RMA San Francisco Proposes Union Buyout Scale for Film & TV Sessions

By • May 14, 2005

LOS ANGELES (Film Music Magazine) — Facing an increasing loss of recording work to non-union locations and abroad, the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Musicians Association, a part of the American Federation of Musicians representing musicians who work in the recording area, has proposed an optional new scale that involves doubling the current scale rates paid for film and television recordings in exchange for a buyout of rights for soundtrack albums and secondary markets.

The proposal was circulated on the Internet this week, and is being proposed to union officials at next week’s union discussions in Chicago in advance of negotiations with film and television producers set for early June.

Union officials contacted about the proposal were generally concerned about the precedent that a film and television recording buyout scale would create. Nashville RMA Chapter President David Pomeroy made it clear his constituency disagreed with the proposal, stating, “For the record, Nashville musicians are against the idea of a buyout.”

US recording musicians face an increasingly competitive market, with overseas recording orchestras offering complete buyouts at low rates. Buyouts are also common in other union recording markets such as London, where a buyout of major usages is common. Currently the only buyout rate approved by the American Federation of Musicians International department is a local content low-budget buyout offered to Canadian producers of low budget Canadian films.

A Los Angeles film and television contractor who asked that his name not be used for this article said, “I believe it is time for some kind of change in the session business in Los Angeles – global competition has lowered the pay scales and we are about ten years behind the curve. The quality of players throughout the world is very good now and LA is no longer ‘the only place’ where you can record movie soundtracks and records. The LA recording ‘elite’ has a firm grip on residuals and won’t give them up at all. This then excludes younger people in the session business because the work load shrinks and they are the only ones working in the studios.”

The Los Angeles contractor continued, “I believe there are more lower budget projects than there are big ones and these are the ones that are slated to go out of LA because of the back end residual clause that the producers are not interested in anymore. If they get cheaper or at-par prices from around the globe from musicians with no residuals and acceptable quality than there is no longer a reason to stay in LA to record. It’s a no-brainer for them.”

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