#MusicBusinessMonday: Visual Content Modernization Act

Who doesn’t like a good movie or video game soundtrack? Whether it be Titanic, Super Mario, or the song in the Nintendo Wii Waiting Room, all of these soundtracks have a music business backstory.

When it comes to recording scores, composers tend to look toward two cities first: LA and London. The cost of recording in these cities can be too expensive for independent films and video game companies, which can make 14 hour soundtracks for their games. The reason recording in the U.S. can be so expensive is because these smaller budgets can’t reach a consensus with musician unions when it comes to pricing. As a result, they outsource the recording process to Eastern European cities, including Prague, Budapest, and Vienna, where the costs of recording are significantly cheaper.

But Music City may bring all of that revenue back to the U.S. with an Act that was signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam this past May. This change means that producers may get as much as 25% in rebate if they record in the Volunteer State. Let’s put that into perspective with real numbers: if a company spends $1,000,000 on recording, they’ll make $250,000 back. That’s huge!

Nashville is the country music capital of the U.S., home to the Nashville Symphony, Nashville Opera, and crawling with musicians looking to book a session gig. A number of scores in television, film, and film have been recorded there including Fargo, Nashville, Outlander, Call of Duty, Show Dogs, Mother’s Day, The Star and more.

 “We were all just blown away at the caliber of musicianship. One of the nagging problems of recording in Eastern Europe is, even when the orchestras are good, the quality of the physical instruments they’re playing on is not as good.” – Austin Wintory, Abzu (video game)

Some aren’t as excited that this Act went into effect on July 1. Tennessee is a right-to-work state, which means that musicians aren’t required to be in a union the way they are in California, and companies do not have to deal with musicians’ unions. John Acosta, president of American Federation of Musicians says, “They know that they can get these musicians cheaper by not having them under a union agreement… They don’t have healthcare, or retirement benefits, or Social Security contributions or unemployment insurance.”

With all of the rebate that producers may get, should they move shop they will be paying Nashville musicians twice as much as their European counterparts. Nashville hires are paid roughly $75/hr, and Eastern European musicians are paid $25-30/hr. Which will companies care about more- costs or quality? Only time will tell as we watch the scoring industry adapt to this new change.