For many video game players, one of the elements that creates a fully immersive environment into these fantastical worlds is the music that accompanies you along the journey. Many of us can pinpoint our favorite story arcs by the score that played in the background. The composers and musicians behind these games provide a crucial element to the overall product – but there’s been something going on behind the scenes in the world of video game music that many players are unaware of.
Journey and The Banner Saga composer Austin Wintory is trying to raise awareness about sanctions being placed on video game composers through their union, the American Federation of Musicians. According to Wintory, many composers in California are losing out on work because of new contract guidelines enacted in 2012 that make it virtually impossible for members of the AFM and video game companies to work together.
Talent agent Richard Kraft is working with Wintory to shine light on this situation with his initiative to Bring More Recordings to Los Angeles. Kraft says that, “Los Angeles has gone from nine major scoring stages bustling with constant activity to only three” and hopes his organization can bring new ideas to keep recording jobs in the Los Angeles area.
One of the sticking points for production companies to not work with AFM musicians is the residuals and other fees they are asked to pay after a film or tv show airs. AFM contracts do not include a buy-out option, which many critics say is the reason production houses go elsewhere for their musicians and composers, as well as other crew needs.
On the flip side, John Acosta – VP of AFM’s Chapter 47 – says the local industry saw a $2-million dollar increase in total wages in 2011. AFM members have also been active in keeping work stateside. For the last few years, they have protested outside Marvel Studios and Lionsgate headquarters for the companies decisions to hire production teams outside the United States.
While the debate between unions and their team members is an age old problem, rarely do we see the fight brought to the surface for players to watch on. As Wintory said, he works in the video game world because of his passion for the medium. Most developers, coders, artists and writers come to this industry out of their love for creating new titles and platforms. Something has got to give in order to keep these talented professionals from leaving the industry all together.