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Dancers join AFTRA rally at Sony offices in Beverly Hills

Performers hold 'flash mob' demonstration before contract negotiations begin next week seeking minimum pay and benefits for dancers and others in music videos.

January 07, 2012|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times
  • Music video performers do a flash mob dance during a rally in Beverly Hills before contract negotiations next week.
Music video performers do a flash mob dance during a rally in Beverly Hills… (Ricardo DeAratanha, Los…)

Dancers who work on music videos for Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and other performers staged a "solidarity rally" in Beverly Hills on Friday while similar rallies were held at Sony offices in Miami and New York.

Dozens of members of the Los Angeles dance community held a rally and a flash mob performance, set to the tune of Aretha Franklin's hit "Respect," outside the offices of Sony Music Entertainment in support of efforts by music video performers to secure a union contract.

"We dance because it's our passion, but we also expect to be taken seriously as professional performers in the entertainment industry,'' said Dana Wilson, a dancer who has performed with Timberlake and others.

A spokesman for American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said the protest targeted Sony because it's one of the largest music labels and is an owner of Vevo, the fast-growing online service for music videos.

AFTRA, which represents actors and other performers, organized the protest before negotiations with Sony and other music labels. For more than a year, AFTRA has been trying to secure a union contract with music companies that would provide minimum pay and benefits to dancers and others who perform in music videos.

The last round of talks ended in June and the next is set to start Thursday with Sony, Universal Music Group, Warner, EMI and Disney and their subsidiary labels.

The union, which has 77,000 members, argues that the need for such an industrywide contract has increased as the music video industry has grown, thanks to the popularity of performers like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and the fans that follow their videos online through services such as Vevo, a joint venture of Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media.

"It's time that these performers receive contractual protections and health and pension benefits for their work, particularly when music videos have become a new source of revenue for the labels," Randall Himes, AFTRA national director of sound recordings, said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Sony Music Entertainment declined to comment.

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