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Home » Officer Columns » President's Message » Game Noise, Game Over; Update on Relocation; and IMA Negotiations

Game Noise, Game Over; Update on Relocation; and IMA Negotiations

  -  AFM International President

Last month, I promised to report on discussions I had in London with representatives of the British Musicians’ Union (BMU), prior to heading to Budapest for the first International Conference on Music Streaming. The purpose of my London visit was to verify the BMU’s promulgated terms, conditions, and practices covering the services of contractors, musicians, arrangers, and copyists engaged in the UK for the recording of videogame scores.

I also wanted to compare the BMU term sheet with conditions found in the new game agreement recently negotiated by the AFM with representatives of Microsoft. My interest in having absolute clarity on BMU game scoring scales was prompted by the incessant noise heard from US game company representatives, composers, and their booking agents, who, either through ignorance or deliberate misstatement of fact, have repeatedly declared that AFM agreements are too restrictive and too expensive, and that unfettered use of game scores in other mediums is available and can be cheaply bought in London.

In other words, we hear from game composers and their booking agents that game scoring sails away to London because companies can score cheaper and don’t have to pay residual fees if the score finds its way into a film, jingle or TV show, or is reused as a library track for something else.

According to the BMU, and according to spreadsheets prepared by AFM and BMU together, nothing can be further from the truth. But you have to look past BMU’s basic scale and basic rights package to get to the heart of the matter. And when you do, you’ll find that AFM rates are cheaper, and our rights package is better.

Is London game scoring scale cheaper than AFM’s? For the basic scale, yes, by $10 per hour. The hourly rate per musician in London is $90 and includes product release as a sound recording. The hourly AFM rate is $100, $115 if fewer than 25 musicians are employed. Release as a sound recording requires additional payment. But you can’t go to London and get a 100% buyout on game scores and never pay residuals.

Here’s the truth: In London, for $90 per hour companies can record a game score and use it only in the one game for which it was intended and not for any other game or film. Secondary commercial exploitation is expressly prohibited. No buyouts. No unfettered use. One caveat—companies are permitted to release game score recordings as sound recordings.

Then there are the rights packages and work rule differences. The AFM game agreement allows use of game scoring throughout a given game’s intellectual property franchise, like Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, etc. Scores can be reused in sequels. In London, companies pay higher fees for those rights.

Favorable US work rules, like unlimited amount of music that may be recorded per hour of session time (there is a limit of eight minutes per hour with BMU); more reasonable rates for leader/contractor, premium time; and UK taxes of up to 25% also make the AFM game agreement cheaper than the UK counterpart. The UK 25% project tax costs more than AFM pension and health and welfare payments.

So the next time you hear the game companies, composers, or booking agents claiming that cheaper rates and unfettered buyouts are for sale in London, tell them the game is over. When you look past the horse hockey, the AFM game agreement is cheaper and the rights package is better. We know. We heard it from the horse’s mouth.

In other developments this month, I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with symphonic media employers for a successor Integrated Media Agreement (IMA) covering 8,000 orchestral musicians who work under locally negotiated symphonic agreements. Negotiations for a new IMA began a year ago and were extremely contentious. I am pleased that our negotiating team was able to preserve all of the economic protections contained in the current IMA and also achieve terms that eliminate the use of the agreement by symphonic employers to circumvent the terms of the Federation’s industry-wide agreements applicable elsewhere in the media industry.

I am also pleased to advise that our landlord at 1501 Broadway in New York City has indicated that the Federation may negotiate for a short-term arrangement to extend the expiration of the current lease, scheduled to terminate January 2016. This development will enable the Federation to continue to cash up in anticipation of purchasing office space and work toward reduction of occupancy costs later this decade.

During the first week of the New Year, I will travel to Los Angeles to commence another round of negotiations with the motion picture TV film industry to conclude a successor agreement to our expired TV Film contract. I anticipate a successful conclusion and I will have a full report on the outcome of the IMA and TV-Film negotiations next month.

In the meantime, please accept my best wishes for a healthy and productive 2015

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