Society of Composers & Lyricists

The Society Of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) is an organization consisting of Hollywood's professional motion picture, Television, and multimedia music composers, songwriters and lyricists, with histories in the art of scoring for motion pictures and television. Many of its members have won or been nominated for Oscars, Emmys and Grammy Awards. Its current President is composer Ashley Irwin.


The parent organization, the Screen Composers Association, dates back to 1945 with such composers as Max Steiner (Gone with the Wind), Bernard Herrmann (Psycho), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (The Adventures of Robin Hood), Dimitri Tiomkin (High Noon) and David Raksin (Laura).[1]

This was the first organization to attempt bargaining on behalf of the composers, and convince the performing rights organization [ASCAP] that film composers should share in broadcast and performance royalties for their creations.

Composer David Raksin headed a campaign to have the SCA become a guild, such as the writers, directors, and producers enjoyed. In 1953, its composer members voted unanimously to create a Composers Guild of America and finally negotiated a minimum basic agreement similar to the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America, which spelled out working conditions, rates of compensation, performance royalties, etc.

Over the next twenty years, the composers and studios fought over royalties and who had the right to exploit compositions beyond their original usage. On February 7, 1972, 71 composers and lyricists filed a $300-million class-action lawsuit against Universal, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros., Columbia, Walt Disney, United Artists, CBS, ABC, NBC, the AMPTP and other film-related conglomerates. On April 9, 1979, the federal district court approved a settlement conferring some limited rights to certain composers who had worked for the studios prior to October 1973.[2]

The composers remained in disagreement over what they wanted or needed more: royalties or health and welfare, because some reading of the term "independent contractor" meant they were not entitled to benefits, while the standard industry contract term "employee for hire" meant the composers might lose their royalties. In spite of efforts to revive the group, by June 1982, the CLGA was dead.

Organization and Growth

In 1983, and with the assistance of the WGA, a new group was formed: The Society of Composers & Lyricists. The first group of composers and lyricists - including such composers and songwriters as Henry Mancini, John Williams, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin and Quincy Jones and television composers of the day such as Jay Chattaway, Charles Fox, Billy Goldenberg, Fred Karlin, John Beal, Jerrold Immel, and Bruce Broughton - met at the Writers Guild theater. Composer James DiPasquale was the "organizing chairman." But the studios and the National Labor Relations Board would not let this group form an official guild to address working conditions, or get the benefits of similar groups in the industry.[3]

Twelve years later, in 1995, a vote amongst the SCL membership called by then president Richard Bellis [4] showed that the debate over joining other unions still stalled at concerns over union affiliations and how that would impact the decades-old concerns about being labeled as independent contractors or employees and a composer's ability to collect performance royalties for the broadcast or other distribution of their creative work product.

In November 2009, a committee formed to once again explore unionization for working composers, this time in conversation with the Teamsters, and presented its proposals to the general community of composers for television and film. The SCL did not take an official position.[5] In April 2010, the Writers Guild of America endorsed the composers' attempt to unionize.[6] That same month, the Screen Actors Guild offered their support to the composers as well.[7] At an April 19, 2010 follow-up meeting, SCL members expressed interest but also concerns about forming a union with the Teamsters. SCL president Dan Foliart issued a statement to Variety, saying that "the SCL applauds the organizing efforts of our peers (and) continues to monitor this effort, the impact that it will have on our profession, and assess the role that the SCL should play moving forward." While some composers expressed concern that working conditions or separate medical plans might be more important to negotiate, former SCL President Bruce Broughton, said that the majority of working composers in Hollywood were ready to sign up with the Teamsters.[8]

The SCL now indicates it has grown from 50 to 60 members to more than 1,000.[9]


The SCL and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hold a reception each year for the Oscar nominees for best score, and best song for motion picture.[10] The SCL holds a similar reception for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences nominations Emmys.

Past presidents

Dan Foliart
Richard Bellis
Bruce Broughton
Jay Chattaway
Ray Colcord
James Di Pasquale
Arthur Hamilton
Mark Watters



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