Musician's Union Threatens to Expel The Banner Saga Composer

Musician's Union Threatens to Expel The Banner Saga Composer

Austin Wintory

Composer Austin Wintory violated American Federation of Musicians' rules by recording the score for The Banner Saga in Texas under non-union auspices.

The Banner Saga composer Austin Wintory may face expulsion from the American Federation of Musicians for refusing to pay a $2,500 fine he received for recording the game's score under non-union auspices.

If Wintory does not pay the fine, the AFM will expel him. Wintory told Variety his lawyers are "dealing with the realities of the board's ability to expel me."

Wintory recorded the score for the game The Banner Saga in a right-to-work state, a statute that states no person can be denied employment because of non-membership in a union, after he discovered recording with union musicians in Los Angeles would be twice as expensive as recording in London after a revised union contract. In 2012 the union instituted a heavily restrictive contract that game publishers refused to sign.

A committee task force put together the AFM Video Game/Interactive Media Agreement, effective December 1, 2012, without speaking to composers or musicians of the union to vote on it. Because publishers refused to sign it, many union members were unable to find work and turned to work without union sanction.

Wintory explained how the AFM has "effectively made it impossible" for composers to make music for games. Wintory said no AFM musician had been able to find work after 2012 for new video game scores. He specifically spoke out against the intimidation from his union.

The AFM and Microsoft worked out a new agreement in June 2014 to replace the old contract. The new contract allows game publishers to use music from games in commercials for an additional payment.

Wintory has declined to pay the fine "on principle," and he has offered to make a $2,500 contribution to Education Through Music, a Los Angeles-based music charity, instead.

The AFM board's actions are at odds with the local L.A. chapter, Local 47, who support Wintory through a resolution passed in October.

Source: Variety

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Yeah, seriously, fuck Unions. They're almost as bad as corporations at restricting art. I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

Plus, apparently a union was partially the cause of us not having the original voice of Chie return in P4 Golden. Fuck them.

Fox12:
Yeah, seriously, fuck Unions. They're almost as bad as corporations at restricting art. I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

This, this, a thousand times this.

I like the idea of Unions, I really do. But it seems like whenever they show up in the news its ruining peoples lives or restricting things that shouldn't be restricted.

Read it twice, still not entirely sure what's going on beyond a dude is refusing to pay a fine.

I've always felt that unions were created to address completely legitimate problems and real unfairness. However, I've also always felt that once that unfairness was initially addressed, unions should have disbanded.

I live in a right-to-work state, and for the employment benefits I receive I can largely thank the historical work of unions (and a more progressively minded leadership). That said, I'm not in a union and see no benefit to one in my current position. If conditions were to change, that's when a union should come together, address the issue, then promptly disband.

Aren't unions generally supposed to make life difficult for the employers of their members, not the members themselves ?

Is this like a thing with American unions? The only time I hear about unions in my country is when they're threatening with a strike because wage/benefits negotiations are failing.

American's can't even do unions like the rest of the fuckin' world. It's supposed to be there to protect the working man, not to exploit him. But American logic is all about getting a piece of someone else's cake. Fuck, I'm glad I moved from that shithole.

PBMcNair:
Aren't unions generally supposed to make life difficult for the employers of their members, not the members themselves ?

Bureaucracy doesn't discriminate.

Saviordd1:

Fox12:
Yeah, seriously, fuck Unions. They're almost as bad as corporations at restricting art. I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

This, this, a thousand times this.

I like the idea of Unions, I really do. But it seems like whenever they show up in the news its ruining peoples lives or restricting things that shouldn't be restricted.

That's because when unions aren't screwing up, it's not newsworthy. Therefore we get a disparity in the message: "Look at all the bad things unions do! Ignore all the good things behind the curtain!"

Fox12:
I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

That is exactly what it does, and intentionally so. Once enough have joined such a union, they make it a violation to ever work with anyone who isn't union, that way anyone coming into the industry has to be union or they can't find employment. Which in turn perpetuates being able to force people into the union in the same fashion.

So what we have here is essentially extortion by exclusion? Join the union, pay the fee/fine, follow our restrictive practices or you'll never work again!

My understanding of unions was to serve as clout on the side of employees in employee-employer relations. As far as I can tell in this case the employee and employer had a very respectful relationship and both parties benefited.

Saviordd1:
I like the idea of Unions, I really do. But it seems like whenever they show up in the news its ruining peoples lives or restricting things that shouldn't be restricted.

Pretty sure that's because, 99% of the time, when they're just doing their jobs... they aren't showing up in the news.

Yea as someone who had to join to keep my job, fuck unions. They may have had a legitimate purpose decades ago but that time has passed and now they exist for the benefit of a few people at the top and do nothing but take money from the people they make a thin pretense of "protecting".

It's situations like this that show how overreaching a union can be. Fuckin' morons.

Adam Jensen:
American's can't even do unions like the rest of the fuckin' world. It's supposed to be there to protect the working man, not to exploit him. But American logic is all about getting a piece of someone else's cake. Fuck, I'm glad I moved from that shithole.

That's an awful vitriolic comment.

Mostly, America does do it like the rest of the world, which is why you don't hear about shit like this all the time. In their eyes, they are protecting everyone by making sure none of the members give in to working in what they would consider less than appropriate conditions. In their eyes, they are protecting others who are not this individual. Also, unions pretty much everywhere have similar ideals. A Union is nothing if it's members can just go and work in whatever conditions for any amount of money. Also, the whole bit about how the union feels regarding the the video game industry is very important.

PBMcNair:
Aren't unions generally supposed to make life difficult for the employers of their members, not the members themselves ?

Generally speaking their job isn't to make anyone's life difficult by design, they are there to make sure the work and wages are "fair". You don't see this type of thing happen very often, but one of the biggest problems with unions is that if you are in an industry where unions have a strong presence, it's not an option to not be a part of them. It works like this, you get a job that has a union attached to it, you must pay union dues. That said, you are free to opt out of the union but you still must pay union dues (it's federal law going back to the very foundation of unions). So, you can opt out, enjoy none of the protections the union offers and still pay union dues. Or you can join the union, get their protection, and pay your union dues. If you join the union, you are stuck to their rules as a matter of contractual obligation. He is voluntarily part of the union, they will try to fine him as a matter of failure to observe the contractual rules he signed off on. Every union everywhere, it's pretty much the same kind of deal. Only in America does it make the news when a union is fucking someone over.

Baresark:
Generally speaking their job isn't to make anyone's life difficult by design, they are there to make sure the work and wages are "fair". You don't see this type of thing happen very often, but one of the biggest problems with unions is that if you are in an industry where unions have a strong presence, it's not an option to not be a part of them. It works like this, you get a job that has a union attached to it, you must pay union dues. That said, you are free to opt out of the union but you still must pay union dues (it's federal law going back to the very foundation of unions). So, you can opt out, enjoy none of the protections the union offers and still pay union dues. Or you can join the union, get their protection, and pay your union dues. If you join the union, you are stuck to their rules as a matter of contractual obligation. He is voluntarily part of the union, they will try to fine him as a matter of failure to observe the contractual rules he signed off on. Every union everywhere, it's pretty much the same kind of deal. Only in America does it make the news when a union is fucking someone over.

Actually I'm a member of my work's union and unless I actually want to vote on the few things that require voting I pay nothing. That said they are incredibly helpful in making my work life a lot easier than what management wants and especially when management (although in the case I'm thinking of, it's another agency) actively tries to screw people over.

Cases like this are pretty rare and reading the article, the local union actually supports this guy.

"I don't much about unions other than what the news tells me but here's my opinion anyway"

DO YOU REALISE THAT THE AFM IS NOT A TRADE UNION?

Matt K:

Baresark:
Generally speaking their job isn't to make anyone's life difficult by design, they are there to make sure the work and wages are "fair". You don't see this type of thing happen very often, but one of the biggest problems with unions is that if you are in an industry where unions have a strong presence, it's not an option to not be a part of them. It works like this, you get a job that has a union attached to it, you must pay union dues. That said, you are free to opt out of the union but you still must pay union dues (it's federal law going back to the very foundation of unions). So, you can opt out, enjoy none of the protections the union offers and still pay union dues. Or you can join the union, get their protection, and pay your union dues. If you join the union, you are stuck to their rules as a matter of contractual obligation. He is voluntarily part of the union, they will try to fine him as a matter of failure to observe the contractual rules he signed off on. Every union everywhere, it's pretty much the same kind of deal. Only in America does it make the news when a union is fucking someone over.

Actually I'm a member of my work's union and unless I actually want to vote on the few things that require voting I pay nothing. That said they are incredibly helpful in making my work life a lot easier than what management wants and especially when management (although in the case I'm thinking of, it's another agency) actively tries to screw people over.

Cases like this are pretty rare and reading the article, the local union actually supports this guy.

I think that particular union is not following the norm. All of my union experiences have not been that way. For instance: When I was 16 working at my local Shoprite, I was forced into the union for stock boys (not sure what it was actually called). I would make a whopping $50/week, and then I would have to pay them $5 for my dues and then pay taxes. Shoprite gave out abysmal hours. They would just keep hiring and hiring and then people would quit because they couldn't get hours and the one's left would then get more hours until they hired a bunch of new people... it was a terrible cycle.

The part where you are forced to pay is actually Federal Law to protect unions that was created under FDR's administration in regards to collective bargaining. One of the biggest issues with it from day one is it does not allow you to negotiate your own contract where unions have a presence, you get what the union gets so you pay them. even if you aren't a member. In your case, I'm sure unions have the ability to not enforce that if they don't want to, but in my experience, that is far from the norm. I know people who work in a lot of unions and that is the case for them.

Schadrach:

Fox12:
I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

That is exactly what it does, and intentionally so. Once enough have joined such a union, they make it a violation to ever work with anyone who isn't union, that way anyone coming into the industry has to be union or they can't find employment. Which in turn perpetuates being able to force people into the union in the same fashion.

Can... can we boycott a Union? Like, all the union members go on strike, and demand better treatment from their Union representatives? Maybe negotiate with the leaders to try and get better quality treatment for the members? Form a Pickett line outside their offices? Lord, living in America : P

This reminds me of another incident, where the unions tried to squash Star Wars because Lucas had the nerve to put the credits at the end of the film.

Saviordd1:

I like the idea of Unions, I really do. But it seems like whenever they show up in the news its ruining peoples lives or restricting things that shouldn't be restricted.

Of course... because that's the story the news media wants you to know. Not how a union stopped a huge corporation from increasing their CEO's salary by 15% by cutting benefits to all the workers in the company.

Unions are far from perfect, but I fear a world without them when Greed and 'the almighty dollar' hold so much sway in the west.

Yeah, I live in Michigan. When unions were big here jobs were worth having. 25 years ago my mother was a union cashier at a grocery store. She had a full time job that paid $10.37 an hour with overtime and holiday pay and HEALTHCARE. 25 years later my brother works at a grocery store. He make $8.15, no benefits, and gets 15 hrs a week working 4-5 days a week(there are no full time jobs at most any store for positions under store manager). Thats the standard for the majority of the jobs around me. Hell my mother has been a non-union nurse for 15 years and now the hospitals have cut all nurses hrs to 3 12 hr days a week so they don't have to pay overtime.

America has been killing off unions for a long time and the middle class is dying with it. The average American household income has been going down continuously for my entire lifetime and there is no indication its going to stoping.

Abomination:
So what we have here is essentially extortion by exclusion? Join the union, pay the fee/fine, follow our restrictive practices or you'll never work again!

My understanding of unions was to serve as clout on the side of employees in employee-employer relations. As far as I can tell in this case the employee and employer had a very respectful relationship and both parties benefited.

Note that I'm more familiar here with film actors than musicians/composers, but I'd say what you have here is a union institution designed to work in LA getting mixed up when trying to work with Silicon Valley.

This is not a simple employee/employer relationship here. Rather what it is a group of highly talented individuals in a variety of arts competing for short term contract employment. The purpose of the union is to sign up all the best to their ranks, as a show of solidarity say they can no longer work on any non-union projects, then negotiate favorable terms for their members with the various Hollywood industries. This is kind of ingrained as the status quo of Hollywood. You don't have to hire union people, whether that be actors, writers, composers, etc, but that's where you find the best people. Non-union projects tend to be a place where aspiring non-union talent get experience to become union. They don't pay much but you can get your name out there.

But like I said that's Hollywood and this is the video game industry. So I don't really know the details for what's going on here, but I'd take a guess that the AFM is trying to squeeze industry giants like EA & Ubisoft into agreeing to pay its members under the same rates as the film & tv industries do. As there is no agreement in place you have a sort of unofficial strike, and the AFM has taken a stance of not working with the video game industry until an agreement has been reached.

Of course in this specific case an indy dev like the people behind Banner Saga are hardly comparable with a massive publisher like EA. In the acting union they have a much more relaxed set of rules for their members to work on independent films, and no restrictions at all for independent short films. The AFM could probably use something similar here.

Demagogue:
Of course... because that's the story the news media wants you to know. Not how a union stopped a huge corporation from increasing their CEO's salary by 15% by cutting benefits to all the workers in the company.

Unions are far from perfect, but I fear a world without them when Greed and 'the almighty dollar' hold so much sway in the west.

I've got no problem with them existing, but I'd argue against supporting them purely because they're a union, and I'd like to see them require the actual support of the workers instead of relying so much purely on federal law.

I don't know how this union/guild crap works in the US but it sounds mafia-like.

Just record your music in Mongolia and call it a day.

Saviordd1:

Fox12:
Yeah, seriously, fuck Unions. They're almost as bad as corporations at restricting art. I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

This, this, a thousand times this.

I like the idea of Unions, I really do. But it seems like whenever they show up in the news its ruining peoples lives or restricting things that shouldn't be restricted.

There is nothing wrong with Unions overall. The idea is that through coordination and collective bargaining you can ensure fair pay and decent working conditions by making it so people wanting the service can only choose to obtain it through the union. This of course means not only bargaining collectively, but acting against those who don't join the union and try and undercut it. After all when there is a union out there indie contractors can charge less than the union rates in an area and make more money through volume, and of course this can actually cost those in the union money and defeat the entire purpose.

When your dealing with NATIONAL unions this can get nasty because different places in the USA can have radically different standards of living. Living in a huge city in California is cheaper than living in one in Texas and of course living outside major cities and such is cheaper yet. State taxes, the cost of property (and taxes on that), the ease of transporting goods and local services across the board contribute. The idea of a Union is to set prices high enough across the board that people in the most expensive areas can earn a fair/comfortable wage. With a national union that deals with a service employers will shop around for nationally the entire idea is to make it so guys providing the service in LA won't be at a disadvantage due to people being able to hire the same service for half the price otherwise given that the people providing it don't need as much money to live.

Of course the problem with Unions though is that they inherently rely on the threat of violence and criminal activity en-masse to work on any level, today people have a lot less guts and backbone, wanting the benefits without the risks or costs. What's more the whole idea of a "Musicians Union" is a complete joke when you really think about it. Whether it's state, local, or national the basic idea is that the workers team up to demand what they want. If they do not get it, they "strike" and refuse to work. If an employer decides to try and bring in other people, the union assaults/kills/intimidates them, indeed unions strive to force everyone doing a specific job within their sphere to become a member "or else" for the benefit of all. Those who continue to work during a Strike are "scabs" and even after a strike such people are to be targeted for retaliation. In long strikes where it's impossible to wait out a huge company by depriving them of profits, violence against the company, it's property, and reps becomes a watch word.

The whole thing with Unions is that while the government can come in to deal with small groups of people, it can't deal with large scale incidents without starting a war that will level the area. Likewise it doesn't want companies trying to keep workers in line with private armies "old school". This is why the government tends to support unions and acts as a mediator.

Texas having anti-Union laws at all shows how weak Unions have become, collective bargaining only works when you have an effective "or else" and can even intimidate the state/government, increasingly unions have become entirely bureaucratic and thus impossible to ignore because fundamentally the government only passed the laws many of them try and rely on under duress. What's more a union has to be scary, a bunch of hipsters and artists united by a love of music, and scattered through the country just doesn't present much of a threat to anyone which makes it kind of funny. On the other hand a bunch of say rural miners, or factory workers, all in the same area and armed with guns and machinery can be huge. The Teamsters (really infamous) not only have the manpower and huge trucks they could start driving through things but even today all they have to do is refuse to work and the flow of goods through the US stops since at the end of the day everything distributed needs to be put on a truck at some point.

Basically while they might win legally they won't accomplish much in the big picture. I just can't see the Federal Musicians union whacking Texas judges and politicians to get the law changed (even powerful unions nowadays are too limp wristed). What's more legal or not a REAL union would have sent guys with names like "Vinnie" and "Guido" to take sledge hammers to the hands of the musicians who undercut union rates, ensuring they would never play music again, as a lesson to anyone else who thinks they can play music non-union.... and I just don't see it happening. A lot of the real/powerful unions get/got a lot of their muscle from organized crime who of course got a cut from the business and of course a degree of control of it. The relationship between the mob and Teamsters being particularly infamous, and tends to include a share of everything transported by truck (unofficially) hence the old statement about stolen goods that "fell off the back of a truck" and it's also the origin of a lot of flea markets and stuff that wind up with brand name stuff for cheap (rapidly turning stuff taken from trucks into cash).

In a general sense I'm a big believe in Unions when they work properly, I see them as being the lesser of evils, and the negative aspects of unions largely being countered by the corruption of big business.

Even in this case put it into perspective, your a musician working in LA where your rent is crazy. You wouldn't think it's fair to lose all of the big contracts for video games and such to guys working in other states and never even get a chance simply because the people there can live more cheaply and charge less. By standardizing the rates The Union ensures everyone gets a shot at the big contracts. It also means companies look for the BEST people, not just the cheapest people, after all in this article the reason why the guy went to Texas to begin with is that the costs were half what they were in LA. Obviously he considered LA first, realized union rates wouldn't be any better elsewhere, and then went and hired people in Texas outside the union due to non-union rates. Sending lawyers after him is pretty much the limp wristed version of Guido and Vinnie, and may or may not work due to Texas protection, all they can really do is throw him out of the Union (the big threat if he doesn't pay the fine) legally, which might not matter if he can easily contract non-union labor. A few decades ago his body would be buried in the desert somewhere with a bag of lime... assuming it was a real union, and of course those non-union guys would likely be told to join or have their hands broken as a living lesson. I doubt the Musicians could intimidate Texas of all states, but that's part of the threat too... you need to have enough guys where the authorities can't viably fight you without starting a minor war, and individual politicians and judges realize they could wind up buried under a goal post if they piss off the union(s) too much as a result.... something which of course balances out by the Unions ultimately remaining fairly reasonable (simply pushing for fairness) and the understanding that if they do push too far eventually the cost of dealing with them will become worthwhile and someone will call in The National Guard if need be.

Czann:
I don't know how this union/guild crap works in the US but it sounds mafia-like.

In theory, they're supposed to protect the rights of workers so that the workers don't get royally screwed over by the employers. In practice the leadership of some unions is just as corrupt/corruptable as the CEOs they vilify.

Case in point: you have to pay membership dues in order to be part of a union, and in some areas - as described in the article - you can't get a job unless you're part of a union. Makes for a pretty nice racket for those at the top. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, the quagmire that is union policies and practices only gets murkier, especially when you bring actual politics into the situation.

So in the end, unions are just like any other company or institution: started with noble intentions and doing honest good, but it's all too easily corrupted the more power it gains.

Intellectually I can understand why unions are good and what they are supposed to stand for but these days it seems like every time you turn around unions are a burden on the workers and improve their position exactly 0%. Unions are why nothing is filmed in California anymore they go to other states because flying cast, crew, set, and everything else out and back each week is still cheaper than using a union crew. reading stories like this it's hard to support the idea of unions.

nightmare_gorilla:
reading stories like this it's hard to support the idea of unions.

I'd say it's more the current practice of unions than the idea.

As you said, noble idea but the execution in the US is just so horrid.

Have the unions really gotten to the stage that they will "force" companies to hire only union workers or all the already unionized workers will strike?

Reminds me of the tale of the 5 monkeys, a step ladder and the sprinkler system.

This is the thing that pisses me off big time, when people abuse a system designed to help the little guy.

In jobs where businesses & corporations can treat their works like expendable & invaluable objects a union is essential. Especially if the bosses or managers are narcissistic pricks who bully or mistreat their undelings. But as far as I know Wintory seems job seems independent, like a contractor. In this case you don't really need a union. Any disputes only need a lawyer, which I imagine would be cheaper in the long run. It seems like this AFM only exists to make money by controlling America's musicians. It's fine for them to argue with a game publisher over a contracts details but it's not like the musicians & composers are on their pay roll. They & we as gamers are the one's who suffer out of all of this.

Also, I don't really like to generalise, but the musician culture seems to be rife with pretentiousness & arrogance. It doesn't surprise me that such people would set up a union where they can dominate & control like the mob.

Unions would not be necessary is laws already gave same protections that unions did. alas when laws fail, unions come. but they come at a price of creating another retarded barrier for workers.

This sounds like the moments past the tipping point for this unions power cycle. I heard my dad talking about a union who usually does work for Boing a few years ago. The union slowly asks for more and more, becoming powerful then asks for to much and expects the members to deal with going without work for a bit so they can wring the employer for that last major increase in pay. The company hiring can't logically pay that much and instead starts hiring individual contractors, the union struggles to keep work flowing in to its members to make sure they stay union, and eventually become reasonable and sane at the negotiation table. It sounds like this union is currently scrambling to keep itself together while members are saying "fuck you" and making sure they are getting the work they need.

Schadrach:

Fox12:
I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

That is exactly what it does, and intentionally so. Once enough have joined such a union, they make it a violation to ever work with anyone who isn't union, that way anyone coming into the industry has to be union or they can't find employment. Which in turn perpetuates being able to force people into the union in the same fashion.

That sounds exactly what guilds used to be about.
the primary purpose of a guild was to make it very difficult for new/non-guild people to do whatever kind of work the guild represented.

Seems some things never change...

CrystalShadow:

Schadrach:

Fox12:
I can't understand why an artist would want to join a union, unless it somehow restrict their employment opportunities.

That is exactly what it does, and intentionally so. Once enough have joined such a union, they make it a violation to ever work with anyone who isn't union, that way anyone coming into the industry has to be union or they can't find employment. Which in turn perpetuates being able to force people into the union in the same fashion.

That sounds exactly what guilds used to be about.
the primary purpose of a guild was to make it very difficult for new/non-guild people to do whatever kind of work the guild represented.

Seems some things never change...

Dammit CrystalShadow, I was about to post the same thing!

Well its very surprising as to the results of this story and I can see that the new generation is seeing through what Unions have become --- so bravo for those that are actually paying attention.

One should never discount the reason for a Union but like one poster had mentioned, they should disband once conditions are good and things are running again as they should be...

...instead...

We seem to have foisted upon the American society a legalized Mafia whom hide themselves under the guise of good intentions. Its all gravy until the plant closes, the manufacturer folds and leaves, or simply put, the Union leaders becoming discontented from the rest of their group, enjoying the lavish lifestyles they enjoy and the access to upper tier politicians whom then take the dues from hard working people even if they probably don't support what their money goes to.

There needs to be a hard look at reform because the corruption has basically took something that should be helping workers and turned it into a political weapon with the heavy threat of blackmail and fines.

As for Art...

I have a hard time seeing people like Salvador Dali or Andy Wharhol putting their names to a strict and coded community that would impress rules upon them should they wished to make art a different way than some committee wanted --- that would be contrary to what the spirit of Art is.

 

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