Wilkinson Expands Cue Sheet Claims With 7 Additional TV Series

Film Music Magazine • March 3, 2010

Composer Alex Wilkinson has expanded his claims for cue sheet credit and royalties against composer Joel Goldsmith to include 7 additional television series that Wilkinson says he wrote original music for and has been denied cue sheet credit by Goldsmith.

Last month, Wilkinson claimed that Joel Goldsmith refused to give him cue sheet credit for 29 cues he says he wrote for the “Stargate SG-1” hit television series. Goldsmith told Film Music Magazine in response that Wilkinson was hired and worked only as an orchestrator on the series.

In a February 25 online post to Film Music Magazine, Wilkinson says he wrote original music for television series that he has been denied cue sheet credit for including “Hawkeye” (1994), “Diagnosis: Murder” (1998-1999), “Martial Law” (1998), “The Untouchables” (1993-1994), “Poltergeist: The Legacy” (1998), “Rattled” (1996), and “Monster!” (1999).

According to IMDB, Wilkinson is listed as having composed additional music for all of the newly claimed series except for “Hawkeye” where he is listed as music editor for 23 episodes and “The Untouchables” where he is listed as orchestrator for 30 episodes. Wilkinson says he has not received any cue sheet credit for any of the original music he says he wrote for these series.

Wilkinson says that Goldsmith “has threatened me with a libel lawsuit” about claims of authorship over the “Stargate” cues, and Wilkinson says he has a “mountain of evidence” to prove all of his claims including dated sequencer files, notes, DAT mixes, correspondence and more.

Joel Goldsmith could not be reached for comment, but has stated that he would not be publicly responding to Wilkinson’s claims beyond his online statement refuting Wilkinson’s Stargate claims.

Comments

By Mark Northam on March 20th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Richard says, “If enough emerging composers would say “no” to the very few, established composers, who ask for this type of concession, it would quickly result in abandonment of the situation.”

Sorry, but I just don’t think that’s realistic given the huge numbers of emerging composers and the relatively small number of jobs available. Also, why should emerging composers shoulder the brunt of this – the ones who are in the least powerful position to do anything about it? This is a matter of leverage. Without leverage, you cannot create change. And emerging composers – regardless of their career investment – have very little leverage.

In my career, I’ve been asked by 5 different composers (well, 4 composers and one songwriter who masqueraded as a composer) to ghostwrite, uncredited, and none of these folks were anywhere near the A list. The practice is widespread, and the refusal of the PROs to enforce their own rules only throws fuel on the fire as it signals to all concerned that “anything goes” when it comes to authorship on the legal cue sheets. It’s a total abandonment of integrity when it comes to whether the “author” listed on the cue sheet actually authored the music, and it’s at the heart of this issue.

Why shouldn’t the PROs start enforcing the rules they have on the books against it?

Why shouldn’t existing composers find their PRO membership in jeopardy if they violate these clearly-stated rules?

Sadly, in this oversupplied industry, there will always be a virtually unlimited number of composers ready to take any deal out there. Everybody knows this. So change must happen from the top down. Only those who make the rules are in a position to enforce them. They obviously can’t play “cop” and chase down every cue sheet fraudster, but a few public cases would send a message loud and clear to everybody down the food chain: submit a fraudulent cue sheet, you’re in trouble. Fraud and misrepresentation are no way to do business no matter what level of the business you’re at.

By Richard Bellis on March 20th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

” Also, why should emerging composers shoulder the brunt of this – the ones who are in the least powerful position to do anything about it?”

This is the same as saying that rather than a women saying “No” it’s up to the rapist to behave himself. If it’s not mutual, then take the appropriate steps to guard against being taken advantage of. Don’t go to the park at night! You’re saying: “Let’s change the mind of the rapists”. Production companies will always try to find the cheapest composer – and the composer will always try to find the cheapest recording facility, copyist, mixer or conductor. I was hoping to, and apparently did, help those under my tutelage. If individuals deem it necessary or, to their advantage, to cooperate with a certain scenario, that should be their choice.

The PROs can do any number of things. The more they do the more expense is incurred. ASCAP has the lowest operating expense ratio of all PROs. This, in spite of the fact that we shoulder the expense of litigation ourselves most of the time. Can we police? Probably. Your royalties at work. Frankly, I have no problem policing my own works. That’s part of being professional. IMHO. I’d rather have the distribution.

Because we differ on so many issues and so severely at most times, I think it’s telling to point out our individual mast-heads. These might be construed as in keeping with our priorities.

Mark Northam
Entrepreneur/Disruptor/Educator/Consultant

Richard Bellis
Film Composer/Arranger/Teacher

By Jack Jackson on March 20th, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Richard Bellis, you should be ashamed of yourself for what you have said here about women and young composers. It is beyond belief, really. Maybe something has gotten the better of your judgement this evening and you will regret this tomorrow. Probably not. And that is because you are from a generation for whom victims are blamed for their injuries. Thankfully your generation is retiring and disappearing. You really are a mean old man, Mr. Bellis. And you are painfully ignorant of contract law as well as criminal law in our society. Either that or you are trying to cover and justify your own guilt.

•The hired composer who signs the contract to deliver original music written by himself is the only one violating the contract when he/she uses a ghostwriter–not the ghostwriter nor the production company.

•The hired composer is the only one violating the Copyright Act when he/she puts their name on a cue that was written by a ghostwriter–not the ghostwriter nor the production company.

•The hired composer is the only one stealing royalties from the ghostwriter when he/she cashes the ASCAP check–not the ghostwriter nor the production company.

•The rapist is the only one sent to jail–not the innocent girl for walking to the corner store after dark.

Mr. Bellis, you must be joking (manipulating) when you say the solution is for ghostwriters to say “no.” It’s an absurd and pathetic concept. Young ghostwriters have not signed a contract, they might never have composed professionally, and they might not yet have learned about their legal rights under the Copyright Act. They are trying to get a break and earn a living. It is the legal and moral responsibility of the hired composer to abide by the terms of the contract he has signed, not that of every struggling composer on earth to “just say no.” Come now, Nancy…

Mr. Bellis, you should really be ashamed of your mean spirit and tragic ignorance. You are blaming rape victims for going out at night and ghostwriters for being abused and ripped off. It is quite shocking. Really. And to think that you are a representative of ASCAP and you call yourself a teacher. A sad state of affairs.

Let us all not forget about Mr. Bellis’s earlier comments defending his use of ghostwriters in various scenarios. If he is comparing struggling ghostwriter/composers to rape victims then Mr. Bellis must be compared to the rapist. And so, of course, he does not want the rapist held responsible. Mr. Bellis apparently believes that the rapist should continue his evil deeds until those damn victims wise up.

Mr. Northam et al, It is clear that this plague will not be eradicated until Mr. Bellis and his ilk are retired and gone.

By Mark Northam on March 20th, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Richard,

You’ve really got me stumped. You’re basically condoning and defending the illegal act of a composer breaching his legal composer agreement by hiring uncredited ghostwriters, while at the same time saying that the PROs, who make the rules by which performance royalties are paid, should ignore the fraud and misrepresentation that occurs when cue sheets are falsified and authorship is taken. Sorry, but I have to believe that we could do things a lot better than that. I believe we can operate on a much more moral and enlightened basis where the integrity of authorship is respected and earned, not bargained away or taken from those least in a position to understand the long-term effects of this dangerous practice.

I have to say this again because I believe it is at the core of what we’re discussing: Authorship is a FUNCTION, not a COMMODITY. A composer is an author because of what they DO(writing the music at issue), not because a composer, crooked music executive or other slimy middleman has bought it or convinced someone to hand it over to them as part of some shady deal that is both illegal in terms of breaching the composer agreement, and illegal according to the rules of the performing rights organizations.

It’s interesting you quoted the masthead from my personal blog (which covers all my activities including non-music ones). I’m proud of my record in this industry, especially the “educator” and “disruptor” parts as we continue to expose and educate composers about the business, including some of the most abusive and shady business practices in the industry that more than a few of the old-guard types would prefer we not discuss in public so that they may continue unfettered.

As for me personally, I’ll happily wear the title of “educator” and “disruptor” any day if the alternative is defending the status quo at any cost, including sacrificing the integrity of authorship.

I find it telling that after so many posts on this subject here, you continue to avoid the fact that what you’re defending (the hiring of uncredited ghostwriters in some circumstances) is illegal under most composer contracts. And it’s not “parking ticket” level illegal, it violates the most fundamental aspect of what composers are hired to do – to personally write original music!

Finally, you can try and make this personal and insinuate whatever you want about what you think my motives and priorities are, and I could make this personal by pointing out that while you were “studying” as a child actor, I was studying the works of Bach, Chopin, Debussy and Beethoven as a young classical pianist from age 4, but what does that prove? Nothing. Making things personal only serves as a sideshow to distract us and those reading this thread from the actual issue we’re discussing – your justification for and my opposition to the practice of hiring uncredited ghostwriters.

In the end, the illegality, not to mention the intellectual fraud and misrepresentation, of taking credit for another’s musical works remains a business practice I strongly oppose, under ANY circumstances.

Clearly as an industry, we can and must do better.

By Alex Wilkinson on March 21st, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Hi Richard
Being a member of the board of ascap, you may have different royalty payment options available to you. You said:
“Frankly, I have no problem policing my own works. That’s part of being professional.”
How does one person police every show in his/ her catalogue worldwide? I really want to know. That info may help countless struggling composers at least pay their rent, so to speak.

Best
Alex

By Greg on March 22nd, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Change the culture. Be honest with producers that you occasionally have an assistant work on a cue or two, and that they deserve cue sheet credit for doing so. Tell them this before you sign the contract. Procure the necessary documents.

All the producer cares about is that their movie gets scored, and gets scored well. Sure, you need to deal with the legal paperwork of having multiple people involved. Just push through it. Do it right. You’ll only have to do it once per producer, and in the process you’ll put yourself on the road to a positive, transparent, and honest relationship with your employers.

Idealistic? Maybe. Hopefully I can make it happen.

Despite the negativity in this thread, this is a healthy debate.

By Michael on March 23rd, 2010 at 8:33 am

I have been following this thread for quite some time, and as a very young composer it has been eye opening and helpful. I must say that I find myself agreeing with both parties in this instance.

I have been experiencing some growing success lately very early on in my career and pondering these very questions being posed.

First I will comment on Richard’s view, I first want to thank him for being honest and making this information available to me, honestly, thank you. I know that some of the people on this post have made some very direct attacks towards him, but I above all appreciate his honesty. I see what he saying, If my professor (very established, big credits to his name) were to offer me some work to write on one of his jobs I would admittedly most likely take it even if that meant giving up my authorship for a couple reasons. Richard makes a great point in saying that this allows me to perform on a professional level with no pressure, which is invaluable, I can receive quality feedback, and if I excel continuously my professor may even throw me a whole project that I would be the lead composer on, as I know for a fact happened to him many times when he was working for and A-List composer. I would in no way hold a grudge towards him. To an 18 year old composer the options to work on something like this may be more valuable than the money from royalties. I feel it is unrealistic to demand authorship all the time for projects that may not be mine and expect to have continuous work come back to me, if you want ghost writing to go away you have to change the whole system (Studios, PRO’s, Composers). Everybody involved has to commit, and thats just not realistic. I am not a fan of compromising integrity for the situation, but I’m not sure there is a better option. The idea of ghostwriting on paper is a dirty one Mark, I agree whole heartedly, but I don’t think that means that everything about it is evil. The second reason I would give it up (authorship) is because I trust my professor he is a man who values his word and I know that his offering me a job would be to benefit both of us, not just him, he would not take advantage of my abilities. That being said, I would be weary of a composer coming to me who I did not know asking to give up my cue sheet credit.

Now on to what Mark is saying. My very admittance to being OK with giving up authorship only helps to progress the practice of ghost writing and I recognize that, everyone must say “no” if we want the practice to go away. Also, it is a very risky thing for everyone involved, and breaching a legally binding contract is never a good idea, regardless of how common the practice is. I do agree that my intellectual abilities/music is not something to be bought and sold, but something that I own, that is specifically unique to me, and I should be credited appropriately for that.

I guess my final note would be this. I have integrity, and I should be rewarded and compensated for the work that I produce no matter what, that should be my right, but as a young aspiring film composer entering a field where principles and morals are “flexible”, holding fast to your integrity might just be your ticket to nowhere.

Feedback is welcome!

By Alex Wilkinson on March 23rd, 2010 at 9:54 am

Hello Michael and thank you for your comments.

Mentorship should never mean that you have to give up your authorship. Before I scored one note with Goldsmith I was asked to ghostwrite on two Disney series and I received cue sheet credit for both series. These were my very first composing works for television and I was never asked to give up my cue sheet credit.
I was asked” “Are you ASCAP or BMI?”
Again, I have scored many films and shared cue sheet credit and screen credit with Goldsmith prior to STARGATE SG-1. For him to hire me to score on STARGATE SG-1, the biggest project he has ever had and then exclude me from the cue sheets is simply wrong, illegal, immoral, dishonest, harmful to me and my family personally and professionally. It is theft and that is what this article is about. Name composers stealing authorship and cue sheet credit from fellow composers.

Best!
Alex

By legal eagle on March 24th, 2010 at 10:11 pm

After much thought and legal research I have come up with a legal method for the ghost to get his or her due, regardless of what they do at the beginning of their relationship with the composer of record.

By Jack Jackson on April 9th, 2010 at 9:05 am

A question has been burning in the back of my mind since I first read these articles.

Considering the issues and evidence brought up by Wilkinson, I’m wondering why Goldsmith doesn’t settle this thing in private and make it go away. My guess is that a settlement would amount to the tiniest fraction of Goldsmith’s income from the years of these successful series.

Let us score the two paths of action for Goldsmith.

Settle:
Upside is it goes away in private, nobody ever knows what happened, probably at less than 100% of the claimed value, and with very low legal costs.
Downside is it costs Goldsmith some cash. No other downside I can see.

Wait it out:
Upside is it might go away on its own–at little or no cost–although Wilkinson seems quite driven to pursue this. Or Goldsmith might win in court.
Downside is huge. Court case will be completely public information so if it turns out that Goldsmith was wrong he will look very bad–articles in Daily Variety, New York Times, etc.–which could impact his career quite negatively, with Wilkinson free to blog about the details at will. If Wilkinson wins in court it will cost Goldsmith a fortune; possibility of treble damages plus legal fees for both sides and court costs. Wilkinson has the advantage financially because, unless there’s something we don’t know, it sounds like he is not sitting on a fortune. In other words, Wilkinson can afford to go bankrupt, while a loss for Goldsmith might affect his life considerably. And even if Goldsmith wins in court, court battles take a toll–emotionally, financially, timewise, etc. If Goldsmith is working on a series and Wilkinson is not, a legal battle will be harder on Goldsmith than on Wilkinson.

At this point I think that Goldsmith’s attorneys are disserving him, hoping to churn some big dollars out of their client in a protracted legal battle.

By toxic avenger on April 17th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I always love it when composers think they know the law and legal tactics.

ROFL.

By David Bondelevitch on July 14th, 2010 at 7:53 am

I think most of the people writing here have no idea how common ghostwriting is.

When a studio hires a composer, they expect that person to be the sole person to write the music. Yet they give him or her an unnaturally short period of time to write the music. In every case I’ve seen, when the composer asks for split credits on the cue sheet, the studio freaks out and refuses. Ironically, the reason is that they are afraid of lawsuits about who deserves what credits and how much money goes to whom. With one person, there are no arguments, and no lawsuits.

I have never dealt with a ghostwriter who ever expected anything beyond an opportunity to practice and learn the craft. They understand that the system stinks, but that’s how it is, and you work your way up from there. If you don’t want the gig, you don’t have to take it.

If anyone expects this culture to change, they should take it up with the studios, not the composers. They are not the bad guys here. They are getting screwed just like everyone else. Nothing will change until the studios either allow additional credits or they give longer post-produciton schedules. (Schedules were significantly longer 30 years ago then they are now!)

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