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AFM Files Lawsuit: Musicians Underpaid by NBC’s ‘The Voice’ Production Company

Musicians on the NBC reality show The Voice have been underpaid, and sometimes not paid at all, for their work—which has led the union to file a lawsuit against production company 212 Productions LLC for breach of its collective bargaining agreement.

The suit, which seeks damages for all unpaid wages, fees, premiums, and residuals, plus allied pension contributions, owing to or on behalf of union musicians, details numerous violations of the labor agreement, the losses of which to musicians are hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The lawsuit, which was filed August 12 in a California federal court, states that 212 Productions LLC is underpaying, or not paying at all, for the services of orchestrating, transcribing, and copying written sheet music parts used by instrumentalists performing on the musical competition show, in violation of the labor agreement it signed in January 2013. The production company is underpaying musicians by downplaying some of their tasks or declining to pay them entirely for other tasks.

“For example, 212 Productions has underpaid music preparation personnel by calculating wages for the creation of fully orchestrated scores as if they were reductions of orchestrations to a single-line melody with a sequence of chord symbols indicating changes in harmony (so-called ‘lead sheets’),” the lawsuit states. “212 Productions also has mischaracterized exact transcriptions of existing orchestrations fixed in audio format as single-line lead sheets in an attempt to justify a lesser rate of pay to musicians.”

The suit states that 212 Productions has at times “simply ignored” provisions of the labor agreement requiring additional or premium rates of pay for an array of services, ranging from the modest $1.04 per page fee for adding bar numbers to staves to a premium of time-and-a-half for musicians working through the night to make tight deadlines.

In addition to the underpayments and nonpayments for music preparation services, the production company has failed to pay music preparation personnel appropriate residual payments for reruns of The Voice, as well as for exhibitions of the program in foreign territories and for uses of musical excerpts from the program in other entertainment programs. 212 Productions has also failed to make contractually required pension contributions to the union, which are calculated as a percentage of all earnings covered by the labor agreement.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial in the matter and asks for damages for economic losses as well as pre- and post-judgment interest and attorney fees.

The case is American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada v. 212 Productions LLC, case number 2:20-cv-07255, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.