A Newsletter Is Born
3 min read

A Newsletter Is Born

Hey, everyone and welcome to the first edition of Dollar Fractions, the premium version of the Penny Fractions newsletter. I’ll keep this opening intro short. First off thank you so much for subscribing and even more so to the couple people who already sent some feedback / suggestions for what they’d want out of this space.

Some readers of this will already know this but the last couple of months I’ve been working shopping a newsletter about music labor / unions that is intended to launch some point in October. This initial Dollar Fractions newsletter is a slight mashup of a couple early drafts of this newsletter. Next week's newsletter will center back towards music streaming but I wanted to offer a hint a project I've been working on a for a little bit here. Please do email me at pennyfractions@gmail.com for any questions. Y'all know I like to chat.

Sight Reading

The Met Opera and Two Unions Reach a Deal, Very Quietly - The New York Times

Last month, the Met Opera achieved a deal with both the American Federation of Musicians and the American Guild of Musicians just before the Met would open for the fall season. What made this story particularly the Times account of it stick out to me was that the terms of the deal weren’t made public. The Times pointed out this peculiarity since previous rounds of negotiations ended with a public result. The implied reason for the silence is that letting out the deal might further highlight the overall financial instability of the Met Opera.

Nashville Musicians Union Criticizes Tax Incentives For Video Game Publishers - Nashville Public Radio

This story pulls at a lot of my loosely connected passions of the south, video games, and a labor dispute. The Nashville, Tennessee chapter of the American Federation of Musicians (Local 257) expressed frustration over Tennessee allocating $5 million in tax rebates to try and lure video game developers to their state. The issue brought up by the local union is that these companies are going around them and instead finding cheaper non-union label to produce music for their video games.

The most telling section of the story to me to me was right here:

The typical union musician gets about $125 per hour in pay and benefits for a session, but non-union musicians get about $75 without contributions to their health or retirement.

The fact that Tennessee is a right-to-work state only further empowers these video game developers to find non-unionized labor.

The story felt extremely poignant to me right now as the video game industry is seeing increased mobilization around unionization through the organization Game Workers Unite.

New quartet of veteran Centre County musicians to play debut gig - Centre Daily

This is just a nice little story about a few members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 660 in Centre County, Pennsylvania staking it out on their own playing local farmers markets and community events. RIYL: Farmer’s Markets, retirement, and pre-rock music.

Columbus Symphony Reaches New Contract Deal

Last month it was announced that the Columbus Symphony and the Central Ohio Federation of Musicians Local 103 came to a three year deal with the orchestra’s board that’ll extend through the 2020-21 season. This deal will include a 3% raise for the 47 full time musicians, which at first glance appears to be a better deal than what was handed in 2015. The details of that deal weren’t reported out except that the 42 full time musicians would be keeping their jobs and that both sides were happy not to reach any conflict.

The reason for such relief is that in 2008 the orchestra’s board attempted to make drastic cuts to the Columbus Symphony that would’ve shrunk the symphony staff from 53 to 31 and the number of paid weeks from 46 to 34. Their union didn’t accept these terms and nor was Junichi Hirokami, the orchestra’s music director, too happy about what was happening to the musicians he led. He spoke passionately to the New York Times defending the symphony and attacking the board. Ultimately the tension latest for nearly six months and in the end no one lost their jobs but there was a 27% salary cut and the board did eventually remove Hirokami.

One of Hirokami’s complaints was that the orchestra’s board wasn’t doing enough to try and raise money. An interesting point and one I'll certainly keep researching about how symphonies are able to sustain themselves during such rough economic times.