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Home » Recent News » As Industry Shifts to Streaming, RMA Fights for Fair Compensation

As Industry Shifts to Streaming, RMA Fights for Fair Compensation

  -  Recording Musicians Association President and Member of Locals 47 and 802

In November, we will be going back to the table with the major film and TV studios, negotiating on behalf of the thousands of musicians whose livelihoods depend on preparing and performing music for motion pictures, broadcast TV, and streaming shows. This multi-billion-dollar corporate industry has been shifting steadily to streaming. Just this year, Amazon bought out the historic MGM, and Warner Bros. has been reorganized as Warner Bros. Discovery, orienting all its new executive lineup toward streaming.

This leaves musicians with no choice but to fight for fair compensation. As things stand, musicians suffer significant pay cuts when they work on streaming shows, and the pace of change is speeding up. In 2019, less than a third of our TV wages were from streaming shows; by 2021 those pay cuts apply to fully half of our TV work.

Rank-and-file musicians in Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere are meeting and planning, and the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) is committed to supporting their activism.

To begin with, the need to organize for contract campaigns is matched by the need to ensure compliance with the CBAs. Film and TV scores have been outsourced in violation of our contracts, costing musicians, locals, the AFM, and our US pension fund millions of dollars. Our AFM leadership has been staunch in its support of the contracts, but that work is never-ending.

In 2020, musicians employed under our Live TV/Videotape contract won a historic new streaming residual for advertising supported video on demand (YouTube, etc.), yet some of the networks still haven’t begun paying musicians what they owe! RMA has been there every step of the way, supporting AFM efforts to ensure that companies honor their obligations to the musicians they employ.

RMA has also been focused on legislative goals; first among them, passage of the American Music Fairness Act. We continue to work closely with AFM Legislative and Political Director Alfonso Pollard, locals, musicians, and SAG-AFTRA, in support of this bill. As we have shared with you previously, it would unlock millions of dollars in royalties for US musicians who have worked on sound recordings played on AM/FM radio.

Another longstanding legislative goal involves film/TV tax credits. The same companies that we bargain with for fairness in streaming are granted billions of dollars each year by states and provinces, even as they are allowed to take the music scoring that our tax dollars underwrite overseas. Just last December, a blockbuster Netflix movie was filmed on the streets of Los Angeles. Netflix was given a cool $20 million by the state of California—and the music jobs all ran off to London. Imagine the organizing power we could wield if the companies had to score domestically! RMA will continue to shine a spotlight on these abuses of public trust.

This will be my last IM column on behalf of the RMA. In January, I was elected vice president of AFM Local 47. We are in the process of planning an RMA Conference to elect a new president. It has been an honor to serve my colleagues and musicians through the vehicle of our player conference, and a privilege to be surrounded, supported, and uplifted by so many gifted and dedicated musician leaders and activists. Our committees have done stellar work.

We have a new generation of younger and more diverse leaders, and I’m confident that the RMA will continue to play a crucial role in our union’s approach to electronic media. I’m thrilled with the opportunity to contribute in a new role and look forward to continuing the work of empowering our musicians and strengthening our union.

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