musicians I've worked with in my career."

Presumably then you would also support the efforts of those (group B) who wish to develop "their" work and improve "their" circumstances, even when those efforts are at cross-purposes with those (group A) using the status-quo structures you defend to protect "their" work?

That is a good point Phil. The Symphonic players seem to be able to control their destiny more efficiently than the recording musicians. Do they have a history of promulgated agreements being instated without a vote?

Robert,

I am interested in asking about part of your observation.

"No player conference has tried harder than has ICSOM to work with the AFM over the years.... There’s been almost no public criticism of the AFM by the symphonic conferences, even when the conferences were unhappy about particular decisions...So much for “working with the AFM.”

ICSOM members have Orchestra L,this blog and other blogs past and present as public outlets and I agree that there appears to be little public comment either institutionally or individually about the Federation most of the time.

Why do you think that so? Is it solely the AFM's comparative lack of relevance most of the time,(as contrasted with the role the AFM plays for recording musicians) or is there more to it?

My skepticism about your motivations is the result of observing the motivations of those whose interests you appear to be serving with your continued criticism of Tom Lee and the AFM. These folks care ONLY about their wallets. They don't care about the AFM, and they certainly don't care about the majority of AFM members whom they routinely dismiss as "hobbyists".

So, in a word, they’re like most professional musicians? They care about making a living, and they view the AFM as a way of helping them make a better living. They’re rather proprietary about what they view as “their” work, and they don’t care all that much about other musicians; certainly not to the extent of sacrificing work and income.

That sounds like most of the professional musicians I've worked with in my career.

Sadly, it appears they're playing you like a fiddle, Robert. Getting you to do their dirty work while they sit back and laugh all the way to the bank.

“Dirty work”? What’s “dirty” about criticizing an elected officer? But you still don’t get it, do you? This isn’t about the RMA; this is about the unique adaptations the AFM has made over the years to deal with the fact that only a small proportion of its membership work full-time as musicians, and thus pay the bills for the rest to have a union. Tom Lee is trampling all over those adaptations, for no good reason that I can see, and making a mess that will take years to clean up. And it’s people like me that are going to have to spend endless hours with the mop.

We've seen this before - when they duped poor Andy Malloy (a nice guy and a very good player) into being the PMG President - all that brought him for his time and effort was a world of trouble from the IEB as the President of a union whose mission statement puts it into direct conflict and competition with the AFM…I hope, in the end, that whatever this "mission" costs you in terms of business relationships and time is worth it as far as whatever gains you're able to make for you and your constituency in Wisconsin.

Spoken like an AFM president with enough votes in his pocket to trustee my local at the upcoming IEB meeting…

Robert: "And I remain curious about your continued interest in how this blog benefits me. Evidently it's obvious that I must receive, or hope to receive, some tangible benefit from criticizing Tom; I can't be doing it just because I believe he's doing great damage to my union."

My skepticism about your motivations is the result of observing the motivations of those whose interests you appear to be serving with your continued criticism of Tom Lee and the AFM. These folks care ONLY about their wallets. They don't care about the AFM, and they certainly don't care about the majority of AFM members whom they routinely dismiss as "hobbyists". They don't care about all the people that lose work as a result of the outdated protectionist recording agreements that keep them rich and protect their precious "special payments". They don't about anybody or anything involving the AFM unless it produces or threatens money in their own pockets. I've seen this mercenary behavior for years in LA - it's well known. For that same, small group of disgruntled musicians, it's all about them and their money, period. "Unionism" is nothing but a tool to fatten their wallets. They will say or do anything in order to protect their wealth, including attack the AFM with multiple well-funded federal lawsuits as we've seen time and time again. We can only guess what kind of attacks their "fund" may be preparing, even as we speak.

Sadly, it appears they're playing you like a fiddle, Robert. Getting you to do their dirty work while they sit back and laugh all the way to the bank. We've seen this before - when they duped poor Andy Malloy (a nice guy and a very good player) into being the PMG President - all that brought him for his time and effort was a world of trouble from the IEB as the President of a union whose mission statement puts it into direct conflict and competition with the AFM.

Robert, I know you believe you're on some noble mission, and far be it from me to burst your bubble. I hope, in the end, that whatever this "mission" costs you in terms of business relationships and time is worth it as far as whatever gains you're able to make for you and your constituency in Wisconsin. In the final analysis, regarding the RMA, PMG, AFM, Lee, Ayling, lawsuits, and so much more, we disagree. But it's clear you believe you're on an important quest to right what you see as wrongs with the AFM, and I would be remiss to criticize you for doing something you believe is in the best interests of those whom you serve as an elected official.

Best of luck,

Keys88

if you had the questions about the delays, why not just ask Tom Lee - privately, with a public letter, or whatever.

And how does a blog differ from a "public letter"? And how is it a "public smear" to point out the fact that the AFM has been without an SSD Director for 9 months or so, at a time when we really needed one?

If Tom wants to offer an explanation for what seems to be the inexplicable behavior of the AFM president, I'd be more than happy to post it for him. I don't get why I should ask him his reasons privately before questioning publicly what he's done.

If you want answers to your questions, there's obviously a lot more constructive way to get them (like picking up the phone)

What happened to the "public letter"?

I remain curious as to what benefit to your local, and more interestingly yourself, this continued attack agenda against the AFM and Tom Lee serves.

And I remain curious about your continued interest in how this blog benefits me. Evidently it's obvious that I must receive, or hope to receive, some tangible benefit from criticizing Tom; I can't be doing it just because I believe he's doing great damage to my union. Who would possibly criticize a union president for doing that unless there was a tangible personal pay-off at the end of it?

No wonder Tom seems to have trouble with the Player Conferences.

Bob: "Interesting that you should suggest I ask him privately for an explanation of his actions as president of an international union before I ask the question publicly."

Your continuing fantasy about who I am aside, if you had the questions about the delays, why not just ask Tom Lee - privately, with a public letter, or whatever. But to raise the questions that you NEVER EVEN ASKED HIM, then criticize his actions when at most you have 50% of the facts (you don't have his explanation or version of events) is ridiculous. That is, unless your mission (or the one you're doing for your "new friends") is to simply raise any issue you can and publicly smear and attack Tom Lee without even asking for his side of the story. Sadly, that appears more and more to be the agenda of this blog... perhaps you should just change the title to "The RMA Observer" or "The Tom Lee Tabloid Trasher" for accuracy.

I remain curious as to what benefit to your local, and more interestingly yourself, this continued attack agenda against the AFM and Tom Lee serves. If you want answers to your questions, there's obviously a lot more constructive way to get them (like picking up the phone) rather than asking the questions and launching one public attack after another, often about petty things, against the President of your own union.

2 good questions. Since they're clearly important to you, what did Tom Lee say when you asked him these questions?

You did ask him, right? I mean, surely you would have asked him questions as important as these are to you before you publicly indict him directly and the rest of the AFM management by inference in the title of yet another one of your posts critical of Tom Lee and the AFM.

Let's see what Tom Lee told you the reason(s) were for the delays before conclusions are drawn here - after all, there are 2 sides to every story... Awaiting your response.

Interesting that you should suggest I ask him privately for an explanation of his actions as president of an international union before I ask the question publicly. I’ve seen Tom do this time and time again; suggest that, rather than criticize, or even question, him publicly, one should instead talk to him privately first and get the “real” story. It’s consistent with the anger he shows at any public criticism of his performance as AFM president; anger that seems caused more by being criticized at all than by the substance of the criticism.

It’s a rhetorical device that I’ve never seen any other elected officer use. And now you’re using it…

I’d love to hear an on-the-record written explanation as to why the most important position in the AFM structure for symphonic musicians was left open for close to a year while their industry was melting down. At this point, I’m not interested in private answers to questions that concern thousands of working AFM musicians.

Not sure what Laura Brownell's replacement has to do with lawsuits launched by the recording musicians and the recording "wars", but I'll bite...

Bob: "So why did it take Tom 6 months to schedule interviews with applicants for SSD Director after Laura Brownell announced that she was leaving SSD ? Why did it take Tom another three months to actually hire someone after the interviews? And why didn’t Tom hire the person who was recommended unanimously by the heads of the symphonic player conferences?"

2 good questions. Since they're clearly important to you, what did Tom Lee say when you asked him these questions?

You did ask him, right? I mean, surely you would have asked him questions as important as these are to you before you publicly indict him directly and the rest of the AFM management by inference in the title of yet another one of your posts critical of Tom Lee and the AFM.

Let's see what Tom Lee told you the reason(s) were for the delays before conclusions are drawn here - after all, there are 2 sides to every story... Awaiting your response.

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