Tag Archives: streaming

Internet Streaming in the COVID Era

When the world came crashing to a standstill in March, the music world didn’t stop with it; it just shifted to a different set of platforms. And sure, if all you’ve known before is the tour bus, live venues, and the traditional recording studio, it might feel like the world as you know it did stop. And now, six months later, it hasn’t really come back yet. But the ability to play your instrument and share that content still exists on the Internet, able to be exploited in a variety of combinations.

If you take away only one thing from this article, let it be this: When a producer engages a musician to perform recorded work to be posted on the Internet, there is an AFM EMSD agreement that covers that work. Do not let yourself believe that some corner of the Internet is uncovered, that you as a musician have no leverage. When a producer hires musicians, those musicians deserve to have contract coverage, wages according to standards, pension and health contributions, protections against re-use, etc.

Let’s start with the basic pandemic considerations offered by the Federation for streaming events. Before the pandemic, live engagement captures (usually ticketed concerts) could be streamed online by additionally paying under the terms of the relevant streaming agreement. In consideration of venues being closed, those restrictions have been loosened, allowing streaming to “replace” live concerts.

For example, if musicians are engaged to perform a virtual concert under a live engagement contract or under a local Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and that concert is offered to ticket buyers via password protection, then that has replaced the ticketed event. In this instance, there is no additional fee for streaming the concert behind the password protection; however, an agreement must be signed with the West Coast office acknowledging the capture, just in case the capture has a life beyond that initial stream.

If, instead of password protection, the stream is made publicly available, but only exists online as a one-time “live” event, the payment for streaming is an additional 10% of the live engagement fee. If the stream is left online, a producer may keep the stream available publicly for a month for a fee of $85 per hour per side musician, not including premiums and fringes. Beyond that, the standard, pre-pandemic AFM On-Demand Streaming Agreement applies, with a cost of $197.20 per hour, allowing for a six-month streaming window.

But these days, there is more to online content than just replacing concerts. Many have taken the opportunity to produce individual song videos for platforms like YouTube, Facebook, or other social media. These may seem like a music video, but the provisions of the Sound Recording Labor Agreement don’t kick in unless there’s a track for sale or for streaming. So, what happens if you’re called just to play your instrument on camera for a single song, solely to produce that video and nothing more?

Incidentally, this type of work is covered by an agreement which existed before the pandemic. The concept came from bands who would gather in a recording studio before an album release to perform stripped down, acoustic versions of the master tracks to generate promotional videos. The acoustic track itself isn’t for sale, so it’s not a traditional music video. The work exists outside the scope of SRLA, so the Federation promulgates a per-song Internet Music Video Agreement that pays a side musician $200 for the first video generated from such a session and an additional $100 for each subsequent video at the same session.

This same concept applies to videos produced during the pandemic via Zoom or its ilk. If you are called to produce such a music video, let your local or the Federation know to make sure it gets covered under contract.

Moreover, the Federation has introduced an agreement to allow regional theatres to stream their archival material at a rate of $75 per side musician per 15 minutes of material, or $100 per 15 minutes if the show is broken into clips. Such a payment will allow the producer to post the production online for a one-year stream before any residual kicks in, with the residual format depending on how the content is exhibited.

Beyond these promulgated agreements, remember that certain types of “made for new media” work falls under the provisions of already existing collective bargaining agreements. For example, a made for YouTube “variety show” with multiple segments and performances falls under the Made for New Media side letter of the Television Videotape Agreement. Documentaries made from archival material still fall under our film agreements, just as they would have prior to the shutdown.

Even in instances where the recording work is for charity, if an employer tells a musician that the date is happening under a waiver, AFM waiver policy dictates that the musician retain the full authority to earn the appropriate compensation under the relevant agreement. Even when a musician chooses to waive that compensation, this must be done in conjunction with a signed agreement to cover the project.

And remember, any musician or group of musicians who are posting their own material online, whether audio or audiovisual, may use a Joint Venture Agreement to cover their work, as long as there is no employer-employee relationship; the musicians themselves must be the owner and controller of the product.

As you can see, there is a wide variety of ways in which material may be exhibited online and that number is increasing every day. Rest assured, there is always an AFM EMSD agreement which covers work that is recorded for distribution. So, if you are called to produce anything for the Internet, make sure there’s a union contract in place first!

Streaming Will Starve Musicians Without Fair Residual Payment Agreements

Streaming is front and center for all of us: Porch concerts posted to Facebook, Broadway shows like Hamilton playing online, symphony orchestras recording new streaming content, and the release of the new big-budget live-action Mulan on Disney Plus … whew! It seems as if we’re all recording musicians now!

Even in the middle of this pandemic, the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) is participating with our AFM media negotiations, with the record labels for a successor Sound Recording Labor Agreement, and with the TV networks for our Live TV contract, covering late night bands, awards shows, sports and news shows, and more. The move from traditional film and TV production and initial distribution was already moving to streaming-first, but the pandemic has dramatically speeded up the clock.

In just one example, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell announced that NBC television will “shift resources from linear to streaming.” The emergence of NBCU’s Peacock, HBOMax from Warner Bros., Disney Plus, and other streaming giants as producers means that as more of the content produced by our signatories is for streaming, less of our AFM signatory projects will provide fair compensation through residuals. This means less income for musicians, and fewer dollars from our residuals fund going unallocated to our pension fund.

Let’s say that again. The move by AFM signatory studios and networks to streaming will starve musicians and our pension fund until we can win fair residual payment for our work.

We are all living in the same world and are part of the same moment of history. We in the recording musicians community have been grappling seriously and passionately with issues of racism, exclusion, and justice. We authored a public statement (which can be found online at www.rmala.org), but we’ve also moved to create a diversity caucus to educate us, help us find pathways to change, and hold us accountable. We have been engaging in conversations about what we expect of our union—of ourselves as union members—in addressing these issues. We have a long history and are compelled to work for change.

We’re also working on the profound issues of pandemic-era health and safety. RMA participated with Local 47 in Los Angeles in the creation of two working groups charged with developing protocols—one for recording and one for live performance. There is still so much half-known or unknown, but we’ve learned a tremendous amount about the science, about navigating state and local political structures, industry employer groups, relationships with adjacent unions, and our AFL-CIO state and local groups, always listening to musicians’ fears and hopes.

A few weeks ago, I had a personal glimpse into the future. On a Tuesday morning, I drove to the Fox lot in LA for my first day back at work since the pandemic, scoring an upcoming 20th Century Fox film. This followed months of meetings, research, preparation—and unemployment insurance. Comporting with government directives and AFM oversight, we were met with a health screening station, a COVID overseer, a nurse, training sessions, rules for behavior, and, finally, a roomful of almost 50 carefully distanced string players! I have to say, it was such a relief and joy to finally sit down and play with a roomful of “us”!

Not long after that return to music scoring in Los Angeles, the LA Phil returned to the stage, using the wide-open spaces of the Hollywood Bowl to perform for streaming distribution. The safety issues facing orchestras, theater, opera, and ballet pits, touring groups, and recording stretch out beyond the horizon, haunting our ability to even imagine what normal will be in a year, or two, or five.

The economic and employment picture is grim, with no end in sight. Perhaps the hardest part of all is the endless uncertainty. But we know that across industries union workers fare better in surviving catastrophic events. Now, more than ever, from protecting our health and safety, to protecting our contracts and livelihoods, to giving us a place to demand a voice in the major issues of the day, now more than ever we need our union. We are always stronger together.

fairness in streaming media

Campaign for Fairness in Streaming Media Begins in Los Angeles

As this column is being written, the first leadership training and organizing committee development sessions are concluding at Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) in preparation for an IEB-supported, Federation-wide, member-driven campaign to win industry-standard wages, residual payments, and benefits for musicians who perform and record TV and film content made for streaming platforms. The campaign also seeks to establish meaningful new revenue from film and TV streaming that would boost contributions toward our pension fund.

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Alan Willaert Pic

Streaming Leads to Slim Profits

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

In the September 2013 International Musician, I reported statistics that represented the number of streams necessary to earn a minimum wage in the US. These numbers were based on the US federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or $1,160 per month for a 40-hour week.

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Streaming: The Economy of Listening

Guest Column by Mike Huppe, President and CEO, SoundExchange

Below are excerpts from a keynote speech given by SoundExchange President and CEO Mike Huppe at the AFM-FIM International Streaming Conference held in Burbank, California, October 2-3. SoundExhange (www.soundexchange.com) is the world’s premier digital rights organization, and has distributed more than $5 billion to recording artists and rights owners.

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streaming agreement

Finding the Correct AFM Streaming Agreement

by Mary Beth Blakey, AFM Electronic Media Services Division Contract Administrator

Assigning the correct EMSD agreement to streamed content can be a precarious enterprise. Business models and methods of consumption for streamed musical performances are subject to continuous change. The Federation’s streaming agreements are continuously evolving to respond to the industry. Outlined here are our four main streaming agreements and a brief overview of their terms and conditions. 

Live Streaming Agreement

The Live Streaming Agreement is to be used only for content streamed on a true live basis, simultaneous to the recorded event, with no content remaining available on a website or other streaming platform after the fact. The scales tied to this agreement are $100 per hour, per side musician, with a one-hour minimum. The required pension contribution is 14.17%, along with a $24 per day health and welfare payment. 

On-Demand Streaming Agreement

Under the On-Demand Streaming Agreement, an employer may stream content that remains available on-demand after the initial performance. The wages start at $197.20 per hour, per side musician, with a one-hour minimum. The required benefits are a pension contribution of 14.17% of wages, and a $24 per day health and welfare payment. The initial payments cover a six-month term of use on streaming platforms, with 6.6% aggregate payment of gross receipts required every six months thereafter.

Edited Concert Streaming Agreement

The Edited Concert Streaming Agreement covers content filmed live and cut into individual songs for subscription video on demand (SVOD), like Apple Music, and/or ad-supported video on demand (AVOD), like VEVO. The scales are $421.56 per 15 minutes of audio, in addition to a $113.16 image fee per filmed song, per side musician. For a single song, not to exceed seven-and-a-half minutes, the audio rate is $278.24, in addition to a $113.16 image fee. The health and welfare contribution is $27 per day and the pension contribution is 14.17%. These wages cover an initial six-month cycle, with an additional 7% of gross receipts due as an aggregate payment every six months thereafter, for any subsequent streaming. This agreement may not be utilized for theatrical productions; symphonic, opera or ballet performances; or performances outside the US.

Promotional Streaming Agreement

Under the Promotional Streaming Agreement, the signatory can film up to 30 minutes and stream up to three minutes of a performance on social media streaming platforms, for the sole purpose of promoting live union engagements by the same signatory. The payment required is an additional 10% of the performance wages required by the Local Single Engagement Contract covering the live event, in addition to a 12% pension contribution. This agreement is not available to symphony, opera, ballet, or chamber orchestras with collective bargaining agreements or to producers of theatrical shows. 

This article is meant to be an overview, and not an exhaustive or definitive way to assign a streaming agreement to an individual performance.

For streamed orchestral or symphonic content, contact Debbie Newmark at

For streamed scripted or dramatic content, contact Matt Allen at mallen@afm.org to ensure a project does not fall under Television Film Made for New Media.

For streamed talk, variety, or live competition content, please determine if it is covered by Television Videotape Made for New Media by contacting me at (mblakey@afm.org).

Contact me also if you have questions about any of the above agreements or information. 


Musicians Must Build Solidarity in a Future Full of Streaming

Marc Sazer

by Marc Sazer, Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President and Member of Locals 47 and 802

The Recording Musicians Association (RMA) plays a variety of roles in our AFM: we are advisors, researchers, activists, educators, and bridge builders. We currently have chapters in New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles, and there are AFM members elsewhere who also choose to support us with their membership.

We work to advance the interests of musicians working in records, Live TV, motion pictures,  TV film, jingles, games, and demos—wherever musicians record on union contracts. Sadly, much of our history is fraught with division—film musicians vs. live TV musicians vs. records, games, or whatever. Recording musicians vs. others.

The world has moved on. We can no longer afford to be at odds with each other. Our issues are converging day by day; the issues at stake in one contract are the issues at stake for all. As all media becomes streaming media, we are faced with an existential threat. We must negotiate sustainable contracts for when musicians create music for streaming media.

Even as budgets for streaming service shows are rising, music budgets are falling. We are in a golden age of television. The AFM is scoring a record number of shows, including award-winning streaming hits like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock on Hulu, Vital Signs on Apple, Luke Cage and She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon. But musicians’ wages in television are flat—we’re working more, but not sharing in the bounty.

The brilliant performers who create the music for live TV—Cleto and the Cletones (the Jimmy Kimmel Live! band), Stay Human (on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), the bands for Saturday Night Live, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and more—get cut out of the loop when their work makes money for the networks on YouTube. And as live TV shows begin to move to streaming first, musicians are left even further behind under our current contract.

These issues matter for every member of the AFM. Our residuals fund, the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, provides millions of unallocated dollars to support our pension fund. The major record labels similarly provide $6 million each year to support the current and future health of our pension fund. Just as critically, our strength at the table with major media companies is a template for our union’s position with other employers.

As each of our sister unions—International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA, Writers Guild of America (WGA), and Directors Guild of America (DGA)—have faced the media conglomerates, they have recognized the life and death imperative of winning a fair share of the vast revenues from streaming.

From the beginning of this round of bargaining, in early 2017, all the unions, union after union, have been driven to militancy. The WGA threatened to strike in 2017. SAG-AFTRA has only just completed a successful strike authorization vote for streaming residuals in TV animation. IATSE broke off talks twice before finalizing a deal over streaming revenues that remains controversial with their members; at the time of this writing their contract had not yet been ratified by their membership.

This fundamental transformation of media and music recording is happening against the backdrop of a crescendo of general attacks on unions in here in the US. The recent US Supreme Court Janus decision undermined union security for public employees nationwide and attacks on private industry unions like ours are in the works. The existential threat to our ability to make a living in a streaming-first world is mirrored by the threat to the general survival of unions.

And yet, the very real movement we created across the table in the live TV negotiations sends a clear message: musicians have a voice. Musicians speaking across the table and in public have real and rarely tapped power. We can thrive and we can win.

So what can we do? What can you as an individual do? The simplest things can be the most powerful. Show up. Be present. When your local, the AFM, or a player conference invite you to attend a meeting, fill out a survey, or sign a petition—just do it!

International Executive Board Approves New Live Concert Streaming Agreement

The AFM International Executive Board has approved a new Live Concert Streaming Agreement that specifically covers the taping of concerts that will be made available on the Internet as individual selections. This agreement—the Edited Concert Streaming Agreement—can be found on the AFM.org website. It may not be utilized for (1) theatrical productions; (2) symphonic, opera, or ballet performances; or (3) performances outside the United States. There is a separate similar agreement covering Canada.

Please note that this agreement does not replace the existing Internet Streaming Agreements, which are applicable to the taping of performances made available on the Internet as complete concerts.

Coming to a Library Near You?

I find it fascinating to track the different paths people create to give music away. The new kid on the block in Portland is the public library system. If they’re going to do it here, given the intra communication of national and state library associations, you can bet it’s likely to pop up in your town.

The Multnomah County Library has decided to create a system that will allow the community to stream the music of local musicians. A handful of members of the music community have been tasked with curating the music that will be made available. They will showcase the music of 50 local bands in this first round of submissions. They are providing a $100 honorarium, if you get selected. Doesn’t sound too bad, as it would take a lot of streams on Spotify or Apple Music to “earn” that $100.

So what’s the problem?

As they describe it: “Multnomah County Library’s Library Music Project is an online platform that showcases and shares current local music for free. The goal of the Library Music Project is to help new audiences discover the wealth of today’s local music and inspire the creativity of tomorrow. The music is available for free download and streaming. Anyone can stream the albums for free, and library cardholders can download and keep anything in the Library Music Project collection.”

So, if you have a library card, you not only get to stream the music, you get to permanently download it, and then essentially do whatever you want with it. No usage guidelines. No return date. No nothing.

I couldn’t believe it when I read that in the submission form. The library has decided to treat the intellectual property of music differently than they treat the intellectual property of books. When you use your library card to check out a “digital” book and download it to your Kindle, it’s yours to keep for three weeks, just like a regularly checked out book. Then, after those three weeks, it disappears, “returned” to the library. But with music in this system, it’s the cardholder’s property forever. No process for “returning” it.

This new offering from the library was brought to my attention by a half-dozen of our local members who wanted us to look into it. I contacted the library, worked through the maze, and got to the person who is currently implementing it.

After a comprehensive, 45-minute conversation, it all came down to the usual explanation: “It’s exposure for the musician.” After pressing hard on why the streaming was not enough “exposure,” there was no real answer, as well as no real answer as to why the library was treating the intellectual property of music differently than that of books.

In fact, when the library staffer said that people like to be able to take music with them, not just stream it, I emphasized that that’s when the card holders need to pay for it. That way, the streaming “exposure” can lead to the purchase of the music, allowing fair compensation to musicians for the creation and production of their music. At that point, I was met with silence. The idea that the public library was undermining a significant revenue stream for local musicians seemed to have never come up, or if it did, was dismissed.

We will take this to those higher up in the library system, as well as to the Multnomah County Commission, to make them aware of the hypocrisy and the damage of this project to the musicians they say they are trying to benefit. While there are many bad players out there conspiring to undermine the hard work, dedication, and talents of musicians, I certainly never expected our public library to incentivize a similar activity. If our library systems across the country, the very foundation of our public access to knowledge, learning, and the arts, do not honor, respect, and uphold the rights of intellectual property, and instead, take advantage of the good nature of young artists, whom can we expect to ever carry that mantle?

This is just part one. I’ll keep you posted as this runs its course. 

Ray Hair

Media Talks Driven by Streaming Growth, Part 2

This is the second of two articles on the continued rise of streaming and its effect on Federation media industry negotiations. Read the first here

Last month, we discussed the Federation’s January 2017 deal with the sound recording industry, where major record labels agreed to earmark a percentage of domestic and foreign streaming revenue toward the American Federation of Musicians & Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF), Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), and the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF). We also discussed the skyrocketing growth of streaming revenue from recorded music, which now accounts for 62% of total record industry income.

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