Just as production flight from Los Angeles has been decades in the making, the reasons for the decline in work for musicians on film and TV projects are deep-rooted. But while there is agreement that solutions won’t be easy, there are differing opinions as to how to solve the issue.
Marc Sazer, president of the Recording Musicians Assn., maintains that the current tax incentive schemes in California and 44 other states across America aren’t just harming the livelihoods of thousands of professional musicians in Los Angeles, but are a misuse of tax dollars.
In particular, Sazer says the current development of companies accepting tax dollars from California and other states and then taking scoring jobs to England is particularly unseemly. “I understand if a producer is receiving English tax dollars and scoring there, but if the idea of California incentives is to keep production here, that has to include musicians as well,” he says.
Sazer maintains that incentive programs need local hiring safeguards to ensure that film and TV scoring jobs are protected.
Conversely, top composer agent Richard Kraft of Kraft-Engel Management advocates a need for musicians to rethink their approach to the issue of runaway production. At issue, he says, is the 1% of video revenues companies must pay American Federation of Musicians members who work on film and TV projects.
Kraft, who last year launched the blog BringMoreRecordingtoLA.com, notes that the music for the six top-grossing films last year were all recorded in London. “Of all the films released in the first half of 2013, only perhaps two dozen were recorded (by members of the) AFM,” he says.
Kraft says the union needs to be flexible about backend payments, and maintains that they help a relatively small number of musicians who get the lion’s share of work. “Composers have learned how to adjust their deals to the needs of clients all over the world,” Kraft says. “That kind of thinking is long overdue in the leadership ranks of Los Angeles film and TV musicians.”
Meanwhile, classical music expert Jim Svejda describes the working Hollywood studio musicians as the greatest on Earth, toiling at “the most lucrative gig in classical music.”