Despite major improvements won, the fight for streaming residuals will continue
After more than two years of tough negotiations, musicians have reached a tentative agreement with major film and television studios that includes many substantive improvements and no significant concessions — yet still does not include residuals for work on made-for-streaming films and episodic TV shows.
Members of the American Federation of Musicians have been negotiating a new contract with major studios including Disney, CBS, MGM, Paramount, NBCUniversal, Sony and Warner Brothers, and the newly proposed contract features several major improvements for musicians. For the first time in history, musicians will receive screen credits when they perform on theatrical and streamed film scores. Also for the first time, the proposed deal establishes fair wages and conditions for high-budget shows made for streaming platforms.
Economic improvements include an increase in musician residual payments for shows rented and purchased online, as well as 3% per year wage increases. Musicians successfully resisted attempts by the studios to impose unjustified concessions, including those that would allow studios to score more TV shows and films abroad.
While these unprecedented achievements are significant wins for musicians, their biggest demand — residuals for work in new media — was not included in the final offer by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The studios continue to refuse industry-standard residuals for new media projects, and musicians have made it clear that this is still a priority and that they will continue to fight for this basic standard.
“The campaign for fairness in our contract with the studios, particularly on the issue of compensation and residuals for content made for streaming, has energized not only our film and television musicians in Los Angeles, New York and Nashville, but musicians throughout the country,” said Ray Hair, president of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada. “The tentative agreement, if ratified, will be viewed as a short-term truce. While we’ve made meaningful progress on how we are recognized and treated when we perform scoring sessions for theatrical and long form new media productions, our musicians’ concerted activity will continue as the backdrop to our ongoing efforts to obtain fair residual terms whenever we are engaged to score content made for streaming.”
Earlier this year, musicians across the country launched the grassroots #BandTogether campaign, holding rallies, staging informational leaflets, and leading other public actions to raise awareness about the significant impact new media residuals will have on their ability to earn a living in the industry.
The proposed agreement is subject to a ratification vote by members of the bargaining unit, and if approved will cover a period of two years expiring Nov. 14, 2021. But until residuals for new media are achieved, musicians have no plans on backing down.