Anyone who is a fan of game music is probably familiar with game composer Austin Wintory. He’s written music for games including flOw, Monaco, Journey, and more recently The Banner Saga. The writing and recording of the The Banner Saga soundtrack in particular has sparked a fight between Wintory and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).
The problem that the AFM has is that Wintory composed music for the game as a non-union job. Despite the fact that Wintory wrote and recorded the music in Texas, a state that has right-to-work laws that would allow even union musicians to do non-union work, the AFM is threatening to fine Wintory up to $50,000, claiming he violated union rules. Wintory and other composers have been unable to write game scores through the union due to the horribly written contract by the AFM for game music projects.
Wintory has gone public, criticizing the union’s contract on twitter and more recently in a Youtube video (seen below). In the video, he details the massive issues with the contract that the union heads created for working with game developers and publishers, as well as their recent action against him. The contract, titled the AFM Video Game/Interactive Media Agreement, was written back in 2012 and has been universally rejected by every game studio and criticized by many composers and musicians. As a result, this has forced any composers or musician looking to do work in games to do so outside of the union.
Because he has spoken out about the mess that the AFM has created for its own members, the union is retaliating by fining him. Wintory feels that the AFM is trying to use him as an example to keep other union members in line and frightened. It doesn’t look like Wintory will be backing down any time soon. In his own words, “I refuse to live in fear, and I especially refuse to live in fear of my own union.”
It’s unfortunate to see that there are so many talented musicians and composers being prevented from doing work in the games industry because of the AFM’s contract. Worse still is that instead of listening to the concerns and criticism from their own union members, the heads of the AFM have chosen to threaten and bully people, like Austin Wintory, who are speaking out. Personally, I think it’s great that Wintory has chosen to speak up about these issues. Hopefully this is a problem that can receive more attention and be resolved. Be sure to check out Wintory’s video and spread the word.