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Keeping Scores in L.A.

August 06, 2000

According to Jon Burlingame's article, big Hollywood studios are flying all around the world to record film soundtracks so that they don't have to pay "trifling" sums of money to musicians for soundtrack and album royalties ("The Sound of Work Leaving L.A.," July 23). Aren't these the same big entertainment conglomerates that complain to Washington about Internet piracy and bootleg videocassettes?

Is Hollywood's big crusade to protect creative property only an important ethical concept if royalties are stolen from a big studio or a multimillionaire producer? Los Angeles' studio musicians are being victimized by some of the same people demanding copyright protection from Congress. Is Hollywood opposed to piracy only when it can't be the pirate?

PETER LIMONICK

Studio City

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Do I understand correctly that the main reason Michael Kamen's score for "Mr. Holland's Opus" was not recorded in Los Angeles was because the producers didn't want the musicians who played on the film to share in any soundtrack or performance royalties?

"Mr. Holland's Opus" is a story about the struggles of a music teacher, and the ultimate value of music education (a vanishing part of our educational system) and how it enriches lives, builds character and sometimes leads to a career as a professional musician. Isn't it hypocritical then to tell that story while at the same time intentionally undercutting the livelihoods of L.A. recording musicians?

WENDY ALL

Tarzana

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We were impressed with Burlingame's excellent and fair article discussing the issue of runaway film music scoring. In one section, he compared the cost of scoring in Los Angeles to London and quoted the price for L.A. on a five-day session as $290,000 versus London's cost of $250,000 (U.S.). It is our experience that we can record the same amount of musical material in 3 1/2 to four days than can be scored in five days anywhere else, thereby saving most, if not all, of the initial difference in price by greater efficiency.

The article also referred to the producers paying into our Special Payments Fund if their movie is a success. In an overwhelming number of cases, payments to the fund are made by the distributors and not the producers, who typically do not distribute their own films.

BRIAN O'CONNOR

President, Recording Musicians Assn.

Hollywood

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Burlingame's article presents the problem very accurately, but it offers no solutions. As a past Local 47 executive board member and as a professional musician, here are some suggestions to keep more of the work in this area:

* The $1-million-per-picture composers should consider lowering their fees in order to work with the superb musicians here.

* The musicians who command above-scale wages, which they richly deserve, should consider working for scale until this contentious cost-cutting period becomes less intense.

* Tandem contractors, please give up your "creativity" during these difficult times! Stop cloning yourselves by claiming physical presence at engagements--some of which run simultaneously--when in fact you are not there. This cottage industry increases the cost of music.

TIBOR ZELIG

Encino

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