Composers Come Together

Volume CX, No. 7/8July, 2010

Diana Cohn

What’s a composer to do in the 21st century?
A panel of experts spoke their minds – and the sparks flew

Composers and their allies discussed the ins and outs of their art at a June 15 conference at Local 802, which filled the Club Room. Above, the panel on TV music. From left, Edd Kalehoff, David Sheldon, Joel Beckerman, SCL President Dan Foliart and Jim Hynes.
Photos and Montage: Bill Prickett

Composers unite! On June 15, Local 802 and the Society of Composers and Lyricists co-hosted a composers conference at Local 802. The event was an important step in strengthening the New York community of composers and musicians.

Over 130 people were in attendance, completely filling the Club Room.

The conference focused on how composers can use and benefit from AFM agreements in their future projects, with an emphasis on TV, film, commercials, and video games.

The evening started with a general panel discussion. Speakers included 802 President Tino Gagliardi, SCL President Dan Foliart, Secondary Markets Fund Administrator Dennis Dreith, and composer Carter Burwell.

After introducing the AFM and the SCL, several overarching topics were discussed, such as the benefits of recording under a union agreement, how composers can benefit from the AFM’s agreements, and what type of support the union has for composers.

Dreith did an excellent job explaining the Secondary Markets Fund and dispelled myths that some people may have about how much money is associated with these back-end payments.

Producers may be hesitant to approve union scoring sessions because of misconceptions that the ancillary payments will be unmanageable. Dennis and the fund often talk with composers and producers on how much these payments really cost, which is often much less than originally anticipated.

The panel also addressed how composers can get themselves on AFM contracts if they are performing covered services, such as arranging, orchestrating, or recording. Being placed on the AFM contract can provide an additional revenue stream for composers.

Burwell, the composer for dozens of films, including “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo,” “No Country For Old Men” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” discussed how he has been successful in convincing producers and film companies to hire live musicians for film scores, and the benefits of working with AFM musicians.

After the main session, attendees could choose to attend two of four smaller, specialized discussions on film, TV, commercials and video games.

Burwell, Dreith, RMA International President Phil Ayling, and composer Mark Suozzo headed the film breakout session.

The TV session was headed by composers Joel Beckerman, Edd Kalehoff, musician Jim Hynes and 802 recording representative David Sheldon. The prevalent theme in the room was a recognized willingness to make things work, and that together the composer, the union, and its musicians can and do find ways together to defend their interests. There was as well a determination that the advantages of union agreements be as available to this generation of composers and musicians as they were to the last.

The commercial panel session was led by composer and partner of Copilot Strategic Music and Sound Jason Menkes, composer and songwriter David Wolfert, and AFM Contract Administrator Chuck Skorupski. The panel discussed the basic payment structure of the AFM Commercial Announcement Agreement, and how composers, who often act as arrangers, orchestrators, and musicians, can get themselves onto these contracts and benefit from re-use, conversion, and dub payments.

Game composers Andy Brick, Sean Beeson, Mike Worth and 802 Rep Diana Cohn conducted the videogame breakout session. Panelists touched on how recording music for videogames differs from recording for films, best practices for live sessions, the benefits of using a live orchestra for game scores, and the new AFM Videogame Agreement.

The evening was a groundbreaking event for Local 802 and the SCL.

“It was a very special and timely event for the New York music community,” Joel Beckerman told Allegro. “We had a really good turnout, many real pros in the room, and we have already received positive feedback from many attendees.”

Beckerman added, “There was frank discussion of the issues that really brought the conversation to a high level, and invaluable personal connections were made. We’re very proud of what we have been able to achieve in our collaboration with Local 802. I think it has helped stimulate real dialogue, and composers have come away with a better idea of how the AFM can help in their work. We look forward to creating new events of this kind in the future.”

In addition to being a board member of the SCL, Beckerman is also the head of its New York Steering Committee.

Dennis Dreith was equally pleased about the evening.

Dreith told Allegro, “Having participated in many such conferences in the past, I thought this was unique in that there was a sense of cooperation and camaraderie between the composers, musicians and the union that permeated the entire event and to an extent that I have never previously seen.”

Dreith added, “It was especially heartening to hear the composers extolling the benefits of union contracts.”

President Gagliardi says that he hopes this is the first of many events in an ongoing collaborative relationship between Local 802 and the Society of Composers and Lyricists.

Special thanks to all the panelists, and to Joel Douek, Joel Beckerman, Chris Hajian, and Greg Pliska from the SCL for helping make this event a great success.