TIME Magazine, October 27, 1947, p. 25:|
LABOR: Who's Going Out of Business?
...Last week [James] Caesar Petrillo, whose power over U.S. musicians extends from Toscanini to Harry James, decided that it was time to call a halt on the progress of Edison's handiwork. He ordered the 216,000 members of the American Federation of Musicians to stop making all recordings... after Dec. 31... Said he: "We stop making recordings once and for all-- period."
Instruments of Destruction. Czar Petrillo's aim as a union leader was understandable: he wants to keep his union big and his income fat.* Actually, Petrillo's union is big and rich only because he has been able to keep it heavily featherbedded. Of the 216,000 members, only about 35,000 are full-time professionals; about twice as many are part-timers who, says Petrillo, "are not quite making a living at it." But more than half are one-time musicians who, like Petrillo, have put aside their instruments and make their living in other occupations.
Instruments of Law. ...Five years ago he called a ban on recording, kept it tight for 27 months, eventually won a settlement under which the recording companies paid A.F.M. a royalty on every disc they made. Last year the royalties amounted to about $2,000,000 (every cent of it went to unemployed musicians, says Petrillo).
But in recent months things have not been going so smoothly. The Taft-Hartley Act, in a section aimed directly at Petrillo, banned payment of record royalties to a union. The Lea Act, enacted to prevent Petrillo's "coercing" of broadcasting studios (forcing them, among other things, to hire stand-by musicians), had passed its first test in the Supreme Court...
So Petrillo has been searching his nimble brain to find new ways to make radio programs, records and juke boxes play cash-jingling tunes on his union till... His Dec. 31 deadline coincides with contract renewal time for the record makers.
...The $250,000,000-a-year recording industry has been working overtime in recent weeks... there were trade estimates that some companies had built up a supply of un-issued records for two or three years...
*Ex-Cornetist Petrillo is the world's best-paid labor leader. He gets $20,000 a year from A.F.M. and $26,000 from its Chicago local (which also pays his income tax and provides him with a new car whenever he gets tired of his old one). He also has an $18,000 annual expense account.
TIME Magazine, January 26, 1948, p. 18 (cover story):|
LABOR: The Pied Piper of Chi
...He was enforcing three musical bans at once-- old bans against television and frequency modulation radio stations (which were not allowed to share standard broadcasts of music), and a brand new and bigger ban against the record and transcription business... He was also negotiating a new contract with the major U.S. radio networks, a process which involved the threat of a walkout by his musicians...
The machine which Edison invented in 1877 was an impractical toy which, as its needle scratched a cylinder of tin foil, made noises like a man strangling to death. The commercial "gramophones" which followed (colloquially called screech boxes) were not much better. But the early disc phonographs, which delivered both Caruso and Cohen on the Telephone, were too delightful to be resisted. The speed with which they became a national obsession was reflected by the financial statements of the Victor Talking Machine Co., which did $500 worth of business in 1901 and $12 million in 1905.
Music in the Air. The canned music business grew like a tropical plant. In the late '20s, when radio emerged from its crystal-set stage and became a multi-knobbed, multi-tubed wonder, it seemed that the day of the phonograph was done. Actually, the awful slump in the sales of records and machines simply heralded a new era. The phonograph business modernized itself. Electrical pickups, mechanical record changers, radio-phonograph combinations, and cheap, electrically transcribed records of popular bands and singers built it bigger than ever. The radio business burgeoned too. The sound track brought music to the screen. The three mediums augmented one another; there was an intermingling of interests (RCA-Victor, CBS-Columbia Records, MGM-MGM Records) and a great reciprocal trading in music and performers...
Last year the ever increasing production of records by 771 companies, big & small, reached a new peak: 325 million records were sold in fiscal 1947... for $243,750,000.
And this was only the beginning of the product's earning power. It was rented to the public through half a million glittering jukeboxes, each of which took in from $10 to $35 a week. Companies like Muzak Corp. wired recorded music into restaurants and bars. Others dispensed it for pennies and nickels from shiny little speakers set up at the edge of soda counters and tavern tables. The nation's 1,800 standard-broadcast radion stations played records too, a majority of them on all-local advertising programs. Radio personalities like Ted Husing, Paul Whiteman, Martin Block and Tommy Dorsey earned enormous salaries as disc jockeys. And still more canned music helped Hollywood earn its profits on talking pictures...
Something for the Boys. In 1942 Petrillo took his biggest gamble. He pulled musicians out of all the nation's recording studios and demanded a royalty on every record sold... after 27 months, the big record companies surrendered.
Record royalties ($1,756,435 in 1946, about $2,000,000 in 1947) gave Petrillo an enviable opportunity to soothe and comfort his followers and dramatize his fierce boast that he toiled only for the welfare of "the boys." He spent the royalty money employing musicians in free public concerts... Thus records provided extra employment-- though not for the men who made them...
The antiquated U.S. copyright laws provide that only the copyright owner shall receive music royalties-- ignoring the musician and recording firm, the artificers who put the music into salable form...
Battle Lines. ...[Petrillo] had announced that the musicians were out of the recording business for good & all. This could be interpreted as meaning that he wanted the companies to discover a way of giving royalties (now forbidden by the Taft-Hartley Act), and of shouldering the responsibility of suggesting it. Whatever happened would not happen soon. Last week nothing would have horrified the big record producers more than an end to the ban. The had built up huge stockpiles of master recordings, a great many of which fell far short of their usual critical standards, and they needed months to sell them.
The radio networks, through spokesmen for the American Association of Broadcasters, began lambasting Petrillo hard, using the congressional investigation of his affairs as a sounding board. Their contracts with Petrillo run out on Jan. 31. They were prepared to demand music for television, and an end to Petrillo's refusal to give FM outlets free use of regular musical broadcasts. They had stored up hundreds of recorded musical cues and singing commercials, in case he called a strike...