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August 31, 2020Pat Varriale - AFM Electronic Media Services Division Director
During the pandemic, when very little original work has taken place, the resolve of musicians that recorded older material under AFM conditions is underscored. With the impact of COVID-19 shutting down original electronic media work, employers began looking for ways to produce new programming mixed with original content.
As an example, with the canceling of awards shows and other television productions, some producers have created programs consisting of artists performing “acoustic” material from remote locations while mixing in clips from previous shows. Inasmuch as those shows from previous years were documented with properly filed B-8 forms, the musicians whose content from those earlier shows (“clips,” “excerpts”) was used received additional payments for the use of their product in the new show.
And with original session work down, “new use” of previously recorded music—sound recordings and motion picture scores licensed into films and commercial announcements—became a more important source of income for musicians during this pandemic. During the government order of shutdowns in many states, AFM-EMSD staff on both coasts took great care and went into their respective offices to ensure that the checks we received from employers were processed so that musicians could receive these vital payments during this uncertain time.
I would like to take this opportunity to salute those musicians who take the time to ensure that their work is properly documented. This is the business side of the creative process, but it’s an important one.
Aside from the session benefits, their recorded product could be utilized in various ways: The sound recording you worked on is licensed for use in a theatrical motion picture(s) and television film(s)—if the fee to license the recording is above a certain threshold, you may receive payments under either the Motion Picture or TV Film Agreements, which could also generate significant back-end payments through the Secondary Markets Fund, or, in commercial announcement(s) that has the potential for session, initial use and foreign use payments under the Commercial Announcements Agreement; or the television production you worked on is released in supplemental markets (DVDs, etc.); or if a clip(s) from the motion picture or television film is licensed into another film(s). The additional payments could be quite lucrative (please refer to “The Recording Game” re-printed in this issue on pages 18-19).
We know that it may not be easy for musicians to turn work down when they are offered a “dark” date in the interest of making a quick buck. However, in my long history with the AFM, I cannot tell you how many times I received calls and emails from musicians stating that they hear their music years after the dark date and we have to advise them that there is little the AFM can do to assist them.
I would also like to give a shout-out to the local officers and staff that actively police their jurisdictions to ensure that as much work as possible is properly covered: For utilizing the CD jackets we provide to ensure that musicians work is properly documented, as the B-4 form to report work under the Sound Recording Labor Agreement is usually the “blueprint” for future uses of the musicians’ product; for making every effort to see to it that a properly executed live performance contract is on file to protect the capture of the performances; and for forwarding to this office any and all B forms they receive so that they are readily accessible when a “new use” event arises which improves the timeliness of billing and collecting (I cannot understate how important all of this is to the success of our efforts); and for paying special attention to the EMSD focus issues and the information that is provided therein to assist local officers in handling and addressing electronic media matters. We are always here to assist.
As Vice President Bruce Fife says to introduce the EMSD presentation at the Officer Training Program prior to most AFM conferences, with today’s technology, electronic media is everywhere. With all the tools now available, including what has become the widely popular Joint Venture Agreement, Local Limited Pressing Agreement, new and innovative streaming agreements, etc., there is every reason to believe work can be covered for recording musicians to protect their invaluable recorded product.