Association of Media Composers and Lyricists and Teamsters Announce Union Information Meeting Nov 16

Film Music Magazine • November 6, 2009

The organizing committee of the newly formed Association of Media Composers and Lyricists (AMCL) in partnership with Teamsters Local 399 has announced an informational meeting concerning union representation for composers and lyricists working in all forms of contemporary media on November 16 in Burbank.

The meeting is open to all composers and members of the composing community. The group’s organizing committee, started four years ago, is led by composer Alan Elliott, “The Simpsons'” composer Alf Clausen, ASCAP Board Member Bruce Broughton and former SCL President Jim DiPasquale.

For more details on the meeting, visit the AMCL website at

Since the dissolution of the composers’ union in 1982, composers are the only major creative entity working in the film and television industries without any collective bargaining or industrial representation.

The AMCL notes that the focus of the current unionizing efforts are to establish working conditions and health benefits for composers in addition to starting to find basic minimums.

The AMCL’s efforts to unionize composers represent a convergence of timing and determination. Four years ago, the Teamsters unionized a smaller unit of 400 casting directors, and while the composer industry is made up of thousands of composers across the country, the AMCL says the Teamsters alliance represents a blueprint for how to bring members of the composing community together.

The group points to the success of the Writers Guild of America in negotiating rates for their members, as opposed industry rates for composers which have seen major declines over the last 2 decades.

Composers are urged to attend the November 16 meeting where detailed information about the unionization efforts will be discussed and questions from attendees will be addressed. To RSVP for the event, visit the AMCL website at


By Steve Wolf on November 9th, 2009 at 4:12 pm


Thank you!!!

Let me know what I can do to help.


By Brian on November 9th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Good luck. You have factors in favor and factors against.

Unless the other unions strike when you strike, it’ll be 1971 all over again. You also should not make the mistake ascap make and let composers run th union.

By Mike on November 10th, 2009 at 5:59 am

Here’s what will happen now… The less than 5% of composers who score larger budget media will benefit from the forced fee agreed by the Union and all the other members will enjoy paying for their retirement. Unions were a great idea long ago, but name one that isn’t killing the business they represent. I wonder if you can get a govt. bailout before you even form your first meeting??
AND per the suggestion in Mark’s editorial on the issue…

“…. I also have to applaud the AMCL on their focus on the art and craft of composing – these days, painfully few entities within our industry focus on the actual quality of the music we’re hired to create, but this new union clearly is making that a priority….”

That is almost what makes this a joke! Can’t wait to meet the Quality Czar? And what will be the guidelines? That might be what proves this is a dated concept. A bunch of “old guys” bitching about the crappy music these days and forcing a stop to it.

Also…I agree what about the AFM??? They are a lovely organization who seem to bask in the glow of member support while everyone leaves town to get work cheaper.

Most importantly…Will this new Composers Union allow websites to profit from composers posting music for possible consideration for low or no pay opportunities from totally anonymous organizations??? Sound Familiar?? Hint-Hint?

There is a better way…but I doubt this is it.

By Mark Northam on November 10th, 2009 at 7:23 am

Hi Mike –

I appreciate your feedback. I urge you to take a closer look at the AMCL and the leaders involved – talk to them, see and hear for yourself what their plans are and what they’re trying to do. It’s not the typical “old cats” union that typifies some other organizations.

Re: websites, I welcome your feedback and comments. If you’re concerned about no-pay situations (which we do not post composer jobs for), perhaps your attention should be directed towards the increasing number of music libraries that have dumped thousands of FREE MUSIC tracks into the marketplace, making it all but impossible to get license fees for music placements on a growing number of cable networks, etc.

You say there’s a better way – GREAT! Let’s hear it – what’s your idea?

Dialogue and communication are helpful, even if we may disagree.


Mark Northam

By Mike on November 10th, 2009 at 11:27 am

Thanks Mark,
I always appreciate you ideas and opinions. I should say “I believe there is a better way…. I haven’t spent the time to consider the options. Just seems like the key is to re-discover the “value” in the music and the work. I don’t believe a union does that. They just say here is how we do it, like it or not…. Ask…Why does the industry find little or no value in the product? I’d prefer to think creatively… Teamsters? I’ve waited for a teamster electrician to plug in my booth’s power…. waited a long time for a lazy overpaid teamster.

You’ll get no argument from me on libraries. I just wonder sometime why you give them a forum to thrive and in addition profit from it, then bitch about it. I have had contact from posters on this site. Not one has been what I consider a good deal yet. And most are the exact situation you describe?

But maybe composers could learn from Libraries….they created a new model… i’m not saying I’m the genius to do it, but I assure you a union likely not either.

In the end I think we would like the same result.

By Mike on November 10th, 2009 at 11:30 am

one more little thing… I have never been paid by any music used by companies on this forum. I have had numerous placements and the only money I received was VERY small PRO checks. I don’t see how that does not fall into the ” no pay” category. They didn’t pay me a dime. SESAC did. I assure you they made money.

no pay is no pay….

By Mark Northam on November 10th, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Hi Mike –

I appreciate your feedback. Sadly, more and more cable TV movie placements (of existing music, not new custom composed music) are turining into back-end only deals (ie, performance royalties only, no sync fee). It’s an unfortunate trend that has been happening for years, and now more and more cable network financial departments have made the decision not to pay sync fees for library and instrumental music, although sometimes they pay for pop songs. For composers, compensation has always been a combination of front and backend payments, and with these networks, they’ve decided their deal will be backend only.

If I thought I could do something about this, I would, believe me. But it’s an industry trend – too many networks are doing it, and there are too many no-sync-fee libraries out there now, another growing trend. Our job researchers are working every day to try and find opportunities for our members so that “the same old guys” aren’t always called for work. My #1 goal in this is creating opportunities, within the framework that exists in the industry.

But when one network does something way out of line, like when the Discover network released its own score as a library and chose not to share any of the sync fees with composers, we made a big deal about that. Same thing some years ago when the PAX network tried to force composers to join SESAC and grant their writers royalties back to the network – we created an industry-wide coalition including the AFM, RMA, SGA and many others that generated a lot of bad publicity for those folks – eventually, the policy was canceled.

I have a lot of questions about the union too, but compared to what we have now – total anarchy, mercenary composers knifing each other in the back for little or no money, constant lowballing and undercutting, and virtually no sense of community much less any structure for that community, I want to give these guys the benefit of the doubt. They’ve got some experienced guys like Bruce Broughton, Alf Clausen and others on their organizing committee – let’s see what happens.

Again, thanks for the feedback!



By Timo Laine on November 10th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Ive been in the AFM Union during my 20 years of performing,and recording.

They were always there to collect, but when I needed them for support, they
were worthless.

Now that Im 62 years old and starting retirement, they cant even find my records.

In my honest opionion, they destroyed the night club business, and ran the
booking agents out of business.

When a union rep would show up to the job site, we always felt it was no
different than the old school mob collector wanting his cut, in exchange for

In Canada it was even worse, The union would not let you unload your own
equipement, heavy objects had to moved with a rented fork lift.
any stage props involving wood had to be done by union carpenters
At the end of the day, concert tickets left a break even to the actual

I believe the heart and soul of the unions is criminal in nature.

By Mike on November 10th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

In continuing effort for what I hope will result in a good outcome…
There have been 2 times specifically where the local union came in and not only killed the good long standing gig I had but if it had continued they would have been paying us less… even before dues. They absolutely had no business messing it up but they did anyway. And I will say first hand… the unnamed local used some pretty sweet “old school” persuading techniques. It was almost surreal.

It’s a crappy world, I’d like it to be better. I’ll spend my money on education and skill improvement and not Teamster dues.
Again, all the best.

By Mark Northam on November 10th, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Hi Mike and Timo –

All of these represent valid questions that can and should be asked of the Teamsters and the organizing committee of the composer unionizing efforts. They have told me that they will answer EVERY question on their website, so fire away. Their email is and if they fail to answer any of your submitted questions, please let me know and I’ll personally follow up.

No question unions of the past in some cases created more problems than they solved. My gut tells me that the folks involved wouldn’t let this thing get off the ground if they thought that these sorts of issues would be happening, but let’s see…

By Joe Smith on November 11th, 2009 at 9:37 am

The group points to the success of the Writers Guild of America in negotiating (higher)rates for their members, as opposed (to) industry rates for composers which have seen major declines over the last 2 decades.

Seems grammatically incorrect without these fixes


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