Musicians Union Threatens To Expel Composer If He Doesn't Pay Fine For Unapproved Videogame Work
from the so,-who-protects-members-from-their-representatives? dept
Last summer, the American Federation of Musicians hit videogame composer Austin Wintory (Monaco, Journey) with a $50,000 fine for working on The Banner Saga in violation of its (nonexistent) game music contract. Thanks to the union’s own stubbornness and greed, none of its members were allowed to compose music for videogames. A contract put together in 2012 without the input of AFM’s members was so skewed towards the union that no videogame producers were willing to agree to it. (It wasn’t until 2014 that Microsoft agreed to the terms of AFM’s revamped contract. It remains the sole company to do so.)
When Wintry worked on the game without its permission, AFM got angry and threw its toys out of the crib. Its own Local 47 (Los Angeles) took issue with the union’s BS and issued a resolution supporting Wintory in October. Perhaps due to this internal pressure, the AFM reduced Wintory’s fine to $2,500. Now, it’s threatening to expel Wintory because he hasn’t paid up.
A long-running dispute between video game composer Austin Wintory and his union, the American Federation of Musicians, has come to a head this week: Variety reports that Wintory has refused to pay a $2,500 fine imposed by the AFM for his non-union work as a composer on The Banner Saga.
The union has threatened to expel him if he doesn’t pay up by January 19th. Wintory is investigating his legal options to combat such a decision, and has offered to write a $2,500 check to the L.A.-based Education Through Music charity in lieu of paying the union fine.
Wintory is weighing his options. A good one would seem to be telling AFM where to stick its toys (and contracts) and ditching the union altogether. But that can have an adverse effect on finding work in other union-heavy industries, like movies and regular, old non-videogame music. These entities tend to require the hiring of union members, so the lack of an AFM card could keep Wintory from being hired should he choose to branch out.
Other AFM members have worked around the union’s stupid videogame contract by recording in Nashville (Tennessee is a right-to-work state) or overseas. Wintory incensed his “representatives” by ditching Los Angeles — an area it firmly controls — in favor of London, which was cheaper, didn’t hit the game’s producer for additional “future use” fees and didn’t force anyone to adhere to a one-sided contract. So, it’s still out to get its pound of flesh in hopes of discouraging other members from bypassing the contract they were never given the chance to agree to.
In true AFM fashion, it is implementing another contract and letting its members know the specifics after the fact.
Meanwhile, the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), the “player conference” within the AFM that represents many studio musicians, announced over the weekend that the union had concluded negotiations with the AMPTP on a new multiyear contract for recording TV and film scores.
Details of the pact, however, were being kept under wraps Sunday. Musicians are expected to be informed of the details late Monday during meetings of the RMA and Local 47 membership.
So, who’s working for who? Unions are supposed to represent their members. That’s why members pay fees. AFM seems to genuinely have no concern about the well-being of its artists. (It doesn’t care much for the general public either.) It fines them when they seek to do work they’ve been locked out of by a contract they never wanted and it keeps its negotiations with other entities secret until the ink has dried on all the signatures — none of which belong to the members supposedly being “represented.”