skip to main content

Working as a Recording Session Musician

Advice for 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. 

Last updated: 24 November 2020

Session musician is anyone who plays a musicial instrument or vocalist in a live or recording gig or session that is not a featured artist (ie contracted to a label).

Session musicians can be engaged directly by a production company or record label, but are often engaged via a fixer (also known as a contractor) who has signed an agreement with the Musicians’ Union. 

In the MU we look after session musicians’ recorded performances. We negotiate agreements with broadcasters, film producers and record companies, plus collect and send musicians the fees, where applicable, for other uses of those recorded performances.

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 MU strongly advises 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.3.

Where 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 Union.

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 MU 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.

Contact MU Sessions Official

If you need more information on session work and fixers, please get in touch with our Session Official.

Latest news and features

Photograph of a musician recording themselves playing on a piano with a webcam on video mode zoomed in on their hands.

MU Releases New Recording and Home Studios Advice

We’ve released two workbooks on "How to Set Up Your Home Studio Session," and "How to Set Up Your Home Studio Space," for members only, following the workshops we partnered with The F-List to produce for Women’s History Month.

Read more about MU Releases New Recording and Home Studios Advice