If There’s No Contract, See You in Court!

Volume CIX, No. 5May, 2009

If you work a nonunion recording session and get stiffed, sometimes the union can still help. When there’s no union contract to back you up, civil court can sometimes be an option. And often, Local 802 reps can accompany you to court to help you out.

Recently, Recording Reps Diana Cohn and David Sheldon went to court on behalf of a Local 802 member who had two different claims against two different employers. We’re going to keep the musician anonymous to protect his business.

In the first case, this musician had actually thought he was doing a union gig. He had been promised $2,500 for a recording session. But when Local 802 filed a grievance against the record label, the label told us that the session had not been authorized. The producer had made it seem like it was a real union session, but it wasn’t.

So the musician had no choice but to go after the producer in court. The producer didn’t show up and the musician won a default judgment.

A few weeks later, this musician had a second day in court. This time, he had filed a $4,200 claim against another producer. This was for two different recording sessions. One session was for a videogame soundtrack album. (Yes, videogame music is becoming so popular that “soundtrack albums” of videogame music are being released!)

The other session was for a hip-hop artist. 

In this case, the musician ultimately won $1,000 for the videogame soundtrack case — there was a paper trail that helped her case — but did not win the hip-hop session case.

Here’s the bottom line. Going to court can be risky, time-consuming and expensive. Local 802 can help you out in many cases, but it’s not guaranteed that you will prevail. 

The better way is to make sure you’re playing under a union contract. However, in this story, the musician thought he was doing a union session, even though it turned out not to be the case. He thought he was doing the right thing.

The truth is that the world of recording is complex. Local 802’s best advice is that you call ahead and report each and every recording session that you’ve been called to do. We’ll be able to tell you if it’s a true union session. And if it’s not, we may be able to help you strategically and anonymously turn it into a union session.

If you do play a nonunion recording session and are treated unfairly, call us. We may be able to help you in court.

All calls are treated confidentially. For more information, call Local 802 at (212) 245-4802 and ask to speak to a recording rep.