Have you ever filed a union contract on a job you booked yourself?
If not, you missed out on getting pension and health contributions for yourself and your band members.
But there’s no time like right now to learn how to file a contract so you can receive benefits on future jobs that you book. These jobs can be recitals, concerts, club dates, weddings, parties and even funerals. Almost any live music job can be filed — so you and your band can get those increasingly important pension and health contributions.
Historically, there have been three ways to file a contract as a leader.
One way is by filing a G contract (also known as a member-leader contract). The G contract is still mainly used by members who do occasional club or jazz dates.
Another contract is the Music Services Agreement. This is a flexible contract used by jazz musicians and those giving educational clinics or teaching private music lessons.
A third route is a customized agreement that leaders negotiate individually with the union.
The disadvantage to all of these contracts is that, unless you are legally incorporated, you can’t pay pension or benefits on yourself.
However, the new LS-1 contract, issued last year by the AFM, allows members who are unincorporated to have benefit contributions paid on their behalf. The form is a simple double-sided sheet.
There are two basic scenarios when you file a job using the new LS-1 contract.
If you are incorporated, put your corporation name in the space for “employer.” (If you are incorporated, there is really no substantial difference between using this contract, the G contract or a custom contract — except that the LS-1 is shorter and easier to use.)
If you are not incorporated, you need to have your employer sign the agreement. This designates you, the bandleader, to make pension and health contributions for yourself and your side musicians on the employer’s behalf. This used to be only possible if you were incorporated.
So, in other words, when you use an LS-1 contract, your client only has to give you one check for the gig — instead of the usual three! The check is for you to pay yourself, your side musicians, and pay for all benefits — including pension — for yourself and your side musicians.
It’s a good idea to make your client aware of the procedure in advance. I usually say something like, “The musicians I use are the best in the business, and we belong to the American Federation of Musicians. Please sign the contract so we can receive benefits through our union.”
Every client I have worked with so far has been more than willing to sign.
After your client has agreed to your price and payment arrangements, you can send her or him the LS-1 contract to sign, along with a SASE for the client to mail it back to you. (This process can also be done by fax.) Don’t fill in the names and payments to the musicians yet — just indicate with an “X” or an arrow where the client should fill in information and sign.
Along with the contract, I send two copies of my own personal contract, which I’ve written myself. Sign both yourself, and have the client sign and send one copy back to you along with the LS-1.
In order to determine the price you will charge for a job, you need to sit down with the current scale sheet (802 will be happy to mail or fax it to you) and determine what the health, pension, cartage, doubling, pre-heat, parking and rehearsal charges will be. (Some of these may not be applicable.)
These charges are either set amounts (cartage, health) or they are percentages of scale. This last point requires some explanation. Even though you may be paying your band over scale, you only need to pay pension and doubling as percentages of scale, not on what you’re actually paying. (Of course, you may pay pension and doubling on the entire amount if you wish.)
Don’t give your client a price until you’ve figured out what your expenses are going to be, plus what you want to make yourself!
Your expenses include: wages (what the band members will actually put in their pockets); your fee; pension/health benefits; sound system, equipment or rehearsal studio rental; mileage or travel allowance if job is far; work dues; and miscellaneous expenses (parking, rehearsal, etc.)
A good way to be prepared when a potential client calls is to draw up a couple of sample jobs, for your own reference. If you know you have to pay out X dollars for each musician (wage, benefits, doubling, cartage,) then it’s easy to add a figure when the client wants to have more or fewer pieces than originally discussed. It’s also nice to give them options when you’re negotiating. “You could have a five piece band for X dollars, or a six piece band for Z dollars. If you want to have two pieces for a cocktail hour, it will be Y dollars extra.”
I’d like to thank Kimeo Lee and Jim Hannen in the Contract Administration Department for all the help they’ve given me in figuring out everything I’ve just written. They helped me, and they’ll help you too — just give a call if you get stuck. I hope this information will help you take advantage of the health plan and the pension plan — one of the most secure pension funds in the country, worth more than $1.4 billion. Be a part of it by starting now!
Sue Terry is a saxophonist and composer active in the jazz and recording fields. She’s the author of four books published by Music Sales Corporation, and numerous articles and interviews. Her Web site is www.SueTerry.net.