Pact generates $140 million annually, expires Dec. 31

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has launched negotiations with the major record labels on a successor agreement to the sound recordings contract.

AFTRA announced Tuesday that the opening round was held in New York City between its sound recordings negotiating committee and reps from Sony, UMG, Warner, EMI, Disney and most of their subsidiary labels. AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth is chief negotiator.

The sound recordings pact expires Dec. 31 and covers singers, royalty and non-royalty artists, announcers, actors, comedians, narrators and sound effects artists who work on recordings in all new and traditional media and all music formats, in addition to audiobooks, comedy albums and cast albums. The contract generates more than $140 million annually in earnings and benefits for artists and session singers.

AFTRA had announced last month that it would launch the talks this week after its national board approved its package of proposals on July 20.

The union said Tuesday that negotiations are expected to continue through this month with bargaining sessions in both New York and Los Angeles.

The current contract was negotiated in 2007 with a June 2010 expiration but the pact was extended by 18 months. That extension provided for an increase in the labels’ contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds; “improved communications” between AFTRA and the record labels to inform newly signed royalty artists of their guaranteed health insurance benefits and AFTRA member services; re-defining the length of a “side” or a recorded song from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes; and creation of the AFTRA/Recording Industry Committee to resolve contractual issues.

A start date for the network code talks has not been set with that pact — AFTRA’s largest contract with over $400 million in annual earnings — expiring Nov. 15. The net code covers work outside primetime and includes “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “The Price is Right,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “American Idol,” “Monday Night Football,” “Survivor,” “20/20,” “Deal or No Deal” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

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