Earnings by Los Angeles musicians from the scoring of films and TV shows have plummeted 68% over the last 15 years because of runaway post-production, according to a report released today by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “Employment is in sharp decline,” the report found. “Session wages have dropped from nearly $50 million in 1998 to $15.5 million in 2013.”
The report, which was based, in part, on data provided by the American Federation of Musicians, found that “The loss of scoring work has cost the region $280 million despite enormous subsidies paid to production companies in the form of federal, state and local incentives meant to generate quality employment.” Click here to see the full report.
“As studios are sending more recording work overseas, they are also accepting billions of dollars in tax breaks—dollars explicitly intended for job creation and protection,” said Jon Zerolnick, author of the report and director of research for LAANE, an advocacy group for social justice founded in 1993. “And most of the loss is felt by Southern California as, historically, the bulk of recording work at industry standard has been done here.”
“Historically, recording work for film and television provided quality employment,” the report said. “Despite the precarious and freelance nature of the job, recording musicians established high working standards with good wages – bifurcated between session wages and deferred compensation (i.e., residuals) – and benefits including health care and a pension. North American musicians operating at these standards are the best in the world. Yet employment is in sharp decline, dropping by more than two-thirds over the past fifteen years for Southern California recording musicians. Session wages have dropped from nearly $50 million in 1998 to $15.5 million in 2013. As recently as 2003, 76% to 85% of films were recorded at the industry standard; in 2013, it was 33% to 46%.”
The report found that recording work is increasingly being “off-shored” – mostly in Eastern Europe and London. “Production companies treat recording musicians differently than they treat other creative and technical workers,” the report found. “While hundreds of production companies have committed to quality employment for actors, writers, directors, and technical workers, only 20 production companies have made that commitment to musicians. These Hollywood production companies remain profitable, yet have shifted recording work for a variety of reasons, including changes in studio corporate structure, changes in the role of the composer, the rise of government incentives, and a broader devaluation of music. Long-established studios have created or acquired numerous production companies; by shifting work between companies within the same corporate structure, studios avoid obligations to provide quality employment to recording musicians. Additionally, new entrants to the market generally fail to meet established standards.”