Buyout clause a factor in vid score picture

Music for Screens: Winter 2013

More recording work, some musicians contend, could come in the form of videogame score recording, which has now left L.A. completely.

They are angry about the AFM’s latest game agreement, which abolishes the buyout clause of the previous contract. In other words, game publishers can no longer do whatever they like with the music once it’s recorded (such as use it in another game without an additional payment to the musicians).

Electronic Arts worldwide president of music Steve Schnur supervised the recording of 25 orchestral game scores in L.A. over a five-year period but is now looking to other venues such as Nashville (where, despite a strong union presence, scores can be recorded non-union because Tennessee is a right-to-work state).

“My goal is not to move the recordings elsewhere, yet I am not in a position to keep them here if the rules change, if they go back to any of the challenges that were there before,” Schnur says. “There have to be buyouts. There can’t be restrictions.”

Composer Austin Wintory, who recently received a Grammy nomination for his score for the Sony PlayStation 3 game “Journey,” says he tries to keep his recordings in L.A. but his success rate “has been on a steady decline.” He recorded “Journey” with an orchestra in Skopje, Macedonia.

“We are competing in a global marketplace,” Wintory says. “There are buyout options throughout the globe, and the AFM is proving itself to be unfortunately non-competitive.”

Union execs say the new game contract, which took effect Dec. 1, was designed to be a starting point for discussion with game publishers and that they have reached out to music execs to see how to improve the deal and bring recording back to L.A. (and San Francisco’s Skywalker Ranch, another popular spot for game recording).

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