Working on your first recording?

Do it union, and get free publicity in Allegro

Volume CX, No. 6June, 2010

Diana Cohn

Let’s show off our members. At its March 2 meeting, the Local 802 Executive Board passed a new policy: “It was moved and seconded that Allegro be permitted to print announcements of new releases of sound recordings by members in good standing so long as the sound recordings are covered by an AFM contract.” Any member who has a new recording should e-mail Allegro editor Mikael Elsila at

If you are producing the album yourself, there a re several union contracts that you may use to cover your recording. See story below for more information.

So you’re an indie musician who’s thinking about putting some tracks together for an album. Or you are called to work on a recording session for an independent producer. Or you just want to record a demo of songs that you wrote to get them “out there” to producers and record labels. What do you do first?

Give us a call.

Local 802 and the AFM has several recording agreements that can fit almost any budget.

These agreements can be used if you are working on tracks produced by an independent record label or a friend, or if you are producing your own album.

You might wonder what the advantages are to filing small recording projects through the union.

Recording under a union agreement gives you, your fellow musicians, and your music protections you otherwise would not have.

Most AFM recording agreements set minimum scales, which all musicians hired for the project would have to be paid.

These minimum scales include not only wages, but pension and health benefit contributions.

If you are doing enough union work, you may be able to qualify for Local 802’s health plan or become vested in the AFM pension fund.

Working under a union agreement also gives you the peace of mind knowing that if the tracks you record are ever sold to a third party record label or producer, you would be entitled to new use payments, and the union would have the authority to collect these payments.

What follows is a brief summary of some of the agreements that can be used if you are working on a recording project.


If you are looking to put some of your own tracks together for a demo, or are asked to work on someone else’s demo, Local 802’s Demonstration Recording Agreement may be utilized. This agreement can be used when you are recording tracks that will not be sold. If, at some point down the road, the producer of the demo (or a third party) wants to release the demo tracks commercially, they would be responsible for paying the musicians who worked on the tracks the full scale wages under the applicable AFM agreement. But if the tracks are never released for sale, the wages paid under the Demo Agreement are all that would need to be paid to the musicians who made the demo. Minimum scale wages range between $41 and $58 per hour, depending on the number of musicians in a recording session, and also include pension and health benefit contributions.


If you are in a self-contained band and would like to record an album to sell locally or at live gigs, a Bandstand Agreement can be used. This agreement can be used as documentation of a recording, and stipulates that all members of the band will share equally in any profits or royalties made from the sale of the recording. Since this is a self-contained production and there is no employer, no scale wages or benefits are due to the participating musicians.

Joint Venture

The Joint Venture Recording Report was recently created by the AFM to address self-produced recordings made by indie musicians, and allows for the sale of your album outside of your home local, including internet sales.

It is a very simple, two-page form to fill out and return to your local, and may be filed for new or previously recorded material.

You can file a Joint Venture Recording Report if all band members agree that the recordings produced under this agreement will be jointly owned by all members of the band and any proceeds and sales of the recording will exclusively benefit the musicians on the report form.

Like the bandstand agreement, no scale wages or benefits are required to be paid to participating royalty musicians, unless the recording is eventually picked up for distribution by a signatory company. Other terms apply, so check with Local 802 if you are thinking about using a Joint Venture Recording Report.

Limited Pressing

If you are producing your own album to sell commercially and are employing other musicians or are working on an independent producer’s small recording project and do not anticipate that a large number of copies will be released, Local 802’s Limited Pressing Agreement may suit your needs. The Limited Pressing Agreement can be used when less than 10,000 copies of an album will be released for sale. Scales under this agreement are slightly higher than the Demo Agreement, and also provide for pension and health benefit contributions. If the album ends up being a hit and more than 10,000 copies are pressed, an upgrade payment to full sound recording scales would be necessary. But if you’re pressing more than 10,000 copies, this is not such a bad problem to have! The Limited Pressing Agreement can also be used if you plan on streaming or selling your songs over the Internet.


The Sound Recording Labor Agreement, the agreement used for big-budget recordings, also contains low-budget provisions for smaller projects.

If you would like to utilize the SRLA’s low-budget scales, you must submit an estimated budget proposal to the AFM.

You can use these scales, which are considerably lower than the full SRLA rates, if the budget for an entire record does not exceed $99,000.

In addition to receiving wages, pension, and health contributions, if a recording you perform on is done under the low-budget provisions of the SRLA, you may qualify for distributions from the Special Payments Fund.

So what do you do if you get called to work on a recording project, or if you want to record an album yourself? Talk to us.

If you are asked to work on a recording project, let us know.

We can protect your identity and verify that the project you are working on is covered by a union recording agreement.

If it isn’t, we can talk you through how to get it covered.

And if you are producing your own album, we can help you figure out which recording agreement would best suit your needs, and ensure that you and the other musicians working on your project are getting all the protections and benefits that working under a union agreement has to offer.

More info

If you would like more information on any of these agreements, please call the Recording Department at (212) 245-4802 ext. 191 or 194.