Making Money in Movies

Volume 111, No. 7/8July, 2011

Traditionally, if you are a recording musician, you get paid in at least two ways when you record for a movie under a union contract. First is the recording session itself when you record the movie soundtrack.

The second is the money you receive from the film fund (whose official title is the Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund – see story at right). Your check from the film fund is proportional to how well your film did in “secondary markets,” which include TV, DVD’s, cable and in-flight movies. (For films made for television, secondary markets include DVD’s, in-flight movies and those rare cases where a television film migrates to the big screen.)

This is a big benefit to playing union jobs.

Sometimes, you might have money waiting for you from the fund but for whatever reason, the fund isn’t able to locate you. So, from time to time, you should visit and click on “Musician Resources” in the left-hand sidebar. Then click on “Unclaimed Checks.” If your name is listed, then you may be owed money. Follow directions on the site for more info.

Here are some Web sites that the fund uses to track down who plays on what albums in order to track down payments for musicians:

Other resources include the AFM Pension Fund, the Screen Actors Guild, ASCAP and BMI.

One last thing. You might be saying to yourself, “I would love to play a union recording job, but there aren’t any out there!” If you are being called to do recording work, please call us confidentially. We can tell you if your particular recording job is being filed with the union. Or – with your permission – we can try to help you make the job union while protecting your identity. We have an excellent track record. Call (212) 245-4802 and ask for the recording department.


We occasionally receive calls from casting agencies looking to hire musicians to appear as extras on television and film. If you are interested in being referred for these kinds of gigs – which are called “sideline work” in the industry – here’s what to do.

Start by e-mailing us a head shot taken with or without your instrument. Photos should be e-mailed to All photos must be in .JPG format and be low-resolution (92 dpi). Do not send us high-resolution images; it will completely clog our e-mail. Either black-and-white or color is O.K. – whatever you think represents you best.

For more information, contact Theresa Couture at (212) 245-4802 or