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Runaway Recordings Generate Discord Among L.A. Musicians


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Publicist, your understanding is not correct about how royalties work. A few things: 1. Musicians and composers do NOT get a penny of royalties from domestic theatrical releases. Zero. The grip does

Excuse my ignorance but what is a media consultant? Is that a graphic designer? To your point: "i just find it curious to harbor the thought that i - working as media consultant and designer for sci

I never understood why a tuba player has to earn lifelong residuals only because he played on some irrelevant movie score 30 years ago. Most movies are not or not very profitable - with a few winners co-financing a lot of underperformers. I fully understand that a producer looks for ways to avoid that. The AFM is fully to blame for the current situation.

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I never understood why a tuba player has to earn lifelong residuals only because he played on some irrelevant movie score 30 years ago. Most movies are not or not very profitable - with a few winners co-financing a lot of underperformers. I fully understand that a producer looks for ways to avoid that. The AFM is fully to blame for the current situation.

Publicist, your understanding is not correct about how royalties work.

A few things:

1. Musicians and composers do NOT get a penny of royalties from domestic theatrical releases. Zero. The grip does (the guy who holds the wires of the camera). Actors do. Director, lighting, vocalists too (they are not musicians but are considered actors and covered under SAG - the Screen Actors Guild - which is the actor union). Basically if you hire a vocalist, it won't be through the musicians union but through the actors union. Musicians DO get mechanical royalties such as sale of a CD. Remember CD sales have been in free fall for a decade as downloads have increased so that isn't a reliable revenue source and the internet deals are still being hashed out. They do get TV royalties depending on the size of the market (example prime time network pays more than cable 2am).

2. Of the royalties musicians get, it is only if certain profit thresholds are met. For instance, if a soundtrack recording sells less than 10,000 cd's, the musicians do not get ANY royalties. Almost no soundtracks sell this level even by well established composers. There are a few MAJOR exceptions - Star Wars sold several million, I'm sure Frozen is in the millions but by and large only a handful of scores will get to the point of paying out royalties as part of the surpassing this threshold. Note that London Symphony Orchestra does not pay royalties to its performers. Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End sold 118,000 albums total in the past 8 years and that is a HUGE success. So that one averages out to be about 15,000 per year just to give you an idea of how hard it is to sell 10,000 plus.

3. Just like an Apple software engineer is paid in salary + stock because the work they do directly translates to the product success so they share in the profit if the product succeeds, the same should be for musicians. Professional level musicians go through extreme physical harm to get to the performance level needed to excel at this level. Most will be injured sometime in their career to the point where they are prevented from working in order to recover. This is actually common amongst any professional level musician. For instance, a trombonist has blown his lips (hernia on their lip) requiring surgery and long recovery to resume work. Such issues like hearing loss (imagine the King Kong versus T Rex battle music volume reached 115 dB sustained volume in the scoring stage and they likely had to replay that multiple times to get it to the composer and directors desires). This is what they do all the time and its plain cruel. String and percussionists typically get repetitive injuries, etc. Many brass players get blown lips/hernias in their lip as part of playing plus they had to probably put in 10,000 hours of training and many years of performance to be able to play this good. You could say that these injuries are part of the career hazard such as coal miners or police/fireman know there is a chance to be injured just by the nature of the work they do. But again, there are unions to protect them from abuse of the person who is not exposed to the harm but benefits from their efforts. Hence, the benefit should be somewhat fair and spread out.

4. The music score is a major element of a film's success. What would Titanic, Star Wars, Jaws, ET, Psycho, Gone with the Wind, Oz be without their music? It is a major contribution to the success of those films.

Almost all films lose money. A few profitable ones make enough money to keep the studio afloat for the money losers. Unless thresholds are met, royalties are not paid out. So if a movie does extremely well, the thresholds are surpassed, I would argue even the tuba player you mention absolutely deserves a cut just like the grip does. The musician fee arrangement includes knowledge that most won't get royalties unless it is a John Williams, Horner, Zimmer, Giacchino, Shore, a handful of others - but the odds are they won't get a penny beyond their very modest fees. The fees attempt to be fair (example, if you have a horn play four overdubs rather than hiring four horns, you are really still hiring four horns and should pay that single player the equivalent). Many of these musicians can only afford to do what they do because of the royalties and have a hard time agreeing to lose out on royalties. I will tell you the answers to this problem is not that difficult conceptually but rather a result of intrenched opinions and the devil being in the negotiated details. Many studios would prefer to own the music outright and are willing to pay extra for that ownership. Basically think of it as you can either pay a player $50 plus royalties or $100 and not pay royalty. This is called a buy out and is allowed in video game markets but not in Los Angeles. So many are going elsewhere to get a subpar product that achieves the basic intent but they own it fully. I am a member of the musicians union and get royalties for orchestration and score prep. I am also a composer who does not get royalties (composers are not represented by the musicians union). As a composer, I sometimes hire union musicians. I am also a business man who has to survive a cutthroat environment to retain some profit. As a result, I sometimes hire non union/cheap orchestras in Europe if its a package deal. Do they sound as good as LA orchestras? Absolutely not. 99% of people don't even notice or care about that. When I can afford to, I argue to include LA musicians and the associated AFM headaches. Generally, quantity and price is more important than quality. As a result, the AFM has a difficult time retaining scoring contracts.

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Thanks for the elaboration but i think you misunderstood: tv royalties - and they were part of the AFM compensation, what you call mechanical royalties - are much more attractive than royalties from domestic or whatever grosses since they re-occur over decades and usually are much less prone to be victims of short-term creative bookkeeping most studios apply to pinch gross participants. As such i think my point still stands: you are a hired hand called to work as professional on a given project, get paid for the job, and that's it - to me, at least. I never encountered freelancers in german - or even to my experience, american media getting compensation for a job they did 5 years ago just because it became a sudden success they may have been part of. They are not employees of the producer and why should they get the same treatment as someone who has to work, per contract, 5 days a week under strict guidelines? They are freelancers.

As for your well-reasoned pleading on behalf of the musicians i bluntly tell you one thing: this time is positively over even if you may still point at up-scale Apple contracts and so on. Globalization has positively killed that - decades ago- and if i may speak for Germany, we are at the moment on a threshold of change here in Europe; often Germany is referred to as role model of how to adapt to modern economic challenges and the truth is, we only got so far because we abolished many employee rights over the last 20 years, practically prevented all new job markets post-industrialization, like service providers etc., from getting organized in unions, anyway.

As it is, a lot of people in Germany work below any scale a citizen of France or even Italy would accept - and under often more grueling conditions (like being expected to be available on vacation, fear of losing a job, no bonuses etc.). Of course this doesn't mean we all suffer terribly, i just find it curious to harbor the thought that i - working as media consultant and designer for scientific companies - am entitled to a share of future successes just because i did a short gig for a company 5 years ago. I was paid, did my job, finished it, end of story.

That i would find the world a much nicer place if it would be more like the one you described so eloquently - no question about that. But i fear that seems more and more wishful thinking, as i see less and less proof that even the people who do the work care to fight for their rights. So with all that in mind, i think it's just - pathetic as it may sound - unfair that a freelancing Hollywood musician is entitled to something even 'normal' employees do (often) not receive. Though living in L. A. may be more horrendous in that regard, when you see all these Justin-Bieber type people wanking their way up to their posh Hollywood Hills home getting millions after millions for every tweet they've just made...

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Thanks for the elaboration but i think you misunderstood: tv royalties - and they were part of the AFM compensation, what you call mechanical royalties - are much more attractive than royalties from domestic or whatever grosses since they re-occur over decades and usually are much less prone to be victims of short-term creative bookkeeping most studios apply to pinch gross participants. As such i think my point still stands: you are a hired hand called to work as professional on a given project, get paid for the job, and that's it - to me, at least. I never encountered freelancers in german - or even to my experience, american media getting compensation for a job they did 5 years ago just because it became a sudden success they may have been part of. They are not employees of the producer and why should they get the same treatment as someone who has to work, per contract, 5 days a week under strict guidelines? They are freelancers.

As for your well-reasoned pleading on behalf of the musicians i bluntly tell you one thing: this time is positively over even if you may still point at up-scale Apple contracts and so on. Globalization has positively killed that - decades ago- and if i may speak for Germany, we are at the moment on a threshold of change here in Europe; often Germany is referred to as role model of how to adapt to modern economic challenges and the truth is, we only got so far because we abolished many employee rights over the last 20 years, practically prevented all new job markets post-industrialization, like service providers etc., from getting organized in unions, anyway.

As it is, a lot of people in Germany work below any scale a citizen of France or even Italy would accept - and under often more grueling conditions (like being expected to be available on vacation, fear of losing a job, no bonuses etc.). Of course this doesn't mean we all suffer terribly, i just find it curious to harbor the thought that i - working as media consultant and designer for scientific companies - am entitled to a share of future successes just because i did a short gig for a company 5 years ago. I was paid, did my job, finished it, end of story.

That i would find the world a much nicer place if it would be more like the one you described so eloquently - no question about that. But i fear that seems more and more wishful thinking, as i see less and less proof that even the people who do the work care to fight for their rights. So with all that in mind, i think it's just - pathetic as it may sound - unfair that a freelancing Hollywood musician is entitled to something even 'normal' employees do (often) not receive. Though living in L. A. may be more horrendous in that regard, when you see all these Justin-Bieber type people wanking their way up to their posh Hollywood Hills home getting millions after millions for every tweet they've just made...

Excuse my ignorance but what is a media consultant? Is that a graphic designer? To your point: "i just find it curious to harbor the thought that i - working as media consultant and designer for scientific companies - am entitled to a share of future successes just because i did a short gig for a company 5 years ago. I was paid, did my job, finished it, end of story"...I would respond that you really are proving my point that as part of your compensation to deliver a service as media consultant, there was a buy out so no further money is due to you. What if in addition to you having a skill that took many years of training to be able to perform there was also the fact that for you to do your work well, it is generally bad for your health. So there is a limited "window" in which you can make a living for something that is extremely dependent on years of training/practice, then you have the right to demand a share in the success, no? If you were willing to be paid 1/2 your rate on the chance that you get payment later, then we are talking about the exact same model.

Since you are German, you probably know that the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - one of the great orchestras of the world - follows a very old fashioned model on one extreme. They are managed collectively by all the members. So a tuba player has as much right to decide if a violinist should be hired as anyone else. The members are involved in every detail. If anyone is considered to join the orchestra, all the orchestra votes on it. Obviously things take a long time in that model because it is mired in red tape/bureaucracy. One can argue maintaining the reputation and legacy of that orchestra validates this approach but it also shows it can become extremely slow to adapt. On the other extreme, you have the Minnesota Orchestra where there was a major disconnect between the orchestra players and the leadership about what kind of orchestra it is in the first place. In that example, the orchestra was kept clueless about their identity, financial standings, their vision, etc., resulting in a major failure (a multi-year shut down/walk out/split). I think both models are extremes and likely to be problematic.

Sadly, I agree with you that the model of royalties is outdated and a compromise is needed. Both extremes are problematic. I just believe the solution is offering a buy out option. It would be a middle approach.

I have a somewhat complicated question for you. If a studio hired an actor to perform a character, paid him for the work, then reuse the exact scenes in subsequent footage (on lets say a sequel) - should they have to pay that actor again? Remember the actor was paid the first time - but the studio is reusing that work a second time without further payment. My question is really just in general, does that actor have the right to get paid again?

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The thing is... why should it be solely about L.A. musicians? For composers who record scores in New York, aren't their session musicians also AFM signatory? Maybe Local 47 should focus on keeping U.S. films scoring in the USA, not necessarily in Los Angeles.

And aside from cost, I'm curious as to why Seattle wasn't mentioned alongside Eastern Europe and London as part of the scoring exodus (very popular for video game scoring and a handful of studio titles). If I was an L.A. composer, I would be amendable to recording in Seattle if the companies didn't want to use AFM musicians.

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Excuse my ignorance but what is a media consultant? Is that a graphic designer? To your point: "i just find it curious to harbor the thought that i - working as media consultant and designer for scientific companies - am entitled to a share of future successes just because i did a short gig for a company 5 years ago. I was paid, did my job, finished it, end of story"...I would respond that you really are proving my point that as part of your compensation to deliver a service as media consultant, there was a buy out so no further money is due to you. What if in addition to you having a skill that took many years of training to be able to perform there was also the fact that for you to do your work well, it is generally bad for your health. So there is a limited "window" in which you can make a living for something that is extremely dependent on years of training/practice, then you have the right to demand a share in the success, no? If you were willing to be paid 1/2 your rate on the chance that you get payment later, then we are talking about the exact same model.

It entails a lot from 3-D prototyping of a technology to developing web apps and such stuff. What you say about skills and long learning curves, thats exactly what was on my mind when i said 'it's gone'. This line of reasoning is met, when i take into account conversations i have regularly with professionals from design and modelling etc., often with a pronounced 'fuck you' from employers here...of course they pay lip service to it, but its seldom applied in any way, shape or form. As such i don't see why a L. A. musician is entitled to things a musician from, say, Prague or Bratislava can only dream of. It of course would be a good thing, i just don't see it happening much and since there are foreign markets in competition with the american film industry...well, you know.

Since you are German, you probably know that the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - one of the great orchestras of the world - follows a very old fashioned model on one extreme. They are managed collectively by all the members. So a tuba player has as much right to decide if a violinist should be hired as anyone else. The members are involved in every detail. If anyone is considered to join the orchestra, all the orchestra votes on it. Obviously things take a long time in that model because it is mired in red tape/bureaucracy. One can argue maintaining the reputation and legacy of that orchestra validates this approach but it also shows it can become extremely slow to adapt. On the other extreme, you have the Minnesota Orchestra where there was a major disconnect between the orchestra players and the leadership about what kind of orchestra it is in the first place. In that example, the orchestra was kept clueless about their identity, financial standings, their vision, etc., resulting in a major failure (a multi-year shut down/walk out/split). I think both models are extremes and likely to be problematic. Sadly, I agree with you that the model of royalties is outdated and a compromise is needed. Both extremes are problematic. I just believe the solution is offering a buy out option. It would be a middle approach. I have a somewhat complicated question for you. If a studio hired an actor to perform a character, paid him for the work, then reuse the exact scenes in subsequent footage (on lets say a sequel) - should they have to pay that actor again? Remember the actor was paid the first time - but the studio is reusing that work a second time without further payment. My question is really just in general, does that actor have the right to get paid again?

The BPO is not really an example i would cite, it's a funded orchestra and there's not much in the way of competition - cut government benefits excepted. As for the actor, well i'd say that of course is due to the business acumen of said person when his/her contract is drawn which again happens on a project-by-project basis.

Putting on a producer or studio hat i can fully understand they take the work abroad because, as i said, why should i fund one person's job with cushions 90% of the rest of the world in the same position do not receive regardless of whether it's 'the right thing to do'? Why, tell me...If the AFM has only moral ground to stand here, that's rather thin ice methinks.

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