Musicians Are Ruining Every Disney Event Until They Get Better Streaming Royalties

It was quite an unusual Saturday morning for many members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in the Los Angeles area.  It was also an unexpected headache for one Disney executive in particular.

In protest, a band of irate musicians performed live outside of Variety’s Power of Women luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons. It was the latest noisy protest by performing musicians in their fight for fair pay from streaming.

The protest is part of an increasingly aggressive protest campaign that is now featuring disruptions at conferences, book signings, and even the private residences of studio executives.  If top Disney executives don’t have a headache yet, they’ll probably have one soon — that is, until streaming royalties are renegotiated.

The weekend luncheon was honoring Dana Walden, who is the chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment and one of several executives that are currently refusing to pay musicians residuals for what is called new media.

Danita Ng-Poss, who works in orchestra and music preparation, says that in recent years women have been increasingly involved in music scoring.  So he had difficulty understanding how someone like Walden can claim to be a champion for women in the industry while at the same time “undercutting our ability to make a decent living.”

Musicians are upset that Disney, which earned close to $60 billion last year, is effectively asking them to take a pay cut.

They say that — without receiving residuals from streaming — if Disney releases a movie on Disney+ instead of in movie theaters or on TV, they can take a pay cut as high as 75%.

All this has led the AFM to launch #BandTogether, which is a nationwide campaign that is attempting to pressure movie studios to provide the same kind of streaming residuals that actors, writers, singers, and other workers receive for their work.

Many leading film directors, producers, and composers are backing the musicians’ demands. This includes heavyweights such as J.J. Abrams, Damien Chazelle and John Williams. #BandTogether also has the support of many prominent politicians, such as Rep. Brad Sherman, Rep. Ted Lieu, and Rep. Adam Schiff.

The AFM’s current contract with the movie studios expires on November 14th. Negotiations between the two have been ongoing at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.