Will make recording performances much easier.

The tide seems to be turning for nearly fifty North American orchestras, most of whom have effectively been shut off from recording for years.

Last night (Aug. 3), the American Federation of Musicians, which represents orchestral players, and the management of the signatory North American orchestras—which span some of the US’ most renowned ensembles to more modest regional groups—revealed that they had at long last hammered out a groundbreaking agreement which will make recording their performances much easier.

The agreement covers recording live performances only; studio sessions remain prohibitively expensive, given the current market for orchestral releases. Under the new terms, the orchestral musicians will receive a reduced upfront payment, but they will participate in a revenue-sharing plan on sales of both physical product and digital downloads. Moreover, the musicians in each orchestra will have veto power over making recordings on a project-by-project basis.

Ownership on new recordings made under this deal will be kept by the orchestras themselves; the recordings can then be licensed under limited-time contracts to third parties, including traditional record companies.

This setup is of course a far cry from traditional long-term recording contracts, but it acknowledges the realities of today’s marketplace and will help the orchestras maintain their public profile, as well as create some revenue for the musicians. In another nod to current changes in the way consumers are increasingly purchasing their music, the new agreement explicitly extends to digital sales.

The signatories include several prominent ensembles who had already worked out individual agreements, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It also includes such other major orchestras as the Saint Louis and Pittsburgh symphonies and the orchestras of the San Francisco Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. The agreement also extends to a host of regional groups like the Edmonton (CA) Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Rapids Symphony, and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.