[Ed. Note: The following news item was compiled from a press release issued this morning from the American Federation of Musicians.]
Symphony, opera and ballet orchestras in the U.S. and Canada and the American Federation of Musicians have reached an agreement on terms and conditions for the creation of commercially available recordings of live classical performances in the U.S. and Canada. This innovative new agreement, which utilizes a different artistic and economic model for recording, was ratified in June by forty-eight leading U.S. and Canadian classical music institutions, including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra as well as the opera companies of San Francisco and Houston, among others. The musicians in these orchestras, who are represented by the American Federation of Musicians, have also ratified the agreement.
Under the agreement, musicians receive upfront set payments for the recording of live performances that will be produced and sold as physical product, such as CDs, or downloads (though this agreement cannot be used solely for downloads), and, under a new revenue-sharing model, musicians receive a percentage of the receipts of CD and downloading sales. Ownership and copyright of the master recordings will be retained by the orchestra institutions, although distribution licenses may be granted for limited periods to a third party (such as a record company or distribution company). Orchestra musicians will have right of approval on a project-by-project basis, with each recording project put to a “yes” or “no” vote before moving forward.
The arrangement is unique in that it represents direct negotiation between orchestras and the American Federation of Musicians with regards to payment of musicians for the production and sale of CDs, unlike existing agreements that cover studio session recording which the union negotiates with recording companies. It aims to establish an economic model that will enhance the potential for more frequent recording by U.S. orchestras, to the benefit of each institution’s national reputation and the advancement of classical music as a whole. Recently, initiatives to release live concert recordings for electronic distribution have been launched under the terms of the AFM Symphony, Opera Ballet Internet Agreement by a number of orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Milwaukee Symphony. The new CD recording agreement is a representation of the ongoing overall effort on the part of the AFM and management to create new models allowing for more frequent recording, and points to a bright future for various types of media including video, internet streaming and downloading.
“This agreement helps to create new solutions that will allow more frequent recording—a crucial element for the future of the U.S. symphony orchestra. It also represents another step towards bringing orchestras into the digital age, which is essential for increasing accessibility to classical music and reaching a broader audience,” said New York Philharmonic President and Executive Director Zarin Mehta.
“This new agreement was made possible by the dedication and hard work of musicians and managers who were committed to forging a new model for the production of live performance recordings of classical music,” said Thomas F. Lee, International President of the American Federation of Musicians. “As partners, our great orchestra musicians and their institutions can bring virtuoso performances to a broader public in a way that benefits society, our arts institutions and the performing musicians.”
San Francisco Opera’s General Director David Gockley commented, “I’m very pleased that San Francisco Opera was able to have a role in helping to forge this new agreement to ensure that commercial recordings of our wonderful performances continue to be made available in the rapidly changing world of classical music. This kind of cooperation between the musicians’ union and management will be essential to ensure the future growth and survival of our industry and to win new audiences for our art form.”
“This arrangement means that our great institutions can preserve their performances and make those performances available to the widest possible audience in such a way that each institution can maintain the artistic integrity of its own heritage,” Bill Foster, violist in the National Symphony Orchestra.