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AFM Fair Share for Musicians Solidarity Rally Sets Tone for Negotiations

A little rain couldn’t dampen the high spirits of close to 300 AFM members and supporters during a morning rally and press conference on January 22 in front of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) headquarters in Sherman Oaks, California, on the first day of negotiations for the Motion Picture/TV Film contract.

The rally began with lively music performed by an AFM Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) brass quintet. AFM International President Tino Gagliardi addressed the crowd: “Each union that has gone before us has bargained for economic advances in a form that works best for them and their members. We are going to do the same. This is not simply a matter of dollars and cents. It is a matter of respect, of recognizing the immense value that musicians bring to every project­—and then compensating us accordingly. Musicians are no longer content to stand quietly. The labor community is united­—our voices amplified by the solidarity of SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the WGA, and the Teamsters.”

Musicians are demanding a fair contract that includes residual payments for made-for-streaming content, AI protection, increased industry wages, meaningful healthcare, and improved working conditions. “We’re fighting for a fair share for musicians, especially in streaming,” adds Gagliardi. “We have been effectively cut out of the market right now with the made-for-new-media product that’s being put out there. We need to be paid for streaming, which is a primary market, which means we need a residual. We need additional payment for work that is continuing to be exploited.”

The rally was punctuated by guest speakers: Stephanie O’Keefe, president of AFM Local 47; Yvonne Wheeler, president of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; Michele Mulroney, vice president of Writers Guild of America West; Lindsay Dougherty, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399, director Motion Picture Division and vice president of Teamsters Western Region; Pamela Greenwalt, chief communications and marketing officer for SAG-AFTRA; and Marc Sazer, vice president of AFM Local 47. A common thread among all of the speakers was the importance of continued teamwork and unity displayed during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

“Music is what gives our favorite movies and shows their soul, and these workers expect and deserve to be treated fairly and given the contract they’ve earned,” says Gagliardi. “We are going into these negotiations in good faith, and we hope the AMPTP is doing the same.”

Film vs. TV Contracts – What’s the Difference?

If you have been following the ongoing strikes of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), you may wonder why some programs have halted production and others produced by the same companies have not. This may have to do with the scope of the agreements currently in negotiation.

For example, SAG-AFTRA is striking the AMPTP under their Theatrical and Television Agreements; however, their Network Code, which covers the production of news, sports, variety shows, game shows, and others is in term. These programs may continue production because they are not covered under the agreement SAG-AFTRA is striking. (That is, of course, unless they are subject to the WGA strike, which the late-night variety shows are.)

From an AFM perspective, a similar distinction exists, which may not be clear if you have never worked under these agreements. AFM Electronic Media projects are categorized into specific agreements depending on the way the musicians record their work and the way the final product is exhibited by the producer. The confusion comes from the fact that what we call “film work” and “live television work” are generally recorded in different manners, even though film work may be exhibited on television.

Film work is commonly audio-only work, to provide underscoring for a motion picture. There are, however, provisions for on-camera miming work, called sidelining. The film agreements cover projects with a narrative structure, where filming usually takes place across multiple takes and multiple days, and the musical scoring is added in post-production. These are the types of productions that SAG-AFTRA is currently striking.

On the other hand, television work is inherently audiovisual in nature and the performances that the musicians provide are almost always captured simultaneously with the rest of the program. They are programs that are aired live or are prerecorded and presented as if they were live, such as late night and daytime talk shows, variety specials, award shows, news and sports programming, and game shows.

The AFM bargains the film agreements with the AMPTP:

•Film work intended for initial release in cinemas falls under the Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement.

•Film work intended for initial release on television or new media falls under the Basic Television Film Agreement.

•Sitcoms, dramas, and similar television programs all fall under the Television Film Agreement.

•Movies made for streaming services fall under the Television Film Agreement’s Made for New Media side letter, because the initial exhibition is not in cinemas.

Musicians working under the film agreements are compensated for their session work; these payments cover all uses by the producer in the original medium (cinematic release for Theatrical Motion Picture or television for Television Film). Residuals are paid through the Film Musicians’ Secondary Markets Fund, when the film is licensed for distribution through another type of media.

With regards to the live television agreements, the AFM has a wider number of contracts of this classification because the payment and broadcast pattern depends on the type of network. While we call them “live” television agreements because the productions are exhibited as live captures, this does not preclude the programs from being prerecorded.

The AFM bargains the main live television agreement, the Television Videotape Agreement, with three major television networks: CBS, ABC, and NBC. This agreement covers network television productions as well as similar productions made for new media distribution. SAG-AFTRA’s agreement for this type of production is their Network Code, though the alignment may not necessarily be exact.

The AFM also administers the National Public Television Agreement for PBS, the Basic Cable Agreement for basic cable networks, the Non-Standard Television Agreement for premium cable networks, and the Country Music Television (CMT) Agreement, bargained specifically with and for CMT.

All five of the television agreements carry a different broadcast pattern in exchange for the musicians’ initial compensation. Under the Videotape Agreement for network television, a musician is paid for their initial work and broadcast, and all repeat airings of the program pay a residual on a sliding percentage scale.

However, under the Public Television Agreement, a producer has the option of paying under one of two separate tables, one that allows one national release of the program and another that allows for four national releases in a three-year time span. Residuals only become due when the usage goes beyond the original cycle.

Under the cable agreements, the play patterns are a bit different. For Basic Cable, a producer is allowed to exhibit a program 20 times (called play dates) in a 24-month period before a residual becomes due. For premium cable networks, under the Non-Standard Television Agreement, the pattern is eight play dates in six months. For CMT, it’s 12 play dates in 36 months.

It is worth noting that all of these play patterns refer to domestic repeat airings only; foreign use and supplemental market releases will always result in a separate type of residual payment, regardless of the play pattern.

As mentioned, some of these AFM agreements expire this fall. The AFM’s film agreements with the AMPTP expire on November 13; the Videotape Agreement expires around Christmas. The PBS agreement is in the second year of a three-year term, while the cable agreements are all under extension.


More Than 100 Musicians Deliver Petition to AMPTP Headquarters Demanding Streaming Residuals for Film/TV

On June 27, more than 100 professional musicians who work in film and television held a press conference and delivered stacks of petition signatures to the entertainment industry’s major producers demanding a fair contract, including residuals, for new media.

Musicians marched to the front doors of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to hand-deliver hundreds of petitions signed by musicians who work in the industry, where studio representatives denied them entrance. “They are in this building and they are willing to deny us behind closed doors, but they will not do it in the open,” said musician and organizing committee member Jason Poss. “They will receive these petitions, even though they don’t want to receive them today. This is a victory. We have shown what is going on and they cannot hide from us any longer. This is just the beginning.”

The ability of musicians to earn a living wage in the film industry is in jeopardy with the transition to digital consumption. Studios have agreed to pay residuals for actors, writers, directors, and others when films and television shows are made for streaming, but management insists on excluding musicians by denying them standard wage scales for new media projects and refusing to pay new media residuals.

More than 100 professional musicians delivered stacks of petition signatures to the entertainment industry’s major producers recently demanding a fair contract, including residuals, for new media. Photo: Linda A. Rapka/AFM Local 47

“We are calling on film and television producers to protect the livelihoods of musicians by fairly compensating us for our work,” Poss said. “All we ask is to be held to the same standards as other entertainment industry professionals.”

The rally and press conference included musicians, a live brass quintet, and allies from United Teachers Los Angeles, Writers Guild of America West, and SAG-AFTRA. “Many of Los Angeles’s teachers are also professional musicians, and almost every musician is a teacher for someone,” said Juan Ramirez, vice president of UTLA. “United Teachers Los Angeles stands together with the professional musicians in demanding that musicians working on streaming and new media projects receive fair pay and residuals.”

“We writers know that music is a crucial element in bringing our stories to life,” said Angelina Burnett, television writer/producer and board member of WGA West. “Musicians make invaluable contributions to our film and television projects, whether they’re made for traditional outlets or streaming services. The Writers Guild of America West stands together with musicians to demand fair pay and respect for their work.”

“All 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA stand united with you for good pay and fair working conditions,” said Jane Austin, SAG-AFTRA national secretary-treasurer and president of their Los Angeles chapter. “It’s not new media; it’s now media. And it’s time that they start paying. We’re all artists and performers, and it doesn’t matter if we’re in front of the camera, behind the mic or playing an instrument. We all deserve fair compensation regardless of what platform on which our work is being displayed.”

American Federation of Musicians members from Los Angeles to Nashville to New York continue to strengthen a national member-led campaign as they approach the next round of negotiations scheduled for November.