Musicians Union Seattle Crackdown Scheduled to Begin in 4 Days

By • September 27, 2006

If the American Federation of Musicians ( labor union carries through on its threat issued in July, film and television composers, orchestrators, copyists, musicians, and other AFM members composing or working on scores recorded in Seattle could be facing $50,000 fines beginning October 1.

In a special “Notice to AFM Members” published in July, AFM President Tom Lee quotes AFM Bylaw 15 which states:

“No AFM member may perform services (whether as composer, arranger, copyist, proofreader, instrumentalist, leader, contractor, cutter, editor, or in any other capacity): (1) where the product of the services is intended to result in, or be embodied in, recorded music made outside of the United Sates and Canada and the possessions of either; or (2) for the purpose of producing, editing, or dubbing recorded music except where expressly authorized and covered by a contract with the AFM or when expressly authorized by the AFM.”

The complete text of the AFM Notice is available on the AFM website at:

While the AFM Notice to Members specifically targets AFM members involved with Seattle recordings, the AFM Bylaw quoted by Lee is not specific to Seattle, and would seem to prohibit AFM members providing services in “recorded music made outside of the United States…” It is not clear why the AFM has singled out Seattle and whether the AFM will be pursuing charges against composers and other AFM members who record scores in London, Bulgaria, and other parts of Eastern Europe.

It was unclear how the AFM expected to carry through on threats of fines to AFM members for composing, as the AFM does not regulate, protect, or cover the craft of composing music for film and television. The AFM does cover orchestration, conducting, music prep, and other related areas, and many composers are members of the AFM to collect benefits for the related work they perform in addition to composing.

One Seattle recording industry pro contacted by Film Music Magazine was amazed at what he described as “blatant bullying” by the AFM, emphasized the fact that the union set up by the Seattle musicians (The International Guild of Symphony, Opera and Ballet Musicians – was “just as legitimate and legal” as the AFM, and pointed out that contrary to AFM claims that Seattle work is “non-union,” both the International Guild of Symphony, Opera and Ballet Musicians union and the AFM union are both recognized by the US National Labor Relations Board.

Film Music Magazine has sent a request to AFM President Tom Lee for clarification of how these actions will affect composers and those in other recording locales outside the US, and will be providing continuing coverage of this situation.

Leave a Comment