The composer of flOw, Soul Fjord, and Journey is facing a $50,000 fine from the American Federation of Musicians for going against its 2012 video game recording contract and pursuing work in the video game industry. The new contract was put in place without approval or input from any of the 90,000 union members. Since 2012, no video game developer or publisher has accepted the terms asked by the AFM.
Austin Wintory has long been outspoken in his opposition to this agreement. When the new contract was adopted, Wintory was in the middle of his work on the kickstarted PC game The Banner Saga. Rather than dropping everything in the middle of The Banner Saga's development, Wintory continued to work on the project. Days before The Banner Saga's release, he received a letter that brought him up on charges for working on the game despite the new contract.
"This contract has created an untenable situation," says Wintory, "because of course composers and artists and musicians have needed to continue to earn a living. And earn a living, no less, in an industry that we love to work in and feel grateful to be a part of, but we've had to do it, therefore, without union sanction for almost two years. [...] The union has failed to produce an agreement that the developers or publishers of this or any other game have been willing to sign."
"Unfortunately employers have not signed the current agreement," admits AFM Local 47 Vice President John Acosta who represents the recording musicians of Los Angeles, "and the limited work we were doing before has all but vanished into non-union land."
And now that Wintory has both been pursuing work in his field and been speaking out against the union, there has been a target painted on his back to make him an example. He has lawyered up to see what he can do about the hefty fine and in response some threatening comments made by the president of the AFM.
"I am willing to risk the consequences of speaking up because ultimately I don't actually think this is about me," states Wintory, "This is about what's right. This is about composers and musicians being able to work in a medium that we love without fear of threats and intimidation."
As far as what anyone can do to show their support for Wintory, all he asks is that if you feel compelled, share his video or leave a comment.