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Why music supervisors are clashing with Netflix

It was probably the most memorable moments in Netflix’s “Stranger Things 4″: Max running away from the murderous monster Vecna, fueled by Kate Bush’s soaring song, “Running Up That Hill.”

Music supervisor Nora Felder was instrumental in choosing and securing approvals for the hit Eighties tune, which catapulted to No. 1 on a number of musical charts after its airing on “Stranger Things.”

Yet, regardless of their more and more essential position in suggesting such songs and curating music for exhibits, music supervisors say they aren’t getting the pay and advantages shared by their unionized friends.

“We are currently a group of gig workers who have to get our own insurance and have to figure out our own pension,” stated Lindsay Wolfington, a contract music supervisor. “Almost everybody on set in Hollywood is paid through a union and supported through a union and has their rates and payment schedules standardized through a union. So we’re just looking to be on par with our colleagues who we work with.”

To treatment that, Wolfington and different freelance supervisors not too long ago took a key step to affix the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union representing crews on movie and TV productions. They requested a union certification election with the National Labor Relations Board.

IATSE stated it’s focusing its organizing efforts round Netflix as a result of it’s the largest employer of music supervisors within the business.

“Despite this cultural influence, music supervisors are joining together to set standards and address longstanding issues for those in the craft,” IATSE stated in an announcement.

Music supervisors requested Netflix and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers voluntarily acknowledge their union earlier this 12 months, which might have skipped the step of a proper election, however they declined. IATSE stated that greater than 75% of music supervisors supported becoming a member of their union, which represents digital camera operators, set decorators, make-up artists and different technical jobs on units.

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The alliance rejected IATSE’s request “because we believe that employees should have a free choice in deciding whether they wish to be represented by a union,” stated AMPTP spokesperson Jarryd Gonzales.

“Our position means there will be an election if the union files a recognition petition with the National Labor Relations Board, allowing each employee to cast a vote,” he stated.

Netflix declined to remark.

The unionizing efforts comes as music supervisors have develop into extra distinguished culturally and professionally. In 2018, music supervisors might qualify to win Grammys within the compilation soundtrack album class. Felder, who steered “Running Up That Hill” for “Stranger Things 4,” received an Emmy for music supervision.

“Placed music has been a huge driving factor in the music industry for a long time,” stated Michael Peters, an lawyer at Ramo Law PC. “We have a great demonstration to point to the cultural impact that supervisors can have and the creative value of their services. They have the momentum right now to try and get organized and try and get recognized as a union.”

Manish Raval, a 48-year-old music supervisor who labored on the Netflix movie “The Gray Man” and exhibits like NBC’s “This is Us,” helps the union effort.

Tensions with music supervisors have escalated amid the growth in streaming, which has shortened TV seasons. Pay for music supervisors is usually a payment that may be negotiated per episode or for a complete challenge like a collection or movie. The cost comes out of the collection’ or movie’s price range.

When exhibits had been based mostly on a community’s TV season, the funds had been on a extra common schedule, with a present having 12 to 18 episodes per season, which might take about six to eight months of labor, stated Robin Urdang, who has labored as a music supervisor on Netflix collection together with “The Baby-Sitters Club” and Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

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Shows on streaming platforms, nonetheless, aren’t essentially timed to sure seasons. A collection might have a mean of seven to 10 episodes and span greater than a 12 months of labor, Urdang stated.

“You’re working for the same amount of money on less episodes for a longer period of time, which means that you ultimately make less money per hour,” Urdang stated.

Some music supervisors described cases the place their funds had been delayed after they’d accomplished their jobs.

Raval stated he did the ultimate combine for a Netflix film in November 2020 solely to be taught that the studio deliberate to not pay him the tens of 1000’s of {dollars} he was owed till about six months later, nearer to when the film could be launched. His spouse, an artwork trainer, was additionally not instructing due to the pandemic, placing a pressure on their funds.

“Our payments are being held under some arbitrary idea that it’ll paid out at the absolute last possible moment,” stated Raval, who lives in Culver City. “We’re fighting that industrywide at this point.”

He stated Netflix later agreed to pay him half the cash he was owed in January 2021 and the rest in March of that 12 months. An individual near Netflix stated closing funds are usually made when a film has completed postproduction.

“We’ve seen the cultural impact of the right song in a scene,” stated Wolfington, a 43-year-old music supervisor who has labored on Netflix initiatives together with “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” “Netflix as a company seems to value music, which I think is a great thing, and all their viewers get to enjoy it too. But we’re in this situation where our standards are not what they should be, so we want to remedy that.”

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Studios are reluctant to voluntarily settle for music supervisors as a part of a union partly as a result of they view them as impartial contractors.

A supply near Netflix stated the music supervisors it contracts with run their very own companies and a few have their very own staff. Those supervisors additionally do providers for various studios on the identical time, the supply stated.

In 2009, a bunch of music composers and lyricists tried to arrange below the Teamsters, however two years later, gave up on these efforts when AMPTP wouldn’t voluntarily acknowledge their union.

Boosting IATSE’s case is the truth that most different Hollywood jobs, together with actors and writers, are unionized, stated Catherine Fisk, a professor of labor legislation at UC Berkeley School of Law.

“There are lots of cases involving workers who work somewhat autonomously who have nevertheless successfully unionized,” Fisk stated.

In the Nineteen Thirties, studios argued that writers shouldn’t be unionized as a result of they labored independently, generally out of their residences or resort rooms and weren’t below a direct particular person’s supervision, Fisk famous. However, the NLRB rejected that argument as a result of the writers had been topic to the management of the studio, Fisk added. Writers as we speak are unionized below the Writers Guild of America.

Other areas of audio and music are additionally trying to unionize. Last month, writers, producers, engineers and editors at podcast community Pineapple Street Studios requested its proprietor Audacy acknowledge its 40-member group as a union, and music content material operations employees at YouTube have filed a request for a union certification election. Audacy declined to remark. Google, YouTube’s guardian firm, didn’t instantly return a request for remark.



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