Spring 2013

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F or humankind, music has always been a rallying cry. Whether it was for pride of country, as a call to war or as a way to poke fun at those in power, song has a way of bringing together the masses. It's no surprise then that from the beginning of the organized labor movement, music and unions have gone hand in hand. In 1878, Jesse H. Jones had a hit with Eight Hours, by setting to music a poem written by I.G. Blanchard. he popular song expressed workers' demands for an eight-hour workday. Hurrah, hurrah for labor, it is mustering all its powers, And shall march along to victory with the banner of Eight Hours. hat same year, homas Edison perfected the phonograph, allowing music to be recorded on cylinders. Nine years later, the audio disc was patented, opening the door to mass production of sound recordings and launching the music industry. While it would be a few years until record players were common household appliances, the popularity of recorded music soon skyrocketed, and with it the money to be made from selling the recordings of top performers. Unscrupulous labels took advantage of artists, and it soon became apparent that recording artists needed protection in the evolving and increasingly complex music industry. Organizing was the answer, but what artists should ask for was the question that remained. Not long ater the American Federation of Radio Artists' 1947 convention, the Los Angeles Local Singers Committee put together its list of recommendations in advance of the irst AFRA contract for singers. A document from that time shows the concerns and vigorous debate within the union: Whether or not royalties should be part of the irst negotiations and the basic minimum hourly fees for recording artists. In 1951, AFRA's irst phonograph recording code was negotiated with the record labels, granting singers union protections for the irst time. And with that, came a basic framework for fairness. Not a guarantee of wealth, of course, but a set of rules that ensured that artists who worked hard and managed their afairs well could make a living. "Ultimately, I think the unions are about dignity, and dignity comes from having a roof over your head, not being terriied all the time about money, getting an education for yourself and your "SAG-AFTRA is a great union. They are always looking out for the artist's best interest. Very well organized and their coverage is excellent. I've always felt that they have my back." – SLASH children — being able to live a decent life," singer and songwriter Janis Ian said. Ian, who may be best known for her 1975 hit At Seventeen, has enjoyed a successful career. Like many SAG-AFTRA members, she is multitalented, and won a Grammy this year for Best Spoken Word Album for her autobiography, Society's Child, beating out fellow nominees Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow. "Recording artists work in an area of our business that has historically been one of the most proitable for employers," said Jim Ferguson, SAG-AFTRA's national vice president, recording artists. "Unfortunately, they've oten been insulated by those around them who they've hired to manage their afairs. hat has made it diicult over the years to take advantage of the enormous power that they could have collectively in the areas of legislation, negotiation and arbitration. he 'go it alone' approach simply hasn't been as successful in achieving the protections and beneits that recording artists under contract to a label deserve. With the broadened visibility and strength of SAG-AFTRA, our new union, comes new opportunities for recording artists to become collectively involved in order to insure that a safety net exists amid the uncertainties of a career as a recording artist," he added. Today, despite the digital revolution and the explosion of independent artists, the major record labels continue to control about 75 percent of the industry, and SAG-AFTRA has agreements with all of the major players: Sony, Warner, Universal (including EMI), Disney and their subsidiaries. SAG-AFTRA's sound recordings jurisdiction includes spoken-word recordings, album recordings of Broadway and of-Broadway shows, session/studio singers and royalty artists. his last category covers singers signed to an exclusive recording contract with a record label who receive royalties for their work, and includes most of the big-name artists you know and love. But it also includes ledgling artists still struggling to make a name for themselves, and those who make | Spring 2013 | SAG-AFTRA 25

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