For most musicians who aren't playing in orchestras or as session musicians, a musicians' union is about as useful as a roadie who can't lift anything over 20 pounds on doctor's orders. But, for the thousands of musicians who do work in the film, television and recording studio industry, they rely on unions to help them get a fair wage.
American Federation of Musicians (AFM) president Ray Hair (yes, the president of a musicians' union has the last name Hair) is clearly trying to earn his paycheck after taking to YouTube to blast Lionsgate, the film company making the movie adaptation of the insanely popular (and damn disturbing) adolescent book series Hunger Games.
According to Hair, Lionsgate is filming the movie in North Carolina -- the film about a future world where children are pitted against one another in a battle to the death is set in Appalachia -- but the company has decided to record the score, which he claims is mostly traditional Appalachian music, in Europe with non-American musicians.
Hair believes they are doing so to avoid paying fair wages, healthcare costs and the like to the musicians performing the score.
Now, there are some fantastic bluegrass outfits, surprisingly, in Eastern Europe, including the wonderful Druha Trava, but we get the point. After all, one of the more successful scores and soundtracks for an American film in recent history was for O Brother, Where Art Thou? which was performed by bluegrass artists mostly from the Nashville area.
Frankly, we aren't all that bothered that an American film company would choose to use European musicians to score a film. There are some pretty incredible composers from that part of the world, past and present. But, it is worrisome if Lionsgate is indeed outsourcing traditional American music to artists across the pond. Imagine a film about B.B. King scored by a composer from South America or a jazz film scored by someone from China.
We're not exactly flag-waving, love-it-or-leave-it 'Mericans, but it does feel a little weird. Then again, it is for a movie about kids who fight for their survival in some sort of freaky future wilderness.
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