A New Kind of Agreement for Recording Musicians

Volume CVI, No. 12December, 2006

David G. Weiss, Scott Healy and Jay Schaffner

On behalf of the Recording Musicians Committee of Local 802, we are pleased to announce that a new video game and interactive media agreement has been approved by the AFM’s International Executive Board. The agreement was approved by an overwhelming majority of the board: five voted in favor, none voted against, and one abstained. AFM President Tom Lee, who chaired the meeting, also supports the agreement.

The three of us presented the agreement to the IEB. Further contributions came from the entire 802 Recording Musicians Committee, who supported it unanimously, and the Recording Department staff.

Musicians doing recording work across the U.S. have been discussing ways to approach this growing field for a while now and have coalesced around the plan put forward by Local 802. The 802 approach combines concepts from the five year-old AFM game music agreement and the initiative from musicians interested in working in this nonunion market — but wanting to do the work union. The agreement is designated as “experimental,” and will be reviewed often by the IEB.

The agreement is literally a form. If you’re called to do work in this field, you’ll ask your employer to sign the form. This will allow the employer to pay your pension and it will allow you and the union to track your work.

The interactive media and video game business has grown exponentially in its brief life, and promises explosive growth worldwide in the coming years. It represents a fundamental shift in the way people entertain themselves and socialize. In many ways, it is as revolutionary as the introduction of TV or the personal computer into the mainstream.

Unfortunately, music for the video game business is currently being produced almost entirely outside the AFM. Our previous video game agreements have proved to be far too expensive compared to our competitors’ rates, and therefore were unsuccessful in capturing this business. Interactive media and video games is too lucrative a business, however, and too revolutionary, for us to ignore the loss; the AFM cannot afford not to be a player in this market. With that in mind, this agreement was conceived and priced to be competitive with many of our rivals worldwide. This was extremely difficult to achieve because in some offshore locations, this work is being produced for as little as $9 an hour, although $50 an hour is more common.

AFM members should note, therefore, that while the agreement’s main provisions are in line with other low budget recording contracts, this contract is a significant departure from the AFM’s usual way of doing business in the recording field. Specifically, there are no doubles paid, nor are there residual or “back end” type payments for music used in the video game itself. However, if a performance is lifted and used in another medium, like a motion picture or an album, then the contract specific to that medium will be in effect, and those customary payments will be made.

Once the unionized market develops and we have more clout, we will be able to introduce the more customary modes of compensation.

As is always the case, musicians able to command overscale for services remain free to do so and work with this new agreement.

We hope that this new agreement will provide AFM members much-needed new employment opportunities in the video game market, where before there were virtually none.

We would like to thank the members of the IEB for their pragmatism, constructive criticism, and forward thinking in adopting this agreement. Interactive media and video games are the future of our business, and our world. So let us use this platform to be a major participant in these markets.

To view the scales of this new promulgated agreement, see the “Wage & Contract Info” section of this site. The additional terms and contract form will be available soon.