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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Marc Jacoby compares his credit union to one of those little “hidden jewels” of a restaurant that people often unexpectedly stumble upon. “We’re like the restaurant where you come in through the kitchen. You don’t know we’re here, but once you find us, you tell everybody you know how great it was that you found us,” he said. Instead of having to make their way through a kitchen filled with pots and pans, people looking for Jacoby’s credit union must wend their way through the American Federation of Musicians’ (AFM) Local 47 building, past a hallway filled with photos of well-known performers, then climb a flight of stairs to the second floor where they will find the Musicians’ Credit Union. “We’ve been here so long that anybody who comes into this building, any professional musician, they know we’re here,” said Jacoby, president and chief executive officer of Musicians’ CU. But since expanding its field of membership to anyone who lives, works or worships in Hollywood, spreading the word about the credit union’s presence has become more important. Because the credit union is located in the AFM facility, it has no exterior signage to alert people to its location. “You could pass by our building and not even know we’re here,” Jacoby said. That’s prompting the credit union to expand its marketing efforts and increase its visibility in the community, from having a booth at an upcoming music festival to Jacoby judging a Halloween pumpkin carving contest at a local elementary school. Jacoby said future plans might include opening a branch in Hollywood to serve more of the general community. Today, the vast majority of the credit union’s 4,900 members are professional musicians. They range from those who play in the Los Angeles Philharmonic to rock, jazz, blues and studio bands. Some are legends, like bluesman Guitar Shorty who has been performing since the 1950s, and singer/pianist Nellie Lutcher, who was most popular in the 1940s. Among those who are members of the musicians’ local are Bruce Springsteen and Kenny Loggins, although Jacoby confessed that neither singer is a member of the credit union. “A lot of our members are very important in the music industry, but not necessarily the people you see on the cover of a CD,” he said. Even so, it’s not unusual to see well-known musicians coming into one of the several rehearsal rooms or a recording studio in the AFM building. When the famed Three Tenors – Plcido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jos Carreras – prepared for their performance at the Hollywood Bowl, they rehearsed at the AFM building, Jacoby noted. Jacoby said his musical tastes lean to old blues tunes, jazz and country. “I don’t like a lot of the modern music,” he admitted. “My kids are all teen-agers now and they like what I don’t like,” he added, noting that the same scenario has probably held true for every generation of parents with children. The credit union, established in 1954 and which has now reached $50 million in assets, has an extremely strong and loyal following among its members. One reason is because the credit union has catered to the specific needs of its members. One of its more unique offerings is a loan program of up to $50,000 so that members can purchase musical instruments (it has been expanded to include other equipment with the growing influence of electronics in the music field). “It’s a risk, but it’s a cost of doing business,” Jacoby said of the loan program. “If we’re going to serve musicians, we have to recognize that risk, take that risk and offer those types of loans.” Loan officer Edna Sadr, who has been with the credit union for a decade, said many musicians seeking instrument loans have been summarily dismissed or laughed out of banks when they sought funding there. “The banks treat you like you don’t even have a job if you’re a musician,” Sadr said. “So it’s nice that the credit union actually treats them like they are somebody,” “We have a unique understanding of that aspect of our membership that nobody else could have,” Jacoby added. “For somebody trying to make it into the business, we really do try our best to help them.” Changing member demographics prompted the credit union about a year ago to expand its field of membership to the entire Hollywood community. “We were starting to lose some membership as a result of changing demographics (an aging membership),” he explained. “We realized that being in the Hollywood community would give us a lot of potential for growth and for sustaining the credit union into the future and, at the same time, serving a potentially underserved community.” Jacoby said the credit union faces a delicate balancing act between seeking new community members without alienating its core membership. That core membership prefers personal service – the credit union doesn’t have any audio response phone system and only uses an answering machine when the institution is closed – and wants its loans to be held only by the credit union, not sold off. Members are also sensitive to other union issues, such as a strike by grocery store workers in Southern California and by mechanics with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, both of which were going at the time of the Jacoby interview. Members also jealously guard the rights to their music. When a vendor gave the credit union a CD burner to give away at its annual meeting, the donation created a bit of a stir with members, who saw it as a way for people to copy their music without paying for it. Jacoby explained to members that the burner had been donated by a vendor and did not come from the credit union. Jacoby said the credit union had no intention of changing its name to reflect its wider reach into the community but would add a tagline noting that it serves professional musicians and the Hollywood community. Jacoby admitted that professional musicians were an interesting group to serve. “They are a unique field of membership,” he said. “They’re cool,” Sadr said, but quickly added, “They are a little different.” “They walk to the beat of a different drummer,” said Jacoby. -

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