[Dixielandjazz] Musician's Union

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Sun Nov 5 11:40:01 PST 2006

Sorry Dave but I am still a member of Local 2-197  and have been on and off since 1958- I can get the phone number if you want to check.  My union membership is listed  prominently on my website on the bottom of the first page.

Some of the AF people might argue about that - I said they aren't getting rich, not that they weren't making a living.

Guilty - some of the stories are 30 years old but - things have only gone down hill since then.  Everything is smaller.   In all fairness I think the new guys that I helped vote in are doing as good a job as possible.  Actually I voted to keep them in about two weeks ago. The one bright light is that they have quit going after the individual musician for silly stuff and fining them huge amounts.   

Read carefully - All my playing friends who happen to be some of the best musicians in town are no longer members but I still am even though I get almost NOTHING from them.  In the last union newsletter (that I get and read cover to cover) I saw that two more of my playing friends have been suspended.  I called one of them and asked him about it but it's unlikely that anyone from the local called them.  

I am actually hanging in there, unlike musicians in droves that don't believe the musicians union is worth anything.  I've just been around long enough that I know what to expect from the local and what not to expect.  One of the things I don't expect from them is jobs.  That's up to me although I had hoped for more when they opened their booking agency.

What do the other things have to do with live performance?  Well not much but as you pointed out no matter how good you are - (if you are a non symphony musician anyway) - it's very difficult to make a good living playing.  In this town, only the symphony musicians count.  But then again, that's what I expect, not what is right or that anything can really be done about it.

By the way it's been about 5 years since I booked a union generated job through their booking agency.  Even though I have a publicity pack and tapes on file.

I think you missed the part where I said I think being in the union is the right thing to do without expecting anything in return.  They don't even have a union picnic anymore.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Dave Hanson 
  To: Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis 
  Sent: Saturday, November 04, 2006 10:21 PM
  Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Musician's Union

  Larry said, he has a bunch of friends that are in the Air Force Band. That's great, but doesn't the government pay these people a VERY Good living wage ? I think so, and that's fine as they audition for those gigs. Larry isn't in the AF band now and hasn't been in the Union for probably 30 or more years. He doesn't have a clue what union membership is like now. I've heard his decades old stories about where the union beat him up, but in my opinion he didn't follow the by laws, that other musicians voted in. I doubt Larry has a clue about "networking" ,getting involved and forcing the union officials he is so vocal about. He just did nothing ! So he got nothing, and too bad there were some folks in St. Louis that were playing it close to the vest and probably years went by before he knew what had happened to him. Sad, but he could have made a stand, networked with other union players and , attended some meetings, but NO, all he wanted was gigs from the union with out trying to be a potential powerful voice for reform in the union he was a member of. He sure shouts now, too bad he didn't then. 
  He is in the sign business and teaches music, So do I, that is I teach music, but what does this have to do with live performance ?
  I don't think I care to continue an answer to a obvious situation where anyone on the face of the earth can change his mind in any way about what the union is able to do for the professional musician.
  Go some where and sulk, and I bet none of us can hear you, as we are on a gig enjoying the top dollar we are earning........perhaps from a union generated gig !


    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis 
    To: 1-DIXIELAND JAZZ POST ; Dave Hanson 
    Sent: Saturday, November 04, 2006 10:12 PM
    Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Musician's Union

    Dave Said - 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 don't think that's entirely true.  I have a bunch of friends who are in 
    the Air Force Band and they make a living at it but of course aren't getting 

    Many of us make our living from music but not necessarily 100% from playing. 
    Since I was 15 a significant part of my income has been from playing but I 
    made more teaching music and from being in the AF band.  The past 15 years I 
    started a sign business that I enjoy doing and it keeps me off the streets. 
    I still teach music and playing is still a significant part of my income.

    Unfortunately I am busy making a living and I don't have a lot of time to 
    hang around the union hall.  It is very true that you get out of something 
    approximately what you put into it but because I'm not a symphony or show 
    player the Union really doesn't do anything for me and I can understand that 
    to a certain extent.  Even though I don't camp on the union steps there are 
    those who do but eventually give up.  It's been the same for the past 40 
    years or more.  The point has been made thousands of times and mostly by 
    musicians beating feet as fast as they can.  Many of the ones that are left 
    don't pay work dues and have a poor attitude.  Some of the union leadership 
    use their positions to glom off gigs that come in.

    At one time hanging the union label out made a difference.  No politician 
    would dare not hire a union band and the union halls insisted on live union 
    music.  When I was young I played for a lot of union parties and it 
    generally meant something.  Today our brother unions no longer hire union 
    bands and union halls no longer insist on a card to play.  I remember the 
    carpenter's hall here having five union bands at a time on Friday and Sat 
    nights as well as several during the week.   In this day and age of Wal-Mart 
    labor relations there is a huge number of people who shun unions even though 
    their employers are screwing them left and right.  I guess the philosophy is 
    that if you have a job keep your mouth shut and if you don't like it look 
    for another job.  Union band in many peoples mind means expensive.

    Even having said all that including I make zip from union jobs I still pay 
    dues and  think it's the right thing to do.  The union isn't there to get 
    you a job or to save your butt if you can't make it otherwise.  It's a good 
    place to meet other musicians and even with all the problems I think they 
    are trying.  I think that the musician union is on the South side of history 
    at this point and who knows if the musician unions will survive.
    St. Louis
    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: "Dave Hanson" <jazzdude39 at comcast.net>
    To: "Steve Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
    Cc: "DJML" <Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
    Sent: Saturday, November 04, 2006 4:33 PM
    Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Musician's Union

    > Steve,
    > 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.
    >  Cheers,
    >  Steve Barbone
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