by Dan Beck, Music Performance Trust Fund Trustee
As the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) approaches its 70th anniversary, it is gratifying to report that we recently embarked upon a renewed level of sustainability. After weathering nearly two decades of music distribution disruption, and being entirely dependent upon royalties from the sale of outmoded physical products—CDs, tapes, and cassettes—the agreement reached last year between labor and industry has begun to bear fruit for the MPTF. The trust fund is now benefitting from revenue streams more in-line with current consumer practices, including music streaming.
The challenges for both labor and industry over these past years to find the means to fund the MPTF have been enormous. The sea change in remonetizing music has only become clearer in the past two years. As trustee, I applaud and thank both parties for their continued belief in the MPTF’s value and also for their hard work to reinvent a viable revenue-generating structure to bring us into this millennium. Both parties acted upon our perilous circumstance in good faith and with the immediacy required. AFM President Ray Hair, the AFM International Executive Board, and the AFM team, as well as the officers of the MPTF’s Industry Oversight Committee, Andrea Finkelstein, James Harrington, and their colleagues, have come through for us. The opportunity for a solution only recently surfaced and they seized the critical moment to save the MPTF.
To our own peril, we have held the line of providing a minimum of $500,000 in our general grant allocations, even when the MPTF was rapidly drawing down our reserves to dangerous levels. Our immediate focus is to secure our stability, rebuild our basic reserves, and assiduously expand our grant budgets.
For the first time in my tenure as trustee, we can reasonably project our revenues for the coming fiscal year. That confidence allows us to begin regrowing the impact of our core initiatives. Our plan is to increase our grant budget from $500,000 to $600,000 for the fiscal year beginning May 1. In addition, we will be adding another $100,000, specifically designated for new educational initiatives. Combined with support from The Film Funds for our MusicianFest senior program, we will be distributing more than $800,000 in the 2018-19 fiscal year, beginning May 1.
While the good news is heartily welcomed, let’s remember that we have a lot of ground to cover in North America. We are definitely not flush with the funds that were the hallmark of a bygone physical product era.
Our challenge ahead is to work hand-in-hand with the AFM to make the absolute most of the new funds we are able to distribute. Our immediate goal is expand our assistance to a number of the locals who fell outside of our ability to provide support for them over these past few years. At the same time, we want to create greater emphasis on music education and musician mentorship. That leadership is desperately needed, and who better to implement it than a Federation that proudly claims a membership that is nearly 40% educators! We are looking to you to share your inspiring ideas, talents, and experience with talented and aspiring musicians of tomorrow.
During these most financially challenging times, I am proud to say that the MPTF staff has worked diligently to significantly streamline our costs and build a cost-effective and efficient grant management system. We are positioned to grow again. We need your patience and we need your help to maximize the impact of our grants in your communities.
Although never a given, the long, downward spiral appears to be at an end. New grant growth is our goal. The MPTF staff will pursue that mission with enthusiasm, tempered with care and common sense. We look forward to sharing the results with the members of the American Federation of Musicians and their communities across North America.