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Session Musicians


What you need to know

Session musicians are those musicians who are employed to record music for media projects such as films, TV, adverts, computer games and albums and who are paid by the session.

Session musicians, drummers, guitarists and other recording artists are either engaged directly by a production company or record label, or, more often, are engaged via a fixer (also known as a contractor) who has signed an agreement with the Musicians’ Union.

Engagements

The MU has collective bargaining agreements with the BBC, ITV, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), and independent film and TV producers who form the Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT). We also have an agreement with the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) on behalf of record companies.

The EC directs members not to accept session engagements for recording and broadcasting other than from companies and organisations with which the MU has collective agreements, unless they have been referred to our Contract Advisory Service. This is in your own interest and should avoid any breach of your duties under Rule Xl.3Where engagements are not entered into directly with such companies, they should only be accepted through Approved Contractors, i.e. contractors/fixers who have entered into an agreement with the MU.

 

Performers’ consents

Musicians have some protection against having their performance recorded without their consent. Consent is usually given through the use of MU Standard Agreements and Consent Forms and the manner in which consent is given is important as it can affect payment for secondary and further uses.

Under current legislation someone only has to 'reasonably believe' that they have a performer's consent. For example consent could be construed as having been given by the fact that a musician knew the recording was taking place and did nothing to prevent it.

The standard agreement signed by all Approved Contractors states that they must ensure that the consents of performers required by the CDP Act is of the form approved by the Union.  

Filming live gigs

MU Standard Live Engagement Contracts have a provision precluding audio and audiovisual recording without prior written consent.

However, you should take a realistic view of this type of situation as many events are also filmed via cameras and phones and it is virtually impossible to prevent people from doing so. If you find that cameras have been set up expressly to film your performance and there is no contract in place to cover this situation, you have a right to say no. All of the musicians in a group should give consent to being recorded before recording can begin.

If you collectively grant consent, state that your permission is only being given subject to a written agreement being drawn up as to the rights in, and the future use of, the recording in question. You can use the M6 Live Pre-Recording Contract for this. If you knowingly allow yourself to be recorded and do not make your position clear at the time, it can be difficult for the MU to establish your rights in retrospect, especially if you later state that you were filmed against your will.

If you need more information on session work and fixers, please get in touch with Sam Jordan on 020 7840 5559 or at sam.jordan@theMU.org