Music Supervisors Are Making a Push for Serious Union Representation: ‘We Do Not Get the Same Workers’ Rights As Many of Our Colleagues’

music supervisors
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music supervisors
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Music supervisors are calling for unionization due to a perceived lack of “equal rights” with other behind-the-scenes film and TV employees. Photo Credit: Brands&People

Selecting and negotiating licenses for music in film and television is hard work – at least according to the music supervisors responsible for doing so, as the professionals are now making a coordinated push for serious union representation. 

The ongoing campaign to bring unionization to the world of music supervision just recently began making waves on social media. Of course, music supervisors’ job-related complaints, pertaining both to their workload and compensation, date back years, and it’s long been common knowledge that most in the sphere have rather full schedules.

But this dissatisfaction looks to have reached a boiling point for some fed-up music supervisors, and a Twitter account called “Music Needs Supervision” appears to be leading the charge by firing off all manner of firmly worded tweets and hashtags.

“Music Supervisors are coming together to #unionize. We’re one of the few in Film and TV that don’t get workers rights under our craft,” Music Needs Supervision wrote last week. “Today @AMPTP [the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] refused our ask to grant equal rights. Stand with our community in our fight for equality. #MusicSupervisorEquity #SilentWithoutUs.”

Subsequently, a multitude of shortchanged supervisors voiced support for Music Needs Supervision via their own accounts.

“We are one of the very few dept heads that are on a show from script thru shooting, post and final delivery of the last episode but do not have equal rights that another depts have,” penned Jen Malone, who’s worked on FX’s Atlanta, HBO’s Euphoria, and Netflix’s Umbrella Academy, according to her Twitter bio. “Please follow, share & support our community to #unionize.”

“In the wise words of @Lizzo, it’s about damn time. #MusicSupervisorEquity #SilentWithoutUs,” weighed in music supervisor Lindsay Wolfington, whose projects include To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Royals.

“Did you know Music Supervisors are one of very few positions that are on a project from script phase, through production, post production, and sometimes (often!) all the way until air/release?” one Amanda Krieg Thomas, an American Horror Story music supervisor, added in an Instagram post. “And yet we do not get the same workers’ rights as many of our colleagues – there is no overtime, pension or other benefits for our role. We are now coming together to unionize in pursuit of these goals. Support and follow @musicneedssupervision.”

In a press release today, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a union that claims to represent “over 160,000 technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry,” elaborated upon the previously highlighted refusal of AMPTP to recognize the supervisors’ union.

“75% of film and television Music Supervisors signed union authorization cards to form a union and become part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)” – these signees include about 500 active supervisors, per The Hollywood Reporter – “but on Wednesday the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) indicated they will not voluntarily recognize it,” IATSE’s release reads in part.

Different unionization-minded music supervisors than those quoted above have also expressed dissatisfaction with their current healthcare situations, payment schedules, overtime compensation (or lack thereof), inability to benefit from a union pension, and more.

Needless to say, it’ll be worth following the push for a music-supervisor union in the approaching months, particularly given the massive amount of capital pouring into the visual-media space and the correspondingly steady stream of content that the segment is putting out.