Musician's Union to Open Booking Agency

By Paul Moffett

The American Federation of Musicians, Local 11-637, is close to opening a music booking agency, according to John Roy, President of Local 11-637. The agency would book union musicians only.

The project has been under development for some time. The local's Board of Directors has been proceeding cautiously, concerned that all legal aspects of the agency be correctly handled. The selection of a person to manage the agency has been done and all that remains is the setting up of office space, installing equipment and the like.

The agency, while owned by the Union, would be a separate business.

Dave Snowden, owner of Triangle Talent, termed the creation of the union booking agency "ridiculous" and "very wrong," expressing concern that such an agency might present a conflict of interest, particularly since Triangle handles some union musicians. Snowden said that Triangle Talent has had a license to book union musicians since 1960 and has always been on good terms with the union, both locally and nationally. (Triangle Talent does extensive booking for state fairs around the country.)

Nevertheless, Snowden said he welcomed "fair competition," stressing "fair" and indicating that he would be watching the union agency's actions closely. He suggested that perhaps he would get together with the Guy Rhodes agency and "maybe form an association" as a response to the new agency.

Guy Rhodes, owner of Guy Rhodes Entertainment, also expressed concern about the creation of a competing agency by the Musician's Union but said that it would probably have "no impact on us at all." He did indicate that his agency would probably no longer consider the union as a source for entertainment.

Don Digrazi with the national office of the American Federation of Musicians said that the movement to create local booking agencies was a grassroots activity, a response by the locals to falling membership and revenue. He likened the creation of a union-owned booking agency to the union halls of plumbers, electricians and other trades, where a member might go and find work.

Approximately 5-10% of locals have established booking agencies, according to Digrazi. He had not heard of any particular problems related to the activity and, while he was sympathetic to the concerns of commercial booking agencies such as Triangle and Rhodes, he felt that perhaps the locals could provide live music to a segment of the market not normally served by the commercial agencies and thus build the business overall.