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July 1, 2014IM -
As you know, much of my time this year has been consumed by negotiations toward agreements covering the services of our union members when recording commercial spot announcements (jingles), video games, and in symphonic electronic media. At the same time, I have been busy evaluating options for the relocation of Federation headquarters when our existing lease expires in January 2016.
My cliffhanger column last month explained the risks and rewards of continuing to pay rent compared to purchasing office space in Manhattan, space that would not only accommodate the Federation, but also generate tenant income to offset our costs of occupancy. After a thorough evaluation of the entire matter, I am pleased to advise that Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio and I have opted to negotiate an agreement to purchase an office condo located in the financial district of lower Manhattan to serve as the AFM’s new home. Sam and I will keep you updated as we move toward closing on the property. Please stay tuned to our columns for details.
On the negotiations front, I am pleased to announce that the Federation has concluded two new agreements—Jingles and Video Games—and we are making significant progress in our ongoing negotiations toward a successor Integrated Media Agreement (IMA), applicable for use only in symphonic electronic media.
On June 5, the Federation and the advertising industry reached a three-year deal that succeeded an agreement last negotiated in 2009. Negotiations with the advertisers were especially contentious because of that industry’s goal of revamping initial use and residual cycle payment schedules to conform with provisions recently obtained from SAG-AFTRA, despite the fact that wage scales applicable for actors and lead vocalists working under the SAG-AFTRA commercial announcements contract are significantly higher to begin with than those payable to musicians under the AFM’s agreement.
With the invaluable assistance of attorney Susan Davis, who is outside counsel to SAG-AFTRA and familiar with the structural changes sought by the industry, the Federation broke new ground and achieved significant gains for jingle musicians. I was particularly pleased with how Susan and a team of our expert Federation staff, rank-and-file representatives, and electronic media representatives from Locals 802 (New York City) and 47 (Los Angeles, CA) all worked together between sessions to analyze existing workplace data to create advantages that would improve our bargaining position.
Our new Jingles Agreement will extend for three years, through June 4, 2017. Progressive features of the new agreement include:
Credit for these unprecedented percentage increases must go to a legion of AFM staff, international and local officers, player conference representatives, rank-and-file participants, recording department representatives from Locals 10-208 (Chicago, IL), 47, and 802, and of course, a new attitude by the current AFM administration toward the other side of the table—that progression, rather than status quo or concession, is the rule of the day.
In the world of video games, you may recall that, when the Federation updated its existing game agreement early last year, we reached out to game publishers, requesting direct collaboration—rather than dealing with third parties—to develop an agreement that would appropriately reflect the business realities in the recording and use of original music soundtracks in the video game industry.
One publisher that answered our call for direct talks was Microsoft Corporation. From early 2013 through the spring of this year, AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, Assistant to the President Ken Shirk, In-house Counsel Jennifer Garner, and I engaged in a series of discussions in Seattle with Microsoft’s video game team to craft an agreement that would be utilized for future Microsoft game production and that could also be used by other publishers. Later, our discussions moved to Los Angeles, where we were joined by David Schoenbrun of Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) and Phil Ayling of the Recording Musicians Association and Local 47, whose input was extremely helpful.
After an exchange of tweaking over Memorial Day weekend, our talks with Microsoft were concluded and the AFM’s new Video Game Agreement was submitted for approval by the International Executive Board June 3. The new agreement is effective immediately, extends through December 31, 2016, and replaces all previous game agreements promulgated over the last several years. Most significantly, it contains new provisions that permit game publishers to use tracks recorded for a particular video game across all platforms applicable to a game franchise or series. A copy of the agreement is available at http://www.afm.org/departments/electronic-media-services-division/video-games.
As you may also recall from previous columns, the road toward a successor IMA began late last year and has been quite difficult. Our excellent team of ICSOM and ROPA Media Committee representatives, together with SSD staff, AFM Counsel Patricia Pollach, and myself, fiercely battled the efforts of an association of symphonic employers, intent on extracting unjustified concessions for media capture of orchestra services and content use. The employers are also determined to either eliminate or severely reduce a system of upfront and minimum wage payments, use restrictions and reporting, and consultation requirements that are integral features of the existing agreement.
I am pleased to report that, during two rounds of IMA negotiations in New York City last month, differences on outstanding issues have narrowed, and I am hopeful that an agreement with symphonic employers for a successor IMA may now be within reach. Please check this column next month for a report on further details.