Musicians on late-night shows, awards shows and other live TV shows are demanding to be paid residuals when their work is featured on ad-supported streaming services like YouTube and on the networks’ own websites. According to a spokesperson for the 80,000-member American Federation of Musicians, this is the “primary issue” in its negotiations for a new contract with the networks, which resume Monday. The union’s last contract expired in February 2016 and members have been working under its terms without a pay raise ever since.
Musicians who perform on such shows as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and The Voice aren’t paid residuals when their shows are streamed online on ad-supported systems, even though vocalists and other performers who appear on the shows are under SAG-AFTRA’s contract.
Union members will be leafleting the audience of Jimmy Kimmel Live! before today’s taping in Los Angeles, as they did yesterday in New York in advance of the taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Do you know CBS refuses to pay The Late Show band when you watch the show on YouTube or CBS.com?” the leaflets ask. “CBS pays other performers when they stream The Late Show on YouTube and CBS.com – why not musicians? If you love music, tell CBS it’s time to respect the band and pay musicians fairly.”
“Other performers are all paid when Jimmy Kimmel Live! streams on YouTube or other online outlets, yet musicians are paid nothing,” said Cleto Escobedo III, musical director of Cleto and the Cletones, the house band for Kimmel’s show. “Musicians just want to be compensated for our likeness and our music. I love Jimmy, the producers, and everyone we work with. We just need to make sure the networks treat us and all of our colleagues fairly.”
“This is about fairness. It’s a travesty that musicians are being treated this way,” said Harold Wheeler, who will be the music director for the 2018 Academy Awards for a third consecutive year and who was also the original Dancing With the Stars music director. “We are just asking the networks for a little respect, and the networks can certainly afford to treat musicians with the respect we deserve.”
The union’s old contract covers more than 20 live television shows, The list in addition to the late-night shows includes the Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes, Tonys and Grammys; the American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, Country Music Awards and the People’s Choice Awards; Today, Good Morning America, Harry, Live With Kelly and Ryan; and Saturday Night Live, The View and The Voice.
“The music that you hear and watch on YouTube and streaming systems is handmade with the sweat and expertise of music makers who dedicate their lives for the enrichment of others,” said Ray Chew, music director of Dancing with the Stars and Showtime at the Apollo, and a former SNL band member and American Idol music director. “It is demoralizing and wrong when this is taken without equitable compensation. We are only seeking what is right and fair for our livelihoods and our families.”