AFTRA and AFM Unions Endorse New Teamsters Composers Union Efforts

By • April 30, 2010

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists [AFTRA] which represents vocalists and the American Federation of Musicians [AFM] which represents musicians have jointly endorsed the new composers union being organized with the Teamsters.

Click here to download the AFTRA/AFM endorsement letter.

In a letter this week, AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Robergs Hedgpeth and AFM President Thomas Lee offered the support of their organizations to composers and lyricists, stating, “We support your efforts to assist composers and lyricists to organize through the Teamsters and your efforts to be recognized by the employers’ association.”

The union endorsements come on the heels of strong support by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in the form of an agreement letter approved by the WGA Executive Board on March 2 where the WGA supports composers’ stance against having to write music for free as a condition of auditioning for a job. The letter focuses on composers being asked to write music for free as a condition of a “bake-off” competition once a short list of composers has been identified for a project, and in clear and unequivocal language states that the WGA believes that “once writing at any level is seen as “free” it compromises writing on all levels.”

Click here to download the WGA agreement letter.

While the composers union has stated that they are pursuing a “benefits-only” approach with the television and motion picture producers, the AFTRA and AFM support opens the door for mutually beneficial agreements to be created between the composers union and organizations representing musicians and vocalists similar to the existing “no free music” agreement with the WGA. Future potential deals with music editors (a part of the IATSE trade union) and the newly established music supervisors association could create even more diversified industry support to help establish better workplace conditions for composers and eliminate unreasonable workplace demands, such as free music, on composers.

Comments

By music recorder on April 30th, 2010 at 7:10 am

what incentive will composers have to fight for AFM players/contract if the composers will be getting health care from this proposed union? Or will the Teamsters enforce them using AFM musicians as well?

By Composer on April 30th, 2010 at 11:17 am

At the recent Teamster+Composer meeting, it was hilarious to see a panel largely comprised of rich composers acting very concerned about pension and health benefits they don’t need… and the rest of the panel or organizing group being made up of the complete opposite, people who need it but haven’t done anything to earn it, i.e. composers that don’t have resumes or active careers worth mentioning (in other words, the ‘beloved’ ‘career organizationists’). Where were all the composers in the middle?

Also, in response to the WGA support for ‘no free music’, and when it comes to the support needed to get there, one very prominent and rich composer said at this meeting something along the lines of; “The moment this initiative becomes about anything else than Health and Pension benefits, I’m outta here!”. Duly noted. Gee, thanks for your support Mr. Rich Composer who has never gotten a cue written for free for himself from anyone else, right?

What we have here is a bunch of people with different agendas and reasons for being a part of another effort to create a composer’s union, and many of these agendas and reasons are not necessarily about ‘composer’s rights’… We shall see what happens…

By Cynical Library Composer on April 30th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

As far as the health benefits, I thought Obama was solving that problem.

By Jim D. on April 30th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I was at the meeting too. The guys on the panel are NOT the guys who need a union – they are already doing fine. So what gives? Maybe they’re the ones who want to make sure a union is toothless and powerless, like the AFM. Kill it before it ever gets off the ground, etc. Any way you look at it, these guys are in it for their own interests, and everybody’s afraid of pissing off that “rich composer” you mention and his agent, who is the real power behind what’s going on there. What composer in town would dare go against the biggest film music agency in LA? Nobody. Game over.

By EastWestMusic on April 30th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I disagree on one thing, and hope to be proven right. I think the WGA agreement is remarkable. Implementing it though is the key. I worry because the WGA seems to have been swept under the rug, unless I missed something. Even though we see union after union coming out in favor of the AMCL, these are all unions, with the exception of the WGA, that won’t have much impact on our jobs. Health care is a questionable goal while we continue to spec out music during pilot season. You are right that health care should change under Obama and plus, most of the guys at the meeting raised their hands and already seemed to have coverage from the producers through the AFM. I would hope Mike Post, who was so forceful (Mr. Rich Composer referred to above) accepts and begins to show the leadership about what the next steps are to help composers, and not just threaten us that he’s “outta here.” I understand the union is in a state of change now with Post seemingly in charge, but the meeting the other night felt passionless and to some degree pointless. We have important issues besides Post’s benefits and pension.

By Joe Plays Winds on April 30th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I don’t usually write on these boards. Although I enjoy the give and take, but as a retiree, I don’t have the passion usually to engage. As a 42 year AFM member, I used to play dates for Mike Post who usually stood around as Pete Carpenter did the work. Pete was a great guy and a real talent. Mike was always a great hustler. What I remember most though is Mike Post stepping across the AFM picket line to build his business scoring shows for Universal with non-AFM musicians.

I was at the meeting last week and all Post talked about was health and pension. Coming from Post this is a joke. He must be near Medicare, as well as the richest man in television, with all his empire build on the dead bodies of live musicians who he helped bankrupt. Post is the reason live music in television died. I must say I see very little hope if the Teamsters plan on building a union around a scab like Post. Good luck.

By plastic fantastic on May 3rd, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Wow. The cynicism on this board is remarkable.

Rich composers? Other than Mike Post, just who are you referring to? The steering committee is deliberately made up of guys who have experience in this matter – necessary to prevent repeating errors of the past – and guys who are in the composing trenches every day, of various levels of experience. Guys with extensive resumes (like Mike Post) lend credibility to these efforts, making it possible to enroll other industry heavyweights as members of the union (Hans Zimmer, James Newton-Howard, Tom Newman, Danny Elfman, et al). Without those guys on board the AMPTP would not even begin to consider this effort worth a pinch of salt. And it is those very guys who want to help the next generation of composers by simply getting a collective bargaining agreement in place. Benefits is one thing everybody agrees on as a starting point. Past that things get dicey very fast right now. Working conditions – how do you even begin to define that when basically we are paid by the piece, not by the hour or week? Sure there are many many issues that need to be discussed, many wrongs to be righted – but first we need to simply exist as a unified entity. Then we all have a forum to discuss issues and vote for what we want. Until that happens it is all just gum-flapping – something there has been plenty of over the last few decades.

Was Mike Post anti-union back in the day? Yes, history shows that. And he admits as much. But now he has swung around 180 degrees. He doesn’t need the benefits – clearly. So what is his motivation? Maybe, just maybe, it’s because he sees how conditions have deteriorated and wants to do his part to ameliorate that. Post was hardly the reason live music died. He didn’t invent the synthesizer or the computer. He was just one of MANY who made use of the technology in existence. What do you propose, Joe Plays Winds – that studios are forced by contract to use live players only? That is the kind of thinking that has destroyed what little credibility the AFM has. The AFM is, unfortunately, the weakest union in town by a mile. More and more studio – let alone indie – contracts show up on composers’ computers stipulating that NO AFM musicians are to be utilized. Do I prefer using live players? Hell yes. And I’m sure Mr. Post does too. But as INDIVIDUALS – and Mike is just an individual (albeit very rich) – we do not have any power to force any issue.

The best thing the composers can do for their musician brethren is to form a strong union for themselves. Without such a union we are all, in a word, fucked. This is a very smart strategic move. You know you can talk about invading Moscow, but first you need an army. Then you need a strategy. And most likely that strategy would not involve rushing headlong into conflict undergunned and undermanned.

As for Obama’s healthcare plan, you all had better read it for yourselves. From what I understand it simply requires that you have healthcare. There are provisions that require employers to provide healthcare, but as currently defined by the AMPTP we are not employees – we are independent contractors. If anything this plan could be interpreted to mean that we are responsible to provide healthcare for musicians that we hire! At the very least it means we are required to buy our own healthcare at considerable expense.

Yes many people at that meeting already have healthcare, mostly by putting themselves down on AFM contracts as orchestrators, conductors, and players. NOT as composers. And the AFM is increasing the number of hours required this year AND pulling out of the motion picture health plan. Good luck with what comes next there.

Have a little faith folks. These people are doing this for one reason only – because it’s the right thing to do. If you feel strongly otherwise, show up at the next meeting and voice your concerns. I have found all of these guys to be open and hoping to help out the best way they know how. If they really wanted to kill this effort the easiest thing would be to simply not participate – without guys of this caliber this union will not fly. Their participation gives me hope that this can work.

Pitch in and help. It’s easy to take potshots from the sidelines. Call the guys, email them, give them your opinions, show up at meetings, speak up, organize, get involved!

Have a little faith.

By Jesse Hopkins on May 3rd, 2010 at 4:48 pm

It’s healthy cynicism. There’s such thing as union busting. Happens every single time.

By Jesse Hopkins on May 3rd, 2010 at 5:59 pm

The elephant in the room with starting a composer’s union seems to be that the model for composing has changed to be hierarchical groups with employers and employees within them. How can we get past the resistance of composers who are EMPLOYERS of composers. Most employers of composers will resist reform of workplace conditions the same as any studio or producer will. I think that the Teamsters need to say they don’t need 2/3 of working composers, but 2/3 of working composers who do not employ other composers. Let the employers be on their own for now.

By plastic fantastic on May 5th, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Jesse,

Cynicism is indeed healthy. But back it up with some reasoning beyond conspiracy theory.

What are you saying – Mike Post et al are union busting? That’s pretty funny, actually. He has been doing his damnedest to organize the working composers – the ones who the studios need to see on the Teamsters rolls before ANY negotiations commence. Without the support of people of Mike Post’s success level this effort would not come to fruition. All he has to do to kill this thing is to sit on his hands and encourage others to do the same. But he’s not – he is trying to help the best way he knows how, with no advantage to himself. Seriously, think about what you’re saying before you cast aspersions on someone who is out to help others the way Mike is. You may disagree with his strategy – that’s fair game – but it is an inaccurate low blow to attack his motives.

You do bring up a good point that some composers hire other composers to bring their wares to the market. But you also must realize that the Teamsters will not, in any case, be negotiating with so-called ‘lead composers’ for benefits etc. for the composers the bring on board. The secondary composers should be getting their benefits directly from the studios. A similar set-up exists within the casting directors group under the Teamsters. They have associates who receive a set minimum wage from the studios while the ‘lead’ casting directors are left to negotiate their own fees with no top or bottom scale. Pretty good chance something similar will go into place here at some point.

But first – let’s simply get on the same page. If we want to argue about working conditions – maximum hours, minimum scales, do we charge more for synthestrations, do we work weekends, holidays, do we charge more for writing in Eb minor, whatever – we’ll be talking about this amongst ourselves for another four years at least before we even have a PRAYER of getting in front of the AMPTP. Let’s get a contract in place asap. THEN we can talk and see where we all agree.

By Mark Northam on May 5th, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Plastic (wheover you are – I assume an AMCL person) -

The AMPTP negotiations are long-term, will likely take 2+ years according to the AMCL. Composers need help now, and Obama’s already promised us healthcare. What is the danger in working on some more immediate goals, like the FREE MUSIC agreement that was put into place with the WGA before the recent “focus” on benefits only? After years, the WGA comes to our side and officially, by a unanimous vote of their Executive Board supports NO FREE MUSIC and the AMCL runs away from the deal, after making it, as fast as they can? Ridiculous.

There are 2 distinct and different opportunities available: Long-term AMPTP negotiations for benefits, and inter-union negotiations for agreements with other unions like the WGA agreement to support no free music on spec-offs/bake-offs. Working on one does not exclude the other – grown-ups can actually walk and chew gum at the same time!

Let’s not throw away valuable opportunities for solidarity that could create real reform for composers – especially in obvious, non-controversial areas like eliminating free music which NO composer I know would object to – in order to put on blinders, ignore every other opportunity, and focus like a one-note Johnny on “benefits only” – something that is years down the pike at best.

There are lots of things wrong with the composer industry now, today. Let’s start multitasking and solving problems.

By plastic fantastic on May 6th, 2010 at 7:30 am

First – make no assumptions Mark.

Actually there is a real chance that, because of this streamlined agenda, the Teamsters will be able to fast track an agreement with the AMPTP. That is part of the idea behind this plan – to expedite. The AMCL would NOT have been able to get most of the heavyweight composers on board with an agenda based on working conditions. But with those composers on board the movement has gained considerable momentum in just a few short weeks, thanks to a simplified agenda.

Obama has NOT promised composers health care – certainly not for free. Love to see where that clause is in that legislation. From what I can determine from the Obama plan we actually are left out in the cold, as we are neither unemployed poor people (by and large) nor are we employees (as currently defined). And of course a pension plan is not in Obama’s historic plan.

No one is saying that the WGA’s support is not wanted nor is anybody ‘running away’ from anything. That letter was a draft, not a final letter approved by the AMCL steering committee for release. What is unfortunate is the publication of an unfinished agreement just as all the fencesitters agreed to come on our side with a promise of a simplified and attainable agenda of benefits only. It makes the AMCL appear duplicitous to the fragile coalition of composers who have all agreed that benefits only is the way to go – for now. Plenty of people who have signed onto the letter of support are already bothered by the tone of that draft letter. I actually DO know a few composers – quite successful ones – who object to the no free music approach. Hard to believe maybe, but it’s true. I’m not saying they are right or wrong – what I’m saying is that we will lose their critical support if we all tackle this issue up front. With careful definitions and months of deliberating and negotiating within our own community we can perhaps come up with terms that all can agree upon. But first we need to simply exist as an entity. The current plan of benefits only is the quickest and surest way to bring that to immediate fruition.

Let’s switch the analogy from a horse race to a baseball game. The AMCL has not put blinders on. They are keeping their eyes on the ball. And the ball is the formation of a union, for the betterment of all.

By Chris on May 6th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Does anyone know what the union dues are going to be? It used to be posted and the last time I looked I couldn’t find it. The reason I ask is, if the union (for now) is just about getting benefits and let’s say it costs a grand to get in and about a grand a year to maintain your membership (this is in the ballpark for dues if memory serves) then it’s quite a chunk of change-a surcharge if you will-just to get benefits. Economically speaking that’s $2000 I could put directly into paying for insurance on the open market. If benefits are the only thing the union is going to provide does it make economic sense to join, if $2000 is the price of admission. And then of course, you still have to pay for benefits (they aren’t going to be free!) once you’re in the union. It’s possible I’m missing something here and I’m not anti union. But it does have to make economic sense for a union to be useful-even at the beginning. In my view a benefits only approach is just about the math and I’m not sure it all adds up. I mean, I want to make things better too but it needs to make sense economically-for everyone-for this to gain enough support to be worth a darn.

By Mark Northam on May 6th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Hi Plastic -

Some thoughts -

* Most of the “heavyweight” film and TV composers have not signed on to the AMCL yet.

* From what Bruce Broughton has said, the “heavyweight” composers opposed to workplace conditions or free music being on the agenda was actually about a dozen composers led by Mike Post that gave the AMCL an ultimatum – “benefits only, or we walk”. Mike’s statements at the April meeting echo this.

* The AMCL got 250 guys to sign cards at the Burbank meeting in December when working conditions were still being discussed as being part of the agenda (but necessarily with the AMPTP), then at the April meeting Ray Colcord said that 200 people signed the statement supporting benefits. If anything, that indicates a backsliding of support, not an increase in one if you go by those figures.

* I have no doubt that if you surveyed composers who have music in film and TV today, pension and health insurance would not be the top problems they see in the industry today. And I think it’s clear that for the heavyweights, affordable health care and availability of a pension is not at the top of their list given their income. But we’re launching a reader survey to our 18,000+ industry readers to get a better read on this.

* Re: Obamacare, good points, but as unions only represent employees, membership in the AMCL once the AMCL is certified may already have positive benefits for composers in terms of being considered an employee. Then again, employees don’t get to keep copyright, so AMCL membership may also be a ticket to automatic work-for-hire deals.

* The producers are not fools. They are fully aware that benefits only is a prelude to more extensive union negotiations regarding free music, workplace conditions, etc. After all, what kind of a union doesn’t care about workplace conditions? Workplace conditions and pay are the foundation of why unions were created in the first place!

* Taking the baseball analogy, the “ball” of benefits-only has been determined in secret meetings by a self-appointed group of 11, 9 of which are over the age of 55, claiming to know what’s best for an industry of thousands. At the last meeting, 85% of SCL’s alleged 1200 members (per Variety article) didn’t even bother to show up or sign the “benefits only” letter. And if you consider that thousands of people have their music in film and TV today (a survey we’re working on indicates the number is well over 6,000), I think it’s quite “early in the game” for this small group of LA guys to determine, much less know what the needs and wants of an industry of thousands are.

I fully support a benefits-only negotiating position with the AMPTP. But I see no reason why that must derail all other negotiations with other unions, etc for other beneficial agreements and support for widely-recognized and accepted composer issues such as free music. To allow the AMPTP to push every other issue off the table with other unions before we say word one to them is nothing but a capitulation to them before we even start negotiating. And that’s not exactly leading from a “position of strength”.

The letter approved by the WGA board on March 2 is a great start. Now that we have other unions supporting us, let’s build a strong, important union that doesn’t let the employers set the agenda for them in advance. And speaking of employers, employer-composers who employ other composers have a built-in conflict of interest in the issue of deciding whether employee workplace conditions should be part of the agenda, and should politely excuse themselves from these discussions.

By plastic fantastic on May 7th, 2010 at 7:28 am

Mark

You are an obstinate one, aren’t you?

Apparently you did not read the names on that statement of support. Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Tom Newman, Randy Newman, James Newton-Howard, Marco Beltrami, Harry Gregson-Williams, Carter Burwell, James Horner, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bill Ross, Marc Shaiman, Mike Post, Mark Snow, Chris Young, Snuffy Walden, John Debney to name a few – looks to me like a fairly comprehensive list of who’s who in composing today. There are a few who have not been reached yet – John Williams, most notably – but it sure looks pretty impressive to me. Prior to the change in position by the organizing committee most of those names weren’t about to sign on. Who is missing amongst the top composers in your view?

Your ‘backsliding’ argument is specious at best.

Again – NOBODY is saying that working conditions, minimums, etc. are not issues worthy of addressing. Nothing has been ‘derailed’. This is all simply a matter of proper and intelligent strategy. First, get this union to exist. Benefits only is the most direct and expeditious way to achieve that. THEN the more complex and potentially contentious issues at hand can be addressed. If you want to watch this effort become mired in four more years of bickering, infighting, and namecalling than by all means continue with your current campaign. And good luck to you.

And by the way, by my count 7 (not 9) of the 11 on the committee are over 55, 4 under. Besides, what is your point – that age and experience is somehow bad? That they are out of touch? How ageist of you. Love the ‘self-appointed’ moniker you throw around too. I’ll bite – just who do you think should be appointing members to this committee – you? Or are you simply offended that you haven’t been invited to be on it? A committee of this nature has to be ‘self-appointed’ at first, simply because of the catch-22 that no organization is yet in place. Isn’t that obvious?

The main purpose of this committee is to bring this union to fruition. Once there are enough people on board to have a meaningful election you can be sure that will take place. I imagine all of the guys on the steering committee have better things to do with their time from a purely personal point of view and would gladly welcome replacements of a higher caliber. Got anybody in mind?

Which brings up another point. It is disgusting, fractious, and at the very least counterproductive to me that folks like yourself state or imply that the people on this steering committee are on it for self-serving reasons or with nefarious motives in mind or are incapable. These guys are donating their valuable time to try to achieve a better life for all composers, with no direct benefit to themselves. At the very least they deserve respect for that. Maybe – just maybe – even a little gratitude. Disagree with strategy all you want – fine, good even – but keep it constructive. They absolutely do not warrant the barbs thrown at them from the cheap seats. They have made great strides in the past few weeks towards bringing this to fruition. I, for one, am grateful that we might actually have a chance to finally have a union.

By plastic fantastic on May 7th, 2010 at 7:35 am

Chris

You could listen to the recording of the last meeting. I think Steve Dayan laid it out. I believe it is somewhere in the neighborhood of a one-time $1500 -1800 initiation fee, with monthly dues of $80 or so. If you can find a comprehensive health insurance plan for your family on the open market that is anywhere near the motion picture plan in quality for anywhere even approaching that price, please post it here. I want to buy into that right now!

By plastic fantastic on May 7th, 2010 at 7:37 am

One more thing Chris – don’t forget we are talking about a pension plan too. Don’t know how old you are, but someday retirement benefits will loom very large.

By Chris on May 7th, 2010 at 11:16 am

PF,

Thank you for your post. It got me thinking…Let’s say things go according to plan and we become eligible to participate in the mpiphp plans. To qualify for the insurance I assume it would work similarly to the other guilds in that we would have to work a minimum number of hours ( or however it would be quantified) on projects whose employers are also paying into the fund. So for example if one had a series they were scoring for Warner Bros and they were being paid by Warners, they would probably be eligible. How would it work (if at all) let’s say you’re working on a series for the Discovery Channel and the production company is an independent producer and for sure the independent producer is not a signatory to the union. Would you then be ineligible for benefits, even though you are a member of the AMCL union, since you likely weren’t working the minimum hours needed from companies who were signatories. If this is indeed the case, this is were I’m not sure it would make economic sense for one to join the union. I’m hoping I’m wrong about this, but this is how I’ve been assuming it would work and that does leave a whole lot of people out of the loop who write for TV but aren’t working with entities likely to become signatories of the union (ie the medium to large studios).

By Chris on May 7th, 2010 at 11:21 am

Let me rewrite the last sentence of my above post. What I mean to say is if you’re working with a medium to large production entity your probably fine-they are already signatories to most of the guilds. It’s the smaller production companies who produce so much of the programming for many of the cable networks and some network that are likely NOT already signatories nor are they likely to want to become signatories. And because of that, would a composer working for those smaller companies be plum out of luck when it comes to getting benefits through the AMCL union…?

By plastic fantastic on May 7th, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Yes, but most likely even those smaller shows have Teamsters contracts, as they all need drivers. The Teamsters are the most ubiquitous and most powerful union going. There are many shows that are non-AFM and/or non-SAG but DO have Teamsters contracts because they need those drivers, location managers, or casting directors. But if you have a show that is non-Teamsters they will try to organize it on your behalf.

You are right in that there will be minimum hour requirements in order to qualify for insurance, as it is for all the guilds and unions. The number of hours necessary will be a matter of negotiation with the AMPTP. If one is working on a series the hours shouldn’t be a problem.

Another point – you will be able to bank extra hours. So if during one qualifying period you need 300 hours but you have racked up 900 hours, you have 600 hours to apply towards the next period. That can be very handy when not working..

Also know that you will be able to rack up simultaneous hours if you are working on two shows at the same time for different production entities. That will fill your bank up nicely.

Hope this is of some help. I’m not the expert in these matters, but the gist is right I’m sure.

By MuscleMusic on May 7th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

This thread takeover by self-appointed fantastic is a bunch of plastic jargon.

Thankfully, Mark laid it out and set it straight that the AMCL’s double talk makes no sense and helps nobody except the old men on the hijacked committee.

The AMCL in now SCL + Mike Post and his band of thieves- a bunch of disconnected, rich, mean old men. Mike Post at that meeting yelling at a young composer who could be helped by the WGA agreement was disgusting and tells us all we need to know about this new version of the committee.

Maybe there are a bunch of “names” who have signed some “statement of support” but stop parsing words. That doesn’t mean they signed cards. We aren’t as stupid as your “streamlining” would have us be.

You guys don’t “represent” us when you confuse the issues by saying benefits only when you make deals with SAG, AFTRA, AFM and WGA but when the WGA really offers to help out, you say we have to “streamline” our approach.

And no one has the dignity to offer anything besides it’s “all we can agree upon.” I know Mike Post doesn’t want to, but he hasn’t told us why, and without telling us why he wants to continue spec-offs, keep free music, I ain’t drinking your plastic koolaid.

If you want to represent us, please tell us which one of your self-appointed, hijacked, non-transparent (when are we gonna see Post or Snuffy or anybody do an interview with Mark?), group thought we shouldn’t help anyone with the WGA letter and then explain how not helping people helps people.

So we should wait a year or two while you might go to the producers, and in the meantime, we shouldn’t expect you to do anything. Sounds like a successful hijack to me.

By Mark Northam on May 7th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Plastic,

Some thoughts:

* The statement of support signed by all those composers mentioned benefits and “unionization” but did not limit their support to benefits only.

* Your statement that most of those “big names” wouldn’t sign on to anything but benefits only defies logic. I’ll bet if you asked those same people to sign a statement that says “I support a union that will fight against composers, especially young composers, being asked to work for free as a condition of employment” you’d have every one of them plus thousands of other composers signing it.

* 250 guys signed cards at the first meeting when working conditions and fighting free music were discussed. Then, only 200 signatures (according to Colcord at the BH meeting) were received for benefits only. The numbers speak for themselves.

* The great mission of the union as discussed in December in Burbank has been dumbed down to little more than a health plan, and the AMCL is running away from the deal it struck with the WGA, approved by the WGA Executive Board in March, in the most embarrassing backpedaling job I’ve seen in years.

* There is NO evidence that pursuing helpful deals like the “No Free Music” deal the AMCL did with the WGA would have any negative effect on the SEPARATE negotiations with the AMPTP. That is a myth being pushed hard by you and your organizing committee buddies, apparently to justify the committee bowing to Mike Post’s demands that the efforts be benefits-only. Nobody’s falling for it.

Plastic, your energy and passion is a great thing – don’t let it be channeled into meager results when composers face a world of challenges after having no union for decades. Emmy winning composer Ron Jones said it best (re: AMCL):

“Many composers are not even getting minimum wage. They wanted something to really help these composers in dire need, and they’re going to settle for a Twinkie from 7-Eleven.”

Most of the composers who need a union the most are probably not even going to qualify for the Teamsters anyway.

By Mark Northam on May 7th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

A follow up, Plastic -

I don’t mean to be critical of you, and you do make some good points. And I am grateful for the efforts of ALL the AMCL organizing folks so far who have given of their time and energy towards a good cause.

My concern is that the agenda for years out now (the AMPTP negotiations will clearly take that long, if not longer) has already been set in private meetings by a self-appointed group that is not, in my opinion, yet representative of our industry.

Let’s now, not later, open up the organizing committee to make it more representative of our industry today, including women (maybe Sharon Farber?) and African-American composers (Samm Brown would be a great choice to start with). **Before** we start ruling out important, popular subjects like fighting demands for free music, let’s have OPEN organizing committee meetings with time for audience questions and comments. Let’s start running this thing like a real union would be run, rather than secret/closed board meetings where decisions are made in private behind closed doors. I think a lot of the speculation about the motives of AMCL leaders would be put to rest this way as well.

I think a lot more people (including myself) would be willing to accept and support whatever decisions are made if they’re made in this sort of an open, transparent, democratic manner.

Would you support this?

By plastic fantastic on May 7th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

MuscleMusic

Fighting words – that should be very useful in the drive to form a union. Self-appointed fantastic? What the hell does that even mean? I’m self-appointed to what post? The post of one guy with an opinion that differs from yours?Who is trying to hijack what? The guys on the committee are trying to create a union. What are you doing, exactly? Slinging bitter words and toothless insults at people who are doing their damnedest to help everybody else. Grow up.

There is no ‘maybe’ – those guys I named DID sign on to that letter of support. Unless you are implying that in addition to being ‘thieves’ that the guys on the steering committee are also liars, that they really didn’t get those composers, producers, directors, and guilds to sign onto the letter of support that was on the poster in the lobby of the Writers Guild. And those signatures on that statement are a very big deal. Many have gone on to sign Teamsters cards, many more will.

Non-transparent? Jeez, were you even there at the meeting? Have you attempted to contact any of these guys? Have you participated in any of the meetings? Did you stand up and voice your thoughts and concerns? Guess you’re too scared of the mean old men. Go down the list of the guys on that committee for all of us reading this and attach your insults to each one. Vivek Maddala – you are right. He is a stinking thief, an old rich disconnected one at that. Who’s next – oh yeah, Rick Marvin. Damn that guy is really mean too. I saw him run over a kitten with a lawnmower just the other day. I hear Jim DiPasquale owns half of Costa Rica and lives his life surrounded by half-naked models he rents by the hour. Seriously – what are you doing to help besides acting as a troll? What are you doing besides slandering people?

Thread takeover? You mean when someone posts an idea that diverges from your xenophobic pov that they are trying to takeover a thread?

You call me ‘you guys’. I’m just one guy. You want to tackle me, great. Let’s meet. You are the one slinging plural pronouns, claiming the words ‘us’ and ‘we’, not me. Bring your whole gang to our meeting. Who exactly do you represent, muscled one?

Show me where Mike Post has said that he wants to keep spec-offs and free music. I’ve listened carefully to his words. it is you who needs to learn to parse. Just because someone doesn’t want to tackle an issue at the very moment that you want them to doesn’t mean they are on the opposite side of you. I’d like to see meaningful gay rights legislation enacted in this country. Just because Obama hasn’t done so yet doesn’t mean I get to call him a homophobe. My impression is that Mike Post is simply trying to get this union up and running the quickest and most effective way he knows how. If you have other ideas of how to achieve that, great. Bring it on!

One last time – what are you doing to try to help yourself and the ‘we’ you claim to front?

By GrisGrisJouJou on May 7th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Thank you for calling out this b.s., Mark. I was at both meetings and watching Mike Post and his cronies take the union over has been very deflating for those of us who want to stop the bleeding now.

Further, as a supporter of the union and a composer, the lies the new committee are inventing is disgraceful.

First meeting we heard talk about the WGA. Then there is the letter of support just as it was disgussed.

Then Mike Post and Bruce Broughton say it doesn’t exist.

Now Plastic Fantastic admits here that you were right, Mark, the WGA letter does exist, but, because of Mike Post, we can’t use it and add to that Plastic Fantastic thinks we should be bending over to offer “gratitude” for lying to our faces- but I think we are just bending over.

Look, I am a supporter. I want to believe. So if you come back and flame me, Plastic Fantastic, remember, I am the constituency for this union.

I don’t want to spend my life working on spec and I don’t want to wait two years for a maybe on health care that won’t help me like talking to my WGA boss and having him stop making me do free work will today.

Spin that how you like and I am sure you will tell us there are all these composers who won’t sign up for that but then tell us the truth and tell us who they are. Doing the right thing might not be convenient for getting slave owners to sign a deal they will never agree to. Hell, Mike Post said the minute we talk about anything besides what he wants he’s “outta here”- I think I can speak for many of us when I say, if that’s your stance, good riddance.

Like the saying goes, you gotta stand for something or you’ll fall for everything. Give us a reason why we should believe you stand for us.

By Les Hurdle on May 7th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I stopped reading this list after a while.

Here’s the big issue.

When the teamsters call a strike, how many of you can afford not to work……….. not a single note ……. for months?
YOU, as a union member will be expected to support strikers.

No income… be a scab, suffer…….. cross the picket line……. blacklisted… go overseas, fined………… yep, this is a good idea.

The whole ideas is crazy, as it is.

Les

By plastic fantastic on May 8th, 2010 at 8:47 am

GrisGrisJouJou

Great name – how could I flame anybody with such a moniker?

I’d love to see the rhetoric toned down, as I imagine you would too. It just really chafes my hide to read inflammatory comments though, calling people thieves and liars. You really want a union? You want people to help your cause? I don’t think namecalling and baseless accusations are the best way to achieve anything.

But let’s get into this. NOBODY has EVER said the WGA letter ‘doesn’t exist’. Get that straight. At the risk of repeating myself – what I’ve understood and what has been made clear by statements made by Bruce Broughton and others is that said letter is a DRAFT. It wasn’t quite ready for prime time. And that the steering committee members wanted to fine tune it before formal release AND that they wanted to space out the release of same. But someone decided that he just couldn’t wait and released the draft prematurely, effectively weakening the impact of the letter and undercutting the plans of the steering committee for reasons unclear. It even says right in Steve Dayan’s letter that it is a draft. So when I talk about the letter everything I said is already a matter of public record. Chill just a bit, take a breath. And be very careful before calling someone a liar.

I did NOT say that “because of Mike Post, we can’t use” the WGA letter. That is simply not true.

What these guys are trying to do is to bring this union into being in the most expeditious way possible. They are a steering committee tasked with that goal. They would rather not wait two years for a contract to get into place – but raising complex issues like workplace conditions (and they are incredibly complex, if you take a second and think about it) will absolutely guarantee that this will take years before we are all in agreement. Instead they are attempting, with considerable success so far, to fast track the formation of a union. Once that union has been defined and is in place THEN the general membership can discuss and vote on what is best for everybody. Pension and health benefits are at least relatively non-controversial issues that can get us organized.

If anything this steering committee is trying NOT to dictate what is to come. They are simply steering us into a union the most direct way they know how. If you have specific and constructive ideas about how to do that task better I suggest you contact one of the steering committee members directly and give voice to your concerns.

And for what it’s worth, I don’t intend on working for free either. Let’s unite first, let’s create this union, THEN let’s find the best way to tackle the many thorny issues before us all – as one. The WGA letter, when formally released, is a very good thing, but realize it is NOT anything but a statement of support. It is not a contract, nor does it obligate anybody in any way to do anything differently from the way things are now. Personally I am far more interested in what happens with the AMPTP.

But first, we need a union. Why is that so hard to see?

By plastic fantastic on May 8th, 2010 at 8:57 am

And Les,

You are totally right. Let’s just forget this whole thing. Why unionize? Everything is great! We want more of the same, so why rock the boat?

Ok, sarcasm hat off now. Sorry.

You are right that composers will be expected not to cross a Teamsters picket line. But it has been a few decades since the Teamsters actually struck. What is FAR more important is that if the composers vote for a strike the Teamsters will honor OUR picket lines if we are members of that union. THAT is what gives teeth to any of our requests and demands. The Teamsters can bring productions and entire studios to a standstill. No trucks, no deliveries, cameras and lights stay in storage, casting directors stop casting, location managers go on vacation. Composers by themselves can’t stop anything, even if organized within themselves.

But it is clear to me reading this board that the disaffected composers amongst us will shoot themselves in the foot rather than come together.

By Mark Northam on May 8th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Plastic, 2 questions I hope you’ll address directly:

1. Is there any evidence you can cite that pursuing agreements with other unions, similar to the WGA Letter, would in any way damage or endanger separate negotiations with the AMPTP for benefits only?

2. I don’t think anyone’s saying that the WGA letter doesn’t exist (anymore, at least). The big question: was the WGA letter (or a similar one) approved by the WGA Board at their meeting on March 2? If so, that would mean it’s far more than a “draft”. It may have been revised since then, but those would be revisions to an earlier version. But again, let’s focus. Was the WGA letter or a similar letter approved on March 2?

I have no doubt that many want to find a way to move forward. But as the AMCL makes decisions for an entire industry in their private meetings, without even minutes available to those whose lives and careers may be profoundly affected by this union if it comes to be, I hope you can understand the concern some have that a self-appointed group is, prior to elections and with little transparency to their deliberations, making decisions regarding direction, scope, etc on behalf of an industry of thousands.

And as we move forward, there will be those who are left behind. As one AMCL person told me privately, “there will be a thinning of the herd.” These are people who do primarily do non-Teamsters projects. Assuming the AMCL sticks with the Teamsters, those people include:

* Composers who primarily compose for library
* Composers who primarily compose for video games
* Composers who primarily compose for low-budget, indie and other non-Teamsters films
* Composers who primarily compose for reality TV shows and other non-Teamsters television productions

Maybe they will be brought into the Teamsters fold at some point years into the future, maybe they won’t – impossible to say. And these non-Teamsters composers have a legitimate right to be concerned about being left behind in the rush to embrace the Teamsters, because if anything, their new classification as “non-union composer” may affect their careers as well. A successful Teamsters composers union may divide our industry into union and non-union composers, and I don’t believe any of us know what that may lead to. More reasons for transparency (open AMCL meetings, not private/secret ones), democratically elected respresentation, and decisions voted on by those affected by the outcome, rather than made in secret meetings by a self-appointed group.

I agree the self-appointed group was necessary to start, but now that major decisions must and are being made, those whose lives may be affected by them need and deserve a voice in those decisions in the form of elected representation and a vote on important matters.

Looking forward to your response, especially to the 2 questions posed earlier.

By plastic fantastic on May 8th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Mark I’d be happy to answer some of your questions – but would you do me the courtesy of answering the ones I’ve asked you first?

The rhetoric that you incite amongst your readers does not inspire reasoned conversation.

Thanks.

By Richard Bellis on May 8th, 2010 at 6:22 pm

There are those who do and those who critique.
Four years ago those who do stepped up to the plate.
There is no competition here. Merely criticism. No one else has done diddley except these wealthy, mean old men.

If you have a problem, where were you four years ago? Go to other unions and see how much interest you can drum up. The only thing easier, is to blog criticism. And this is definitely the right place for that!

By Mark Northam on May 9th, 2010 at 2:07 am

Hi Plastic -

Some of your questions to me answered:

Plastic: “There are a few who have not been reached yet – John Williams, most notably – but it sure looks pretty impressive to me. Prior to the change in position by the organizing committee most of those names weren’t about to sign on. Who is missing amongst the top composers in your view?”

MN: You are correct, as I wasn’t at the April meeting I did not have a chance to see the list you quoted. Impressive and comprehensive. But the statement they signed on to did not limit the AMCL’s work to benefits only, nor did it limit the AMCL’s work to striking agreements with the AMPTP only. The statement supported “benefits and unionization”, and I think you would agree that “unionization” is open to many different interpretations, many of them going well beyond benefits only. But I certainly agree that an impressive list of top composers signed the letter. By the same token, I expect many if not most of those top composers already have well-funded pension and health insurance plans.

Plastic: “And by the way, by my count 7 (not 9) of the 11 on the committee are over 55, 4 under. Besides, what is your point – that age and experience is somehow bad? That they are out of touch? How ageist of you. Love the ’self-appointed’ moniker you throw around too. I’ll bite – just who do you think should be appointing members to this committee – you?”

MN: I’m certainly not qualified to “appoint” members. My concern is that the self-appointed organizing committee is not representative of the diversity of age, gender and ethnicity that we see in music on the air today. And this committee is proceeding to make major decisions in private, closed-door meetings regarding the direction, scope and goals of the union without the slightest bit of democratic process or transparency as to who is saying what and who is determining what items are and aren’t on the agenda. We’re talking about 11 people making decisions that will affect an industry of many thousand people. It’s time to slow the “rush to unionize” and open up the AMCL meetings to any interested composers, and start giving the community a real voice (not just Q and A at meetings that announce decisions already made) in the decision making process at the AMCL **as it’s happening**, not afterwards. The decision to disavow both the WGA letter and especially the WGA Board’s actions on March 2 is a major decision, and I am concerned that if that decision were put to a wider group than the 11 “chosen” composers meeting in private, the outcome would have been quite a bit different.

Plastic: “The main purpose of this committee is to bring this union to fruition. Once there are enough people on board to have a meaningful election you can be sure that will take place. I imagine all of the guys on the steering committee have better things to do with their time from a purely personal point of view and would gladly welcome replacements of a higher caliber. Got anybody in mind?”

MN: In my opinion, it’s time to open up the Organizing Board’s membership and activities to the industry and see who volunteers. This means embracing common technology like videoconferencing to include composers outside of LA, given the large number of people with music on the air today who live in places like New York and elsewhere. This means OPEN board meetings, not secret ones. And I have to disagree – it doesn’t take a large board to have an election, it takes a number of interested constituents. But there’s a big decision that needs to be made first – who is eligible to be a member of the AMCL, have a vote, etc. This decision must be made by the industry, not the self-appointed current group. If a smaller group is going to make important decisions (of course, you can’t have everybody vote on everything), then that group should be elected, not selected.

Fair enough? Looking forward to your answers to my 2 questions posed earlier.

By plastic fantastic on May 9th, 2010 at 8:35 am

Mark,

I appreciate your glancing answers to my questions. However you continue to post with such an attitude that it makes it very difficult for one to respond to your questions. The assumptions implied within so many of your statements need to be addressed. Answering your questions, couched in the rhetoric of the rest of your statements, is kind of the equivalent of answering the question ‘when did you stop beating your wife?”. Your statements are filled with presuppositions that must be addressed first before giving credence to your questions.

Let’s start with your continued use of the term ‘self-appointed’. The implication is that these people are muscling in somehow or have achieved this position thru some sort of malfeasance. But I’ll bite. Any group, any club, any association, HAS to be started by someone. That person is ‘self-appointed’. MArtin Luther King was the ‘self-appointed’ head of the civil rights movement. Gandhi was the ‘self-appointed’ leader of the movement for Indian independence. The term is insulting to those who dare to stick their necks out to help others. YOU are the ‘self-appointed’ leader of this blog. Nobody elected you or Gandhi to anything.

These guys are trying to determine how to define the boundaries of the union so that there CAN be elections. Personally I don’t want to see policy being determined by the guy in Omaha writing music in Garage Band – and Garage Band guys outnumber actual working experienced composers by a hefty majority. What you propose is a recipe for creating a composer version of the AFM. Anybody with a couple of hundred dollars in his checking account can join the AFM. As a result it has become the weakest union – by a country mile – in our industry. Policy regarding recording contracts is determined by a national board elected by people who occasionally play Memories at a wedding. This results in a radical disconnect for the people who actually fund the union thru their work dues – the recording musicians here and in New York and Nashville by and large. There is a tyranny of the majority that exists in the AFM that has weakened it beyond repair. Until it is reformed to represent people who actually perform music for their livelihoods it will remain broken. I, for one, don’t want to see that happen to any composers’ union. Nor will I join such a union or give it credence. And I know for a fact that most working composers feel exactly the same way. And without the working composers on board all you have left is a club for complainers.

So much for ‘self-appointed’. Now let’s tackle another pejorative term you throw around – ‘secret meetings’. This implies that these guys are furtively slinking into some backroom of a bar in disguise, hoping no one knows what they are up to. Why not simply call them meetings? It is not a secret that they are having meetings. Do they not have to meet in order to plan larger public meetings? Seriously, you need to step back and look at your paranoid terminology as you secretly type on your computer. And think about it as you meet in secret with your wife and kids. Wait – I don’t know if you have kids – or even a wife. So that means it’s a secret, right? That means you’re up to something. I know – you spend your nights sleeping with donkeys! THAT’S why I don’t know your marital status.

Well of course I really don’t care. And from what I’ve seen these guys on the committee are open to all suggestions and questions and have fielded them the best way they know how. What I’m saying here Mark is that you need to stop fueling your own paranoid fantasies and the paranoid fantasies of your readers. It is not constructive nor is it helpful.

Next, the continued use of the word ‘disavowed’ by you regarding the WGA letter. This is quite simply untrue and inaccurate. Nowhere have I heard or read that anybody on the steering committee has ‘disavowed’ the letter. Again you are attempting to create controversy as a distraction. The real controversy should be why would anybody want to release a statement from the AMCL without it actually officially COMING from the AMCL? In other words, what is the motivation behind publishing a draft letter before it was officially released? You make it seem like they are trying to hide it, when from what I can tell they were planning on fine tuning it and releasing it at a later date. You are determined to cast nasty aspersions on well-meaning people my friend. And it is becoming tiresome at best, and harmful to this effort at worst.

Last (it IS Mother’s Day after all – wait, do you even have a mother – or are you hiding her too? :) ) – it is shocking to me that someone who purports to care about this effort as much as you do, someone who continues to bloviate about it and the people involved and to report so much fallacy as fact DOES NOT EVEN BOTHER TO SHOW UP AT THE PUBLIC MEETING? You just lost all cred there. Instead you would rather hide in your parents’ spare bedroom typing away…

Sorry, I’m taking a nasty tone. I really think you have good intentions – I really do – and you clearly know how to construct a sentence. Just check your pejorative adjectives at the door please. I want to see an effective union come into existence. I think you do too. And I think the people on the steering committee do as well – and they are the ones who are actually doing the work. Let’s help them, not attack them.

By plastic fantastic on May 9th, 2010 at 9:59 am

Just want to address one more thing – the last paragraph of your last missive.

“MN: In my opinion, it’s time to open up the Organizing Board’s membership and activities to the industry and see who volunteers. This means embracing common technology like videoconferencing to include composers outside of LA, given the large number of people with music on the air today who live in places like New York and elsewhere. This means OPEN board meetings, not secret ones. And I have to disagree – it doesn’t take a large board to have an election, it takes a number of interested constituents. But there’s a big decision that needs to be made first – who is eligible to be a member of the AMCL, have a vote, etc. This decision must be made by the industry, not the self-appointed current group. If a smaller group is going to make important decisions (of course, you can’t have everybody vote on everything), then that group should be elected, not selected.”

Do you not see the conundrum you have just delineated? As you said “there’s a big decision that needs to be made first – who is eligible to be a member of the AMCL, have a vote, etc.” Is that not exactly what the steering committee is attempting to do? Then you go on to say “This decision must be made by the industry, not the self-appointed current group.” Okay – define “industry”. Clearly, with email addresses and phone numbers. From what I hear that is exactly what the steering committee is attempting – a daunting task. It is a catch-22 to have the ‘industry’ at large define itself. It’s akin to walking into a crowded theater, yelling ‘fire’, then saying ‘okay only the smart people get to leave first. Who’s smart here?” Every hand will go up as they rush the exits crushing all before them, killing everybody. Dogs and cats living together – MASS HYSTERIA!! Spoken in my best Bill Murray false alarm voice.

Okay back to Mom.

By Mark Northam on May 9th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Plastic,

So much for you answering any questions – I guess you’d rather hide behind your alias and attack me rather than answer the 2 simple questions you said you’d answer.. very straightfoward questions by the way… again, no attitude, they are:

1. Is there any evidence you can cite that pursuing agreements with other unions, similar to the WGA Letter, would in any way damage or endanger separate negotiations with the AMPTP for benefits only?

2. I don’t think anyone’s saying that the WGA letter doesn’t exist (anymore, at least). The big question: was the WGA letter (or a similar one) approved by the WGA Board at their meeting on March 2? If so, that would mean it’s far more than a “draft”. It may have been revised since then, but those would be revisions to an earlier version. But again, let’s focus. Was the WGA letter or a similar letter approved on March 2?

Re: Disavowed, what was and continues to be disavowed by the AMCL was the fact that the letter was APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY by the WGA Executive Board on March 2. That’s huge in my opinion.

Re: Self appointed, you’re right – I will henceforth refer to the AMCL board as “appointed by each other” since that technically is more accurate.

Re: credibility, while family issues prevented me from attending (I was out of town on both AMCL meeting dates), you’re the one hiding behind a fake alias here, who won’t even answer those 2 simple questions after agreeing to do so. The lack of credibility is fairly obvious when someone isn’t even willing to take credit for their own statements.

By GrisGrisJouJou on May 9th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

This is where the rubber hits the rubber neckers.

The original board seemed dedicated to serving the community and some may not have liked Alan Elliott, but he seemed dedicated to the community. Maybe the board can answer why his voice wasn’t present at the last meeting as someone with his youth, his dedication and his determination to finding solutions for the community was sorely missed.

The rich mean old men are the rubber neckers who have co-opted the union are a couple years late save for the original guys. But make no mistake, that meeting was all about Mike Post and his threats to walk away if anything like the WGA letter became a priority.

Until the AMCL can start to address the lies they perpetuated, and which Plastic seems to be sidestepping, I have problems trusting the sincerity of Mike Post and his group as they still can’t even answer Mark’s two simple questions. Hijacked indeed.

By plastic fantastic on May 9th, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Well you are so determined to be right Mark that I acquiesce. And for reasons of my own I have to remain anonymous. So since you have suddenly changed your policy regarding posting anonymously I will refrain from further posting. I guess as long as one agrees with you and/or libels the people you don’t like it is okay to be anonymous. But as soon as the shoe is on the other foot… Pay attention GrisGris, Joe Plays Winds, MuscleMusic, Music Composer, Chris, and countless anonymous others on other threads.

I will leave you with the answers you sought.

“1. Is there any evidence you can cite that pursuing agreements with other unions, similar to the WGA Letter, would in any way damage or endanger separate negotiations with the AMPTP for benefits only?”

The short answer is no. But it is a spurious question. You should know if you have been paying attention that there has been a huge increase in involvement on the part of working composers, especially those in the upper echelon, since the AMCL opted to emphasize benefits only as the immediate goal of formation of this union. Quite a few of those composers have stated privately, some publicly (Mike Post most obviously) that they would not support formation based on working conditions at this time. Their reasons vary from composer to composer, but mostly it seems to break down to strategy and a fear of this effort continuing to be bogged down as it has been for the past four years. Those same composers will absolutely withdraw their support – and rightfully so – if the conditions on which they signed that letter of support suddenly change without discussion. I can’t cite their names due to the confidentiality of personal discussions, so no, there is no ‘evidence you can cite’. Other than Mike Post, who at least has the moxie to say publicly what he believes.

It is also clear and obvious to those who have been in the trenches over the years that the studios will dig in their heels – hard – once working conditions appear to be on the table with the AMPTP. Granted, the WGA is not the AMPTP. But perception is everything, especially in our industry. If the AMCL appears to be seeking benefits only with the AMPTP while simultaneously emphasizing workplace conditions with the WGA that could prove problematic with the AMPTP negotiations. Of course that is just my opinion, not ‘evidence you can cite’.

“2. I don’t think anyone’s saying that the WGA letter doesn’t exist (anymore, at least). The big question: was the WGA letter (or a similar one) approved by the WGA Board at their meeting on March 2? If so, that would mean it’s far more than a “draft”. It may have been revised since then, but those would be revisions to an earlier version. But again, let’s focus. Was the WGA letter or a similar letter approved on March 2?”

I don’t know what the WGA approved or when they approved it. But if it was a draft letter they approved, a draft it remains until the people who constructed the draft (the AMCL) deem otherwise. You released it as if it was an official announcement from the AMCL, yet if one reads the letter carefully it clearly says that it is a draft. Until the AMCL and or the WGA officially releases a statement everything else is just some sort of leak not to be believed. I, for one, look forward to the release of such a statement from the AMCL and WGA. But I’ll wait to hear the final language before I come to any opinions.

And for GrisGris – why don’t you ask Alan Elliott why his voice wasn’t heard at the last meeting? I saw two open mics and heard a lot of folks speak openly there at some length. Why didn’t Alan? From what I have learned from speaking to people on both sides of the fence – composers and studio execs alike – many people stayed away from this movement in the past BECAUSE of Alan’s abrasive and confrontational tone. Now those people are coming around in support of the AMCL for the first time. Alan may very well have had good intentions – I don’t know – but my impression is that he got in his own way.

And GrisGris, you keep calling people (the AMCL specifically) liars without giving evidence of any lie whatsoever. Good thing you are anonymous – that is tantamount to libel. You say you “have problems trusting the sincerity of Mike Post and his group as they still can’t even answer Mark’s two simple questions”. Do you somehow think I speak for Mike Post? I do not. Perhaps you (or Mark) should ask Mike Post those questions. But if you want to speak to the AMCL you should speak to Bruce Broughton. He is the spokesperson.

And with that I bid you all adieu and wish you luck.

By Jesse Hopkins on May 9th, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I’ve sent a letter to Teamsters and the AMCL suggesting that the pool of potential composers from which to initially form a union would be further reduced to only those composers who do not employ other composers. The conflict of interest is apparent there, since I see why the employer-composers would resist sharing more of their fee with their teams than they are now accustomed to. The easiest way to get the required 2/3 majority to sign cards is not to make the union benefits only, rather to reduce the pool even further to only those composers who are not employing other composers.

If anyone would like to read the letter and add your support to the idea, please contact me at composerarts at yahoo dot com.

Let’s get this thing started, but started right, and with the right industry leaders. It will be more difficult to put minimums and conditions on the table later if the union is formed by and for employers. What we do now will have long reaching effects.

By Mark Northam on May 9th, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Hi Plastic -

As of today, it’s not OK to be anonymous here. We’re going to give this a trial period and let anonymous posts (like your most recent one) stand – let’s see how it works.

Thanks for answering the questions – personally, I doubt many of those “big” composers would withdraw their support if the union spoke out against free music, but since neither one of us can speak for them, and the letter they signed spoke quite generally of “unionization”, we’ll have to leave it at that. I guess the 250 composers who signed Teamsters cards after the December Burbank meeting where workplace conditions were widely discussed are another one of those “inconvenient truths” that were not discussed at the WGA meeting.

Re: WGA – it wouldn’t make sense for the AMCL to send a draft letter to be approved by the Executive Board of the WGA – if it was a draft, why ask the WGA Executive Board to approve it?

Now to Jesse – great idea. Those who employ composers, regardless of whether they are composers themselves, should not be eligible to be full members of a composer EMPLOYEES union. The massive conflict of interest that allowing employers to have a say in how a composer union is created or run is obvious and must be avoided, unless all we’re looking for in a union is a health and pension plan (hmm… sounds familiar, eh?). Composers need a lot more help than health insurance and pension, and we cannot afford to have the interests of working composers be cut down by those who employ composers.

And yes, Jesse, you’re absolutely right. What we do now will have long reaching effects for not just us, but our children. We cannot let this union be created and controlled by those who employ composers – the conflict of interest is simply too much. And we must focus only on employees for another very good reason – the last time unionization was attempted in the early 1980s, the official reason given for why composers were not allowed to unionize by the NLRB at that time was that we are “employers”. Composer employers have no place in a composers’ union. And I’m speaking here specifically of those who employ composers. Employing musicians for recording, assistants, scoring mixers, etc is unavoidable, and those are different crafts for which the establishment of workplace conditions for composers would not have a direct impact. But those who employ composers have a direct financial interest in minimizing the cost of the composers they hire to improve their bottom line and increase profit (no harm there – that’s the goal of any business), but those are not the people who should be deciding or influencing how a composers union is created and who is allowed to be a member of a composers union.

While the WGA letter is what it is, I am becoming more concerned that a small group of 11 people appointed by each other and working in secret are now going to be deciding who can, and cannot be in the new union, and who can and cannot vote. With the stroke of a pen, their actions have the potential to split our industry into union and non-union composers, and I think more than a few composers are going to want a say now in who is allowed to be labeled a union or nonunion composer. That should be a vigorous PUBLIC debate and decision-making process, not one conducted by the “chosen few” we see now, meeting in secret and handing down decisions as they have for the benefits-only singular focus they’ve established.

By GrisGrisJouJou on May 10th, 2010 at 9:54 am

Northam:
1. Is there any evidence you can cite that pursuing agreements with other unions, similar to the WGA Letter, would in any way damage or endanger separate negotiations with the AMPTP for benefits only?”

Plastic:
The short answer is no.

There’s OUR answer.

If you guys want to help the community, not continue the same old b.s., stick with the truth. If you want to continue to pretend you are helping but instead leading the group into the same old, same OLD, keep spinning.

It would be interesting for the committee to level with everyone and say that there are many ways for the union to help- and we are exploring all of them. Obviously the board is making deals with SAG, AFTRA, DGA, AFM and WGA. Why wouldn’t they implement the WGA letter when it’s already part of your agenda?

And if you were really wondering or interested in Alan Elliott’s voice, Plastic, why didn’t the board ask him to speak? The board didn’t even mention Alan after he basically carried the union. It wasn’t only disrespectful, it was telling- especially with mean old man Post yelling at the young composer and telling him that if anything strays from what old man Post wants, he’s “outta here.”

This I find most telling:

By PapasGottaBrandNewBag on May 10th, 2010 at 10:29 am

We can NOT continue to equate AMPTP with union-to-union. That is just not true and blurs the issue. if we accept that there are two separate paths and no one is willing to go on the record, we are bowing to a whisper campaign.

How many times has anyone ever negotiated and wanted one thing but went in only asking for that one thing? Honestly, this is nonsense.

People, composers are big boys/girls.

If the union guys explain the options, we can handle it.

We know Mike Post is not for helping anyone but who, if we plainly lay out that there are many different ways to help our community, will publicly state they are against trying to help the community if being against it would never impale AMPTP negotiations?

With the AMPTP negotiations, whenever they might be, we’ll probably end up with “benefits only” but if that’s all we ever ask for, we won’t get that either.

We are big boys/girls and we all understand that the WGA, SAG, AFTRA, AFM agreements are completely separate and can only help our community.

This is even evident to the committee as they are already doing it!

Plastic is telling us people are against this but we have no evidence, just his assurance, which is not enough when starting a union.

By C Double Sharp on May 10th, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Seems to me we are building a problem from the start.

If composers want to address the WGA letter, according to what I read, Post and Plastic and their gang will leave. So what happens when eventually working conditions are addressed?

I think everyone except people like Mike Post and Snuffy Walden agree that the current free music situation will have to be addressed. I agree that we need big names, but at what cost?

I also agree that Post and his side have confused us by not telling us that we can work on one agenda with producers while also serving the community with agreements with WGA and others- particularly the DGA I would hope for those of us doing films.

Post is very clear in saying he will leave and that doesn’t seem likely to change if we give him what he wants by not addressing the letter. What assurances would we have, Plastic, that we can rely on him changing his position, and thus you changing your position?

Finally, why would we have a union with these people if they are saying that if we address it, they leave? Seems to me we are better off knowing where people stand from the beginning and building something that won’t destroy itself.

By Chris on May 10th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

To Mark,

I don’t know if this will go through since I don’t want to put my last name out there. I just want to mention that posting somewhat anonymously is only to protect myself from the all powerful and mighty google. If you start posting with your full name it will only be a matter of time before everything that you ever say is on full searchable view by anyone who googles your name. I think there is a certain right to privacy and opinion and I don’t want anyone who searches me out to find a whole bunch of posts from a film music website. I’m afraid that if posting anonymously is not allowed I will only be a reader and not a poster.

By Mark Northam on May 10th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Hi Chris -

Good point, and I would hate to see you stop posting. The challenge we’ve got our people who come on here, post anonymously and start saying derogatory things about other people. If someone wants to complain about or criticize someone or their actions, fine, but they should at least take responsibility for their words. Asking people to include their name and including IP addresses with comments (done by many other folks) are basic ways of letting people take responsibility for what they say publicly. The other method is to simply moderate all comments and not publish those that include personal attacks, etc, but that can be tricky too – honest discussions and dissenting views are an important part of a democratic society.

Your thoughts?

Best,

Mark

By Chris on May 11th, 2010 at 9:43 am

I’m sure it can be tricky and I don’t envy you for having to figure out what’s best. My personal opinion is to let people post with whatever name they choose and hope for the best. I think this website needs the views of some people who aren’t likely to want to advertise there real names. In the end I’m not sure it matters if someone reveals their identity or not, it’s about the content of what one says, not really who they are (or aren’t). If you are able to easily remove inappropriate posts on an individual basis I would recommend you go with that and let the anonymous continue to post, myself included. I am personally afraid of being catalogued and codified by the great god Google not because I’m ashamed of anything I’ve said but because if someone wants to start googling and searching the WWW for little bits and pieces of your life it is amazing what someone can eventually come up with. Things like, where you live, if you have children, who you have relationships with, etc… and the list goes on. Things that you simply may want to keep private or at the very least not advertise to the world. Needless to say I’m not one of these people advertising my life on Facebook-nor will I ever be (no slight to those who are into it). Many of these bits of info might be able to be found just from the little pieces of info you leave here and there in various forms ranging from postings to email addresses to websites to blogs etc. So that’s just my two cents and personally my interest in privacy is far greater than my interest in expressing my opinion every so often on a website. I appreciate your willingness and candor in letting it all “hang out there” for all to read but I hope you will consider there are valuable opinions from people that are more private than yourself.

By Mark Northam on May 11th, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Hi Chris -

Excellent points. I’ve just completed a mini-survey of some folks I know and trust in the industry and as a result we’ve changed the policy and aliases are now fine for comments. That being said, we’re going to be keeping a close eye on comments and those that are inappropriate will not appear.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts about this and for being part of the FMM community.

By Joel Ciulla on May 12th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Hi Mark,

WOW!

Plastic Fantastic has nothin’ but HATE. I didn’t get anything positive from Plastic’ words. Although Plastic gives the perception of answering your questions, he clearly did not and made it personal. Pretty weak Plastic.

You, on the other hand, kept it professional and not personal. Well done!

Reveal yourself O mighty Plastic Fantastic. Your words remind me of the demons talking to Father Damian in the Exorcist. Nothing personal Plastic, I’m not a big fan of Lucifer!

By Michael on May 13th, 2010 at 8:48 am

Mark,

I must admit the entire concept and stipulations of what this union is actually about is a bit confusing to me, also I do not have a great amount of knowledge as to how unions work in general.

I do apologize if I am incorrectly summing up posters positions here, its just a lot of content to get into a few sentences. Corrections are welcome…

Plastic is suggesting that we do what is necessary to get this union up and running, which as this point is a benefits only plan. Plastic also believes that the steering committee is acting in an honest fashion and making decisions that they believe are in the best interest of composers as a whole, correct? This to me makes a good amount of sense. Get composers represented, some strength, and start addressing these other issues along the way.

Mark it seems as if you are suggesting that the board has personal agendas that are not in the best interest of composers as a whole, and that these behind closed door meetings must be either stopped or opened up. I do fully agree with your position about the closed door meetings, I’m not sure who in their right mind would join an organization in which the steering committee has regular meetings in which the members of said organization are not invited and are in no way able to access information that covers what was discussed.

Mark, it also seems that you believe its best to have a more solid foundation on working conditions and spec offs and similar issues before moving forward? You haven’t really said this anywhere, so I apologize if I am putting words in your mouth, that is not my intention. Do your worry that if we get this union off the ground without some promises of working conditions and other issues being addressed that they never will be? Do you think that the steering committee would take control of what the union is really about?

I’m hoping to get a clearer picture as to what this union is really about and what it is that’s stopping it from moving forward.

By Chris on May 13th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Michael-I can’t speak for Mark but what you write is exactly how I’d summarize the nuts and bolts of each side here as I read it too. Good job getting through all the words and putting a little short hand to the whole thing.

By Chris on May 13th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Michael-I can’t speak for Mark but what you write is exactly how I’d summarize the nuts and bolts of each side here as I read it too. Good job getting through all the words and putting a little short hand to the whole thing.

By Les Hurdle on June 15th, 2010 at 6:01 am

Wow, I see Mr Bellis is still alive and well.

Having spoken to the Teamsters rep. make no mistake about it, if there is a strike, composers will be expected to honor the picket line.

Here’s the really sad part… and kudos to Mr Bellis/Mark………. so few on this list are prepared to put their names to their POV……. wimps.
Little wonder composers get shafted.

L

By Les Hurdle on December 29th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

By Richard Bellis on May 8th, 2010 at 18:22

There are those who do and those who critique.
Four years ago those who do stepped up to the plate.
There is no competition here. Merely criticism. No one else has done diddley except these wealthy, mean old men.

If you have a problem, where were you four years ago? Go to other unions and see how much interest you can drum up. The only thing easier, is to blog criticism. And this is definitely the right place for that!

Well said Richard given that I’m sure you expect to be one of ‘the chosen few’… just like ASCAP.

Unless a ‘union’ encompasses all then just like ASCAP et al the ‘chosen’ one’s will benefit and to hell with everyone else………. where were you when the AACO made a few facts very clear…. you hid then ;-)

Very best

Les

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