Studio Artists May be Owed Money

Volume CIV, No. 6June, 2004

Jay Schaffner

If you’re a typical Local 802 member who does recording dates, you are not a “royalty musician.” Instead, you get paid up front to do a record date, regardless of how well the record sells. (“Royalty musicians” are supposed to share in the profits of an album, but unless you’re a superstar, you probably won’t see any significant royalties beyond the up-front payments that you or the group have received.)

However, there are a few payments that may seem like “royalties” which you may be entitled to, if you play record dates.


You probably already know about the two special payments funds: the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF) and the Film Musicians’ Secondary Markets Fund (SMF). (For more information, check out or Sound Fund checks go out in July and are based on how many union record dates you did in the past year, and in the previous four years. Film Fund checks go out in August and are based on secondary market revenues (i.e. film going to television or DVD, television film going to DVD, etc.), and continue every year as long as such secondary revenues continue.

But other sources of money that you may not know about come as a result of the Audio Home Recording Act — and Japanese rental royalties.


The AHRA imposes an obligation on importers and manufacturers of digital audio recording devices and media to submit a royalty payment set by statute to the Register of Copyrights.

The act provides that a portion of these royalties be placed in an escrow account managed by an independent administrator appointed by the AFM and the record companies, to be distributed to non-featured musicians and non-featured vocalists who have performed on sound recordings distributed in the United States.

The AFM & AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund (AFM & AFTRA Fund) is the organization designated to distribute these monies.


Each year from the total copyright fee that is collected, this portion is divided among both side musicians and background vocalists who performed on top-selling records in that particular year.

Depending on the total amounts to be distributed, and the nature of the top-selling records, some years have seen distributions go to those performing on the top five or ten records only, while in other years, the distribution was able to extend to those on as many as 150 top-selling records.

(If a top selling record is a movie sound track release, on which a large orchestra performed, this would impact on how far the distribution might be able to extend, for example.)


Another source of income for recording musicians comes from Japan. In Japan, music is “rented,” and Japanese record labels are supposed to pay royalties to musicians — even if you are a non-royalty artist. Japanese labels are supposed to pay this money into the AFM & AFTRA Fund.

This fund also collects money from satellite radio providers and Webcasters — those who provide digital performances of recording — under the Digital Performance Rights Amendment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.


Money from the AFM & AFTRA Fund has made its way back to many musicians. But Local 802 has learned that this fund may have missed some New York musicians in sending out checks. This could have been because of incorrect addresses, bad social security numbers or incomplete information.

If you’ve played on any of the projects listed in the charts on the Recording Artist Royalties web site (, you may be eligible to receive payments. If this applies to you, please contact Jo-Anne McGettrick, the manager of the fund, at or (818) 755-7780.

On the fund’s web site, there is an online submission form for musicians to submit if you feel that you should have received a payment for an album that is listed in the charts. The site also includes frequently asked questions and answers.

The address is AFM & AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, Suite 500, 12001 Ventura Place, Studio City, CA 91604.

Look carefully at the lists on and see if you played on any of these albums. If so, contact the fund for more information.