[Dixielandjazz] Musician's Union

Dave Hanson jazzdude39 at comcast.net
Sat Nov 4 14:33:31 PST 2006


Thanks for the reply and we all know that there are far too many musicians and bands, some of which are very good, that play for free or next to free.
The digital era we now live in has cut the MPTF funds dramatically, now called MPF, as we no longer have any clout with the record labels. Free or next to free downloads has robbed thousand of musicians and composers of their income from CD sales.
Point in fact. When I moved to Atlanta from NYC in 1969, the population of this city was just under one million and the local had 1000 members.
37 years later the city is now 4 million and the local still has about 1000 members. That tells the whole story as the union movement is in trouble, and the AFM is trying everything in the world to attract the younger players, but it's tough, especially when many only play on weekends and many have good day jobs. Everyone knows you can't make a living playing music, unless you are in a symphony somewhere, have a song on the top 50 or are lucky to live in an area where you have the best group and fairest prices.
I will add that out of our 1000 members only about 450 actually play, the rest being inactive.

I will also add that my union experience has been very helpful to my playing career and still  get calls from the union directory, however as I age I find that many leaders that once called me have died, retired or moved to Florida. I re-invent myself about every 6 months, but must admit that I play now for the fun of it and the ego push I get, certainly not to make a living.

Here in Atlanta we are blessed with many world class musicians and the Broadway shows and other great acts continue to appear as they get quality players as they would in NYC or LA.

Nuff said and good to hear from you again. Keep blowing !

Dave Hanson

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Steve Barbone 
  To: DJML 
  Sent: Saturday, November 04, 2006 5:17 PM
  Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Musician's Union

  When, in 1950, I first joined Local 802, AF of M in New York City, like Don,
  I had to take a test. I did come with some help from clarinetist Hank
  D'Amico and trombonist Charlie Butterfield, both of who were studio
  musicians and had some clout. Plus, I had recently joined a band that had
  just gotten a 6 month steady weekend gig under union contract rules.
  Otherwise, I think I would not have passed the first time.

  The local was VERY STRONG back then. You couldn't work a NYC gig (in almost
  any venue) without being a member. The business agents would come around and
  check your card, as well as the contract which had to be on file at the
  venue. If a club was not in line, they would picket and/or send Guido around
  to persuade the owner to book union musicians.

  The union also ran a hiring hall, like the dock workers shape ups. It was at
  Roseland, every Tuesday. Musicians and contractors would show up there and
  network. Everyone schmoozing everyone else. And that's how the jazz guys,
  like Erwin or Cutshall or whomever, got the higher paying private party gigs
  with Lester Lanin, or Meyer Davis. That's why Condon worked with so many
  musicians. He had to, because he often had to sub when a regular got a more
  lucrative casual. Any muso who was make a living performing, showed up.

  That's how it was until I left NYC in 1962. When I did so, I quit playing
  and 2 years later, dropped my membership.

  Thirty years later, when I retired from my day gig and started playing again
  I discovered that most gigs in Philadelphia, Washington/Baltimore, Atlantic
  City, etc., where I sought musical work were non union. Even the hotel rooms
  were non-union. So I never re-joined.

  But I did stay aware of the union scales. (One guy in the band retains union
  membership) and never undercut them. In fact, never came close to
  undercutting them.

  Bottom line is that in this area, the unions are pretty much dead except for
  symphony players. And the "union supplied" gigs, (very few) pay scale, which
  is horribly low. 

  If things were like they were when I was a kid in NYC, I'd join the union in
  a heartbeat, but times have changed, at least in this area. Basically
  because the demand for live music is much less than it was in the 1950s, and
  there are far too many musicians around who give their services away without
  regard for those who depend upon the performance of music for a living.

  I think Dave Hansen's situation in Atlanta is different.

  Steve Barbone


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