Hollywood musicians follow actors and writers in demanding protection from AI

It’s not a strike – yet. But the union representing Hollywood musicians has now also officially demanded protection from artificial intelligence (AI) from major studios.

Talks between the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which bargains on behalf of major studios and streamers, were kicked off on Monday, with a rally in Los Angeles.

The issues are, in essence, the same ones that pushed Hollywood actors and writers to go on strike – successfully – last year, even though musicians aren’t likely to paralyze the whole industry if they stopped working for a few months.

The AFM has not announced a strike yet – first, it will try to negotiate with the AMPTP. The union says it’s fighting for AI protections, improved working conditions, better wages and healthcare, and, probably most importantly, residual payments for streaming content.

“Musicians are finding it harder to make a living as made-for-streaming work continues to eclipse traditional film/TV work. Made-for-streaming work doesn't produce residuals for musicians, leaving them with less money,” said the union.

The AFM represents around 70,000 members across the United States and Canada. Members include instrumental musicians working in orchestras, bands, clubs and theater who create music for film, television, commercials, and other mediums.

Tino Gagliardi, international president of the AFM, said that musicians were now making 75% less than they were before the streaming model. Streaming now accounts for 67% of the music sector’s global revenue, with an annual revenue of $22.6 billion.

AI is another issue but the AFM is seemingly not seeking to completely block the use of technology in music. The union says it wants to make sure that AI is used as a tool by human musicians who are still the central part of the creative process.

“We’re not Luddites,” said Gagliardi. “In fact, a lot of our people are developing this stuff. We need consent. We need compensation. And we need credit.”

The union’s TV and film contract was set to expire in November 2023 but it agreed to extend the deal by six months in light of the strikes by Hollywood writers and actors. Talks with the AMPTP are scheduled to take place over the next two weeks.

“The AMPTP looks forward to productive negotiations with the Federation, with the goal of concluding an agreement that will ensure an active year ahead for the industry and recognize the value that musicians add to motion pictures and television,” the studio group said in a statement.

Last year, strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists ended when studios relented and satisfied most of the striker’s demands, including limits on AI use.

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