New Deal For Broadway Sound Designers

A settlement was reached on June 13, 2012, between United Scenic Artists, Local 829, and The Broadway League, establishing a new agreement covering sound design on Broadway. This is more than an improvement in terms. After waiting almost 20 years, the members of this craft working on Broadway wanted to be heard and to establish terms equivalent to their colleagues in scenic, costume, and lighting design. The union’s one and only proposal was to replace the old Local 922 agreement, which was essentially a benefits only agreement, with a document that embodied how the design business is actually conducted on Broadway and that addressed many designer specific issues. The League, to its credit, accepted this concept and collaborated to create language codifying “how business is done” ­—an advantage to all parties.

The agreement now contains, for the first time, provisions covering:
• Scope and definition of services
• Full coverage for assistant sound designers with rates and benefits
• Designer ownership of their intellectual property
• “Right of First Refusal” to design subsequent productions (both tours and “sit-down”) in the US and Canada
• Terms for those subsequent productions
• A payment schedule including terms for postponed or abandoned productions
• Terms for productions transferring to Broadway (from LORT or the West End, for example)
• Billing language for programs and other publicity
• Grievance and arbitration language
• Limitations on discharge for artistic differences as well as ‘just cause’ language
• Liability language, to protect the designer should the producer be sued, including intellectual property claims.
• And of extreme importance since the LLC has became prevalent on Broadway, language which makes League Member “Producers,” personally liable for all monies owed to the designer.

The Member Bargaining Committee has been commended for its commitment and contribution to this process; it was true unionism. At every session the League faced a group that had collectively designed more than 286 Broadway shows, and were there to represent their craft; Tony Meola, Brian Ronan, Nevin Steinberg, Scott Lehrer, Sten Severson, Jeremy Lee, Alex Hawthorne, Mark Menard, Rob Kaplowitz, Carl Cassella, Jason Crystal, Kai Harada, Ken Travis, Rob Milburn, and last but certainly not least Abe Jacob.

Jacob was, in fact, the business agent of Local 922 when sound designers fought to gain recognition of the craft in the 1980s and spent ten years fighting to get that first agreement in 1993. “It was great to have “the godfather of contemporary sound design” there with us helping to accomplish this second giant leap for sound designers on Broadway,” say his colleagues.

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