Musicians Union Travels to California's Capitol to Play a Song for Tax Credits

The dulcet strains of motion picture and television soundtracks wafted across the grounds of the State Capitol on Monday, as musicians union members from Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere joined Sacramento members in a concert and press conference to support AB 1199, a bill that would link production tax credits to scoring in California.

The union’s California locals, and the national organization itself, have been concerned by the flight of scoring work, primarily to such overseas locales as London and Central Europe.

"The magic of movies is remembered by the music," said Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, author of the legislation, in a statement. "When Jaws roars onto the screen, it’s the music that flutters your heart. We need to support our homegrown talent in Los Angeles. This tax credit will ensure the creation and production of our musical magic remains and thrives in Los Angeles."

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The press conference was preceded by the concert, at which a brass quintet featured various soundtracks. The union noted that California-scored productions include classics like Singing in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz and Raiders of the Lost Ark; more recent films including Frozen, Jurassic Park, Up and The Nightmare Before Christmas; and TV shows ranging from Bonanza to The Simpsons and the just-concluded Mad Men.

As amended last September, California’s production tax incentive is 20 percent for features and most television shows and 25 percent for independent films and relocated TV series. There’s an additional 5 percent credit if any music work is done in-state, meaning that even a miniscule quantum of such work suffices for the extra 5 percent.

The musicians union -- more formally, the American Federation of Musicians -- says that the de minimis requirement doesn’t exert enough pull, and so the pending legislation would require that a minimum of 75 percent, or an expenditure of $100,000, for music scoring and track recording be done in-state for productions to qualify for the additional 5 percent credit, similar to an existing requirement for visual effects.

"If California can recoup some of this lost work with the amending and passage of AB 1199 to create a carve-out model for musicians, not only would musicians reap benefits, so, too, would the state," said AFM Local 47 president John Acosta, who has been working closely with Nazarian on the bill. "It is estimated that for every dollar a musician earns, $4 is put into the California economy. That's pretty good bang for the buck. What’s good for California musicians is good for all Californians, and AB 1199 would provide a sorely needed economic boost to the state."

According to the union, AB 1199 is endorsed by The Recording Academy Los Angeles and San Francisco chapters, American Federation of Musicians Locals within the California Conference, American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers, Society of Composers & Lyricists, UFCW Local 770 and all AFM Locals in California.

Speakers at the press conference included Nazarian, Acosta, San Francisco Local 6 secretary/treasurer Beth Zare and Los Angeles musicians Clifford Tasner and Christy Crowl. The Hollywood Brass quintet traveled up from Los Angeles. Present were AFM members from Local 6 and 47, local 6, Sacramento Local 12 and regional Mexicano traveling musicians Local 50.

This article was first published by The Hollywood Reporter.


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