New York, NY (August 22, 2006)–Thomas Lee, the president of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM)–the U.S. musicians union–has put members on notice that they will be fined up to $50,000 if they are reported performing their services in Seattle, WA after October 1, 2006. The fines will reportedly be levied against anyone acting “as composer, arranger, copyist, proofreader, instrumentalist, leader, contractor, cutter, editor, or in any other capacity.”
In the notice, published on the AFM’s web site, Lee stated, “While we are aware of non-AFM recording in other cities, Seattle has become a major hub of this activity, far surpassing non-AFM recording work done elsewhere…Our review of the recording scene in Seattle has convinced us that these non-union recording sessions are in no small measure dependent upon AFM members-orchestrators, arrangers, copyists and others-who create and prepare the product to be recorded.”
Seattle has become a significant center for the recording not only of film and television scores but also video game soundtracks over the years. This has obviously now attracted the attention of Lee, who quotes AFM Bylaw 15, which prohibits members working “(1) where the product of the services is intended to result in, or be embodied in, recorded music made outside of the United Sates and Canada and the possessions of either; or (2) for the purpose of producing, editing, or dubbing recorded music except where expressly authorized and covered by a contract with the AFM or when expressly authorized by the AFM.”
Lee makes no mention of productions in Eastern Europe or London, popular destinations for such recording sessions that would more correctly appear to be relevant to Bylaw 15.
Lee also makes no mention of the reasoning behind threatening the AFM membership rather than the more likely culprits, the film studios and production companies looking to maximize their bottom lines, other than to maintain solidarity and to point out the potential loss of revenue to the union’s various pension, payment and performance funds. It remains to be seen what effect the threat of these penalties will ultimately have on the recording business in Seattle.
American Federation of Musicians