The Federation’s negotiations with its bargaining partners, whether on an industry-wide, single-, or multi-employer basis, are a never-ending process. Other than contracts with touring producers such as the Broadway League, most of our negotiations seek improvements in compensation and working conditions when musicians are engaged to perform electronic media services either streamed or broadcast live, or captured for analog and digital distribution.
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.
by Matt Allen, Contract Administrator, AFM Electronic Media Services Division
Today, more productions are initially made for new media platforms. At recent motion picture seminars I have participated in, original made-for-new-media productions are fast becoming a popular topic of conversation. A side letter to deal with original new media productions was added to the AFM Basic Television Motion Picture Agreement of 2010-2013. Since then, the AFM has covered a number of made-for-new-media motion pictures, from small budget film projects to large new media productions such as House of Cards, Mozart in the Jungle, Alpha House, and Transparent, just to name a few.
I regularly receive questions from musicians, contractors, and producers on just how the AFM handles scoring motion pictures made initially for new media because of the growing popularity of made-for-new-media motion picture productions, and the demand for original scores utilizing world-class musicians in these productions. For this article, I will review some of the basics.
Terms and conditions of employment on original new media productions are freely negotiable between the employee and the producer. This offers greater flexibility to fit the budgetary needs of individual projects, especially smaller independent new media projects. The exception is that all applicable terms and conditions pursuant to the Basic Television Motion Picture Agreement shall apply for musicians who are engaged to perform sideline (on-camera) services on high-budget SVOD programs.
The producer is obligated to make health and welfare (H&W) contributions on behalf of each employee engaged, and such H&W contributions shall be based on the greater of hours worked or guaranteed. In addition, on new media productions budgeted at $25,000 or more per minute, the producer is also obligated to pay a pension contribution on behalf of each employee engaged.
Original made-for-new-media motion pictures should not be confused with other types of new media productions, such as live concerts captured for streaming on the Internet or other devices, which are covered by a different AFM agreement. Lastly, it is important to note that all session paperwork must be filed with the local office in the jurisdiction where the work is being done, and copies of those session report forms must be sent to the AFM’s national office in order to ensure they are filed with the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund so that participating musicians are properly credited for their performance in any secondary markets distribution.
Please feel free to contact me directly at the AFM West Coast Office if you should have any questions.