While Austin Wintory has composed outstanding music for the video game The Banner Saga, his score has drawn the intense interest of his union for reasons which have nothing to do with the artistic merit of his work.
On June 9, Wintory posted a sensational YouTube video in which he calls out the union's latest action against him. In a letter sent to him prior to the release of the video game, the American Federation of Musicians threatened to fine Wintory up to $50,000 due to the circumstances of his work for Stoic, the development company behind the game, and to possibly expel him from the union.
As Wintory explains, a couple of years ago the head of the union had put together a committee to propose a contract which was never submitted to a vote by union membership. The contract was rejected by game developers and, as a result, for nearly two years there haven't been new new video game soundtrack recordings because union leadership banned composers and musicians from working for game developers.
Describing union leadership as out-of-touch and ignorant of gaming, Wintory states, "My union has made it effectively impossible for composers like me to continue to do this [compose music for video games]." In defiance of the union's ban, Wintory recorded his score for The Banner Saga with the Dallas Wind Symphony in July, 2013. "The collaboration was beautiful," he recalls.
A clip of AFM President Ray Hair is included in Wintory's video stating, "In the union business, they give you things because they're afraid of what you're going to do to them." Wintory retorts, "I refuse to live in fear... and I especially refuse to live in fear of my union. I'm willing to risk the consequences of speaking out because ultimately I don't actually think this is about me. This is about what's right. It's about composers and musicians being able to work in a medium that we love... without fear of threats and intimidation."
Two days after Wintory's extremely popular video was posted, the AFM announced a new video game agreement that was developed in collaboration with Microsoft. Their press release states that they will have the agreement submitted for approval by members "engaged in recording game soundtracks" and that the process should "conclude in 60 days." It is unclear what bearing, if any, this development may have on Austin Wintory's case.
The score for The Banner Saga was released digitally and on CD earlier this year.