FMM Survey Results: Strong Support For Unionization, Benefits and Workplace Improvements, Questions About Teamsters

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An industry survey conducted by Film Music Magazine from May 24 through June 10 shows strong industry support for forming a composers union that provides benefits and workplace condition improvements, but raises significant questions about whether composers believe they should affiliate with the Teamsters as the AMCL unionizing group is attempting. The complete survey results are available at:

695 industry readers of Film Music Magazine participated in the landmark survey, which included extensive questions about unionizing, ranging from who composers should partner with to what participants were willing to pay for dues and initiation. The survey also focused on what union benefits were most important to participants, and measured participants’ opinions about current AMCL policies that initially seek “benefits only” without workplace condition improvements, and the AMCL policy of closed organizing committee meetings. The survey allowed only one response per computer (IP address) and all survey responses were completely anonymous.
Unionizing and Who Is Eligible
Unionizing received strong support, as 72.2% of respondents to the survey believe composers should form a union.Participants also indicated strong support for union representation and benefits for composers who write primarily for music libraries (66.9%), video games (82.7%), indie and low-budget films (82.7%) and classical/concert music (63.4%). Support for lyricists being eligible for membership was considerably less, with 39.1% saying lyricists should be eligible, 31.6% saying lyricists should not be eligible and 23.1% indicating “don’t know.”
Regarding composers who employ other composers on a regular basis, 37.8% said they should be eligible for leadership or membership in the union, while 29.6% said they should not be eligible for leadership but membership was OK.
Strong Support for Benefits and Workplace Condition Improvements
A significant issue in the composer unionization effort has emerged recently when the AMCL announced in April that it would be pursuing a policy of “benefits only,” indicating health insurance and pension, and would not currently be seeking workplace condition improvements such as scales and the elimination of demands for free music.
Survey respondents rejected this approach, with 57.1% of respondents indicating they would be “more likely to support the AMCL if it included seeking workplace condition improvements” and only 5.6% indicating they were “less likely to support the AMCL if it included seeking workplace condition improvements.”
When asked about support for specific union benefits, survey respondents indicated strong support for a composers union seeking health insurance, pension, life insurance, disability insurance, dental and vision benefits, but equally strong support for workplace condition improvements, including strong support for:
* Extra pay for orchestrating, music editing and arranging
* Elimination of free music demands as part of the hiring process
* Elimination of work-for-hire contracts and instead allowing composers to negotiate ownership of music
* Elimination of package deals in favor of contracts with separate composer fee sections
* Lobbying ASCAP and BMI for better rates for instrumental music
* Protecting composers from direct licensing contracts where no ASCAP/BMI royalties are paid
* Elimination of cue sheet fraud where non-composers claim writers performance royalties for music they have not written
* Elimination of uncredited ghostwriting
* A share of sync and license fees for composers when employers who own score music release that music as part of a music library
Questions About the Teamsters, WGA, other Unions
Among the survey’s most important results was the lack of support respondents indicated concerning affiliating with the Teamsters labor organization, with only 13.0% of participants indicating that they believed the Teamsters was “the most appropriate and best qualified union for composers to affiliate with.” 19.1% indicated “No” to this question, and a surprising 43.3% answered “don’t know”, the highest “don’t know” response in the entire survey.
Regarding affiliating with other unions, the American Federation of Musicians received the highest number of “Yes” responses at 29.7%, followed by IATSE at 26.3% and the Teamsters at 13%.
Respondents also indicated strong support for creating agreements with other unions such as the Writers Guild of America (WGA), AFM, Music Editors Guild and others with 64.4% of respondents supporting this. Respondents were unsure regarding whether the agreements should be limited to general support, but 57.8% said the agreements should “address specific composer workplace issues, such as taking a stand against composers being asked to write free music.”
Cost of Membership
Regarding what the maximum they would pay for a union initiation fee was, the most popular answers were $100 (39%) and $500 (30%) for a benefits-only union, with a benefits and workplace improvements union resulting in 25% for $100 and moderately increased response for higher levels of $1,000 and $1,500 with responses for $500 initiation fee remaining constant across both scenarios.
Trends for annual union dues showed a similar trend, with 47% willing to pay $100 annual dues and 26% willing to pay $500 annual dues for a benefits-only union, changing to 33% for $100 annual dues and slightly higher responses for $750 and $1,000 annual dues for a benefits + workplace improvements union.

AMCL Organizing Committee Policies

Survey respondents indicated strong support for opening up AMCL organizing committee meetings where decisions are made about unionizing (59%), including public comment sections in AMCL organizing committee meetings (68.7%) and publishing detailed minutes of AMCL organizing committee meetings including what was said by organizing committee members and how they voted (66.0%).
When asked whether they supported the AMCL’s “invitation only” policy regarding being a member of the Organizing Committee, 36.8% indicated they did not support the policy, with 17.6% indicating support for the policy and 22.5% indicating “don’t know”.
Survey Comments – A Snapshot of the Industry
Many survey respondents included detailed text comments when asked in two questions about their thoughts on unionizing and what message they would send to the AMCL Organizing Committee. The comments ranged from a few words to lists of priorities about unionizing. Beyond the specific suggestions for unionization, the survey comments paint a detailed, compelling picture of the challenges many composers face today in an industry where an oversupply of composers and library music is creating major career and financial pressures for many score composers


  • Robert
    June 16, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    I have never seen a more self-defeating group of people than composers. Only 13% support for the Teamsters? Only 13% support for the union that actually wants us? Imagine the negotiating power and solidarity we would have when allied with the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters (one of the most powerful unions in the world). Imagine a composer strike and the rows and rows of trucks outside of Fox, Warner and Paramount studios that wont enter the premises because their union brothers and sisters are on strike. Now imagine that same composer strike with the AFM on our side. I think I’d rather have Kobe Bryant on my team (especially if he wants to play with me) than Muggsy Bogues.

  • Jim Green
    June 16, 2010 @ 8:03 pm

    Problem is that Teamsters only cover a small percentage (mostly scripted) of all film and TV. While a small, elite group working on high-end stuff might get good coverage, the rest of us would get zilch. If you score reality, low/mid budget film, much of cable, you’ll get nothing. Who wants a union that only covers a fraction of the work and leaves the rest of us out? We need a union, but we need one that has WIDE coverage and includes things like video games, etc. The Writers Guild is the best example!!!

  • Robert
    June 17, 2010 @ 11:09 am

    With the media consolidation that’s gone on in the past few years there are only 5 or so major media companies. And it’s only going to get worse.
    Example: If the Teamsters work on Warner/Sony/Whomever produced scripted television, and Warner/Sony/Whomever produced motion pictures, help ship Warner/Sony/Whomever produced real product (DVDs, CDs etc) then when the Teamsters walk out that impacts a large portion of Warner/Sony/Whomever’s bottom line (including the reality shows, video games and other media which they may not directly produce but tangentially touch — ie, finance, distribute, rent studios, edit bays, sound stages or office space to…).
    Also, most importantly, NO OTHER UNION WANTS US, and the Teamsters do. It might not be perfect but it’s time to start somewhere and stop waiting for the perfect situation.

  • Jim Green
    June 17, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

    Robert, how do you know for a fact that no other union wants us?

  • toxic avenger
    June 17, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

    Go ahead, join the teamsters. Can you guess who’ll be pulling thr strings? It won’t be the vomposers, it’ll be the teamsters and they won’t be doing it for any other reason thn control of the entire film/tv business, not to help composers. That’s why they want composers, another step to rule by the mob, and I mean THE mob.
    What I think is problematic: there are no voices openly dissenting. I mean at the meetings. Instead you have pod people with one mind–and that woman at the last meeting having an orgasm: “Ooooooo! a Union! Oh My God! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” No wonder you get taken. You don’t need a union, you need a strong spinal column, which you don’t have.
    And those damn trucks are there to intimidate YOU into joining. Like a bunch of zombies you’ll walk right into the oven to get some pension benefits.

  • Max Friedman
    June 18, 2010 @ 7:55 am

    I think perhaps what needs to be considered is how this survey was done. No effort was made to filter out working composers from non-working composers (e.g. retired composers, new in town composer etc. etc.). This is extremely important – not because the working composers are better composers or better people but because they are the only ones that count in terms of forming a union. Non-working or under employed composers, for a variety of reasons, do not have the same incentives and concerns as do working ones. For instance it is very easy to vote for a strike if you are not employed and having nothing to lose if a strike continues for months and or fails altogether.
    So basically this survey is rubbish and pretty much meaningless unless it filters for working (meaning working on potentially covered film and TV gigs) versus non-working composers and of course it doesn’t.

  • Mark Northam
    June 18, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

    Max –
    With an anonymous survey, there’s no way to differentiate different types of composers in the results. But I have to disagree with your assessment that “working composers” are “the only ones that count” when forming a union. The vast majority of “working composers” do not work full-time, and often do work dismissed by the AMCL group such as library composing. To define “working composers” as “full-time Hollywood composers working on network or other top-paying shows” is a very narrow description that excludes the vast majority of composers today. And to further narrow that to only composers working on Teamsters shows narrows it down much more! To start with, that means composers on most reality shows get NO coverage. Many indie and low budget films? NO coverage. Library composers? NO coverage. Game composers? NO coverage.
    This really gets to the big question of whether a composers union will be for the Hollywood elite or for a much wider and more diverse, inclusive group in our industry. And let’s not forget that rank & file and up-and-coming composers are far more numerous and frankly have far more to gain from a union than those lucky few who work full-time on high paying gigs. Personally, I think it should serve the needs of both groups, but as long as the elitists are shunning the interests of everybody else (or writing all but their own opinions off as “rubbish”), we see the current “country club” effect where a the interests of a small group of top earners are represented and everyone else is written off as part timers, hobbyists, etc. That’s about as divisive as it gets, and a very damaging attitude to take regarding our industry in my opinion.

  • Max Friedman
    June 18, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

    Mark –
    Have you thought through what unions are and who they represent? Unions negotiate with employers to obtain a collective bargaining agreement for the benefit of those working in an industry. Employers are unlikely (to say the least) to pay benefits to those not employed. Additionally those actually working in the industry are THE critical individuals to getting the employers to the bargaining table. You could organize a union with tens of thousands of composers that do not do covered work and you would get nowhere with the producers/ employers. What bargaining pressure could you employ? Refusing to work? They are already NOT working for those producers. And BTW the idea of a union is to obtain benefits and those only come from employers.
    Additionally, as I said in my earlier comment, non-working composers can have all sorts of agendas and incentives that may not accrue to the benefit of working composers.
    Be sides not thinking this through I believe you have another agenda. You would like to be a power player – though you aren’t. Therefore you’re using your site as a bullhorn to criticize the hard work of the AMCL executive committee in the hope to have some ability to pressure them so that they include your thoughts and theories into the potential new unions makeup. They won’t do that, of course, because it would be suicidal – but I don’t suspect that will stop the platitudes about “elitists” and “country club composers”.
    I know I won’t convince you but I do think it’s important for others reading these comments to know what is really going on and not be sidetracked or confused by people with agendas that have nothing to do with reality of truly helping composers form a union. Your survey is meaningless unless it filters for composers that actuality bring producers/employers to the bargaining table that pay benefits. That’s what unions are.

  • Mark Northam
    June 18, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

    Max –
    OK, I’ll bite… Unions represent working employees – some full time, some part time, some over-employed (if they’re lucky!), and some under-employed. And unlike truck drivers and casting directors where most work on-location, the advent of music libraries for much of television now has distributed the work of “working composers” over a large number of composers working in a wide geographical area. Sure, there are a small number of composers doing scripted network series and other high-paying feature film gigs, but that number pales in comparison to the thousands of composers who have music on the air today (and not just library composers). My point is that a union should not just cover the highest-earning, busiest full-time composers, but should also cover those composers who may earn a substantial part of their living from music in film & TV even if they’re currently underemployed and not working as much as the busiest Hollywood guys and gals.
    Even if EVERY composer working on a Teamster show was unionized, they would only represent a tiny minority of the number of composers who are “working” in film and television today if you define “working composer” as a composer who writes music professionally, and whose music is currently on the air on network or cable TV. That kind of a union would hardly serve or cover the industry, and would only serve a very small minority of highly successful composers – composers who financially need union support the least! As I said before, there must be a way for a union to cover the busiest and the not-as-busy composers that are writing music that is on film & TV today, but I don’t hear that coming from the AMCL.
    As to my “agenda”, I have never claimed to be a “power player” and do not seek that – I provide a forum and a conduit for the thousands of composers who visit this site and receive our emails to have their voice heard and discuss important issues of the day in an open and free-flowing environment.
    I suggest you read “The Long Tail” – it’s an interesting book about how in the era of digital distribution, if you add up all the sales/distribution/etc of all the “smaller” players in a digital distribution environment, their collective marketshare can easily eclipse the “top” players. Our industry is not all that different – for every 1 busy “working” Hollywood composer, there are probably 100 or more “working” composers writing music for libraries, cable shows, indie films and other productions, who deserve union representation just as much as the “big guys” and financially need union representation far more than the busiest Hollywood composers.
    So let me ask you, Max – how do you define a “working composer” as in your statement that “working composers are the only ones who count when forming a union”?
    Would you include full-time working composers who write for film/TV libraries? full-time working composers who write for low-budget, indie, and non-union films? Full-time working composers who score games? Full-time working composers who write for non-Teamsters television series like reality shows?
    Your definition of “working composer”, I believe, would help all of us understand your point of view better.
    Finally, regarding the AMCL, while I do have issues with some of their tactics and closed-door policies, the original four guys – Alan Elliott, Jim DiPasquale, Bruce Broughton and Alf Clausen did some amazing work during the years they spent forming the AMCL and negotiating with the WGA, Teamsters and others. I am less impressed with the huge changes that have happened, especially regarding the WGA, that happened after the “BMI Group” (Post & Co. and their agents) got involved in March of this year.

  • Alan Elliott
    June 19, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

    It’s about inclusion, Maxie… er, fellas… er, AMCL board member. Uh… I mean, Max (man up, Maxie!)
    Folks, it’s not about exclusion.
    In the words of Ben Franklin, “If we don’t all hang together, then surely, we shall all hang separately.”
    Before the new group came in, we made a point of including EVERYBODY. Heck, the Teamsters INSISTED ON IT!
    No composer- newbie or other- should be left without hope that one day he/she can’t affect change and help this union- which is why we went to USC and other schools to personally recruit the next generation and show them that they are welcome and their input is valuable. (For the record, the current AMCL board has dismantled that program, along with getting rid of every one of our 15 interns who helped get this all moving.)
    Look… I hear both sides (have for almost five years now).
    The thing we are missing (in the current iteration of the AMCL) is:
    any long term thinking on OUR COMMUNITY AS A WHOLE!
    I hear “Max Friedman”‘s points… but they ring- er, SING- the off key notes of the exclusionary practices now in place at the AMCL.
    No dialogue… no open meetings… nobody of the “new guard” (Max?) willing to step up (Man up, Maxie!) and answer questions… no accountability… no responsibility… and ultimately…
    No hope.
    It’s not easy to build/run a union where there is no hope… maybe some folks on the board recognize this?
    Maxie mein boy… this isn’t just about us and this generation (or the last generation… since only one board member is under the age of 54…).
    It’s about… the future.
    We started this whole drive to be about, as Steve Dayan led us to believe…
    (Wow… just rewriting/rereading that made me realize how far Max and the boys need to get back on track for it to resemble where we started.)
    Look, if unionizing effort doesn’t include and INVOLVE:
    – younger composers
    – music supervisors
    – RMA/Local 47/AFM
    – music editors
    – other unions (WGA agreement, anyone?)
    … our gooses are cooked before we put the bird in the oven.
    And btw… if this effort does fall apart…
    how long do you think the boys club running this (on the AMCL scene, and behind the AMCL scene) will care?
    Mike Post has a jet… his own jet!… and he doesn’t want to allow the community a fair chance to openly debate his case (for the record, it’s not a fair chance when he’s standing behind a mike, and he tells the room “I quit if you don’t do it my way.” A fair chance is openly debating people in an open and continuous forum where other voices are allowed- not kept from- the debate).
    I bet it doesn’t take longer than a shower for some of them to move on once the effort they seem intent to kill- a movement started/promised on the above point of INVESTING IN CRAFT but which has degenerated into protecting the current/broken system.
    Lastly, for the AMCL board to not even comment (except for maybe you, Maxie,,, WHOOPS!)… and to in any way denigrate this effort is just, as I said to an AMCL board member this week, positively Marie Antoinette/let-them-eat-cakeish. (Actually, it’s completely that way.)
    This is as honest an assessment as the AMCL or any of us are likely to find on the subject (i doubt if the board put together something as thorough you’d find any different result).
    It reminds me of the old joke about the woman who walks in on her husband in bed with another woman and the man says, “who are you gonna believe? me or your lying eyes?!”
    To disregard and not be listening to what the community is saying- 658 different folks (the ip addresses made sure these were one vote per)… is just plain protectionism of a system that can no longer can sustain itself- unless you are flying in Mike Post’s jet.

  • Max Friedman
    June 20, 2010 @ 8:55 am

    Wow – As Shakespeare said: “The Lady doth protest too much” (or something like that). All I said, and I stand by it, is that the survey is meaningless unless it filters for working composers (i.e., those working for employers who conceivably would pay benefits) versus other composers or industry affiliated individuals such as:
    non-working composers, retired composers, student and new in the field composers, composers working in areas that will not be covered by a collective bargaining agreement, music editors, music supervisors, and those with other agendas (e.g. Mark Northam and Alan Elliot) etc.
    This is not to say that those individuals do not deserve benefits. They do! but someone needs to provide the money for that and unions do not print and distribute money. They need to have employers agree to pay the money that covers the employee/composers.
    Mark and Elliot set up straw men and then proceed to knock them down. I do not expect to convince them but I do ask those who are reading these comments to judge what is said and decide for themselves who makes the most sense here.
    For the record I am not a part of, nor do I represent the AMCL. I did sign a little yellow card though and we’ll see if anything comes of all of this.

  • Alan Elliott
    June 20, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    Thanks for misclarifying.
    I agree.
    Look at the statements and see what makes the most sense.
    My point is that unless unionization is taken with an inclusive fundamental…
    We will surely hang separately.
    If you think we can start a union without tying together the entire community and you are convinced that makes sense….
    Mike Post has a jet you should jump out of!

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