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December 28, 2008

Comments

Let’s take a look at the IMDB website and see what it really tells us.

1] It is divided into sections of 200 entries each. There is no correlation between any selected group of 200 and the remainder of the list; they are as different in content as any could be. It is certainly not possible to determine anything from a casual look at one or two lists of 200 entries that comprise the total productions for the year.

2] It would be a mistake to assume that all of these productions are ‘scored’ by live musicians. This is far from reality.

3] A huge proportion of the list, perhaps even a majority, is videogame productions. This is an area that has been problematic to capture from the beginning, with the geniuses in the AFM doing its level best to undermine all the work done so far in gaining a share of this work. It’s hard to believe that the AFM has captured much of this market recently, especially since the disastrous AFM no-holds barred agreement, arbitrarily put into effect alongside the one already in place.

4] RMA was responsible for developing the original AFM videogame scoring contract to begin with. The AFM under Tom Lee showed NO INTEREST in the potential market whatsoever. However, now the AFM wants to claim it as their brainchild.

5] The other large component of the IMDB listings are TV productions, an area that has disintegrated for AFM scoring, and for which the AFM shows no interest in recapturing. Instead the union seems intent on decimating feature film scoring, a tiny percentage of the total, no matter how you slice it, along with the livelihoods of those who do this work.

6] In the absence of any knowledge of statistics coming from within the AFM, casual visits to the IMDB website and swiftly drawn conclusions are a pretty lame excuse for accuracy and facts.

AFM members should be very wary of any ongoing efforts to destroy the film scoring contract, one of the few areas where the AFM can claim a significant success, especially with the upcoming film negotiations so close at hand.

While providing facts that can be of use to all of us in understanding our own union is important, the discussion here is clearly centering on contract proposals for an upcoming negotiation. It seems irresponsible and self-defeating for that to take place in this public venue. This seems all the more dangerous because there is one loud voice here, downbeat, who is lobbying for serious weakening and damage to the contract involved. Even worse, that loud voice is anonymous, so, putting aside his own self-description (which is ridiculous), we have no idea who he is.

Is this any way to run a negotiation?

Putting aside the damage that this public conversation could do to our negotiations, let’s look at the facts here. If you scroll down you will see that I gave real numbers about Canadian employment based on work dues paid. Let’s repeat:

Here are Federation work dues for MPTV.
1. 2001 L.A=$332,663.96, NY=$10,657.78, Canada=$1,766.69
2. 2002 LA=$320,596.66, NY=$11,595.76, Canada=$1,135.11
3. 2003 LA=$342,146.48, NY=$14,593.11, Canada=$2044.23

Let’s put it this way. I am a section player, a successful one, but there are many AFM recording musicians who earn much more than I do. Yet even I as an individual pay more in work dues for MPTVF than the whole country of Canada combined.

Downbeats’ quotation of an anecdote from David Jandrisch notwithstanding, the Canadian experiment has been a failure.

Finally, a central propaganda tactic of downbeat is pretty clear here. He accuses everybody else of his own behaviors.

He spends paragraphs talking about me as an individual, then preaches that “Sessionman, as much as you'd like to make this about me, it isn't about me”. Downbeat trots out anecdotes and contradictory assertions, then hides behind “Is that the truth, or is that avoiding the truth and focusing on a few talking points and incomplete, reference-less statistics?” In fact, downbeat seems to follow the strategy of accuse others of your own misdeeds, facts be damned.

Let’s put this all aside for a moment.

This morning I am reflecting on the past year. Remembering the musical giants as well as personal friends who we lost in 2008. Remembering the historic and ennobling victory of Obama. Also remembering the little things, the mundane, the everyday, music, family, friends, that give meaning to our lives. I also remember walking on a picket line with striking writers in LA during a 4 month long strike, a strike that courageously and successfully ensured real gains for our colleagues in the motion picture industry.

I do wish all of us a wonderful 2009.

Well, "sessionman", I assume you have your reasons for posting anonymously just as I do. Marc's been avoiding PMG questions, avoiding overall AFM marketshare questions, and avoiding any discussion at all about the actual amount of work leaving the AFM and exactly who is helped and who isn't helped by the current AFM contracts. Is that the truth, or is that avoiding the truth and focusing on a few talking points and incomplete, reference-less statistics?

I don't deny that Marc is a successful, full-time working musician. Good for him! But how many other musicians have been made to sacrifice through lost work to non-AFM locations in order to keep Marc and his pals hip deep in special payments due to the "residual clauses for all films" position of the AFM? Hey look, Marc and his "real players" (his term) have got a great deal with the current system, and I don't blame them at all for fighting tooth and nail, saying anything, suing the AFM, creating a financial warchest (Fareplay), creating a competing organization to the AFM (the PMG, which he's the VP of but won't talk about), attacking Lee personally, etc in order to hold on to his current deal. But just don't expect the rest of the AFM to just roll over and submit to the arrogant demands and bullying/threats/lawsuits of a relative few simply because they're currently doing well. If they hate the AFM so much, let them jump ship and start from scratch with the PMG, as is apparently their standby plan anyway. There are plenty of talented, loyal AFM musicians ready to work good paying AFM sessions under new contracts that attract new work, not drive it away. Just ask the San Francisco players if you doubt this!

Plus, if the policies were different, there might be a LOT more players working more sessions (see the Canada stats), and that would dilute the political power of those who currently do "well" at recording.

Sessionman, as much as you'd like to make this about me, it isn't about me - that's one of the reasons I'm anonymous here. This is about issues, AFM contracts, and the future. That's a much bigger and more important subject than any one personality or person here. February will be about moving forward or clinging to past, outmoded, non competitive deals. I think you know where I stand. As I said to Marc, I think at this point we need to "agree to disagree" as I'm sure Robert would like to move on to other topics. It's been fun.

This is an amazing debate to watch.In one corner we've got Marc Sazer, a successful , full time working musician that obviously understands the business we are in and defends his agenda with cold hard facts.(and uses his real name) In the other corner we've got Downbeat , who claims he's been knee deep in it for a long time but spouts the AFM rhetoric we've heard from Tom Lee, Sam Folio and Jay Shaffner over the past couple of years.
I applaud Marc for standing up for what's fundamentally the truth.

After following Downdeats diatribes submitted anonomously I too begin to wonder. What's Downbeats agenda here. If he feels so strongly about all of this why doesn't he reveal himself.

The same old word games, Marc. Saying something has "grown" doesn't tell you the big picture. How about you get an accurate number of the number of film and TV productions that recorded AFM in 2007 instead of blowing a bunch of smoke with your "grown" word tricks. Would that be "grown" from 10% to 15% of the market? You don't list a single number, yet you say marketshare has grown. Hmm.. that's mathematically impossible to say with certainty unless you know the entire size of the market. You can say that AFM contracts have grown, but if the overall market has grown at a faster rate, AFM marketshare could actually be shrinking even if the dollar value of contracts or the qty of contracts has increased.

Let's get some cold, hard numbers here, Marc. How many Film, TV and Videogame productions recorded AFM in 2007? Actually, never mind, I've got some friends at the Federation I can get that data from since you're obviously not interested in those facts.

And by the way, yes, I do have an agenda: more AFM work with union benefits for more AFM musicians. It worked in Canada according to the AFM VP there, it worked for the San Francisco area AFM musicians once they embraced Lee's new contracts, it will work for the rest of the AFM. Your friends may be "thriving" given your connections (and talent, I've heard you're a very good player!), but there are a lot of musicians suffering now because of the lost work to overseas and Seattle, and jamming restrictive residual clauses down the throats of every filmmaker from tiny indies on up is NOT the way to fix that. On that, we must agree to disagree.

So much smoke. Such silly mirrors. What is downbeat’s agenda, after all?

I know that in 2002 the selfsame quoted David Jandrisch wrote a secret letter to AFM President Lee abrogating IEB policy on Canadian films. Lee kept that dramatic change in policy from the IEB illegally. The upshot was that the AFM gave up real oversight of any of the Canadian activities, some of which clearly involved cheating. I was present at a meeting in Toronto when this was exposed, and the IEB realized the depths of Lee’s duplicity.

And still Canada is running in the red, and U.S. workers are subsidizing their activities.

And all the IMDB and Wikipedia only reinforce the bottom line. Wipe away the smoke. AFM market share has grown over the past three years, especially for the kind of small films that downbeat purports to be interested in. AFM market share of all size films has grown over the past three years.

Let’s say that again. AFM market share has grown over the past three years.

That is because of the logic of the business we work in - it is precisely the smallest productions that most benefit from a residuals structure, that would be most harmed by buyouts.

Smoke. Mirrors. Cowardly anonymity. Agenda.

Happy 2009.

OK, some facts. According to IMDB, there were 10,742 films, videogames, and episodes of TV produced by US production companies in 2007. Here's the link to the list:

http://akas.imdb.com/List?year=2007&&countries=USA&&tv=on&&heading=8;2007;USA&&related=8;2007;2007;USA;USA&&nav=/Sections/Years/2007/include-bycountry

According to the fmsmf.org website, 126 films and TV series from 2007 were listed in their "all titles paid to-date" listing. I expect that number does not represent all the AFM-recorded projects for 2007, so let's be really generous and multiple it by 10 to 1,260. Perhaps Marc Sazer will get us a more accurate number.

On the IMDB list, of the first 200 entries, 10 were TV episodes. Using that as an estimate of the number of TV episodes in the list, that would indicate that 538 of the 10,742 film and TV listings on the IMDB list were episodes of TV shows. Since the fmsmf.org list doesn't break out individual episodes, we'll discount the IMBD list by 538, leaving 10,204. Next, let's make an estimate of the number of short films and porno films that are listed there and eliminate them - perhaps 30% being generous. That takes us down to 7,142 studio & indie film and television productions from the USA for 2007.

By this admittedly rough estimate, that would indicate an AFM marketshare of 17.6% of films, TV productions and videogames, leaving over 80% of film, TV productions and videogames from USA companies being recorded non-AFM. Again, I welcome any constructive suggestions as to improving the accuracy of these estimates.

Another interesting fact is that there were 215 US wide-release films in 2007 - here's the link to the list:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_in_film

Of those 215 wide-release films for 2007, only a portion appear on the fmsmf.org list. This underscores the need to really come up with some accurate numbers in terms of AFM marketshare of film, TV and videogame projects done by USA companies. Words like "successful", "increasing" and "thriving" only mean something when you know the actual marketshare numbers. And you can bet the film and TV producers have people working on figuring this out in advance of the February AFM negotiations, so we had better be prepared.

Now, PMG VP Marc Sazer will probably chime in about how many of the films on the IMDB list "made no money" etc and shouldn't be worthy of discussion, but I disagree. It's exactly these types of productions that are being turned off by the AFM's residual clauses. If these productions aren't going to make any money anyway, why not do a low-budget buyout scale and create GOOD UNION WORK from the sessions, get the money now instead of waiting for residuals that will never come from these productions, helping more people get benefits and qualify for insurance, and providing more income for the AFM to expand awareness and do all the things they should be doing.

I am not advocating any changes for the big-budget stuff the recording elite in LA are doing - clearly that small slice of the business (quantity-wise) is doing fine. But if this data is anywhere close to being accurate, a huge number of USA films, TV productions and games are not being recorded AFM. And that's the growth area - that's the area where we can create positive, significant growth in the number of AFM sessions and the number of employed AFM musicians. And imagine even if only a small amount is paid in to the AFM for each of these thousands of productions - what a difference that would make to the AFM as well as musicians.

Poor Marc, he just keeps throwing up words like "increasing, record, etc" as "facts" when reference-less words like that are all but meaningless in terms of seeing the big picture. It's a cheap word trick politicians like to use - like when they say they're "cutting expenses" when they'are actually only reducing planned increases in expenses.

What's the AFM marketshare of indie film recording, Marc? That's the fact that matters. That's the fact that reveals EXACTLY how much work is going non-AFM due to the current agreements. That's a truth I doubt you want to know (or want anyone else to). You can say something "tripled" but if it went from 10% to 30%, that's a far more revealing statistic. From the people I talk to, admittedly many of whom are not on "the list" in LA that "real players" (your term) are on, they've seen a big decline in work, production companies are explicitly (in contracts) now forbidding AFM recording on some films now, yet you and your pals are "thriving" - well, good for you! But let's not forget the "little people" that have the talent but aren't as well connected as you are currently.

Tony, thanks for the correction- I did not realize the Seattle $50k fine was enacted under Mr. Fuentealba. I stand corrected on that.

Speaking of not providing facts, no answers from you yet on the PMG. Hmm... And to answer your earlier question, no, I'm not an employer (although I've contracted a few small sessions). I'm a musician (30+ years performing and recording), ex-RMA member, and am sick and tired of seeing so much work for US productions being done non-AFM. It's killing players who are getting dropped from the insurance plan due to insufficient AFM work, not to mention the loss of income. Your rosy picture of a "thriving" AFM recording world is limited to your own group of well-connected pals, apparently. If you ever looked at the big picture nationally, not to mention made the slightest attempt to quantify the amount of work being done non-AFM, I doubt your "thriving" description would fit.

Regarding Seattle, we could probably put them out of business tomorrow with a low-budget buyout scale, just like Canada. Speaking of Canada, here's an interesting fact:

"Canadian film productions (television and theatrical) have increased from an average of 17 per year to 160 productions in the last two years! [since the passage of the Canadian low-budget buyout agreement by the IEB] Why? Because the producers like the paper signed by the AFM that gives them a "clean buy" on their final product."
- David J. Jandrisch, AFM Vice-President from Canada

With such a massive success rate, I wonder why that couldn't be tried on a probationary basis in the USA? What this really comes down to: how much low budget work are we ready to drive away to Seattle and Eastern Europe in order to keep fattening the wallets of the LA elite recording musicians - the ones who statistically are benefiting the most from the current "residual clauses required" approach of the AFM in regards to film/TV work? Is unionism really about protecting the richer members while adopting policies that penalize the lesser-earning members? It is if you're one of the richer members, I guess.


Poor downbeat. What a downer. I (and others) offer up facts, and poof! they disappear into a cloud of downbeat smoke.

Here is an excerpt from the April, 2008 Film Fund Newsletter, completely and thoroughly based on - yep, you guessed it - facts! Data! Reality! This newsletter was sent to all the participants. Did you read it?

"...despite yet another year of significant declines for the motion picture studios in the home video market (mostly DVD sales), the Fund ended its fiscal year with a record high of more than $82 million in contributions.

You are no doubt asking “How is this possible?” The answer is very simple: the number of pictures scored under the AFM motion picture agreement is steadily increasing. While we have seen a gradual decline in television employment, both in terms of the number of musicians employed and the number of AFM covered programs, employment under the motion picture agreement has been steadily on the rise for the past three years, especially for low-budget and independent films. The increases to the Fund we are experiencing are due in large measure to the success in capturing these areas of production since the last round of bargaining between the AFM and the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). In fact, even though the film industry has been releasing fewer films overall annually during the last few years, the number of films scored under the AFM has increased: the number of new films from which first-time payments are coming into the Fund is at an all-time high."

Read the Newsletter here

Meanwhile, we are still subsidizing Canada's red ink.

What is your agenda, downbeat?

Downbeat continues to attacks the facts, and offers none:

1] The $50,000 fine was enacted by Victor Funtealba during the 1980 film strike.

2] The Seattle fine was never promoted; it's dormant, merely continued. The AFM never did anything.

3] The action the AFM took was just to get people's attention, with zero follow-through.

4] Downbeat goes on and on with non-supported data, while targeting people who actually do perform work under AFM contracts, instead of AFM musicians in Seattle doing non-union work. Now that's curious.

5] Downbeat calls actual data "puff", while he hasn't delivered one piece of data yet.

Marc, one simple question: What percentage of all US indie films are currently scored under AFM contracts? Without that data, phrases like "world record" are all puff. Since you obviously have inside access to AFM contracts, how about you tell us how many AFM Indie film recording contracts were processed for 2007, and I'll then go find out the total number of indie films produced in 2007, and we'll see just how successful the current AFM contract is. I'm ready to live by whatever those results reveal - are you?

If the AFM contract really was "thriving", we wouldn't have major films and a lot of indie films recording in Seattle and Eastern Europe. If the AFM contract was really "thriving", why did the AFM promote a $50,000 fine for AFM members working on films recorded in Seattle? While actors, writers and directors can't be offshored, music can and is. That's something you seem to refuse to understand, curiously. The other Hollywood unions have no loyalty and no allegiance to the AFM, so forget about that leverage.

Alas, still waiting for answers to those PMG questions, Mr. VP...

The presentation that “indie” films are somehow not able to participate in a residuals-based business model is just plain wrong. Bad facts, and bad unionism.

Let’s take a look.

The motion picture basic agreement, at 251.86 for a three hour single session, is already the most inexpensive of the AFM basic agreements. The low budget rate of 187.99, and the low-low budget rate of 161.65, are not only demonstrably competitive, but demonstrably successful. The world-record number of projects scored AFM over the course of the current contract is proof. And the reason for the success of the current structure is obvious to anyone with actual workplace knowledge.

The structure of wages throughout the film and tv industries for all the different arts and crafts is uniform; low upfront wages, with profit participation in the form of residual payments – after, if, and only if, profits flow.

The smallest and tightest package budgets are the projects most dependent on a delayed compensation system; they are least able to pay substantial wages up front.

Downbeat, I don’t know if you are an employer, a contractor, or what. Your zeal to “fix” the one AFM contract that is thriving, however, betrays an agenda.

Is there one question in this loaded survey (#2 since the 7/21 survey at Legacy Sound didn't produce 802's and the AFM's desired results) not associated with some form of givebacks? It seems that 802 wants to go to film negotiations with a laundry list designed to "recapture" work it hasn't had since the early '90s. It was pointed out at the Legacy Sound meeting that one or two productions in a given year could raise or lower NY's percentages significantly because of the small number of film dates done here. Marc Sazer's post on statistical data tells the story

This survey has evidently been sent only to those approx. 196 NY musicians eligible to ratify the Film/TV agreement. Most of these eligibles who play in Lincoln Center orchestras have little knowledge or concern re: the current film business brouhaha surrounding the RMA and AFM.

Survey : Questions 12/28/08 8:29 PM
Film Work Survey from Local 802 AFM

This survey will be used by Local 802 representatives to apprise the AFM bargaining caucus in the upcoming film negotiations (Feb 18 to 28) as to the interests of Local 802 members. Your responses will be tabulated to assist the 802 reps at the film negotiations. This survey tool we are using is set up to allow for one unique respondent per e-mail address and is completely anonymous. Your identity will not be known unless you identify yourself in a response. You can only fill out this survey once. Please do not leave this survey page without completing the questionnaire as you will be denied a second viewing of this page. You can print this page for your files.

1. As you are probably aware the other unions in the film industry, The Writers'
Guild, The Directors' Guild, IATSE, AFTRA and SAG have focused their recent
negotiations on the issues surrounding new media uses. AFM President Tom Lee
has written to all AFM recording locals, suggesting that the AFM also primarily
focus on these issues to be sure that AFM members also receive at least as
much in an economic settlement as the other entertainment unions. Do you
generally agree with this tactical approach to serve our interests?

Yes
No
Other
Comment:

2. Labor economists tell us that union density, the percentage of labor that is
unionized in any sector, greatly influences a union's ability to protect current
contracts and achieve improved contract terms. Little support exists for any
changes, other than improvements, in contracts with the studios and producers of major motion pictures. However, the growth of non union production undermines the standards in all union contracts. Do you agree or disagree that the AFM should focus on bringing non-union work in small market indie, foreign and cable television film while leaving major films alone?

agree
strongly agree
not sure
disagree
disagree strongly

Independent mass market film Indie Films, small market under $15 million budget, Foreign Films, Made for cable TV films
Comment:

3. If we find that there is agreement that there is need for other terms and without impacting the current film agreements, what, if anything, should we do about that? Would you be agreeable to work under a sliding scale which pays a gradually reduced hourly rate as the number of "musician hours" on a recording project increase? (similar to London)

agree
strongly agree
not sure
disagree
disagree strongly

Indie Film, large market Indie Film, small market under $15 million budget,
Foreign Films, Made for cable TV films
Comment:

4. Understanding that most television film does not generate significant secondary market payments, would you be agreeable to working for an upfront combined use payment (significantly more than basic scale) for TV film only in lieu of having the opportunity to receive residual payments from secondary markets (home video & television)?

agree
strongly agree
not
sure disagree
strongly
disagree

Indie major market film
Survey : Questions 12/28/08 8:29 PM

Indie small market film, under $15 million budget, Foreign Films,
Made for cable TV Films
Comment:

5. Would you be agreeable to working for an upfront combined use payment in lieu of receiving new use payments for soundtrack album sales in excess of 15,000 units?
agree, strongly agree, not sure, disagree, disagree strongly

Indie Films
Foreign Films
Made for cable TV Films
Comment:

6. What about a similar fixed rate for overdubs?
agree, strongly agree, not sure, disagree, disagree strongly

Indie Films
Foreign Films
Made for cable TV Films
Comment:

7. Please add any additional comments about these matters you would like the union to consider.

Finish

But Marc, you need to take a closer look at indie films in and outside of Hollywood.

There are way, way more indie films being made now than "Hollywood" films. For every major "blockbuster" film, there are probably 50+ indie films made, and those filmmakers need to be considered in AFM agreements that currently are tailored for big-budget, big-orchestra films - the kind that are diminishing in frequency in favor of indies. The NY situation highlights the plight of indie filmmakers, and is something that the AFM needs to listen to. Because of the "strings attached" requirements of AFM agreements, some production companies choose to record buyout because their chances of getting a distribution deal for their film may be affected by having an AFM contract attached.

Cumulatively, the number of indie films dwarfs the number of big-budget "Hollywood" films. While they might not have 100-piece orchestra budgets, if you start adding up the number of players on all those small-orchestra sessions, even if only a handful of musicians are used for most of these, the numbers would be significant just based on the quantity of those films. And it's exactly this type of film that is most likely to be scared off by the AFM's residual clauses and opt for offshore recording or Seattle.

It's time to stop the mindset that "big Hollywood films" are all that matter, and that you're not a "real player" unless you're on the A-list big studio LA film sessions. It's a new era, and indie films are doing big things as budgets for blockbusters are getting harder and harder to get approved in today's economy. The growth in the film business is NOT in blockbusters, it's in indie films with smaller budgets.

It's interesting to see how you overlook the #1 growth area of the film business in your haste to create some sort of class envy between the "real players" as you call them, and others who are just as talented (or more talented) and aren't politically or geographically (SF players!) fortunate enough to be on "the list" in LA. That kind of arrogant, snarky elitism is exactly what's creating a lot of the problems we have today with the AFM, and is exactly the opposite of what unions are supposed to be about.

Finally, I guess I should have known better than to expect you to answer a couple of basic questions about the PMG. Your silence on that issue speaks volumes as to the apparent hidden agenda of that organization, whose stated mission at http://www.professionalmusiciansguild.org duplicates the AFM. And you wonder why Lee & Co are hostile towards you when you're VP of an organization whose mission statement is in direct competition with the AFM???

So here we go with those pesky facts again.

It is no secret that the motion picture and television film negotiations are looming in two months. Clearly some folks are carving out bargaining proposals here, anonymously, in the most cowardly way. They could be employers. They could be officers. How could you know? Cui bono?

Here are some cold, hard facts.

There is no major film scoring industry in New York, nor in Canada. Hollywood films tend to be scored in Hollywood (surprise!), and increasingly, foreign and independent productions are scored in Hollywood.

Here are Federation work dues for MPTV.

1. 2001 L.A=$332,663.96, NY=$10,657.78, Canada=$1,766.69
2. 2002 LA=$320,596.66, NY=$11,595.76, Canada=$1,135.11
3. 2003 LA=$342,146.48, NY=$14,593.11, Canada=$2044.23

Is the picture getting clear yet? The industry is in LA. Not New York. Not Canada.

From 2001 to 2005, work dues in New York from Jingles were down 15%, work dues from Sound Recordings were down 8%, Live TV down 16%. The smoke throwers want you to think that film production has the same economics or dynamics as post-production and scoring. Here is a fact. NY MPTVF dues were UP slightly during the same time period. (In reality, there has always been such a small amount of scoring in NY that one or two projects either way make the whole year look different.)

Meanwhile, we subsidize Canada.

Happy New Year to the real players.
Happy New Year to the smoke throwers, too.

Someone I know, a NY studio musician, sent me this email about the terrible state of recording there.
His email is the first one below, and then he enclosed another email that he received from the
president of 802.
I think these speak for themselves, and the info is easy to verify.

Note these 2 sentences in the last email: " ... many production companies have been farming out their film scoring work to orchestras in London and Ireland, and to many countries once behind the Iron Curtain, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Poland.
If not effectively addressed and remedied, this hemorrhaging of creative work will irreversibly damage the artistic and economic landscape of New York City."


Sincerely,
'slideman' (I wish to remain anonymous, because of all the character attacks around here)


(this first email is from a NY studio musician)

"The email, which I copied at the bottom, from 802 president Landolfi (and many others), should make it clear to anyone that the state of recording in NY is in very bad shape. One composer after another complains how they are forced to go out of NY to do it NON-AFM, to avoid our contracts.

This was sent out last July (08). I received the same email from several sources, 802 officials, composers, and a prominent engineer.
I have enclosed the email in whole (but I have eliminated the 20 or so names that were on it. These were NY contractors,
engineers, studio owners, players, producers, 802 officials, for their privacy). Anyone who has seen it will know that it is a true copy.
You can contact the President of 802 for verification if you like.

There was a big meeting here in July to address this alarming loss of business.
We have lost almost all of the best studios that can accommodate large ensembles in recent years, all due to less and less business.
Names like Sony, Hit Factory, and the place where the meeting was held, Legacy.

NY has a healthy film/TV production business, but the music is now pretty much done in prague, Seattle, London, etc.

Though the note is addressed to the "film community", everyone here deals with all different aspects of recording for all sorts of aspects of the business,i.e. CDs, TV, commercials, etc.

Go to these links online to the 802 Allegro paper for more on this. You will see some actual stats there.

For the 802 site click here - http://www.local802afm.org/frames/fs_news.cfm?xPublication=70606914
then go to the left column and click on the "publications and press releases".
Both the September 2008 link, and the October 2008 link, have many articles, as well as the "musician's voice",
which are letters to the editor. Plenty to read there."


(the 802 president Landolfi email is below.)


< From: Mary Landolfi
To:
Subject: Meeting of the New York Film Music Community
Date: Jul 8, 2008 12:35 PM
Please Join Us for a Meeting of the New York Film Music Community
July 21, 2008 at Legacy Recording - Studio A-509

New York is at serious risk of losing the creative and technical infrastructure currently in place to service music production for film. This support includes the experienced community of talented recording musicians and engineers, and the recording studios whose work helped define it as the cultural capital of the world. As it stands, many New York City recording studios with the space to accommodate film scoring and post production, have already closed while others are in jeopardy of shutting down.

Over an 18-month period between July 2005 and December 2006, film production spending increased in Connecticut by nearly $440 million. By contrast, in the 12 month period since July of 2006, New York lost $750 million in film production spending. This downward trend has continued into 2008 with no change in sight. Moreover, many production companies have been farming out their film scoring work to orchestras in London and Ireland, and to many countries once behind the Iron Curtain, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Poland.

If not effectively addressed and remedied, this hemorrhaging of creative work will irreversibly damage the artistic and economic landscape of New York City.

Our objective is to find solutions consistent with our standards and values to restore major recording work to New York. To that end, we invite you to join us for a roundtable discussion with studio owners, engineers, producers, film music contractors and officers from the American Federation of Musicians, Local 802 on July 21, 2008 at Legacy Recording - Studio A-509, 509 West 38th St. (corner of 10th Ave.) at 5:30 P.M. '
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A bit of clarification is in order. I don't believe residuals have ever been a component of any proposed Video game agreement.It's always understood that that would be unrealistic. Why the resid issue keeps coming up baffles me. It's always been about the lack of "new-use" provisions, that seem to be part of these "one=offs" , that are being written on a whim. Many of these Video game companies are becoming bona fide record companies. Using Lee and Shaffners porous contracts they will be capable of making records for more than half of what is called for under the phono agreement. Nashville is not happy about that. This threatens our Livliehoodhood. We do millions of dollars of record work a year and expect to have involvement in these decisions.

As far as dissatisfaction from the symphony players. What do they have to be dissatisfied about? They control their own destiny. Sam Folio, Tom Lee and J Shaffner don't negotiate and write their contracts for them.. Each Symphony has their bargaining commitee made up of people that know the business and each negotiation is done locally. Recording Musicians have to put up with contracts negotiated and written by folks who have limited if any understanding or experience in the recording world. You should know that Downbeat.

...it would be interesting to know what the Canadian contribution was *before* the low budget buyout agreement was enacted.

As I understand Marc's numbers, it's essentially zero now. It doesn't really matter if it was zero before. It appears that there's been no blossoming of work under the buyout arrangement.

What I would ask you, though, as Vice President of the Professional Musicians Guild, is how much low and medium budget recording work might be recaptured for US AFM musicians if a higher session fee buyout rate was enacted here?

If Marc could foretell the future, he'd probably be doing something more profitable than playing the violin. Even a competent study of the scoring industry would only provide hints as to the answer. What I do know is that the way to find out is not the way the AFM seems to be embarked on.

Sessionman quoted some big profit numbers for game companies - sure, they're profitable, but residual payments for musicians are not in their vocabulary for the most part - it's not like film & TV where there is a legacy and people expect to pay residuals.

Was there a "legacy" when film began to pay residuals to musicians? It would be interesting to know the history of that whole scheme, but I doubt that the film industry embraced it without some pressure from the various unions. Obviously the labor market for that work is far, far different than it was back then, so getting employers to accept the concept now would involve different strategies. But there's a reason that there are unions. The major one is that employers don't like to share. And they never did.

Seattle went fi-core years ago, then organized their own labor union which is what they work under currently for film/TV sessions. It is an alternative union to the AFM from what I understand from friends I know who work on sessions there. The one big Seattle idea from the recording musicians was the $50k fine initiative which Lee apparently went along with reluctantly - it ended up being a joke and only cost the AFM in terms of goodwill. After all how can you fine some minor orchestrator $50k for working on a Seattle film when top recording musicians have worked non-AFM in Seattle, London, etc?

While the Seattle Symphony musicians have a CBA with the SSO, the film work (which is done by some SSO musicians as freelance, as well as some non-SSO folks) is not done under any kind of CBA. It is non-union work in every sense of the word.

There have been any number of ideas - some from the RMA, some not - for dealing with Seattle. It isn't fair to say that the AFM has done nothing about Seattle - both Tom Lee and Steve Young have spent resources on the situation. But it is fair to conclude that not enough has been done over the two decades - certainly nothing commensurate with the threat to the AFM that Seattle has posed.

And it boggles what's left of my mind after years of inhaling the alto clef that one of the two major contractors of non-union film work in Seattle remains an AFM member in good standing (in a Canadian local, yet) while the AFM seems intent on crushing Marc Sazer's career for being an officer of an organization that appears to have done very little to date but simply exist.

Hi Marc -

Thanks for the interesting data - very helpful. I'm certainly not arguing that the size of the Canadian recording marketplace is anything close to the US marketplace, and it would be interesting to know what the Canadian contribution was *before* the low budget buyout agreement was enacted.

What I would ask you, though, as Vice President of the Professional Musicians Guild, is how much low and medium budget recording work might be recaptured for US AFM musicians if a higher session fee buyout rate was enacted here? Certainly that would be a big incentive not spend the time, money and hassle to record in Seattle and Eastern Europe. And any info you might provide as to the PMG's plans and purpose in all of this would be greatly appreciated.

To answer Sessionman's question, yes I'm a professional musician - 30 years performing and recording, mostly in LA. I was a member of the RMA some years ago, but didn't renew as I was concerned about the direction the leadership was taking the organization in. I have never been a Federation or Local officer, manager, or employee, just a musician.

Sessionman quoted some big profit numbers for game companies - sure, they're profitable, but residual payments for musicians are not in their vocabulary for the most part - it's not like film & TV where there is a legacy and people expect to pay residuals. Seattle went fi-core years ago, then organized their own labor union which is what they work under currently for film/TV sessions. It is an alternative union to the AFM from what I understand from friends I know who work on sessions there. The one big Seattle idea from the recording musicians was the $50k fine initiative which Lee apparently went along with reluctantly - it ended up being a joke and only cost the AFM in terms of goodwill. After all how can you fine some minor orchestrator $50k for working on a Seattle film when top recording musicians have worked non-AFM in Seattle, London, etc?

Despite what some of you may think, I'm not 100% behind everything Lee does. I just want to see an end to the costly and destructive war between the recording musicians and Lee/IEB. We all have way too much on the line to have a divided union. And I have to believe that if Lee is as bad as some here say he is, other AFM groups like the symphonic musicians and the freelance musicians, etc would be as up in arms as the recording musicians seem to be. We remain the last outfit on the planet that insists on residual clauses that date from the 1970s on film/TV recording work. That kind of isolationism and protectionism in today's economy is dangerous, especially considering the growing number of options worldwide for recording non-AFM. Yes, you can be competitive without racing to the bottom.

Marc Sazer writes:

"And all the while, Canada is running a deficit that American workers are subsidizing - $400,000 to $500,000 dollars a year."

More outrageous, this subsidy buys that great rock group, Tommy Lee and the Misfits, (IEB) votes come convention time.

There seems to be some confusion here. Downbeat has suggested that “The Canadian AFM low-budget buyout enacted in the 1990s brought in a lot more union sessions”. Let me say that I have participated in discussions of this very issue with the IEB, and I can offer some pertinent facts.

Between 2001 and 2005, all of Canada contributed a grand total of $9,178.83 in work dues to the AFM from film and television. Local 47 alone contributed $1,583,735.59 during that same time period. The full U.S. work dues from film and tv was $1,673,935.58. Let’s see, 1.7 million, versions 9 thousand.
And all the while, Canada is running a deficit that American workers are subsidizing - $400,000 to $500,000 dollars a year.

Seems like that buyout model isn’t working out so well after all.

I wish a very Happy New Year to all!

Since I've been hanging around , the AFM has not made any attempts to try and organize Seattle. I guess if they did they wouldn't be able to use them as a reason for the war against the recording musicians. As far as I know, Simon James is still an AFM member in good standing. Correct me Downbeat if I am wrong since you seem to know the inside scoop on everything.
Second point to ponder. Some people take their business overseas because they want a working vacation. AFM giveaways wont prevent that.
Hey Downbeat! Did you listen to NPR today about how the Video Game companies made 2.6 billion dollars in November and over ten billion this year. I don't understand why you think it's cool to let them use our musicians and pay them sixty dollars an hour and use the music for eternity. Check out EA's website where they resell the music that they buy for nothin.
And Downbeat, while you occasionally sound reasonable, most of the time you sound like the mouthpiece of the Federation... What exactly do you do for a living. Are you a professional musician or????

Great idea, Robert! I'll comment anonymously in order to keep the focus on ideas instead of ad hominem arguments. Similarly, we tend to respond to data we don't like by attacking the motives and character of the researcher, so using data to achieve consensus seems more than a little challenging.

Nevertheless, it's important to challenge some assumptions in order to ask the right questions in such a research project. Here are a few:

Making the existing agreements competitive with Seattle/London/Prague will result in more work for AFM musicians.

Says who? Is money the only reason composers take their scores elsewhere? What about the existing work relationships in Seattle/London/Prague? The fact that work in LA is growing, regardless of what the market share is, says that price is in fact not the deciding factor for some producers. If price is the key factor, what's to stop Seattle/London/Prague from keeping their rates competitive and thus keeping the work?

Making the existing agreements competitive with Seattle/London/Prague will result in more AFM musicians working.

There is an upper echelon in every free-lance scene, city, orchestra, etc. These are people whose reputation has earned them the first call. Contractors trust their abilities and work ethic. Why wouldn't the additional work go to the same people?

If they are already too busy to take on additional work, that suggests that the existing agreements are working, doesn't it?

Making the existing agreements competitive with Seattle/London/Prague will make the AFM stronger.

If the function of the union is to make wages competitive in the global marketplace, that begs the question of just why we need a union. Why join the AFM if you can make the same money in Seattle? The LA musicians offer some added value (quality, convenience, reputation) that some producers are willing to pay for - shouldn't the AFM have something to offer besides wage scales that are competitive with non-union musicians?

One more thing - Zorro posits that the current unpleasantness is due to "growing pains." For the record, the AFM has "grown" from about 350,000 members 30 years ago to about 80,000 today - approximately the same size as it was in 1928.

This is not just an LA thing. Nashville recording musicians are very concerned. So concerned that the voted out two standing IEB members that refused to listen to their own membership. When there is a small minority of working recording musicians(800 to 1200) that are contributing at least half of the work dues to this Federation shouldn't they be the voice of reason when it comes down to a real world understanding of the business. They are the ones that interact daily with the producers, composers , label exec's , publishers and artists. They have the relationships and the ability to get into doors. They have the RMA to represent them.
Why does the AFM refuse to take advantage of this resource, instead seeking out the disenfranchised musicians , that feel like the only to get work is to dumb down the agreements. It doesn't make sense to jeopardize millions of dollars of work done under existing agreements by allowing composers and video game companies to have buyouts whenever they want them. Even the "buyouts" granted so far have really been "sellouts" with ridiculously low upfront wages. Sounds like chasing pennies for principle.
The RMA has offered their help and resources for as long as I can remember. They have been ignored throughout this current administration. I would suggest that this "war" is being continued because the AFM leadership does not want to admit that they may be wrong in their approach.
I am concerned that this "I'll show me" approach will lead to a demise of this Federation.
When the smoke clears I would imagine that employers in the recording world will still hire the players that they feel are best for the job.

Mollie, I don't know what you're talking about. "Our" jobs? Would those be RMA jobs? Last I heard, they were AFM jobs, not RMA jobs. And as AFM jobs, every AFM member is equally entitled to fight for them and work them. Nobody gave the RMA or its members an "exclusive" on these jobs. Nobody.

Your comment flies in the face of the most basic requirement of unionism - that all union members' work be considered the same. Joe doesn't have a different scale than Bob, etc. The idea that today's recording musicians are somehow "entitled" to these jobs (vs. new recording musicians and non-recording musicians like symphony players, etc) is outrageous and destructive to the AFM as a whole, and sets up the RMA as a separate union in essence. Oops, forgot, I guess that's what the PMG is anyway, eh?

You say I want "no questions asked"? Just the opposite, actually. The first question I have is about the PMG - specifically, who formed it, what's being done with the membership fees already collected from musicians, and what the goals of this organization that, by the very definition of its mission statement as printed on its website, is in direct competition with the AFM. Nobody on this forum dares answer that one, a very telling fact. It's interesting to watch all the recording musician diehards like you go very, very quiet whenever those three little letters are mentioned... PMG. And if anyone other than the recording musicians had set up the PMG, they'd be declared public enemy #1 by the recording musicians. Instead, they're the "organization that shall not be discussed".

No, it's the recording musicians who want "no questions asked". No questions like, "The Canadian AFM low-budget buyout enacted in the 1990s brought in a lot more union sessions according to the head of the Toronto local - why don't we try it in the US?" Questions like, "Why did we shoot ourselves in the foot with the mass cancellations on the Simpsons videogame sessions in LA which drove work to SF and damaged our reputation with the game companies?" and questions like "How can we expect to negotiate with Lee when we're suing him left and right and building legal warchests to battle him and the very union we claim to be loyal members of?". Yes, lots of questions, no answers. Ready to stop posturing and discuss some actual issues like the PMG, Mollie?

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