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February 27, 2009

Comments

As usual, downbeat is cleverly planting seeds for a fight. Anyone who might have such insight as to ask the questions of Dennis below surely either has the answers and is baiting Dennis, or knows exactly where to get those answers from several sources other than a blog. I suspect the former. It would appear that both protecting the downbeat identity and blog gaming are more important than placing a simple call to Dennis.

Personal yearly statements are indeed on the FMSMF website in the personal section with very strong security measures employed. They go back several years. To my knowledge, they don't track employment activity between yearly statements.

Robert,

If you'll recall, the issue I have been discussing with 802fiddler here is singular and very specific. He claimed on this forum that it is a "verifiable fact" that most of the new special payments contributions are coming from indie films. His words, not mine. I simply asked him for data to verify this, since he claimed that it was indeed a "verifiable fact". When asked for specifics, he went silent, hinted about the FMSMF report, and that's the last we've heard from him on that.

The report, as I pointed out in my post, made it crystal clear that 802fiddler's assertion was nowhere close to a "verifiable fact" and even hedged on calling it "speculation". 802fiddler has been silent, of course, as what can he say? This is not an open ended debate, it was a single request to verify a single fact that was presented by 802fiddler as a "verifiable fact". Instead, it turned out apparently to be little more than his opinion which he tried to sell as a "verifiable fact". BIG difference.

Regarding my basic questions about the FMSMF, I will leave it to Dennis to answer them or not, as is his choice. I don't know how many times I have to defend myself against insinuations by some here of a "setup". They are basic questions, and now you and others are choosing to add all kinds of ulterior motives. Is that the cost of having an opinion about issues that doesn't always agree with the "party line" around here?

As I've said before, may we please stick to the issues, and avoid the conspiracy theories? I think the issues are important enough to warrant that.

Thanks for your responses, however some of these issues - especially ones like the non-US musicians, are quite complex and deserve an answer from Dennis. While some of the other answers may be found in the CBA, a direct answer from Dennis would save us all a lot of time. I'm hopeful Dennis will be able to answer these few basic questions about the fund…As far as the questions being anything but up front, honest questions, I can only hope you haven't bought into the paranoia about me

I don’t think it’s “paranoia” to call a red herring by its proper name. It feels to me as if Dennis is being set up to be accused, as Downbeat has accused another poster, of “running for the hills” if he chooses not to engage in an open-ended debate about whatever Downbeat decides is the best way to distract attention from the weaknesses of the AFM’s argument, not to mention the fact that even a Local officer can’t find a copy of one of the AFM’s most important national CBAs on its own website.

And the questions have little or no relevance to the issues at stake between the RMA and the current administration. The performance of the FMSMF is not an issue in this debate. It certainly doesn’t seem to be an issue for the musicians who receive payments from the Fund, nor for the producers who make contributions to the Fund. If there have been any questions raised by anyone about the Fund, I’ve yet to hear of it. So why is who Dennis asks for a raise an issue here?

In addition, some of the questions are not very well framed. Take the one about “non-US musicians” being eligible for Fund distributions. Is that about musicians who are not US citizens, but who work on films done under the film CBA? Or about musicians working on films done in foreign countries under non-AFM agreements? Or about something else entirely? And why does it matter?

Lastly, and as a side note, I understand that there are many possible reasons for posters to want to maintain anonymity. But I find it ironic that someone who goes to the lengths that Downbeat does to remain anonymous would accuse another poster of “running for the hills.”

From downbeat:

"Interesting report! I think I'm starting to understand why 802fiddler ran for the hills..."

First - I don't run from the likes of you. Second - I was waiting for the FMSMF White Paper to be completed. Third - the word "understand" is dependent on the perception of the "understander," in your case tainted by your agenda no matter how innocent you claim to be.

Finally, in answer to: "...a direct answer from Dennis would save us all a lot of time."

As is said in a court of law, "asked and answered." Dennis has already spent too much time answering what is readily available to the questioner. Further, I'd like to know who pays you and how much do you get paid?

Hi Robert -

Thanks for your responses, however some of these issues - especially ones like the non-US musicians, are quite complex and deserve an answer from Dennis. While some of the other answers may be found in the CBA, a direct answer from Dennis would save us all a lot of time. I'm hopeful Dennis will be able to answer these few basic questions about the fund.

As far as the questions being anything but up front, honest questions, I can only hope you haven't bought into the paranoia about me that a few others here seem to have a chronic case of. I'm honestly interested in how the fund works, how it's managed, and what benefits it provides, including how technology is used. I urge you not to be distracted by the personality sideshow that a few here seem to revel in - let's stick to the issues.

Downbeat’s questions about the Fund could be read as a little disingenuous. I found the answers to most of his/her questions pretty quickly online, and thought I'd spare Dennis the chance to be attacked for not answering questions in a forum to which he has no responsibility whatsoever.

Who is currently on the oversight committee? Your report states "up to 3 producers".

Interesting question, but I don’t understand its relevance to much of anything. The Fund was set up pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, which would presumably include information about how trustees and members of the oversight committee were selected. Unfortunately, the relevant agreement does not appear to be posted on the AFM’s website. If Downbeat can find it, perhaps he/she could share it with us.

Who, other than the oversight committee, oversees the operation of the fund? For instance, who decides what your salary is and who would you go to in order to get a salary increase?

Another question that would be answered by access to the relevant CBA, which (again) does not appear to be posted on the AFM’s website. If Downbeat’s point is that Dennis reports to a board on which sit film musicians, and that his data is tainted as a result, he/she should say so.

Obviously Dennis has a professional interest in the success of FMSFM and the continuation of the current re-use payment scheme. I suspect he was hired because of his profound commitment to, and understanding of, that structure, as well as his immense credibility with musicians and employera alike. I suspect he, like most sane people, also understands that his job is to do what his employer asks him to do.

Do members have online access to their distribution details so they can track their specific earnings?

As Downbeat could have discovered from a quick perursal of the FMSMF website, the answer appears to be “no.” This would appear to be a desirable feature, but probably not one easily implemented with the necessary degree of security.

For purposes of comparison, the AFM-EPF only recently a similar feature on their website, and of course they are a much bigger operation, with many more AFM members who need timely access to such information. So I think the FMSFM could be cut a little slack for their not having gotten around to this yet, assuming that it is a good idea (and I could imagine that there might be reasons that it wouldn’t be.)

(Update: Since posting this comment, I've been told that there is online access to distribution details, at least through the most recent distribution.)

Are non-AFM musicians eligible for fund distributions?

The white paper directly referenced payments to non-musicians. As a matter of law, one does not have to be a member of the signatory union to work under a CBA. If payments from the Fund are a consequence of such work, then obviously non-members are eligible for such payments.

Are non-US musicians, such as European musicians, eligible for fund distributions, and must these go through some Euro society or can the musicians be paid directly?

Anyone that works under the relevant agreement would appear to be eligible for payments from the Fund. Films scored in Europe would not be done under the relevant CBA, except perhaps for sidelining and music prep work.

Thank you, downbeat, for this amazing insight and information. I guess humor just isn't your thing..........

No, REAL, I don't have any of the answers, actually. You're paranoia is really starting to show...

Online access is a common member benefit for other royalty and residual distribution organizations like ASCAP and BMI. It allows members to track their earnings and those pre-check-distribution activities which generate those earnings (with ASCAP and BMI, performances of music on film, TV and radio). Rather than taking a passive approach of waiting for your statement to come in the mail, members with online access can stay on top of your earnings to make sure that all earnings-generating activities are being appropriately tracked. With ASCAP and BMI, it's very helpful as spotting a missing cue sheet early in the process can avoid loss of income. And online access massively reduces costs as you don't have to tie up a member services person on the phone going through information verbally.

Welcome to the 21st century!

Of downbeat's latest ploy, questions to which he already knows all the answers, one, however, takes the comedy prize:

"Do members have online access to their distribution details so they can track their specific earnings?"
- What does he have in mind: hacking?

Dennis,

Thanks for the clarification and for your reasoning behind the omission of television work from much of the report. I do better understand your position on these issues.

Also, a few questions about the fund:

* Who is currently on the oversight committee? Your report states "up to 3 producers".

* Who, other than the oversight committee, oversees the operation of the fund? For instance, who decides what your salary is and who would you go to in order to get a salary increase?

* Do members have online access to their distribution details so they can track their specific earnings?

* Are non-AFM musicians eligible for fund distributions?

* Are non-US musicians, such as European musicians, eligible for fund distributions, and must these go through some Euro society or can the musicians be paid directly?

Thanks very much for the information - very helpful in better understanding the role of the fund.

Dennis, while I understand that your clarifications are for the record, you are wise indeed not to get into further pissing contests with 'downbeat' and 'anotherrecordingmusician'. They don't seem to have noticed that they are lone voices on this blog. Regardless of anything presented, these two characters just revert to their playbook: the twisted 'arguments' where only recording musicians (especially those in LA) lose.

While my position as Administrator of the FMSMF demands neutrality, I am nonetheless compelled to respond to some statements in recent postings.

First, while television wages are included in some of the tables, the White Paper as a whole is purposely focused on mainstream theatrical motion pictures (which also increasingly include large numbers of low-budget and independent films) so that true “apples to apples” comparisons could be made. A study of television employment would be more appropriately conducted by the Federation and affected Locals. While we do capture a great deal of information on covered television programs, FMSMF obligations are not as major or consistent a component of the data captured by the Fund as are theatrical motion pictures, and therefore, are generally not included in much of the report. I don’t believe any credible observer of the motion picture industry would expect to include adult films or other fringe elements in any serious study. Nor did we.

I have often seen it inaccurately reported that I stated at a “meeting at Local 47 that when recording musicians receive money [from the Fund] they [should] pay dues…PERIOD.” This is not correct. I was asked whether or not distributions from the Fund were royalties, similar to payments composers receive from ASCAP or BMI, and if so, shouldn’t those payments from the Fund be made without any taxes taken out. I responded that payments from the Fund are considered by the IRS to be a form of residuals (as opposed to royalties) or a delayed wage payment. As such, taxes (both the employer’s share and the employee’s share) must be deducted prior to making a distribution to a Participant. I specifically declined to comment on either an assessment or work dues on payments from the Fund as inappropriate in my role as Administrator.

I will not respond to any personal attacks. Nor will I comment on any individual interpretation of the report. Rather, I will let the data (which I completely stand behind) speak for itself.

Well, anotherrecordingmusician, I for one believe that the numbers included in the "report" are accurate - I'm sure for the major bucks that Dennis is paid, he's going to get the correct numbers for those stats he chose to include. But it's not the complete picture - huge markets like television are selectively omitted from key aspects of the report, like the AFM/non-AFM comparisons. Overall, what's included is correct, but seems to be very selectively chosen numbers and statistics designed to "sell" why Dennis & Co. are doing a good job.

As an example of how selective this report is, it is limited to those American produced films that received MPAA ratings - generally theatrical, commercially released films. According to the MPAA, 478 American produced films were given ratings or a "no-rating" designation by the MPAA in 2006, for example. However, if you look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_films_of_2006 you'll see a list of over 1,200 American produced films released in 2006, and that doesn't even include the estimated 4,000-11,000 adult films made every year (see http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1892037#pmed-0040126-b001 for details on this. So the data clearly shows that the report is only looking at a small fraction of the total American produced films, virtually all with either licensed music or composed original music.

To be fair, reports like this are more sales brochures without the fancy photos and glossy look than anything else, since the author has a financial interest in a report that portrays his work as positive and achieving positive results. I say this not to criticize Dennis, but to simply state the obvious. White papers written by technology companies are designed to sell the technology that the author of the paper produces, same thing here. We shouldn't expect objectivity in such circumstances - that would be unrealistic and naive.

My thought is that for truly independent, verifiable numbers, we need to look to a respected academic leader who can take a dispassionate look at the marketplace and has no financial stake in the outcome of the report. It would make a great class project for some music business college course, and with the right professor and the right set of instructions with no conflicts of interest present, should be able to present a neutral, detailed report that takes a truly objective look at the film and TV music marketplace. Until then, we can take Dennis' report for what it is - his perspective on one portion of the overall US film/TV marketplace.

LOLOLOL!,

You want everyone to accept as Gospel a report written by Dennis Drieth???? Dennis Dreith was installed in that job to protect Sandy's interests and has been a side kick of Phil and Marc's for years. Damn you folks are gullable, brainwashed,.. or both! Or actually, neither, you know the numbers cannot be trusted, but since they serve your interests you don't care, true neo-conservative right wing cheney worshipping philosophy.

Once, about a year or so ago Dennis had an attack of honesty and said in a meeting at Local 47 that when recording musicians receive money they pay dues,.. PERIOD,... haven't heard word one from him since. Phil must have threatened to take his tricycle away!

Hmmm,.. looked it over. It looks like Dennis took Phil's power point. No doubt they're doing the same with the numbers here that BUSH did with the numbers in our budget. Fuzzy math all over the place!

SOME numbers don't lie,... in the last six years money's collected in INCOME from film and tv has been down between 40-50 percent. If ALL you're talking about is the BACK-END for phil and company's July checks that might be a different story,... but in 2007 while sessions were up a tick, money was still down a futher 4% according to the Local 47 audit report. Back-end might be up, but money made from the session themselves is down EVERY YEAR for at least the last 10. That means fewer peole working, fewer splitting the money, which keeps the greedly little prigs happy as the rest of the industry falls apart around them.

Shameless,... heartless, and without any sense of ethics.

Someone's lying, and since Phil and Marc et al have a long history of making it up as they go along, I wouldn't trust anything they say as far as I could throw them.

anotherrecordingmusician wrote:

Hey skippy!, Your WHITE PAGE LINK DOESN'T WORK, How convenient...

"skippy?" I just love the paranoia. What would be the point of deliberately posting a link that didn't work? Boy, that'll fool all those gullible musicians out there, won't it?

By the way, I fixed it as soon as I came home from work tonight and saw the comments. I apologize for the four-hour delay. It really is too bad that my job keeps getting in the way of trying to deceive everyone about this stuff, isn't it?

Feh.

Interesting report! I think I'm starting to understand why 802fiddler ran for the hills when I asked him to verify his statement that it was a "verifiable fact" that most of the new special payments contributions are from indie films. Here's an interesting paragraph from the "report":

"There is little doubt that the ability to capture significant numbers of low-budget and
independent films has been a major contributing factor to the recovery of the market share.
This, in addition to capturing a number of foreign produced films gives rise to the speculation
of a continuing increase in the market share. It is very difficult at this time to quantify what
percent of the overall contributions to the Fund collections are coming from these films. "

Hmm... something is a "major contributing factor" but impossible to quantify or even approximate? Sounds more like hopes and dreams (speculation, as the report would say) rather than facts and figures... This is fuzzy logic at its best. 802fiddler, time for a retraction - what you tried to sell here as a "verifiable fact" turns out to be nothing but unverifiable "speculation", according to this report.

And the AFM/non-AFM graph that shows Seattle only scored 4 feature films in 2008? And ignores the entirety of the television and TV movie marketplaces (not to mention the entirety of Eastern Europe recording orchestras) in the AFM/non-AFM comparison? Given the television market in the US is far larger than the feature film market, I wonder what could justify ignoring that marketplace. Hmm...

And finally, let's look at the 30% overall AFM marketshare estimate the report starts out with. If I recall, that's just about what I estimated it back right here on this blog some months ago when I compared the SMF list of films with IMDB list of film titles - an estimate that was roundly criticized here as wildly inaccurate!

An interesting report nonetheless, but hardly comprehensive or illustrative of the big picture.

The link was apparently pasted twice. It should be:

http://www.fmsmf.org/WhitePaperGB2252009.pdf

Hey another.......n

The link doesn't work because it repeats the address twice in the URL bar. If you delete the repeated address, it does indeed work - hopefully Robert will fix it when he gets another 300 bar rest. Nonetheless, the report contains real data with pretty pie charts and graphs even you might understand. Have a great time reading it.

Hey skippy!,

Your WHITE PAGE LINK DOESN'T WORK, How convenient... I knew old REAL hadn't checked sqaut, just drinkin the koolaide.

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