WGA Endorses AMCL – Partnership In Place To Address Workplace Conditions For Composers

Film Music Magazine • April 19, 2010

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) Executive Committee has unanimously approved a series of actions endorsing the fledgling AMCL composers union and designed to address working conditions for composers in the area of free/spec music requested by producers as part of a “spec-off” or “bake-off” competition among finalists for a scoring job.

Click here to listen to audio from the April 19 Composer/Teamster event at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills.

The AMCL’s pact with the WGA is complete separate from any future negotiations with the motion picture and television producers (AMPTP). While the AMCL has focused on health benefits and pension in regards to potential negotiations with the AMPTP, the specific workplace conditions addressed in the WGA pact makes it clear that negotiating better workplace conditions and pay for composers is also a priority of the AMCL as it delivers immediate benefits to composers. The details and terms of the WGA/AMCL agreement are expected to be top discussion items at the AMCL meeting tonight at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.

At their meeting on March 2, 2010, the Writers Guild of America Executive Committee unanimously approved the following letter sent February 5, 2010 by The AMCL/Teamsters’ Local 399 Organizer Steve Dayan to WGA Executive Director David Young:



I’m writing to ask for the support of the WGA in the organizing effort you and I have discussed on behalf of Composers & Lyricists. We have four requests we’d like the Guild to consider.

1. We’d like a general statement of support for our organizing effort. Here is draft language to give the Guild an idea of what we’d like to see in a statement:

“The Writers Guild of America endorses the organizing effort to unionize Composers & Lyricists under the aegis of Teamsters Local 399. We believe that Composers and Lyricists deserve the same benefits enjoyed by all other entertainment industry workers, both above and below the line. We stand together with them in their campaign to win an industry-wide contract and finally receive the working conditions and benefits they have long been denied”.
2. We are requesting the use of the WGA Theater to have a meeting with the Composers & Lyricists and perhaps members of the press in which John Wells, yourself or whomever the Guild designates reads the general statement of support.

3. We would ask the Guild to consider sending out a notice to Show runners to make them aware of the issues confronting Composers & Lyricists in Television which we believe affects Guild Members as well (i.e.,The Wanda Sykes Show). Here are the issues we’d like to make Show runners aware of:

“Dear Guild Member,

Recently, rewrites for WGA members on network prime time shows have come under scrutiny by the Guild as some of our members have asked for clarification on what constitutes a re-write. Just as no producer or network should ask WGA members to work for free, the Guild is writing you to alert you to a similar situation that exists for Composers.

Currently in the Television industry, Composers are asked to write scores on spec as part of a “spec-off” to get employment. Composers are asked to adhere to timing notes (as an example, for three cues, totaling 9 minutes of music) for which composers receive no pay. Composers must submit fully realized scores that are ready for television for free and this is the rule, not the exception. In order to compete in today’s marketplace, Composers are required to deliver to employers:

-Free composition
-Free recording
-Free arranging
-Non-union buyout of musicians
-100% of the Composers publishing rights
-Unlimited re-writes
-A contractual clause that prevents budget over runs despite the number of changes made by the employer.

The Guild believes once writing at any level is seen as /”free” /it compromises writing on all levels.”

4. Lastly, we would ask the Guild to consider publishing an article in its publication of “Written By” highlighting the issues confronted by Composers & Lyricists.

David, our respective organizations have worked closely together over the years and on behalf of Leo, the Composers and myself, we appreciate your consideration of this matter.

Steve Dayan
Business Agent / Organizer



By Jeff Weiss on April 19th, 2010 at 8:17 am

folks, this is truly amazing stuff. zimmer on board and this agreement, which addresses a lot of the issues that television composers have today, this is a momentous day. dayan’s letter and the fact the wga supports composers is groundbreaking. thanks, mark.

By Mark Northam on April 19th, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Thanks, Jeff. The agreement is indeed historic, and the fact that the AMCL is moving forward to effectively address composer workplace issues is promising. Now the key is for **everyone** to get involved with the AMCL to help the organization address the many composer workplace issues that are out there today.

By Jesse Hopkins on April 19th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Hahaha! Feels like Christmas!

By Jesse Hopkins on April 19th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

It would be very easy for the videogame industry to ignore this, so let’s get some heavy hitters like Tommy Tallarico, Giachinno, Jeremy Soule, Jack Wall etc. to support this. Anybody who has their ear, please ask them to come out in support. Heck even Howard Shore, Elfman and Zimmer have done video game music, so let’s unite as “media composers” and not make the differentiation. Sony makes games and movies. So many reasons for this to apply to game developers/publishers too.

By Bob Safir on April 19th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

You know, Jesse, you bring up a very good point.

If, in fact, there is a powerful group within the AMCL that wants the union to be just for television and film composers, then we have to ask them, “Then why is it called the Association of MEDIA Composers and Lyricists?”

By Jesse Hopkins on April 19th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

What’s going on here? I just got this from Chris Alpair:
“One major point about tonights meeting is that they planned to make a pretty historic announcement that would publicly declare the intentions of the AMCL to at least partially be about major composer issues. Unfortunately the new additions and the old boy gang have nixed releasing this tonight.”

By Jeff Weiss on April 20th, 2010 at 8:29 am

It was a great meeting. The teamsters are tremendous. WGA guy said they were finishing up the letter. Great stuff.

By EastWestMusic on April 20th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

The support of the Teamsters and the contents of that letter arethe most important steps forward for composers in the last forty years. Well done.

By Steve Z on April 20th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Until the teamsters or the WGA is willing to shut down non-compliant productions without exceptions these are just empty promises. Let’s see if there’s any back up to the rhetoric.

By EastWestMusic on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Well one could put the focus on our community and off of any other in the same breath, Steve.

If composers would sign a pact to stop undercutting each other, these issues would all go away.

And with the WGA-Teamsters/AMCL setting a tone, we should all follow in harmony.

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