MFM Rocks the Vote…
Report by Dawoud Kringle (Photos by Dawoud and Sohrab)
Wednesday, December 13th, 2017, MFM held it’s Annual Membership Meeting 2017. The meeting was held at the Brooklyn Music School (NY).
This was an important event, because it serves as a platform for MFM members to make their voices heard. The main item on the agenda was voting on the Board of Directors (BoD) consisting of: Arturo O’Farrill (musician, band leader, composer, educator, activist and 5-times Latin Jazz Grammy Award winner), Paul Testagrossa (musician and MFM web developer), and Stefan Andemicael (DJ and Blue Note program director). Some MFM members emailed their votes in-absentia. Some of the attendees had limited time to stay: the sections of the meeting were arranged to accommodate this.
The results of the election will be announced here on the MFM’s website, and on DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY.
A large part of the agenda was also devoted to of the meeting consisted of the 2017 Business Report.
The meeting began with MFM founder and president Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi opening and describing how the meeting will proceed.
In keeping with the MFM traditions of beginning with a musical performance, Kaveh Haghtalab offered a beautiful improvisation in a Persian Radif on the kamancheh. On a spontaneous urge, the attendees moved the chairs into a circle to better accommodate the performance. Afterward, Haghtalab explained what he’d played and answered questions. The conversation turned to his attraction to MFM. Saadat asked how he thought MFM would be received in Iran. This opened a labyrinthine discussion of the dynamics of the music business in Iran. According to him, a great many Iranian musicians are returning to Iran because they get paid better in Tehran than in the US, Evidently, the US’ claim to being progressive and entrepreneurial compared to other nations is not completely true.
Before long, Saadat steered the meeting to the main purpose of the meeting. After some discussion about the MFM mission, talk turned to the corruption within the music business. For example, MOMA books music performances and pays musicians little or nothing – with the usual platitude of “it will be good exposure.” The recent revelations about Spotify were also instructive. Spotify is consistently losing money, and the artists see nothing. But recent tax returns show CEOs and top executives of Spotify are pocketing seven figure salaries. This clearly explains why Apple Music is planning on copying Spotify’s debt ridden business model.
Ultimately, the point was that musicians need to acquire positions of power. The way most musicians have been doing business has produced the exact opposite result. In fact, the whole mindset of playing for the vague and fruitless possibility of “exposure” or breaking our backs playing for nothing is a pathetic state of affairs. If MFM succeeds in dispelling this mindset, and inspiring musicians to take a stand for their professional due, it will have made a supreme accomplishment.
At Saadat’s introduction, Sylvain Leroux spoke of how he opened a music school in Guinea, and how his non-profit organization operates.
Saadat introduced Executive Director of the school and MFM member, Piruz Partow the head of the Brooklyn Music School. He spoke about how the school operates, it’s financial structure, and its commitment to music education.
Pam Jennett, a.k.a. BAASSIK, offered a solo bass guitar performance. After a masterful display of funk infused bass discourse, she spoke briefly on her concept of music and how she approaches music as an art and s business.
Some more discussion on the MFM mission, history, and its considerable accomplishments, followed.
Another subject that was broached upon was female musician rights. It is no secret – yet rarely discussed – that women are paid less than men for the same hours and quality of work (this is not confined to the music business. Women make 15% to 25% of a male’s salary or fee. They also have less work opportunities than males; especially in the jazz world). Saadat has been urging female musician to join MFM. He’d also suggested to MFM member Lindsey Wilson to consider to found a female musician caucus in MFM.
After the discussions, debates, and controversies were concluded, there was the inevitable jam session at the end. This was the most fun part (let’s face it; put a bunch of musicians in a room with instruments, and sooner or later, music will be made). After some free improv, a tonal center of D was agreed on. A lively and nuanced musical conversation between the roomful of musicians ensued. Some of the highlights included Marco Lienhard on shakuhachi, guitarist On Ka’a Davis on piano, Lindsey Wilson on electric guitar, and yours truly on upright bass.
One thing that was noticeable about the meeting was that there was somewhat of a lack of young people in attendance. This is a liability for MFM. The presence and energy of the younger generations of musicians, and the fresh perspective, unprecedented ideas, and fearless challenge to the status quo would be an asset for everyone.
That aside, the meeting was a success, and an important step in the development of MFM’s mission. As we face challenges and obstacles, we are moving into 2018 with determination and hope.