Earlier this week, on the day of the big E3 press conferences, critically acclaimed (and personal favourite of ours) game composer Austin Wintory released a video detailing some of the troubles that he may be facing from his own union. You may have heard his name thanks to his work on the superb Journey, or flOw, or any number of his other projects spread across games, film, and more.
The union in question is the AFM, or American Federation of Musicians. Founded in 1896, the AFM is a labour union representing musicians in the United States and Canada, and happens to be the largest of its kind, spanning some 90,000 members. According to Wintory’s video, during the process of him getting to compose the score for very successful Kickstarter title The Banner Saga, a new video game music recording contract was put in place by 2012 — and this is where things start to spiral into madness.
This contract went through without any sort of vote or input from composers or musicians, and in truth, it all sounds a bit fishy. Wintory describes the contract as something that was “universally rejected, having gone totally unused ever since," adding that "the net result is that for years there have been no new video game soundtrack recordings”. To clarify, that doesn’t mean that no game music coming our way is new. Rather, it means that there have been a total of zero recordings since 2012 in which the AFM has played an official role.
As it turns out, Wintory’s work on the Banner Saga was non-union work, and as such, he may be facing charges that may set the composer back $50,000 for doing something that goes against the rules outlined in the contract, of which no one has adopted. Wintory also claims that because he has been outspoken in the past regarding the situation, he is now being made an example of. Needless to say, the talented personality passionately states that he refuses to live in fear, and is striving to get the word out any way that he can.
Without doubt, soundtracks are an integral component of the gaming experience. Can you imagine any number of releases without any kind of music? Imagine The Last of Us without its haunting acoustic guitars, Uncharted without its heroic tunes, or even one of the projects that Wintory has worked on himself. What's your take on Austin's situation? Have a look at his video that we've embedded, and let your voice be heard in the comments section below.