AFM Ratifies Deal With AI Protections and Streaming Residuals

The American Federation of Musicians has voted to ratify its new contract with the major studios, which provides for streaming residuals and protections from artificial intelligence.

The union represents musicians who perform on TV and movie scores or who appear on screen. Following 12 days of negotiations in January and February, it reached a tentative deal on Feb. 23. The agreement largely tracks with the provisions won by the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA during their strikes last year.

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“This agreement is a monumental victory for musicians who have long been under-compensated for their work in the digital age,” said Tino Gagliardi, the union’s international president, in a statement.

On AI, the union got a stipulation that musicians are human beings. The agreement allows AI to be used to generate a musical performance, with payment to musicians whose work is used to prompt the AI system.

“AI will be another tool in the toolbox for the artistic vision of composers, and musicians will still be employed,” said Marc Sazer, vice president of AFM Local 47, in an interview. “They cannot produce a score without at least a human being.”

The AI agreement builds on a prior agreement for “electronic multi-tracking,” which provides for higher rates for synth musicians who perform multiple instrument tracks. If a musician’s work is used to prompt an AI system, that musician will get three hours at the higher multi-tracking rate for each 15 minutes of AI-generated music in a show.

If the prompt music is a solo performance, the soloist gets two three-hour session fees for each 15 minutes of AI-generated music.

Those provisions are analogous to terms negotiated by SAG-AFTRA, which require that an actor get their daily wage for use of their AI-generated replica.

The AFM agreement also provides for a first-ever residual for high-budget streaming shows. Under the terms, if a musician performs on a given episode, $350 will go into a residual pool. The money will then be distributed to the musicians who worked on the show, with a greater share going to orchestrators and arrangers. The residual declines every year the show remains on the service, and will be larger for the largest streaming services.

The union told members that it tried to secure a more generous residual, which would be based on the performer’s actual compensation — not the arbitrary $350 figure. However, after considerable discussion, the two sides came up with an agreement they could both live with. The union plans to build on the formula in future negotiations.

The residual also includes a 50% bonus for the most-watched streaming shows, similar to the WGA deal.

The union did concede some things to the studios in exchange for the contract gains. Most notably, the union agreed to allow more scoring of TV shows overseas, under a so-called “banking and exchange” provision.

The AFM contract generally requires that movies and TV shows produced in the U.S. and Canada will also be scored in the U.S. or Canada. But since 2005, the theatrical contract has allowed producers the flexibility to employ domestic musicians on foreign films, in exchange for allowing foreign musicians to score domestic films. The new agreement expands that provision to TV shows.

The studios also wanted to be able to exchange TV hours for film hours in this system, and vice versa, but the union refused to allow that sort of “cross-fertilization,” arguing that it would be unworkable.

The studios also got expanded “clip use,” allowing them to license up to three minutes of a score of a movie or TV show to another movie or TV show. The previous limit was two minutes.

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