Why music supervisors are clashing with Netflix

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

music supervisor Nora Felder was instrumental in choosing and securing approval for the hit Nineteen Eighties track, which peaked at number 1 on several music charts after airing on “Stranger Things”.

Yet, despite his increasingly important position in suggesting such songs and curating music for performances, music observers say he is not receiving the salary and benefits shared by his union friends. .

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

To remedy this, Wolfington and other independent observers recently took an important step to add to the International Coalition of Theater Stage Employees, the union that represents employees on film and TV productions. He requested union certification elections with the National Labor Relations Board.

IATSE noted that it is focusing its organizing efforts around Netflix as it is the largest employer of music supervisors within the industry.

IATSE noted in a press release, “Despite this cultural influence, music supervisors are joining together to set the standard and address long-standing problems for those in the craft.”

Music observers requested Netflix and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers earlier this year to voluntarily acknowledge their union, which skipped the stage of a fair election, but they declined. IATSE noted that more than 75% of music supervisors favored becoming a member of their union, which represents camera operators, set decorators, makeup artists and other technical jobs on the units.

AMPTP spokesman Jared Gonzales said, “The alliance rejected IATSE’s request because we believe employees should have a free choice in deciding whether they want to be represented by a union. “

“Our position means that the election will take place if the union files an accreditation petition with the National Labor Relations Board, allowing each employee to vote,” he noted.

Netflix declined to comment.

Unionization efforts come as music supervisors have become more culturally and professionally superior. In 2018, music observers can qualify to win a Grammy within the compilation soundtrack album category. Felder, who directed “Running Up the Hill” for “Stranger Things 4”, Received an Emmy for Music Supervision,

“Placed music has long been a huge driving factor in the music industry,” said Michael Peters, legal professional at Remo Law PC. “We have a great exposure to point out the cultural impact of supervisors and the creative value of their services. They have the momentum right now to try and get organized and be recognized as a union.”

Manish Rawal, a 48-year-old music supervisor who worked on the Netflix film “The Gray Man” and performances like NBC’s “This Is Us,” helps the union effort.

Tensions have risen with music supervisors amid a surge in streaming, which has shortened the TV season. Pay for music supervisors is often a payment that can be negotiated per episode or for a completed undertaking such as a sequence or film. The fee comes out of the sequence’ or the film’s earnings.

While performances are mostly based on community TV seasons, the fund is on an extra-ordinary schedule, with 12 to 18 episodes per season, which can take about six to eight months of labor, said Robin Urdang, who Worked as a music supervisor on the Netflix series “The Baby-Sitters Club” and with Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”.

Shows on streaming platforms, however, are not necessarily timed for a fixed season. Urdang said that a sequence can have an average of seven to 10 episodes and can be over a year long.

“You’re working for the same amount on fewer episodes for a longer period of time, which means you end up making less money per hour,” Urdang noted.

Some music supervisors describe situations where their funds have been delayed after completing their work.

Rawal said he did the final assemblage for a Netflix film in November 2020 only to teach that the studio planned not to pay him the tens of thousands of dollars he owed until about six months later, when the film was due. can. was launched. His wife, an art teacher, was also not studying due to the pandemic, which was putting pressure on his expenses.

“Our payments are being made under some arbitrary idea that it will be paid at the last possible moment,” said Rawal, who lives in Culver City. “We’re fighting that industry at this point.”

He said Netflix later agreed to pay him half of the amount owed in January 2021 and the rest in March of that year. A person close to Netflix noted that the remaining funds are sometimes made up after a film has completed postproduction.

“We’ve seen the cultural impact of the song right in a scene,” said Wolfington, 43, music supervisor who worked on the Netflix initiative with “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” “Netflix as a company values ​​music, which I think is a great thing, and all their audiences enjoy it too. But we’re in a position where our standards aren’t what they should be.” That’s why we want to solve it.”

Studios are reluctant to voluntarily settle for music supervisors as part of a union partly because they see them as unbiased contractors.

A source close to Netflix said music supervisors have contracts with them running their own companies and some have their own employees. The source added that those supervisors also do services for different studios at the same time.

In 2009, a group of musicians and songwriters tried to prepare under Teamsters, but two years later, these efforts were abandoned when AMPTP would not voluntarily accept their union.

Katherine Fisk, a professor of labor law at the UC Berkeley School of Law, said the fact that fueled IATSE’s case is that most other Hollywood jobs, including actors and writers, are unionized.

Fisk noted, “There are many cases involving workers who work somewhat autonomously who have unionized successfully.”

In the thirties, the studio argued that writers should not be unionized because they worked independently, usually out of their accommodations or hotel rooms and were not under the direct supervision of a person, Fisk famously. However, the NLRB rejected the argument that the writers consequently have been a matter of the studio’s management, Fisk said. Writers are currently unionized under the Writers Guild of America.

Other areas of audio and music are also trying to form associations. Last month, writers, producers, engineers, and editors from podcast community Pineapple Street Studios requested their owner, Audacious, to accept their 40-member group as a union, and music content operations staff at YouTube received union certification. A request for election has been filed. Audacity declined to comment. Google, the mother or father firm of YouTube, did not immediately return a request for comment.

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