Protect Yourself – and Get Paid

Volume CIX, No. 2February, 2009

When you get called to play on a recording, it’s not always clear who has backed the session: a label, an artist or a freelance producer. But this detail can have big consequences when it’s time to get paid.

The first question we recommend recording artists ask is: “Who am I working for?”

If you’re called for a session by an artist who’s signed to a union record label, then you’re covered. The label itself is ultimately responsible for the session. The terms of the session are covered by the AFM Sound Recording agreement.

On the other hand, freelance producers without a client may call sessions. They then pitch the recording to both artists and labels, hoping to make a sale.

Recently, Local 802 has learned about musicians who thought they were recording tracks for a given artist. But when they tried to get paid, they were told that these were not sessions for the artist, but rather for the producer. In essence, when the producer was not able to sell or pitch the recording, the musicians were told that the sessions were “on spec” — and they were not paid!

In some of these cases, Local 802 and the AFM have ultimately been able to get musicians compensated. We’ve also been able to get some sessions filed — with the producer as the signatory to a union agreement — until such time as the recording is sold to either a label or an artist.

What’s a session musician to do? Basically, anytime you’re called for any recording session at all, call the Local 802 Recording Department at (212) 245-4802, ext. 161, 194 or 191; or e-mail All information will be held in confidence. 

Your call is necessary to ensure that you will get paid and that your session will be covered.