Tuesday, December 14, 2010

State of the union...



Here comes some straight opinion for your consideration. 

Does anyone think that the predominant radio union - AFTRA - could be more proactive on helping our colleagues to evolve into what we're becoming as providers and artists of content? 

Don't you think they could be holding seminars, teaching those who want to learn, things like Photoshop, or how to do online web design, or the ins-and-outs of blogging, social media, etc? 

In the last post, it was mentioned that AFTRA could be more proactive in education on things like finances, money, home ownership, and the like so that members can start building a nest egg with the money they're earning. 

Novel idea right? A union which is proactive about making sure it's dues paying members have the opportunity at some education so they can keep earning money and as a result, paying dues. 

This is an interesting time for the union in so many areas. 

Voicetracking, and pre-recorded non-local content is now a norm and not an exception. Union members are making great money doing this work, and as a result, there's a dichotomy present as some unions fight to contain tracking while the very people fighting are making significant money as content exporters. 

And, of course, content isn't just through a microphone over the transmitter anymore. Streaming, social media, online presence, each of these things are expected from union talent, but the conversations being had haven't caught up to reality have they? Why? Reality is moving too fast for the protracted deliberations and the excessive lamenting about the 'way things used to be or ought to be.' 

If the union, AFTRA, can be proactive, and work to shape and embrace a future where the artists are artists of content, who use technology to an advantage, and to equip members to use technology to control their destiny, then the union will continue to be strong and dynamic. 

If the union stays mired in the quagmire of trying to preserve the past, it will join the past... in history. 

Comment away if you feel like joining the fray. At least we're having a discussion, and there's nothing wrong with a good discussion. 

1 comment:

  1. Bill Worthington9:12 AM

    Toby, you are a contemplative man who seeks the truth. I admire that about you, but before you decide that you have arrived at an end-point in this quest, let me offer that there just might be more ground ahead on the road to Damascus.

    You ask if AFTRA could be more proactive at helping performers. You ask, why can’t they hold seminars, teach Photoshop, online web design, and the ins-and-outs of blogging and social media? They, they, they….We all benefit when we are reminded that a union is not about “they.”

    It is about “us.”

    Acknowledging that, it would be outstanding for someone who has these various skills, perhaps such as you, to step forward to teach in conservatory. For the record, I have always preferred Paint Shop Pro to Photoshop because of its simplicity, but I would consider learning the Adobe product from someone who really knows it. From what I understand, those who instruct in conservatories do so with the expectation of being able to keep a portion of workshop fees. We may be a union, but we are not communists.

    You make the argument that it represents a dichotomy for us to fail to support the idea of voice-tracking and pre-recorded, non-local content—calling it as you do, a “norm.” It’s not a norm here and it’s not the norm of the Local. You’re going to need to make that case a little better than just stating it on the fly and moving on. Furthermore, implicit in a union is the expectation of decisions made by majority. To develop policies, positions—to take stands—requires consensus. This group who is making “great money” unfortunately has the burden of proof to the others that it is best for everyone else to concede their livelihoods. Perhaps the case can be made. I am willing to listen.

    You speak of reality and content in the same sentence. What is real is that content is coming from a million different directions. Clear Channel, Cumulus, Citadel and CBS are but four of them. You’re going to have to forgive me if I keep my definition of reality just a little broader than what the financiers of these 4 companies tell me it is. I see more out there on the content plain. I see pioneers of all kinds. Content reality is much bigger than these broadcasters have articulated.

    But here is a reality--as it applies to broadcasters. Broadcast companies, such as the one with whom we just negotiated, may think of themselves as all things to all people in all media, but for the moment they are still very much broadcasters—with microphones, transmitters and towers.

    We didn’t just negotiate with Pandora.

    Broadcasting companies, by definition, must create value by producing content that goes over-the-air. They want to do it cheaply. Those of us who create content want to pay our rent, keep a car on the road, send our kids to a doctor when they're sick and to school when they're not. Dichotomy, you say?

    Somewhere in this dichotomy, there is room for negotiation. I think we just did that.

    One final thought about reality’s fast pace and your description of the lamentations by some for the way things ought to be. Make your own choice, but I will never stop pursuing what “ought to be.” To do so, for me, would mean to accept the status quo. To do so, would mean I accept someone else’s definition of what ought to be and I’d better tag along if I know what’s good for me. That's a load of crap and it’s not even American

    I speak entirely for myself and I need to be convinced otherwise of that one too.

    With great affection, no malaise, and an appreciation of the beauty of debate, I remain very truly yours,

    Bill Worthington

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