To Buyout or Not To Buyout?

For years, LA recording musicians have been losing a major amount of film & TV recording work to other locales including Seattle and Europe for one primary reason: the AFM has refused to provide a buyout scale for companies that have chosen to record their music on a buyout (pay once, no future payments) basis.

As always, there are two sides to the story. The union supporters want to preserve the “special payments” that some films pay to the musicians per the AFM union contract. The buyout supporters believe it’s wrong to turn away all the buyout recording work, forcing those studios and production companies who choose buyout recording to record in distant places.

Regardless of which side of this issue you’re on, let’s not make it personal. These are business issues, and that’s certainly how the studios and production companies consider them. Like it or not, arguments about loyalty and morality just don’t resonate with bottom line-oriented studio accountants and lawyers who are the ones making the decisions about recording terms for films. They are interested in numbers, terms, and getting the most value for the money they spend. And frankly, although it’s not publicly spoken of often, so are composers who record with package deals.

Let’s absolutely have a debate about the buyout issue, but let’s focus on the financial facts. To choose recording contract terms based on emotions is a bit like choosing a bank for your mortgage based on the personality of the teller.