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Award-winning game composer takes musicians union to task
June 9, 2014 | By Kris Graft

Musician and composer Austin Wintory has created music for games including The Banner Saga, Monaco and Journey, picking up a Grammy nomination and BAFTA awards along the way.

But according to Wintory, not all is well in the realm of video game music. In a YouTube video posted today (above), Wintory stated that his union, the 90,000-strong American Federation of Musicians, is essentially blocking musicians from doing recordings for video games.

“My union has made it effectively impossible for composers like me to continue to do this, and I’m even facing a possible $50,000 fine,” he said. “I think it’s madness.”

He explained that a few years ago, heads of the union put together a new video game recording contract. The contract was enacted in 2012 by union executives, but no members of the union were given a chance to vote on it.

That new recording contract was universally rejected by all video game publishers, developers and game makers. The AFM has yet to revise the bill into something that game makers and the union can both agree on.

“Under this new agreement, no AFM musician has been able to work on a new video game score for almost two years,” said Wintory. “And there’s no end in sight to the prohibition of this work.”

“This contract has created an untenable situation,” added Wintory. “…We’ve had to [work in an industry we love], with no union sanction, for almost two years.”

It’s working outside union sanction that landed Wintory in trouble with the union. The AFM sent him a letter just prior to the release of The Banner Saga, for which he composed music, threatening to fine him $50,000 for taking part in non-union work.

“It seems they are trying to make an example out of me,” he said. “…I refuse to live in fear of my own union.”

We’ve contacted the AFM for comment.

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