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December 28, 2008

Comments

Hi Robert -

I based my comment re: B-list and C-list musicians on the observation that it is low- and medium-income projects that tend to be outsourced more often than big-budget studio films that are typically the purview of the top A-list players.

You wrote, regarding the SF recording musicians' decision to dump the RMA which resulted in more work for them under Lee's new contracts, "Or perhaps the San Francisco musicians have done more damage to their co-workers in LA than they have done good for themselves." This is a matter of perspective and how you value the number of musicians working as compared to the value of special payments clauses. I contend that recording work, even without all the existing restrictive special payments clauses, is still good, union recording work. I realize that those who subscribe to the "special payments or die" mantra would disagree with me strongly.

You also tend to minimize the recording musicians' lawsuit - while it's only three recording musicians filing the suit, the money and contracts at issue in the suit could easily affect hundreds, if not thousands of musicians and sessions nationally. It's not just the moneys paid to these three musicians that are at issue in the suit - not by a long shot. The financial exposure to the AFM is significant from this single suit, and we now have the recording musicians threatening even more lawsuits against the AFM (through Fareplay). Do you really believe that is a legal environment that is conducive to negotiations? Come on, Robert...

"Time to dump the lawyers and let the musicians settle things, in my opinion, before we reach the point of no return." -Downbeat

Only a sociopath would say such a thing. Only someone who wants to control the masses and have no questions asked would say such a thing.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Don't allow people who want your work as an excellent cellist, violist, etc. make us think we can fight this out without good attorneys fighting for our rights who have absolutely NO desires of their own to take our jobs!

"Time to dump the lawyers and let the musicians settle things, in my opinion, before we reach the point of no return." -Downbeat

In my opinion, only a sociopath would say such a thing. Only someone who wants to control the masses and have no questions asked would say such a thing.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Don't allow people who want your work as an excellent cellist, violist, etc. make us think we can fight this out without good attorneys fighting for our rights who have absolutely NO desires of their own to take our jobs!

Downbeat wrote:

"As another poster pointed out here a few months back, you really have to look at who the current system benefits, and who it hurts. The top-flight LA session guys are certainly benefiting from the residuals-based system to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year - there's no doubt about that. But while the rich in LA get richer with their fat special payments checks, the B-list and C-list guys are losing work fast to offshoring, Seattle, etc."

Let me repeat: assertions without facts are not data. Repeating an assertion doesn't turn it into data. I'm not saying you're wrong; you just haven't given me any reason to believe you're right.

"I think it's fairly clear that when left to only those who ARE working in the area now, they'll look after themselves primarily."

That's how unions work. The people working under CBAs are one the ones to negotiate and ratify them.

"The San Francisco area musicians dumped the RMA and embraced Lee's new contracts, and they're working much more than they used to. If that's any example, the idea that "one contract fits all" is perhaps mistaken."

Or perhaps the San Francisco musicians have done more damage to their co-workers in LA than they have done good for themselves.

Unions are often faced with a choice between maintaining compensation and job security for its working members and accepting poorer wages and job security in exchange for more people being employed. The nightmare scenario is known generically as "the race to the bottom." I sense that's what the recording musicians are most concerned about, and I think their concern may be well-founded, although in the absence of a better picture of the film scoring labor market, that's just a violist's opinion.

Downbeat goes on to write:

"..who can expect Lee to conduct proper negotiations with the recording musicians with at least one lawsuit in court and plans for more underway, financed by the Fareplay warchest?"

I don't have the right, as a member of the AFM, to expect the President to do the job he's paid to do and follow the bylaws and long-standing practices of the AFM simply because the AFM is being sued by a few members? Come on. If a member of my local orchestra sued the local and I went in and negotiated a lousy contract with the management to teach my members a lesson about suing the local, I doubt that the resulting duty of fair representation lawsuit would go well for me and my local.

Excellent commentary, Robert. Taking things a step further, while the current residual-based film/TV scales have helped core RMA players in LA, how many more AFM musicians could do film/TV scoring if there was an additional buyout scale added?

As another poster pointed out here a few months back, you really have to look at who the current system benefits, and who it hurts. The top-flight LA session guys are certainly benefiting from the residuals-based system to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year - there's no doubt about that. But while the rich in LA get richer with their fat special payments checks, the B-list and C-list guys are losing work fast to offshoring, Seattle, etc. While some say that those who aren't working in this area don't "deserve" to have a say in how film/TV scoring union agreements are formed, I think it's fairly clear that when left to only those who ARE working in the area now, they'll look after themselves primarily. The San Francisco area musicians dumped the RMA and embraced Lee's new contracts, and they're working much more than they used to. If that's any example, the idea that "one contract fits all" is perhaps mistaken.

Let's open up the market to more people by creating policies that remove the impetus for production companies to fly half way around the world to record scores when they could be recorded right here under AFM agreements! There is so much work that could be recaptured here - and so many musicians who need that good, union work that pays benefits.

Speaking of data points, there is a critical one missing from all the data quote here in recent weeks: how much work for US productions is being lost to non-AFM recording? Without knowing this, the picture is very hazy and inaccurate. Sure, Dennis can say that AFM film work is "increasing", and I believe that is true - Dennis is a straight shooter. But is it an increase from 20% to 25% of the total scoring work? 50%-70%? Just "increasing" doesn't begin to tell the story. Your idea to hire an academic to study the area would go a long way, assuming it's done completely, to answer this critical question. Marketshare here is the issue, and we are nowhere close to knowing that number.

Your point about the upcoming negotiations is also an excellent one - but who can expect Lee to conduct proper negotiations with the recording musicians with at least one lawsuit in court and plans for more underway, financed by the Fareplay warchest? Without the AFM and its legacy agreements, the PMG and the recording musicians start at square one, from scratch, with the producers. If that didn't work, the threat of a musicians' strike would only push more work offshore, onto the Internet, and to Seattle, where they'd be popping the corks and laughing all the way to the bank.

Time to dump the lawyers and let the musicians settle things, in my opinion, before we reach the point of no return.

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