Monday, June 09, 2008

Hockey Night in Canada

So, I'm a member of the Guild ... the Guild of Canadian Film Composers.

It's a great group to be a part of - supportive and has a few seminars and such that are educational and/or showcase members' work.

I wouldn't say that they're in the same league as the Screenwriters Guild down in the 'States - there's no union or collective bargaining aspect to the organization, although they do seem to add their voice and opinion to some topics.

The latest thing to come across the Guild's listserv is the spat between the CBC and Dolores Claman regarding the failed negotiations to keep the traditional "Hockey Night in Canada" theme.

The "sitch" of it all, from what I can gather, is that now that the negotiations are officially ended, the CBC wants to run a competition to search for a new theme. The proposed "jackpot" is a $100,000 with any royalties being donated to little league hockey.

Now, a thread has been started expressing some concern over what the CBC is doing, but I can't really see what the big fuss is about...

I've seen a couple of arguments:
  1. This will become a precedent for future contracts between producers/directors and composers - stripping composers of their traditional ties to ongoing royalties.
  2. This is yet another example of "devaluing" composer's work.
Now, getting past all the sentimentality that surrounds the theme song and all, I, personally, don't see a real problem with what's going on. The CBC is proposing a way to replace an iconic theme song in what seems to be an open manner - using a competition that is non-exclusive and probably very public. The added bonus is that Canada's national sport - little leaguers get a financial boost.

I haven't really seen any other arguments but the above against this, but from my perspective, to the first point, this doesn't set any precedent at all - it's a competition - they all run like this. From the American Idol songwriting competition to the art contest on the back of Fruity Loops - you relinquish any rights to your work when you enter a competition.

I can't see this as a precedent for producers to keep royalties to themselves - if some producer comes along and holds that argument up, then they can go through the legal and administrative hell of running the competition too...

To the second point - devaluing composers work? There is no "minimum" standard or qualifications one has to possess to write music. Who are "we" (Guild members) to judge that someone with an aspiration to write a theme song and and submit their work to be scrutinized is any less qualified to try their hand at this?

If you're talking about the financial aspect of it, then, again, what are you talking about? The Guild's own salary survey from 2005 shows that less than 10% of commissioned themes for broadcast media fetched 20% or greater of the "jackpot" here. Even if you are giving up royalties, you'll be hard pressed to get a better return on investing the jackpot...

I find the whole "devaluing work" argument a preposterous entitlement mentality! Get over yourself and put your money where your mouth is.

As you can probably gather, I don't really have any qualms about the way the CBC is proposing on how to run this, but rather the whining of a few fellow members.

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