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Protesting musicians make peace with studios, for now

Protesting musician
Musicians who belong to AFM Local 47 stage a rally outside Walt Disney Studios in support of a new contract.
(Linda A. Rapka/AFM Local 47.)

Musicians have secured a possible two-year “truce” with Hollywood studios that are racing to shift more of their film and television content to their own streaming services.

The American Federation of Musicians and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said Monday they agreed to a two-year arrangement that, if ratified, helps resolve a long-running fight by film and TV musicians for better terms for works that appear on streaming services.

The union did not disclose terms of the deal, but said it contained a number of improvements over the existing contract, which expired on Nov. 14.

One of the wins for musicians will be screen credits when they score, AFM President Ray Hair said in an interview. “It is a form of recognition and respect that has been noticeably absent,” he said.

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There were also improvements in the terms for musicians for purchased music, he said.

However, the agreement did not include the union’s key demand that musicians get a larger cut of residuals for shows streamed online.

“The tentative agreement, if ratified, will be viewed as a short-term truce,” Hair said in a statement. “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.”

As TV and movies shift online, musicians have been petitioning Hollywood studios and executives to improve the terms of their union contract. The agreement provides some form of hiatus in a dispute over wages and streaming residuals that musicians have been seeking from studios including Walt Disney, CBS, Viacom, NBC Universal, Sony Entertainment and AT&T’s WarnerMedia for the last two years.

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“The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the American Federation of Musicians have concluded negotiations and have reached a tentative agreement on terms for a new two-year collective bargaining agreement,” an AMPTP spokesman said.

Film and television musicians across the country, from Los Angeles, New York and Nashville, have mobilized in their fight for better terms for their works that appear in streaming film and television. This month, musicians took their protests to the offices of Disney Streaming Services in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, ahead of the launch of its Disney+, according to AFM. Last month, musicians held a protest outside Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger’s book signing event.

High-profile producers and directors including J.J. Abrams and Damien Chazelle lent their support to the campaign. “The role these priceless performers play — underappreciated and grotesquely underpaid — cannot be overstated,"Abrams said in a statement online.


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