Supporting musicians during tenuous times

Volume 120, No. 6June, 2020

Kim Roberts Hedgpeth

By Kim Roberts Hedgpeth

As I write this, the nation has lived through almost two months of tragedy and disruption. Those of us with roots in New York watch from afar with both pain and pride to see New Yorkers rising to stand strong, smart and united as role models for the rest of the country. And, at a time when many Americans have turned to entertainment to ease the anxieties caused by the current pandemic, the artists who create the entertainment that is soothing America’s soul have seen their livelihoods vanish in the blink of an eye.

Even before California issued its formal “shelter in place” orders, the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund was tracking the rolling shutdown of production and recognized that as production ground to a halt, so would session work for musicians working in film and TV. The fund shifted its focus to accelerating its annual July distribution in order to get residuals to musicians as soon as possible. A skeleton crew worked through late March and April to finish out the 2020 fiscal year and prepare for the fund’s distribution. The effort was helped by the fact that the fund is exempt from state and city closure orders, so some employees could continue in office. (Although exempt from closure, in an abundance of caution, fund management arranged for most employees to remain out of the office until we could fully research and implement recommended hygiene and distancing protocols).

We are pleased to report the fund’s distribution was issued on May 22, rather than July 1, more than a month early. The millions of dollars that will be sent to musicians and their beneficiaries in this early 2020 annual distribution will hopefully serve as a critical lifeline to ease some of the stressors on the community of professional film and TV scoring musicians at this difficult time.

However, accomplishing this unprecedented — and one-time — acceleration of the fund’s annual distribution was not without cost. In order to have any chance of getting the larger distribution processed early, work on the relatively smaller Live Television Videotape Sub-fund was temporarily deferred. This will require redoubled efforts in order to distribute Live Television Videotape Subfund residuals by the July 1 deadline. In addition, the Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund temporarily deferred processing unclaimed residuals and beneficiary claims, which has created a backlog of requests. But consistent with its commitment to its participants, the fund will leave no stone unturned to move forward and accomplish this work post haste.

Keeping eyes on the road ahead

Fiscal year 2020 collections came in slightly below fiscal year 2019, with over $114 million collected in fiscal year 2020 as compared to $115.7 million in fiscal year 2019.

The question remains whether this slight dip in collections is a temporary blip, or the harbinger of a trend. The steady growth in residuals collected by the Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund between 2010 and 2019 has been driven by two key factors: increased compliance activity by the fund to recover residuals not voluntarily paid by companies and primarily by the rapid growth in residuals from secondary release of theatrical motion pictures and TV programs into digital platforms such as streaming video on demand.

The shutdown of production and closure of movie theatres has accelerated the shift by companies to invest more in content made directly for digital streaming services. The pandemic has also incentivized companies to promote heavily in the rollout of their own digital streaming services that can retain exclusive rights to both their made-for-streaming content and digital release of their existing libraries of theatrical films and TV programs. These changes in the business paradigm would have a significant impact on musicians’ residuals in the future in any event, but the pandemic has accelerated these trends faster than anyone could have anticipated. As a result, the question of whether terms in the AFM theatrical and TV agreements governing made for “new media” content will be updated in the 2021 negotiations to ensure musicians employed on content made for streaming services receive residuals, when such content continues to run on such services, becomes an even more pressing question.

Although the Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund does not participate in the negotiations between the AFM and the AMPTP, the outcome of the 2021 theatrical and TV contract negotiations and the impact of the pandemic-driven accelerated changes in the industry’s business models will be watched closely by the Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund, and should be of keen interest to every recording musician.

Keep up to date

Please make sure that your beneficiary information is up to date with the Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund. In recognition of the difficulties for musicians in finding notary services in the current environment, until further notice, the fund will accept non-notarized beneficiary designation forms so long as valid proof of government-issued identification such as a driver’s license or passport is provided. You can find more information about the fund’s beneficiary policies at or e-mail us at with questions.

The Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund is committed to providing prompt and courteous service to participants throughout these challenging times. Please note that responses to correspondence sent to us by U.S. mail may be delayed. The best way to reach us is to send your questions or concerns via e-mail to And please visit our Web site at and our Facebook page at for updates on fund information.

On behalf of the fund, we extend our sincere wishes to all Local 802 members and their families to remain safe, healthy and in good spirits. We are here to support you, and stand united with the community of professional musicians as we navigate the times ahead.

Kim Roberts Hedgpeth is the executive director of the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund. Contact the fund at