Modern musicians sometimes turn to new and unusual instruments - the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra has to rank high on that list - but the music that Mad Men producers will be hearing today (Jan. 5) has a longer lineage than the dulcet tones of bell pepper trumpets: it'll be the sound of feet pounding the pavement as the American Federation of Musicians pickets the show's downtown LA location shoot.
The reason for the dissonance, the AFM said in a statement, is that the show's production company - Lionsgate - "refuse(s) to employ musicians under terms considered fair and acceptable by the (AFM)," despite having union agreements above the line and for crew.
For a union, that's like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard, because it means that the company makes no contributions to the union pension and health fund and pays no residuals.
Interestingly, the AFM statement makes no mention of a complaint about Mad Men itself - nor, it should be said, does the union seem to have any beef with the show's broadcaster, AMC. Rather, the AFM points to a film, The Hunger Games, which it says Lionsgate scored in Europe - ironically, with "native Americana music" from the Appalachian region where the movie is set.
A Lionsgate spokesman declined to comment.
It's shaping up to be a noisy week in the unionized music world: on Friday, AFTRA dancers will be rallying for a music video contract with the major record labels, including Sony, UMG, Warner, EMI, Disney and most of their subsidiary labels. Negotiations resume January 11 and 12.