If you are working under an AFM agreement, that agreement gives you a number of protections, including guaranteed minimum pay rates and timely payment of wages. But if you are working without the protection of an AFM agreement, or you do not know if there is an AFM agreement in place, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself.
First, always get the details in writing (paper or email). If there is ever a dispute, a verbal agreement is hard to prove.
Second, keep a record of the details yourself. Who were you working for? Where and when did you work? For how long did you work? For recording sessions, do you know the name of the featured artist, song title, producer? Did you get paid? When did you get paid, and how much were you paid?
For work in the recording studio, it is important to note that the AFM has agreements with all of the major labels covering all of the artists on the labels' rosters. It is also important to note that, as is traditional in the industry, back-end payments can often exceed what you get paid up front for session work. Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, Film Musicians Secondary markets Fund, and the AFM and Employers Pension Fund can all provide you with additional payments years after the session. New use can also be a source of revenue: all AFM agreements require additional payment when a recording is used for something other than it was originally recorded for. A song from an album used in a movie? Another check. TV show broadcast internationally? Another check. Jingle used in a commercial more than 13 weeks? Another check.
Recordings are also subject to royalty payments that can provide additional income. In the United States, performers receive royalties when songs are broadcast over the Internet or on satellite radio. Overseas, performers also receive royalties for broadcast over terrestrial radio. Thanks to the WIPO Treaty, some of those foreign royalties are finally making their way to American performers, and if Congress adopts the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, U.S. radio stations will finally start paying terrestrial royalties.
However, many of these additional payments are contingent upon paperwork being filed proving that you performed on the song. You should always contact the Local office to verify that documentation has been filed. If paperwork has not been filed, we can contact the label or studio and make sure that this gets taken care of. And of course we will do this in a way that will not jeopardize your future employment. But we can only do this if we know about the recording sessions.
For disputes at live engagements, we may be able to help as well. If there is an AFM contract on file, we will use whatever means are necessary to enforce that contract. If there is not an AFM contract covering the engagement, we may be able to direct you to other resources that can help you, like the county wage theft boards. Help is only a phone call or email away. But the sooner you contact the Local, the better. AFM agreements and wage theft ordinances have a limited period of time for filing claims. If you miss the window, you will not be able to make a claim. And the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to collect the necessary information.