Listen Up! – Musicians Call for Fairness

National campaign seeks to bring motion picture and TV film music work back home

by Linda A. Rapka

Musicians in Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York kicked off the nationwide Listen Up! campaign April 10 seeking fairness for musicians working in the motion picture and TV film industry.

AFM President Ray Hair speaks out against film-music offshoring at the Listen Up! campaign launch in Los Angeles.

AFM President Ray Hair speaks out against film-music offshoring at the Listen Up! campaign launch in Los Angeles.

Led by rank-and-file members of the American Federation of Musicians, the campaign calls upon the entertainment industry to stop the offshoring of film and television music scoring and to ensure musicians’ work is valued by all companies at the same professional standard as other cast and crew.

In Westwood, a group of about 75 in gathered across from the Regency Theatre in Westwood for a press conference and rally led by AFM International President Ray Hair urging film production companies to keep jobs local and uphold existing industry standards.

Joined by allies from the AFL-CIO, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, WGA, and community and faith leaders, musicians wore black shirts and carried empty “silent” instrument cases symbolizing the loss of music work to offshoring. Using Lionsgate’s film “Draft Day” (which premiered the following day) as an example, the campaign called out the company for its history of scoring films overseas. For “Draft Day” Lionsgate took $5 million in public financing from Ohio taxpayers while outsourcing overseas the post-production orchestra for the scoring to a Macedonian company.

Paul Koretz

Paul Koretz

“The musicians who are with me today and thousands more like them throughout the U.S. and Canada have been silenced,” Hair said. “Over the last decade musical employment in TV and films has dropped dramatically. That’s why we speak out today.”

Prominent local civic and political leaders turned out to show their support. Speakers at the Los Angeles event included L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) Executive Director Roxana Tynan, Rabbi Jonathan Klein of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA), Leslie Gersicoff from the Jewish Labor Committee, and L.A. County Federation of Labor Chief of Staff Glen Arnodo.

LAANE's Roxana Tynan

LAANE’s Roxana Tynan

“I am proud to say that music is my work,” said Rafael Rishik, a violinist and member of AFM Local 47. “But when companies undermine our working conditions by sending our jobs overseas, it jeopardizes the future for all working musicians, it hurts our families, and it hurts our communities. That’s why I’m standing with other musicians to tell the film industry, ‘Listen up and do the right thing.'”

Meanwhile, musicians in New York leafleted outside two movie theaters in Manhattan. In Atlanta, principal tubist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Michael Moore spoke from the plaza in front of the Georgia state capitol.

“We, the musicians, are among the taxpayers who are paying for these subsidies to the movie production companies, so they can pay somebody $30 an hour in Macedonia and record all day for peanuts, which turns the process into a race to the bottom,” Moore said. “The issue should not be who can do it for the cheapest price.”

Maurice Grants leads a brass ensemble

Maurice Grants leads a brass ensemble

On April 21, musicians in Los Angeles leafleted outside movie theaters showing “Draft Day” in Pasadena and Santa Monica.

“People who love the movies know that music is the heart and soul of a film,” Hair said. “They also know that musicians are vital to the motion picture and TV film industry. Our work must be afforded the same dignity and respect that other cast and crew members enjoy. We will engage industry leaders on these issues until there is positive change for musicians.”

The Listen Up! online petition garnered over 8,600 signatures of support in the first week following launch, and continues to grow. Sign the petition and stay tuned to campaign updates at listenupnow.org.

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