‘This Is an Extinction-Level Event:’ Studio Musicians Fear for Their Livelihood

Labor News, Industry News

Linda Rapka/American Federation of Musicians Local 47 Musicians picket a book talk by Disney's Bob Iger on October 1 outside the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Reprinted from The Hollywood Reporter by Jonathan Handel on October 10, 2019.

The life of a studio musician in Los Angeles is becoming increasingly precarious, and the rapidly changing tech landscape may play a large role. The denial of streaming residuals — layered on top of the offshoring of large amounts of scoring work to London and Eastern Europe — has been a growing source of anger for musicians as Hollywood conglomerates make bets on direct-to-consumer platforms, with Disney, Comcast and WarnerMedia all launching efforts within the year.

And while singers (through their membership in SAG-AFTRA) receive residuals, instrumentalists are left out. “I can’t understand why residuals are OK for vocalists but not for violists,” Donald Foster, the interim Recording Musicians Association president, told The Hollywood Reporter while on lunch break from scoring a theme park ride. “It’s demeaning and it stings.”

Talks between the American Federation of Musicians and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are scheduled to resume Friday amid enduring frustration among musicians that studios deny them streaming residuals that above-the-line unions achieved in 2014.

As television’s center of gravity begins to pivot decisively to made-for-streaming product, the lack of residuals for such programming becomes more and more urgent for musicians. “This is an extinction-level event,” says Marc Sazer, long active in AFM Local 47 and the RMA, which is a related organization. “Our ability to make a sustainable living is facing extinction.” …

THR 10/10

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About Jeffrey Burman 5202 Articles
Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at jeffrey.s.burman.57@gmail.com.

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