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Award-winning composer faces union expulsion in game music fight

Video game composer Austin Wintory is facing union expulsion after refusing on principle to pay fines related to his non-union work on The Banner Saga.

Alex Wawro

January 13, 2015

1 Min Read

A long-running dispute between video game composer Austin Wintory and his union, the American Federation of Musicians, has come to a head this week: Variety reports that Wintory has refused to pay a $2,500 fine imposed by the AFM for his non-union work as a composer on The Banner Saga.

The union has threatened to expel him if he doesn't pay up by January 19th. Wintory is investigating his legal options to combat such a decision, and has offered to write a $2,500 check to the L.A.-based Education Through Music charity in lieu of paying the union fine.

According to Wintory, who has previously won awards for his work on games like Journey, the union's video game recording contract -- which it enacted in 2012 without allowing its members to vote on the terms -- is too restrictive, discouraging publishers, developers and game makers from working within its bounds.

That in turn makes it very hard for AFM members to work on new video game soundtracks; Wintory took his union to task over the issue last year when it initially threatened him with up to a $50,000 fine for breaching the contract to compose the soundtrack for The Banner Saga. His local union chapter, the L.A.-based Local 47, actually passed a resolution expressly supporting him (titled "Resolution in Support of Austin Wintory") in October.

The AFM cut a deal with Microsoft shortly thereafter that allowed members to enjoy union sanction in their dealings with the company through 2016, but has not made similar arrangements with other large game companies.

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