LA Musicians, Studio Owners & Engineers.....
Old 22nd November 2012
  #1
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LA Musicians, Studio Owners & Engineers.....

Scoring for TV, Film & Video Games has traditionally kept rates up in LA and has kept us busy and known (arguably at least) as the recording capitol of the world. And even if you don't work in those areas, the access to top talent, the technology in town and the overflow to you because many of your peers do has traditionally kept the studio economy healthy and musicians who play in the studio working.

Well, this niche of work has been disappearing at an alarming rate over the last couple of decades and is now in hyper-acceleration as producers take their projects overseas and to other US locations such as Seattle, Nashville, Chicago, Utah, etc..

If this interests or concerns you, this is well worth an hour or so of your time :

Los Angeles Music Scoring Community Meeting - November 15th, 2012 on Vimeo

If you're "in one of the other locations", you'd better look out. LA musicians are not going to take this laying down. Open discussion of this is a good thing I think. The Musicians Union will not be able to sidestep this time. Feel free to emote......

Happy Thanksgiving to all you US slutz....


AND. a quick note and recommendation from Greg re: further discussion and enlightenment :

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Originally Posted by Greg Curtis View Post
Guys, please check out and participate in the Facebook page: hollywood tv, film, and interactive community
Old 24th November 2012
  #2
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Yes. The last year has seen a GIANT, PRECIPITOUS decline in recording for Film and Games. We do tons of TV work here because it is really only possible here due to time constraints, thank god. But my studio has seen a big decline in Film work over the last year. I know the Sony/MGM stage is incredibly quiet, and I definitely have been feeling the effect of Warner's being slow, in that I am getting fewer TV shows because they are suddenly not busy doing film work and therefore attracting business that normally shoots my way.

Game scoring has been pretty good for us. We were starting to get a firm in the Game scoring circles, but the new AFM contract looks like it is going to kill that for us.

There is no AFM contract for library scoring, which is silly because it is a HUGE industry.

There is no realistic contract for sample scoring, either.

So... something has to happen before the big stages are turned into accounting offices or editing bays.

The big meeting brought the facts of the worldwide economy to about 600 attending L.A. musicians and composers. The idea was put forth that in order to compete in the worldwide scoring ecology, the AFM needs to adapt to it instead of clinging to outdated and now dangerous stipulations, such as special payments (back end payments).

We will see if enough rabble can be raised to create a healthy, creative force of vigorous debate that causes progressive change in the Union's stance. Currently, it seems that the AFM fighting the call to change, which could cause an end to scoring here in L.A.
Old 24th November 2012
  #3
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Originally Posted by Greg Curtis View Post
Currently, it seems that the AFM fighting the call to change, which could cause an end to scoring here in L.A.
Thanks for chiming in Greg. I'm surprised not more people have jumped in with their thoughts. The scoring business in LA has traditionally shaped ALL of the studio business in So Cal whether you do scoring or not.

It's the trickle down phenomenon. Like you mentioned, no Features @ Warners means some of your TV sessions go there, no TV sessions @ your place means you take on some record work. Record work @ the Bridge means less record work @ some of the normal places. No record work there, means they end up working on demos. That impacts the local bedroom studio's that are open for commercial biz. So, it really affects all of us no matter where in the food chain we reside.

I'd love to open up the conversation on this, but I guess people are too busy with the holiday to notice. Of course, most have been too busy to notice for over a decade, so maybe it's too much to ask......

I've been noticing since the AFofM strike back in....what was it? 1980. It really impacted me, as I was JUST starting out.... That was the beginning of the migration out of LA. Thanks to the union we lost big time then, and they have done nothing but aggravate the situation ever since.
Old 24th November 2012
  #4
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The "trickle-down" theory really does work here. I'm finding myself competing with some studios that are not really up to my standards, but can attract similar clients simply because of their size. I used to be able to let those gigs go, because I'd be losing money. But, over the last year I've had to look at my the holes in my schedule and match much lower hourly rates just to keep the schedule full.

And I know the guys that are pricier than me are having to do the same thing to attract my regular clients to fill their schedules and keep their guys working. It becomes a real dog-eat-dog ecosystem that is built to fail, eventually.

The sheer number of large film scoring and game and library jobs that are going just to London, RIGHT NOW, almost all because we have no AFM musician buy-out here, would fill all of the big 3 studios for 4-5 months. The Bridge would then be rocking at least 7 TV shows a week, plus a lot of the sub-55 musicians film and game dates.

Then, I'd be hiring 4 new engineers to allow running 2 shifts of full time crews, hire a full-time tech, and would be able to start phase-two of my business plan, which is to buy the building next door and open production and mix rooms. That would mean even more employees, more engineers, and more productions working in a real studio.

But the trickle of business that remains here right now, because of the current AFM contracts, means that one or 2 of the big stages will be closing next year, letting go some really talented guys with decades of experience. We will be getting by, because we run lean and mean, but will be unable to hire any new engineers or expand for a much longer time, if at all.

Greg

.
Old 25th November 2012
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Scoring for TV, Film & Video Games has traditionally kept rates up in LA and has kept us busy and known (arguably at least) as the recording capitol of the world. And even if you don't work in those areas, the access to top talent, the technology in town and the overflow to you because many of your peers do has traditionally kept the studio economy healthy and musicians who play in the studio working.

Well, this niche of work has been disappearing at an alarming rate over the last couple of decades and is now in hyper-acceleration as producers take their projects overseas and to other US locations such as Seattle, Nashville, Chicago, Utah, etc..
I've made a few trips to London and Beijng to score with orchestras because Local 47 proved to be so inflexible that I would have had to give up show themes because they wouldn't allow a buy-ut for syndicated shows, even at triple scale. In one case, i was forced to take $90,000 worth of business to London, where I used British union musicians who were happy to have the triple scale, thanks and goodbye.

However, I think the real problem is the use of virtual instruments. I mean, honestly Dr. Bill, I'm pretty sure that you like most L.A. composers have your Vienna Ensemble Pro setup totally stuffed with fake orchestra instruments and spend a great deal of time simulating a room full of live players. So if that's what's going down, what city does it matter that it's occurring in.

If runaway production has devalued the L.A. product then there's an opportunity for you. Actually take advantage of the talent available in L.A. and blow everyone else out of the water. If the tv industry just doesn't care about quality (which I don't think is true), then table thumping vimeo meetings won't make a difference.

-R

-R
Old 25th November 2012
  #6
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the problem is the AFM and local 47 - not virtual instruments or anything else. let's get real.

local 47 have been inflexible, unreasonable bullies for years and have made many enemies amongst the younger and upcoming studio executives who have been held over a barrel one too many times. those executives are now in charge (with shrinking budgets, due to rampant media piracy and other concerns), so do the math.

also many composers who have sided with the union have also been burned over the years (on things like score album re-use fees, etc)

so now as the film studios, tv producers and game developers have been researching other options, the union is getting come uppins as composers who once fought aggressively to stay in town are now keeping quiet when the issue comes up.

and I say this as a VERY PRO-UNION, PRO-LABOR, PRO-MUSICIAN person.

the AFM is everything that is wrong with unions, stuck in a time wrap, out of touch and still trying to operate like it's 1952 and not 2012... many who got forced into the union don't even see any benefits. it's a real mess of misguided management.

I am sorry, but the AFM membership needs to educate itself about the issues, talk to people they know in town in the business and have a very serious and heart to heart talking to the union leadership - or this is only going to get worse.

And yes, I have been instructed to score out of town - it was a nightmare, we had to spend twice as much time fixing the sessions in LA as we did recording them out of town... but producers are adamant about the AFM's draconian and out of touch policies and they have few allies left (if any).
Old 25th November 2012
  #7
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No doubt that Dr. Bill and Mr. Curtis have their respective fingers on the pulse.

When I caught wind of this thread I thought "shit"! I was hoping that things were getting better, especially for the scoring scene.

I wish I had something positive or insightful to add, but for now I will follow this thread and hope for the best.

I do hope the unions and the industry in general start to wake up and see the light before it is too late.
Old 25th November 2012
  #8
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Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
If runaway production has devalued the L.A. product then there's an opportunity for you. Actually take advantage of the talent available in L.A. and blow everyone else out of the water
Rick, there's no way to do a scab orch date in LA and keep it under the radar. There's a lot of very upset people on both sides, and something like that just doesn't stay under wraps.

Check out the video, it's pretty educational, informative, and strikes to the heart of doing business - as a musician, composer, studio, engineer, producer - in the new millennium. It's time for all concerned to wise up, or loose out on one of the greatest things we ever had as musicians/studio's/composers/producers/engineers - proximity to the biggest entertainment machine on the face of the planet - only to drive them away.... (THAT deserves a facepalm! )
Old 25th November 2012
  #9
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According to the panel of composers: They are paid a single lump sum for the completed delivery of the music. Period. The end. From that lump sum comes their fee, minus all of the production costs (orchestrators, ghost writers, copyists, engineers, studios, musicians, music editor, contractor, recordist, sushi chef, tennis pro, etc...). According to them there isn't an AFM contract that allows this, because it necessitates a buyout agreement. Therefore, scores cannot be recorded AFM in L.A. anymore. Period. The end.

According to the panel: We can compete and win over most of the work that is currently going to London, Nashville, or Seattle, even if the AFM sets higher rates than London. There just has to be no backend. The convenience factor trumps a higher rate, and the musicians and facilities are unquestionable on par or better than over there, or anywhere. But... The more they work, the better they are getting.

According to the panel: There is no sense in competing with situations like Bratislava or Macedonia. That is basically exploitation and cannibalism. Coincidently, composers are getting calls from Chinese orchestras, claiming they are now open for business....

According to the panel: The AFM should position and market Hollywood on the world market as **the boutique** place to score music. Make it sexy and it will sell. People like to become involved in successful brands, and, therefore, composers should be willing to place a branded "... and the Hollywood Studio Orchestra" with their name in the credits. A la "John Williams with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra" credit in "Lincoln." All of the panel were receptive to this.

.
Old 26th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Curtis View Post
composers are getting calls from Chinese orchestras, claiming they are now open for business....


.
I can say from experience that that is not a call worth answering.

-R
Old 26th November 2012
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Curtis View Post
there isn't an AFM contract that allows this, because it necessitates a buyout agreement. Therefore, scores cannot be recorded AFM in L.A. anymore. Period. The end.
Absolutely correct, and it's a bloody shame.

However, I still think virtual orchestras is an elephant in the room. It has certainly devalued the currency.

-R
Old 26th November 2012
  #12
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Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
Absolutely correct, and it's a bloody shame.

However, I still think virtual orchestras is an elephant in the room. It has certainly devalued the currency.

-R
Rick, there's no doubt - especially for TV. But there's no legit Feature film that aspires to a virtual orchestra as it's ultimate soundscore. These films go OUT OF TOWN for their orchestras, and that's the REAL issue at hand. Even the 1 million full budget films are using real orchestras IF the score calls for that treatment. Witness the fact that these other options (Seattle, Europe, etc.) are flourishing - while the LA community is deteriorating fast.

But what REALLY saddens me is the fact that if this were a thread about which virtual 1176 is superior, whether tape is dead or if all DAW's sound the same, it would already have 350 posts and 10,000 page views. But only a half dozen people in a city with thousands of studio's and tens of thousands of musicians even seem to acknowledge the issue at hand.

And yet, no one seems concerned or has an answer - or worse - even a QUESTION about the situation at hand in LA. It blows my mind......
Old 26th November 2012
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Seems to me that it is a simple issue of "supply and demand". Same as every where and everything else. Profits are down everywhere, that means in order to keep the wheels turning then everyone will need to share in the market down sizing. Unions need to understand that it is better to be working for a little less money more often rather then getting more money per job but getting no jobs. Classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I think the panel had a good handle on the idea that musicians and Unions needing to price themselves according to where the market will support them. People may need to change how they live to accommodate the new wages or lack of them. Sucks, but that is real life. Much better to grab that reality and easy down instead of crashing.

My 2 cents
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Old 27th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Rick, there's no doubt - especially for TV. But there's no legit Feature film that aspires to a virtual orchestra as it's ultimate soundscore. These films go OUT OF TOWN for their orchestras, and that's the REAL issue at hand. Even the 1 million full budget films are using real orchestras IF the score calls for that treatment. Witness the fact that these other options (Seattle, Europe, etc.) are flourishing - while the LA community is deteriorating fast.

But what REALLY saddens me is the fact that if this were a thread about which virtual 1176 is superior, whether tape is dead or if all DAW's sound the same, it would already have 350 posts and 10,000 page views. But only a half dozen people in a city with thousands of studio's and tens of thousands of musicians even seem to acknowledge the issue at hand.

And yet, no one seems concerned or has an answer - or worse - even a QUESTION about the situation at hand in LA. It blows my mind......
see my post above - that is the truth about the AFM in Hollywood. what is most sad is that there have been proposals to the union to pay FAIR residuals and royalties - generally these proposals have consisted of paying the AFM whatever money the Composer would have made off these deals if the score was non-union, AND the Composers supported these offerings even though the AFM would be getting the money otherwise owed to the Composer.

Composers so valued LA union musicians that they were willing to make this deal - BUT - the AFM in their infinite wisdom REFUSED such a deal as it is not the hopelessly out of date and insane fee structure they are holding onto from the 50s...

The LA Union Musicians need to have a serious talking to Union Leadership about crafting deals that everyone can agree to and benefit from. After that last proposal got shot down, I think that's when Composers felt they had done all they could do, started keeping quiet, and recording out of town.

You can't blame them.
Old 27th November 2012
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Actually, I think the boat has sailed and left local 47 behind. A real shame.

-R
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Old 27th November 2012
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I know less than nothing about the situation except what I read here. But from here it sounds like AFM members and more importantly AFM leadership are the problem.

I don't know if it is the case here, but my experience over a number of years with unions (which I tend to support) has taught me that, all too often, leadership who has the most power/seniority, will work toward their own best interests - not necessarily that of the membership at large or for the long term health of their industry. Those with more power/seniority lead and vote to protect what they, as the 'leaders' in the given industry have both worked so hard for AND disproportionally partake. SOMEONE has a vested interest in the status quo.

In any case this sounds like a very sad and tough situation. I've often lamented the loss of the work for L.A. studio musicians that helped bring to life much of the music of the music of my youth. I seems it took literally decades for the infrastructure and pool of musicians to develop and only a few years in the eighties for much of that to be just GONE.

I sincerely hope that the musicians, engineers, composers and the studio infrastructure and everyone else in greater L.A. find a way to avoid losing a part of their culture.
Old 27th November 2012
  #17
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Originally Posted by GearAndGuitars View Post
After that last proposal got shot down, I think that's when Composers felt they had done all they could do, started keeping quiet, and recording out of town.

You can't blame them.
No, this started 30 years ago, and has been steadily increasing to the point of hyper-critical mass as of LATE. I don't think ANYONE blames the composers for going out of town other than the top grossing 200 musicians in the union and the leadership.

Don't expect the union to change. Sad, but almost undeniably true. Not sure how this will all shake out, but it doesn't look good.
Old 27th November 2012
  #18
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Originally Posted by Mike O View Post
I know less than nothing about the situation except what I read here. But from here it sounds like AFM members and more importantly AFM leadership are the problem..
Who wouldn't want special payments? No one obviously. But MOST players would rather be working steadily than getting a few bucks in special payments. It's not the musicians that are the problem. Well, not the "common man" musicians. It's the 2-300 top grossing musicians and the union "leadership" who are still stuck in 1964.

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Originally Posted by Mike O View Post
I sincerely hope that the musicians, engineers, composers and the studio infrastructure and everyone else in greater L.A. find a way to avoid losing a part of their culture.
me too.
Old 27th November 2012
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Old 27th November 2012
  #20
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There's a lot of discussion going on, and a good many composers weighing in on the topic, including John Debney, as well as engineer Dennis Sands.

The general consensus is that there needs to be a buyout option for films and games, and library scoring needs to be addressed.

The sad thing is that there are very few musicians saying anything, save for a few lamenting any threat to special payments. Kind of sad to see no one in the AFM ranks stand up and take initiative.

So, the status as of today is that the composers are pretty much 100% united to push for adoption of new buyout options, the AFM leadership is responding negatively, and the AFM musicians are sitting on the sidelines.
Old 27th November 2012
  #21
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Seems like more and more unions putting their own people out of work because on paper, things look good. "But we got you a higher wage" or "you are the highest paid in the whole US" is great on paper. The REALITY is "I would be getting a crapload of money if I was working"!
Unions are destroying many buisinesses, not just this one. Especially places where you are forced to join. If the laws were changed to back to right to join or not the union would need to change with the times or parish. Now they just have a free ride off YOUR back.
Unions don't need to be the enemy, but they need to EARN your dues--not have them forced on you.
Old 27th November 2012
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Curtis View Post
There's a lot of discussion going on, and a good many composers weighing in on the topic, including John Debney, as well as engineer Dennis Sands.

The general consensus is that there needs to be a buyout option for films and games, and library scoring needs to be addressed.

The sad thing is that there are very few musicians saying anything, save for a few lamenting any threat to special payments. Kind of sad to see no one in the AFM ranks stand up and take initiative.

So, the status as of today is that the composers are pretty much 100% united to push for adoption of new buyout options, the AFM leadership is responding negatively, and the AFM musicians are sitting on the sidelines.
I have been intimately involved in some of the discussions and proposals with union management directly (and off the record). The real problem is not the rank and file management at Local 47, but the Senior Management in NYC who are still stuck in time warp.

This is a long time coming, and again - there have been MANY attempts at FAIR initiatives, some of which I have been personally involved in...
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Old 27th November 2012
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It might be too late. Over time an extensive non-union composing and recording infrastructure has grown--whether it be out of town/country orchestras, libraries, or the guys in their bedrooms with virtual instruments--that has sapped most of the power from the union.

Even the broadcast networks that are union signatories have "affiliated" non-union libraries through which they channel music production. Some networks have also started to just commission music without filing a contract or paying residuals, in direct violation of their agreements.

The union stand against buyouts has probably killed off the whole deal by now.

It's unfortunate, because musicians need some kind of protection.

-R
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Old 27th November 2012
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
Even the broadcast networks that are union signatories have "affiliated" non-union libraries through which they channel music production. Some networks have also started to just commission music without filing a contract or paying residuals, in direct violation of their agreements.

That's interesting and something I didn't think of in light of my situation. I've been tapped a few times to write music libraries for some fortune 500 companies and multi-national corporations for use in their television commercials.

It's a buyout deal - no residuals. But what made me wonder about my situation is that all of these gigs I've done for them are always accompanied with an extremely strict, no less than 2 page NDA that pretty much says in no uncertain terms that I am to mention the company's name, nor ever mention that I did the job for them on my resume or website and I am forbidden from using the TV commercials in my demo reel.

I always thought it was just typical corporate paranoia in modern times - for example if I wake up one day and lose it and decide to open fire with a gun in a shopping mall, the last thing a multi-national corporation wants is a news reporter saying that the shooter writes music for them.

In light of what you posted, I wonder if the NDA is just because they're violating their contracts and they're trying to keep it under wraps. It's something I hadn't considered.

Regards,
Frank
Old 28th November 2012
  #25
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NDA's always protect them, not you. The liability is all on you after you sign it.

.
Old 28th November 2012
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ionian View Post
That's interesting and something I didn't think of in light of my situation. I've been tapped a few times to write music libraries for some fortune 500 companies and multi-national corporations for use in their television commercials.

It's a buyout deal - no residuals.
Did you not even retain the composer's share of the performance royalties? You should never do that, and no one should ever ask you to.

-R
Old 28th November 2012
  #27
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Dr. Bill. Much needed discussion about the state of the scoring business in LA. Seems like the discussion is growing. Perhaps publicizing the matter thru music industry press would help to get more traction. All the best with the progress.
Old 28th November 2012
  #28
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Thanks for all your discussion. I sincerely hope this thread can be moved back to a legitimate forum for further meaningful discussion on the situation. If you feel the same, please let the mods know.

Me? I wracked up today in the desert on my motorcycle and will most likely be off line for awhile. OK, but in a lot of pain. Keep up the discussion. Cheers, bp
Old 28th November 2012
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Why don't the musicians that are fed up with this start their own union? As far as I know, there's no law that says there can only be ONE musician's union. Musicians could probably start a new union under IATSE or something. IATSE is a union "representing the technicians, artisans, and craftpersons in the entertainment industry". Musicians COULD easily fall under that premise if they wanted to.
Old 29th November 2012
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Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
Why don't the musicians that are fed up with this start their own union? As far as I know, there's no law that says there can only be ONE musician's union. Musicians could probably start a new union under IATSE or something. IATSE is a union "representing the technicians, artisans, and craftpersons in the entertainment industry". Musicians COULD easily fall under that premise if they wanted to.
I'm very familiar with IATSE, and they don't represent musicians, nor do they want to. I think the idea that you just presented is one of those things that, if it were realistic and feasible, it would have happened already.
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