Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No More Sounds of Silence on the Music Composition Front?

Everyone knows that composers and lyricists make scales ... now they want to make scale as well. Union scale, that is (or, even better, above scale). One of the few non-unionized sectors of Hollywood, composers and lyricists - the people who write music (as opposed to musicians, the people who perform it) - are now in talks with the Teamsters for representation.

It's not as strange as it seems: the macho union of dock workers and Hollywood truck drivers (Teamsters Local 399 on the West coast and Local 817 in New York) also represents casting directors, location managers, and various other tenderfoots. An earlier bid to join the Writers Guild (WGA) apparently gained little traction.

All this according to recent pieces in Variety (here, here, and here) and a long piece today in the LA Times. An early-stage meeting Monday, which had been announced by the Society of Composers & Lyricists (a trade group, not a union) attracted over 300 people, about a third of the 900 who would be covered by a union agreement. About 200 of them signed union authorization cards, but the Teamsters are hoping for two-thirds (i.e., 600 or so) in order to move forward.

In other audible union news, AFTRA recently approved its interactive (i.e., video game) voiceover contract, while SAG voted down its similar pact, representing a rare defeat for SAG's new administration. Despite concerns with some aspects of the contract, that's unfortunate for SAG, because I'm told this sector is only about 25% unionized (AFTRA numbers + SAG's). That means that video game companies can easily move over to AFTRA - or go nonunion. The hard reality is that neither SAG nor AFTRA control the labor supply in this area, leaving them little leverage in negotiations. Sort of like bringing a PS2 to a PS3 meetup.

In still other news on the union front - sorry, I've been busy prepping for my UCLA gig, not to mention working for a living - the California Court of Appeals dismissed as moot an appeal by former SAG president Alan Rosenberg and his fellow Membership First plaintiffs newly-reelected 1st VP Anne-Marie-Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord of their suit against their own union. This cacophony lives on in the lower court, however, still costing the union money, but there's some hope that that court will adopt the appeals court's underlying reasoning and dismiss the entire proceeding on the same basis. Let's hope.


Subscribe to my blog ( for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles. If you work in tech, check out my book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets.