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AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund

The following AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund article appeared in the November issue of Music Connection magazine as a “Close Up” column by Jonathan Widran. After reading the article, I thought it would be informative for AFM members to read and better understand what the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund does. I want to thank Music Connection magazine for their permission to reprint this article.

The Purpose of The Fund: The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes royalties for non-featured artists (background singers and session musicians) for their performances on songs played on satellite radio, webcasting, non-interactive streaming services, and other digital formats. The Fund was established with the passage of two important copyright laws. The Digital Performance Royalty Act of 1995 grants owners of copyrights in sound recordings an exclusive right “to perform the copyrighted work by means of digital audio transmission.” The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a 1998 United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Now with the passage of the Music Modernization Act, pre-1972 songs will be included, which means many more artists are now receiving royalties for their musical performances.

The Breakdown: Distributing royalties on thousands of titles a year, the Fund, having grown significantly since distributing $13 million in 2014, distributed more than $60 million in royalties in 2019—and over $300 million to date. For every dollar Sound Exchange receives from performances, they pay 50 cents to the rights holders, 45 cents to featured artists, and the remaining 5 cents to the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund to split between background singers and musicians. While the Fund does its best to contact every person entitled to these royalties, Colin Gilbert, associate director, PROF/Participant Services, urges background musicians and singers to sign onto the website and see if their names are on a list of unclaimed royalties. Artists can look up a song by artist or song title. They can also contact the Participant Services Department if they feel that they have not been credited on a song they have performed on. There are three types of distributions: Sound Recording (non-featured session musicians and background vocalists), Audiovisual (musicians and vocalists on motion picture and TV programs exhibited in specific foreign markets) and Symphonic (featured symphony, opera, and ballet musicians).

A Quote from Colin Gilbert: “There are many misconceptions about who we are and what we do. First off, despite our name, we pay all non­featured performers, both union and non-union. The burden of research falls entirely on our Fund for each title, so we are reliant on clear meta­data, including liner notes, contracts, and other documentation, so it’s very important for the performer to make sure that if they performed on the recording, they are listed on the credits. Although our primary mission is paying non-featured performers, many high-profile artists are considered non-featured when they perform background work on other artist’s tracks, so they get paid as well. We give out some large checks, but often it’s the folks who get the $50 and $100 checks that are impacted the most by what we do. Older and retired musicians and singers who dedicated their life to their craft but don’t have a 401k or retirement fund are especially grateful for what we do. For people like that, a $1,000 check can be life-changing.”

Visit www.afmsagaftrafund.org for more information.

mma royalties

AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund Explains MMA Royalties at ASCAP EXPO

mma royalties
Pictured from left: Fund CEO Stefanie Taub; Tune Registry Co-Founder Dae Bogan; National Recording Artists VP SAG-AFTRA, Trustee AFM/SAG-AFTRA Fund, and platinum selling songwriter Dan Navarro; Managing Director of The Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing Maureen Droney, and A2IM President and CEO Richard James Burgess.

The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund’s CEO Stefanie Taub recently hosted a panel at this year’s American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) EXPO to discuss the Music Modernization Act’s (MMA) positive impact on music creators. The panel, speaking to a packed room, featured top music industry professionals who covered aspects of the MMA from the CLASSICS Act (which ensures that royalties are now paid on music created before 1972) to the importance of metadata (which ensures the correct musicians and vocalists are being paid for the recordings on which they performed). The overriding message panel attendees received was for music creators to be their own best advocate by staying on top of both the ever-changing digital music landscape and where to find the numerous revenue streams and resources.

The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund pays out tens of millions of dollars in royalties to non-featured AFM members, SAG-AFTRA members, and other musicians and vocalists annually for their performances on songs played on satellite radio, webcasts, and other digital formats. The fund also pays royalties to musicians and vocalists for recordings of Broadway performances and music recorded for film and TV in certain foreign markets.