Oscar 2007: Academy Bans Mailings of All Music Recordings

August 7, 2007–The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has decided to ban mailings of all “recordings, sheet music and musicvideos of eligible songs or scores” to voting members.

The new rule, posted Monday, caused a stir among composers, their reps and studio music execs, some of whom say they will protest the ban.

Academy exec administrator Rick Robertson said the rule was recommended to the board of governors by the music-branch executive committee. “They wanted to make sure that members are basing their evaluation of scores in the context of the movie,” he said. “There's always the danger that if one is just listening to the CD, you're obviously not doing that.”

Music-branch governor Charles Bernstein said members of the committee felt they were inundated at Oscar time with CDs, and “They'd like to not get these things in the mail that have nothing to do with the voting. It really wasn't needed in order to make a judgment about how the music works in the movie. If anything, it had the opposite effect: It could encourage people to vote for the music aside from the film.”

Fox Music president Robert Kraft expressed surprise that screenplays could still be sent out but not soundtracks. “You're sending the words of the film Why couldn't we send the scores” he asked. “If a composer is considered, as I have been told, the last writer on the movie, shouldn't we be allowed to submit that contribution for consideration”

Studios, and some publicists, spend a lot of money each year sending the 240 members of the Academy music branch specially pressed CDs of the scores and songs they most want to promote.

Publicist Ray Costa, who represents John Powell, Christopher Young and other composers, noted that many scores contain music that the credited composer didn't actually write–the result of a trend in which directors increasingly choose to license pre-existing music in addition to the new, original score–and the CDs can help to clarify the distinctions in the minds of voters.

“The Academy has had very specific rules about that,” Costa said. “The benefit of the CD is that people aren't credited for music they didn't write.”

In 1986, Herbie Hancock won the Oscar for “'Round Midnight,” even though much of that score was not original. Last year's “Babel” win was also criticized because, in addition to the original Gustavo Santaolalla music, there was music licensed from earlier works and music by other composers.

The CDs that are sent to the members are specially pressed to avoid content (commercial packaging, songs on the soundtrack not written by the composer, etc.) that would conflict with Academy rules on mailings.

Scores not commercially available often show up on eBay. Warner's two-CD promo of John Williams' “A.I.” score, containing much more music than the commercial CD, was a highly sought-after item for months after the 2001 Oscars.