During my tenure as president of our society, I have attempted to work with our talented Executive Director, Laura Dunn, and our distinguished board and advisory members to create an environment that nurtures a pride in what we do, generates a respect for our fellow composers and lyricists and certainly as important, promotes an over-all sense of community.
You will be happy to know that the reach and influence of our organization is expanding and is indicative of the global environment that our business is positioning itself in. By the time that you receive this issue of the Score, the SCL will have presented yet another informative seminar in New York. With the help of ASCAP and NYU, we are offering a program that will not only introduce our organization to up and coming composers and lyricist at one of New York’s most prestigious music schools, but will continue to integrate our mission among our colleagues who are already having successful careers on the East Coast. I want to extend my thanks to Joel Beckerman, Sue Devine, Mike Patterson, and Ron Sadoff for making this event possible.
Also by this time, I will have represented the SCL as we joined with composers and lyricists all over the world in celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. Our organization was once again a sponsor of the Pavilion of Film Music that celebrates the art of music in film. This year appears to be a pivotal time to be joining with other groups of creators and engaging in dialogue as to what we can do to make sure that our interests are being heard in the global market place. An alliance of European composer organizations, FFACE, was formed within the last year, and their president, Bernard Grimaldi recently visited with us in Los Angeles and attended SCL events.
In April, I met with SCL Gold Member, Pierre-Daniel Rheault, president of the Board of Directors of SOCAN and Jean-Christian Cere, the director general of the Societe Professionelle des Auteurs et des Compositeus du Quebec. We discussed many common objectives facing our respective organizations. They envision an alliance similar to FFACE here in North America, and we will be having more discussions about the practicality and effectiveness of such a collaboration.
This issue of the Score has informed articles relating to a number of the evolving technological changes that will be critical to how our works will compensated in this new landscape. It is imperative that each of us stays abreast of changes that will affect our livelihood. The SCL has planned an in depth look at some of these challenges in the form of a panel discussion, and by this time, we will have already provided our membership with critical information by some of the experts in the field.
No more important members of our community exist than our performing rights organizations. Every day, the way that we are paid as composers and lyricists becomes more complicated. With the Internet, streaming and downloading, it has never been more important than today to align ourselves as creators with organizations that look out for our rights. ASCAP. BMI and SESAC are forever vigilant in their protection of copyright and our creative output. Composers and lyricists have seen untold benefits as a result of their effective defense of our rights in court, such as in the Buffalo Broadcasting litigation, and without their constant voice in Washington, our rights would be in serious peril.
In December, Doreen Ringer-Ross and BMI hosted a round table discussion that featured an in depth look at some of the issues that have arisen over the past year. Richard Conlan and Alison Smith provided valuable insight into the way that their organization is grappling with challenges that are germane to our well-being. It was attended by some of the most successful SCL writers and it is BMI’s intent that these sorts of briefings will be held on a regular basis. Not only did the afternoon provide an insight into the complexities facing our industry, but also it added to a genuine feeling of camaraderie between fellow writers.
I have had a similar offer from, President /COO Pat Collins from SEASAC. Dennis Brown, head of the SCL performing rights committee is making plans to meet with Pat Collins, Pat Rogers and their experts in New Media to discuss their efforts on our behalf.
The feeling of camaraderie was never more evident than in April when several panels featured SCL composers and lyricists at ASCAP’s I Create Music Expo in Hollywood. I was pleased to see the good will being expressed by three of my favorite composers: Patrick Doyle, Brian Tyler and Marco Beltrami. Although we all compete on a certain level for the same jobs, a mutual respect has always been a hallmark of our profession.
Regrettably, I know that this harmony can be fragile unless all of us work together and keep this accord as a high priority. One of my first president’s messages was entitled 2004 Year of the Musician. In the body of that article, I paid testimony to one of the most significant groups in our community who comprise an extraordinary talent pool here in Los Angeles. In fact, as I have stated numerous times, I owe my career in a large part to the superb contributions that these fabulous musicians have made to my scores. Recently however, I have seen such animosity between rival factions within their ranks that it threatens to unravel this valuable sector. The irony for me is that I have friends on each side of the issues and their respective points have merit beyond the contentiousness that often clouds the bigger issues.
Speaking personally for a moment as a composer and not as the president of this organization, I find one of the unfortunate by-products of all of this discord is allowing groups to emerge that would profit at the expense of their own colleagues. One such group is the LA Buy-out Orchestra, euphemistically monikered as New Era Scoring. We have heard for years that some of the complaints of certain production companies revolve around the special re-use payments that musicians receive for their work when it is used in other mediums; new money, by the way, that is coming into the company that is generated by the exploitation of the musician’s work in other areas that weren’t originally contracted for. It is important to remember that these additional payments were negotiated through collective bargaining and through the hard work of our friends, and many times to the detriment of other deal points that were given up in trade.
New Era’s business model begins a dangerous precedent here in Los Angeles. If they succeed, the negative ramifications to our community could be far reaching. In the future, if given the option, what would be the motivation for producing companies to become signatories and make the re-use payments they are responsible for? I dare say if we were to turn the tables within our own discipline and if a sub-set of composers and lyricists were to emerge that would give up royalties and offer buy-outs to producing entities in order to generate work, our livelihood would be irreparably compromised. It is my hope, that despite their differences, our remarkable instrumental contingency can come to some consensus that will work toward their desired goals, and not at the expense of their fellow musicians.
Our community is built up of a number of integral components, all involving talented and creative individuals. Some factions of this group are creators and others look out for our interests as creators, but we are, in fact, one community. The more that we recognize the essence of this concept, embrace it, and do what we can to protect it, the sooner we will be able to move forward and work together for our common good.
Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXII, Number Two, Summer 2007]