I am often contacted by contractors or composers who are working with independent producers to make film projects go AFM. In addition to discussing the various low budget scale options available to fit a film producer’s budgetary needs, I am regularly asked about the musician costs associated with the release of a soundtrack recording in connection with the motion picture. The release of a motion picture soundtrack is important to both the producer and the composer, so it is worth mentioning the different AFM options available.
Options for Motion Picture Soundtrack Releases
A producer may elect to pay 100% of the applicable Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) scale plus pension to those musicians who rendered services on the original soundtrack at the time of the release of a soundtrack recording. However, this may be cost prohibitive to some independent producers, when factoring in the number of musicians on the score, the number of minutes of music used on the soundtrack, and the projected sales of a particular soundtrack album. So, both the TV Film and Theatrical Motion Picture agreements offer several soundtrack record options. A producer may elect to pay 50% of the applicable SRLA scale plus pension, upon the release of the soundtrack record. When and if sales of the soundtrack reach 50,000 units, the producer will pay an additional 50% of the applicable SRLA scale, for sales up to 100,000 units. For sales beyond 100,000 units, they will make a final SRLA payment of 20%. Basically, the producer pays as they go based on sales.
The motion picture agreements also offer a 25% approach, so long as the producer meets certain conditions. They pay 25% of SRLA scale and pension benefits at the release of the soundtrack, an additional 25% of SRLA scale when sales exceed 25,000 units, an additional 50% of SRLA scale, when sales exceed 50,000 units, and finally 20% of SRLA scale, when sales reach 100,000 units. This latter option is frequently used when a producer does not anticipate large sales.
A common alternative is the option where the producer does not have to pay the applicable SRLA scale and pension benefits until sales exceed 15,000 units. After sales exceed the 15,000-unit threshold, the producer is required to pay 50% of the applicable SRLA scale, plus pension. The producer continues to pay based on sales at the thresholds detailed in the previous paragraph. The producer must inform the AFM of election to compensate musicians in accordance with this option prior to the release of the soundtrack, and must meet other conditions. This option is especially appealing to producers who prefer to wait to pay only after sales of a soundtrack recording have reached a certain level.
The motion picture agreements also offer a special option for digital downloads of soundtrack records, as well as singles released in connection with a motion picture.
Last, but not least, the AFM’s Independent Film/Festival Film Agreement also provides for the release of soundtrack recordings. A producer may release up to 5,000 copies of a soundtrack without payment, so long as the producer meets certain conditions. Sales of the soundtrack album in excess of 5,000 copies will trigger applicable scale and benefit payments under the SRLA as the AFM deems applicable.
This is just a brief overview of different motion picture soundtrack record options. For more in-depth information, and details about how a producer may qualify for additional discounts under certain options, consult the current AFM Motion Picture Agreement or contact the AFM’s Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) or your AFM local’s office.
Filing Motion Picture Session Report Forms
Local officers are reminded to be sure to send copies of any and all AFM motion picture session reports (B7s) and Live Television session reports (B8s) for musician services performed in your jurisdiction to the AFM New York and West Coast offices. They should also be sent to the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF) to ensure the FMSMF has the appropriate documentation to credit musicians for their performance(s) in any secondary market distribution. Please contact the EMSD directly for more information on how to submit session reports.