This page is designed to help you figure how to do Union time cards and contracts right the first time, which will help speed up the process of getting paid.
The various types of sessions are as follows:
  • Demo - publishing/artist development (not for commercial release - must be upgraded to master to be released)
  • Limited Pressing - independent releases (allows up to 10,000 copies to be manufactured before an upgrade is required) Must be accompanied by a signed Limited Pressing Agreement, also available from the 257 website as a downloadable pdf file.
Over the years, there has been a lot of confusion on the part of players and employers understanding how the various session scales and health and welfare payments translate into the amount individual checks are written for at the end of a session. Every session must have a Leader, and it is the Leader’s responsibility to make sure the time card is filled out properly and turned in promptly.  
RMA Nashville presents the following information in hopes of simplifying the process, which will hopefully result in fewer errors and misunderstanding regarding the correct payment amounts. In nontypical scenarios and/or gray areas, one should refer to the scale sheets on the  www.afm257.org site or call the Local 257 Recording Department, but hopefully this will cover most situations.
Here goes... Checks for each player are written for the amount of the applicable scale plus an additional “health and Welfare” payment, currently $22.50. for the first session in a day and $17.00  for each additional session in the same day. This H&W payment is mandatory, and is meant to substitute for Local 257’s lack of any type of Health coverage plan in place.
If players cart their own gear and check the “cartage” box on the time card, an additional $12.00 is added to their check in addition to scale plus H&W. Players who use a cartage service should not claim the $12.00 self cartage fee, and instead check the “Cartage Bill” box and submit their bill with the time card or directly to the employer. In addition to the individual checks for each player,which include scale, H&W,( and cartage, if used) a single check is written to the AFM-EP Fund to cover all the players’ Pension contributions.

Doubling (playing more than one unique instrument) raises the scale an additional 20%.
These figures have been accurately compiled for the most common types of sessions, but for overtime rates and other variations, be sure to check with Local 257 to avoid confusion.

IMPORTANT NOTE - ALL Scales have an additional 11% pension contribution, and a check payable to "AFM-EP Fund" for the total pension amount of all players on the session must be paid by the employer

DEMO SCALE - Current through 1/31/2010 

3 Hour Demo  Session - Check amounts per player.

Leader - 1 session -$334.50 (312.00 scale + 22.50 H&W)
                      or  $346.50 (adding $12.00 for cartage)
                2 sessions - $663.50 (624.00 scale + 39.50 H&W)
                      or $675.50 (adding $12.00  for cartage)
       AFM -EP FUND Pension (11% of scale only) This is a separate check in addition to each player’s wages/H&W payment. All the player's
pension (Leader and all sidemen) can and should be added up & written as one check.
                1 session $34.32 (leader's pension pmt.)
                2 sessions $68.64 "                 "           "

Sideman -1 session  $178.50 (156.00 scale + 22.50 H&W)
                        or $190.50 (adding $12.00 cartage)
                  2 sessions - $351.50 (312.00 scale + 39.50 H&W)
                       or $363.50 (with $12.00 cartage)
       AFM -EP FUND Pension (11% of scale only) Separate check from each player’s wages/H&W payment. All player’s pension should be added up & written as one check.
                  1 session - $17.16
                  2 sessions - $34.32

MASTER SCALE - Current through 1/31/2010 

3 Hour Master Session - Check amounts per player.

Leader - 1 session -$782.54 (760.04. scale + 22.50 H&W)
                      or  $794.54. (adding $12.00 cartage)
                2 sessions - $1559.58 (1520.08. scale + 39.50 H&W
                      or $1571.58 (with $12.00 cartage)
       AFM -EP FUND Pension (11% of scale only) Separate check from each player’s wages/H&W payment. All player's pension should be added up & written as one check payable to AFM-EP Fund for each time card.
                1 session $83.60 
                2 sessions $167.20

Sideman -1 session  $402.52 (380.02 scale + 22.50 H&W)
                        or $414.52 (adding $12.00 cartage)
                  2 sessions - $799.54 (760.04. scale + 39.50 H&W)
                        or $811.44 (with $12.00 cartage)
       AFM -EP FUND Pension (11% of scale only) Separate check from each player’s wages/H&W payment. All player’s pension should be added up & written as one check.
                  1 session - $41.80
                  2 sessions - $83.60

LIMITED PRESSING Current through 1/31/10

(Local scale - no special payments credit- upgrades Master at 10,000 copies manufactured, not sold. The upgrade pays THE DIFFERENCE between Limited Pressing and Master scale at the time of the upgrade.)

3 hour Limited Pressing session

 Leader - 1 session - $415.50 (393.00 scale + 22.50 H&W)
                      or $427.50 (adding $12.00 cartage)
                 2 sessions -  $825.50 ($786.00 scale + $39.50 H&W)
                      or $837.50 (adding $12.00 cartage)
        Pension 43.23 - 1 session
                       86.46 - 2 sessions

Sideman - 1 session $219.00 (196.50 + 22.50 H&W)
                         or $231.00 (adding $12.00 cartage)
                   2 sessions -  $432.50 (393.00 + $39.50 H&W)
                         or $444.50 (adding $12.00 cartage)

         Pension -  $21.61 - 1 session
                           $43.23 - 2 sessions

LOW BUDGET MASTER - Current through 1/31/10

(National scale - pays into Special Payments, no upgrades no matter how many copies are manufactured - Employer must be a Signatory or sign a Single Project Short Form prior to recording. Budget must be submitted and approved  72 hrs. in advance of session by Pat Varriale at AFM HQ in New York. Phone number is 1-800-ROAD GIG and ask for Pat V.)

3 hour Low Budget Master session
*Note H&W payments are different than other scales*

Leader - 1 session - $ 442.46  (426.96 scale + 15.50 H&W)
                     or $454.46 (w/additional $12.00 cartage)
                2 sessions $884.92 ($853.92 scale  + 31.00 H&W)
                     or $896.92 (w/ additional $12.00 cartage)
     AFM -EP FUND Pension (11% of scale only) Separate check from each player’s wages/H&W payment. All player’s pension should be added up & written as one check.
               1 session - $46.96
               2 sessions - $93.93

Sideman - 1 session $228.98 (213.48 scale + 15.50 H&W)
                         or $240.98 (adding $12.00 cartage)
                   2 sessions $457.96 ($426.96 scale + $31.00 H&W)
                         or $469.96 9w/additional $12.00 cartage)
     AFM -EP FUND Pension (11% of Scale only) Separate check from each player’s wages/H&W payment. All leader’s and sidemen pension should be added up & written as one check.
                  1 session - $23.48 
                  2 sessions - $46.96

Here is a link to the various scale sheets on the Local 257 website, which are in downloadable pdf form. These scale sheets are not the easiest to understand, so see above (or below) if you have any questions, or contact the Recording Department or us if we can help explain something to you. You might check the FAQ page on the RMA site as well.

Here's a previous RMA Column that may help explain some of the ways to make the numbers work for you - and your employer. The scales mentioned  have been NOT been updated to the current rates and are for illustration purposes only.

Recording Scales and the Real World
(or "Working Off the Card? Watch Your Back End!")

by Dave Pomeroy

In an effort to clear up any confusion among Local 257 musicians about how the various recording scales work, and to assist the ongoing effort to bring "off the card" work to "on the card," I am writing this article to help cut through some of the red tape and misinformation that has been a problem in the past.

It's easy to forget that all of us together ARE the union, which exists to help its members, so don't be afraid to ask for help or more information if you have a question or problem related to recording, or any other issue for that matter.

Apathy is a big problem in our society these days, and it is mirrored in OUR union. Having recently joined the Executive Board of this local, it has quickly become obvious to me that if we don't get involved and informed about the issues that affect our lives and livelihood, it's going to make it a LOT harder to solve our common problems.
To start with, it is important to understand why it is ALWAYS in the best interest of the musician to be " on the card." For example, over the past 20 years, I have played on numerous publishing demos and record dates that eventually ended up in TV shows, commercials, major motion pictures and Made for TV movies. If these sessions were done "off the card," I never would have earned the additional New Use payments, Special Payments, and Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund checks, all of which add up to many times more than I made on the original sessions.
In addition, the AFM pension that is a part of every " on the card" session can add up to a significant amount of money for you down the road. The bottom line is this: " Off the card" work has no back end money, and you are totally unprotected if the song ends up in a movie or TV show. These days you never know where a song will end up, so it makes sense to document what you have done. Just because you love what you do for a living, doesn't mean you should give it away when you don't have to!
If you are new to union recording, some of these terms may be foreign language to you. New Use is what it sounds like-when a song you play on is used for another purpose besides the original recording, then you get paid again according to what type of use it is. The quality of demos is so high now that many end up being used in movies or on records. Publishing demos that become records must be converted to master scale, which is a nice bonus for work already done.

Special Payments (SPF) and the Film Secondary Market Fund (FSMS) are essentially royalties paid once a year to recording musicians by the major labels and film studios. Experience has shown that if the paperwork for sessions is done correctly on the front end, it is infinitely easier for the union to make sure that you are properly compensated for any new use. There are people in New York, and L.A., whose full-time job it is to go after the money that is owed you, but if you work " off the card," that resource is lost to you.

Every union session must have a leader, with two exceptions that will be mentioned later. The session leader makes double scale and double pension. The primary responsibility of the leader is to ensure that the AFM contract form for the recording session is completely and accurately filled out and is furnished to the employer in a timely manner to ensure correct, accurate, and prompt payment to participating musicians.

The leader is also responsible for ensuring that the Local 257 " time card" containing all of the pertinent session information is completed, and that a copy is furnished to the Local in order to " log" the session and ensure payment to musicians. A leader's role can also include writing track charts, helping choose the musicians, as well as working closely with the producer and artist in the studio to make sure that the session goes smoothly.

Nashville is one of the few places where recording work still involves a full band playing together, and this fact alone makes it easier for players to work together to hold the line on working " on the card." Just a few years ago, the players were able to get a number of Christian labels to become signatory simply by uniting together for the common good and refusing to work " off the card."
Limited Pressing scale was created to give independent artist and labels the chance to make records with union players at slightly more than demo rates and bring that work "on the card." This essentially legitimized the scale that was typical for these kinds of sessions, and brought a lot of "new money" into the Local, but most importantly, protected the players' back end. Many of you have played on or even released your own independent records yourself, and this is the scale to use if you are producing/financing your own project. The agreement includes an upgrade to full master scale once 10,000 copies have been manufactured. Unfortunately, it does not pay into the SPF Fund, because it is a locally administered agreement, but it does pay into your pension and provides you with initial protection if something gets picked up by a major label, or a song gets used in a movie or TV project. It has certainly not been easy to monitor and enforce the 10,000 copy upgrade, but the recording department of Local 257 is currently looking into ways to improve that situation.

Low Budget recording is another option below full master scale, but is a bit more complicated. The producer must submit a simple budget at least 72 hours in advance, in order to use this scale, which is more than Demo, but less than Limited Pressing. The current ceiling for Low Budget is a budget of $99,000, which we all know is unrealistically high, but will probably never come down due to negotiating procedures with the major labels.

One unique thing about low budget is that overdub players are allowed to legitimately work at single scale, as opposed to being asked to sign a time card from a previous live session. The major downside is that there is no upgrade to full master scale, no matter how much the project sells. The good news is the Low Budget does pay into the SPF. So there is some advantage for the player besides the back end protection we have already covered.
Many publishers, home studio owners, and even labels, like to pay musicians on a per song basis. This can work both ways. It's obvious that some songs are a lot more difficult than others, and that the player can be abused this way. It is also possible that a talented player can burn through a bunch of simple tunes and make well over scale. This makes it a little more difficult to work on the card, but it is by no means impossible. In the end, you are really selling clients your time, or even more importantly, yourself. If you can make it clear in a professional, polite way to the people you are working for that you prefer to go through the union, and make the relatively small effort it takes to get the paperwork done right, then you stand to gain a lot for yourself in the long run. What you have to do is look at the situation, work out how much you can make for the date, and figure the scale and time to fit the amount of money you are actually makin For example, there is a one-player/one hour demo scale that is $101.00 plus Health & Welfare and 10% pension. What this means is you get a check for $123.00 (scale plus $22.00 H&W) and your employer writes a check for $10.10 to the AFM-EP Fund, which is your pension contribution. So a 2-song demo would cost the employera little over $65.00 a song in their terms.
If you did 3 songs at $50.00 a song, you could use the same card and have them pay you $150.00 (slightly over scale, which is always OK) with the same pension payment of 10% of scale, which is still $10.10. A 2-hour demo session (with you as leader) would pay a total of $224.00 (scale plus H&W) and a pension check of $20.20 to the AFM-EP Fund.
If you did 4 songs in 2 hours it would come to about $60.00 per song. Another player working as a sideman with you on the same session would make $123.00 (scale plus H&W) with an $10.10 pension payment to the AFM-EP Fund. Remember that if all players' pension contributions should be combined into one check, payable to "AFM-EP Fund".
There is also a 2 hour Limited Pressing scale, which pays a leader $276.20 (scale plus H&W) and a $25.42 pension check with a sideman making $149.10 and $12.71 pension. If you play more than one instrument on a track, you can check double on the card, which adds an additional 20% to your wage, and can be used to bring your scale wages up to a higher per song level. That's enough numbers, hopefully you get the idea by now. The point is, there are many ways to take the amount you are actually making and make it work within the appropriate scale type.
Now that we've dealt with some of the numbers and concepts involved, let's talk just a little bit about the realities of getting work "on the card." Very few of us are in the position to turn down work, but we are all in the position to stand up for our rights and protect our best interest. The amount of work that goes "under the radar" not only hurts the union, it hurts the players too, for all the reasons I have been describing and more. If you are working for a songwriter or publisher, it helps to remember that they won't want to cut you a break when it comes to royalty payments on their songs. FYI, anyone can pay for demos through the union, it costs nothing to sign a Limited Pressing agreement, and it only costs a one time fee of $100.00 for a person or company to become signatory to the Master Recording agreement.
If you are dealing with a record label that is not signatory, and doesn't want to be, you can ask them to use a Single Project Short Form, which costs them nothing to sign and brings that particular project " on the card" without affecting any of the label's other projects or artists.
In the end, it is the responsibility of the leader and the players, when the call comes, to make sure that the employer understands that you want to work
"on the card." Throw some time cards, and maybe even a Limited Pressing Agreement or two, in your bag, so that you are prepared for any excuse someone might try to give you for working " off the card." It's the right thing to do, and it will help you watch your own back end . . . If you don't who will?