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American Federation of Musicians Continues to Battle Hollywood for Streaming Residuals

AFM streaming residuals

Photo Credit: Venti Views

The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) resumed today, with the former releasing a series of statistics about how the industry has changed for musicians since the 1930s.

AFM says strikes and agreements made by the organization in the ‘30s paved the way for introduction of residuals for live radio performers who were faced with reduced wages as recorded replays became commonplace. Residuals were seen as a solution to this displacement caused by technology—exactly what writers, actors, and musicians seek today.

Residuals are calculated in one of two ways, either a fixed fee per ‘run’ for reuse of the material, or a percentage of the license fee for reuse in a different medium. Payments per run decrease over time as the value of older shows declines. The AFM highlights that the fight for residuals has been an ongoing one since the 1950s, as each new entertainment medium has sparked a fight over them. Video cassette tapes, DVDs, and streaming have all sparked residual battles.

Studios have resisted granting musicians a residual payment for original series, movies, and other programming made specifically for streaming services. That’s one of the AFM’s key demands, alongside regulation and protection against AI. The AFM went to the table for negotiations on January 22. Some stats shared by the AFM highlight why the battle is ongoing.

Wages for theatrical films have declined precipitously in the last decade. In 2013, movie calls constituted 65% of an AFM members’ work. By 2022, that number had dropped to just 20%. Traditional TV work has dropped similarly, plunging from 46% in 2014 to 21% in 2022. Meanwhile, recorded music for streaming originals has skyrocketed musicians’ workload, jumping from 2% in 2016 up to 59% in 2022.

With residuals from older movies and TV declining and no streaming residuals to replace them, musicians are rapidly making less than they did in the past. According to Local 47, the average L.A. studio musician played on 91 sessions for streaming originals in 2022, but wages are “below the poverty line.” Without residuals to augment recording session payments, these musicians cannot sustain their careers.

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