Gilbert Flores for Variety
The ongoing dual Hollywood strikes, by the American actors’ union SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America, have brought the movie and TV businesses to a grinding halt as the historic work stoppage appears headed into the fall — and perhaps beyond. The impact has already been felt on the red carpet, as actors have had to skip new interviews or promotional appearances for some of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, as well as their upcoming projects.
When Troye Sivan spoke with Billboard recently, the singer was happy to talk about his summer single, “Rush,” but was unable to discuss his work on the HBO drama The Idol, which had wrapped its run weeks earlier. “I am in total support of the strike and am holding strong with everyone in waiting it out and making sure that everyone gets treated fairly,” Sivan said, adding that he also could not discuss his upcoming starring role in the coming-of-age drama Three Months.
Sivan’s statement was pitch-perfect, according to SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who says that artists are expected to avoid promoting music created for film, TV and streaming under the old contract during the strike. They also cannot enter into any new music licensing agreements or approve any new tracks for film or TV projects and must cease promoting songs already licensed.
The work stoppage over issues including streaming residuals and stricter safeguards against the use of artificial intelligence has shuttered all late-night talk shows for the longest stretch in modern history. It has also raised questions about Saturday Night Live’s 49th season — expected to start in September, though a representative said there wasn’t an update on a return to air — cutting off crucial promotional avenues for rising and established musical acts.
A number of major awards shows that typically feature music performances and presenters have been put in limbo by the action that began May 2, when Hollywood writers walked out, followed by members of SAG-AFTRA (which represents actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, singers and others), who joined them on July 14 to create the first dual strikes by the two unions since 1960.
The just announced 16th annual Academy of Country Music Honors will air Aug. 23 on Fox with returning host Carly Pearce, while the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards had announced a Sept. 12 airdate just as the first strike began. A representative said the latter is still planned for the Prudential Center in New Jersey, but could not comment on whether that date might change or if the broadcast could go ahead with an unscripted show, as the Tony Awards did in June. The 2023 Billboard Music Awards are scheduled for Nov. 19.
“They are not supposed to facilitate any promotion of work done under this contract, which includes going to an awards show and accepting an award,” Crabtree-Ireland says of musicians who are also SAG-AFTRA members. He noted that it’s “virtually impossible” to find a workaround, as the rules require artists to skip red carpets, interviews and accepting their trophies onstage.
A representative for the 96th annual Academy Awards, slated to take place March 10, 2024, had no comment on the strike’s impact. Similarly, a representative for the 2024 Grammys said the show slated for Feb. 4, 2024, at Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena is expected to go forward, but additional information isn’t available.
In the meantime, streaming services and networks are judiciously doling out already completed movies and series, like the slate at Paramount+. It includes an Elvis Presley documentary and a Biz Markie biopic; a new CBS game show, Superfan, in which die-hard supporters of artists including LL COOL J, Shania Twain and Pitbull compete for the title of ultimate fan; and the third season of Fox’s celebrity edition of Name That Tune, featuring JoJo Siwa, the Spice Girls’ Mel C, Darren Criss and Debbie Gibson.
The trickiest tightrope for musicians who also act might be social media, according to Crabtree-Ireland: “They can tweet about anything else they want, so long as they are not promoting work done under the [current] contract.”
This story will appear in the Aug. 26, 2023, issue of Billboard.