Tag Archives: sag-aftra

Record-Breaking Royalty Payments for Session Musicians

More than 42,000 session musicians and vocalists in all 50 states and Canada will be sharing $62 million in royalties collected by the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund—the largest distribution in the fund’s history.

The average payment to studio musicians and singers is approximately $1,500, but some performers are receiving well above that amount. The fund distributed $60 million in royalties in 2019 and over $430 million since it was created in 2008.

“This is great news at such a difficult time for musicians,” said AFM International President Ray Hair. “This fund provides for session players who live gig to gig, and there has never been a greater need for royalty income than right now, with the extensive cancellation of live performances.”

“The music industry has been massively impacted by COVID-19, and no one more so than performers whose touring work has been halted and whose recordings are mostly cancelled,” said SAG-AFTRA’s COO and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “We’re proud of the fund’s commitment and diligence in ensuring that the distribution of royalties will reach tens of thousands of performers at a time when that financial security is needed more than ever.”

Established by AFM and SAG-AFTRA, the fund distributes domestic royalties from non-interactive digital streaming providers like Pandora and Sirius XM to non-featured performers (session musicians and background singers). The fund, a non-profit organization, also distributes royalties from various foreign performance rights’ organizations to US artists.

Hair and Crabtree-Ireland explained that the fund makes every effort to contact all artists who may have earned royalties, but there is insufficient information to process payments for some performers. Both union leaders are encouraging all musicians and vocalists to check the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund website at www.afmsagaftrafund.org/unclaimed-royalties.php to see if they may be owed money.

“I am incredibly proud of our staff, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this distribution went out on schedule to the performers who so greatly need it during these difficult economic times. Their dedication to the mission of the fund and its participants is unparalleled,” added AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund CEO Stefanie Taub.

SAG-AFTRA and Mexican Actors Union Sign Cooperative Agreement

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) announced on October 12 that it has signed a historic cooperative agreement with the Asociación Nacional de Actores (ANDA), the labor union that represents performers in Mexico.

“We are honored and privileged to stand strong with ANDA, an important leader in the Latin American labor community,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “Their top leaders joined us today to sign a historic agreement designed for this new era of cross-border and multilingual production, pledging to consider joint bargaining in appropriate areas, such as Spanish-language dubbing.”

ANDA’s General Secretary Jesús Ochoa, Secretary of Interior and Exterior Marco Treviño, and Secretary of Labor Alejandro Calva participated in the signing.

The agreement includes provisions for collaboration on contract and rule enforcement, organizing, and technology initiatives.

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.

SAG-AFTRA Leaders Call for Closer Cooperation Between US, Chinese Media Artists 

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) who recently returned from a visit to China, have called for closer cooperation between US and Chinese media artists, according to a report by the Xinhua news agency.

“There are so many stories to tell in the US and China, and as the world increasingly focuses on China and wants to know those stories, we need to protect the artists that tell them and advance our culture,” says David White, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA. “We want to do that in cooperation and collaboration with China, so our countries and people better understand each other.”

SAG-AFTRA represents 160,000 media artists, including actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news directors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, and other media professionals.

“It’s important to connect with young filmmakers early and grow with them. So we have contracts for every budget level in the industry, from ultra-low budget all the way to big studio pictures. These contracts set the standards for the whole industry and our members are not allowed to work on films or shows that don’t sign them,” says Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA.

During the visit, participants also discussed residuals, which Carteris says is, “very little money, but it can add up and allow talented professionals to stay in the business.”

“This was an important beginning,” White adds. “We are looking forward to more and more of these productive exchanges in the years to come.”

SAG-AFTRA Seeks Strike Authorization for TV Animation Workers

SAG-AFTRA is seeking a strike authorization for members working in TV animation. A strike authorization postcard was sent to “affected” TV Animation SAG-AFTRA members on July 1 and the deadline for voting was July 18. One focal point in negotiations is achieving scale wages and residuals for animated programs made for streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Performers have been working under TV animation agreements that expired June 30, 2017, and more than 20 animated series produced for initial exhibition on a subscription-based streaming platform have gone into production.

“Because that work is not covered by the traditional terms of our TV Animation Agreements, our animation performers do not have the benefit of scale minimums when they work on these programs, the overwhelming majority of which will never pay residuals for any new media exhibition,” says SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “When you go to work on an animated program made for new media, the producer can pay you as little as you are willing to accept and will likely be able to use the program on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, etc., for subscribers to view or customers to pay to download forever, without ever paying you a residual.”

This type of work is expected to continue to grow. Disney announced that it is launching its own streaming platform, where it will house original animated content, and Warner Bros. has launched the Boomerang streaming platform for animated content.

The Truth About Foreign Royalties

by Jennifer Garner, AFM In-house Counsel

Recently, the AFM has received a huge number of requests to waive its mandates to collect and distribute foreign royalties on behalf of US recording musicians through AFM & SAG-
AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund (the Fund). Many of these requests come from agents, publishers, and even some lawyers purporting to have authority to represent musicians in royalty matters. Some requests are in the form of letters ostensibly from individual musicians that are forwarded to us from foreign collecting organizations. These letters are of questionable or obvious inauthenticity. A few musicians have contacted us directly with concerns based on wildly distorted facts and specious legal analyses propounded by their agents. We feel compelled to dispel the myths and correct the misleading representations.

For decades, US recording artists have been wrongfully deprived of royalties collected on their behalf outside of North America due to a fundamental misapplication of the principle of national treatment underlying several international copyright treaties. Some foreign performance rights management organizations (PMOs) in Europe and Spanish-speaking territories unfortunately have been collecting remuneration generated by the broadcasting of music created in the US, but refusing to pay over such remuneration in whole or in part to US musicians. Their primary excuse is that the US is not a signatory to the Rome Convention, which is a 1961 copyright treaty that provides for the cross-border payment of terrestrial broadcast performance royalties. They have maintained the bizarre position that, because the US has no reciprocal performance right in AM/FM radio broadcasts, they are generally entitled to keep the money they collect for broadcasts of US artists’ works in their territories.

There is no sound justification for this position. Nothing in the Rome Convention authorizes or condones the collection of royalties on behalf of artists of any nationality without distributing such royalties to those artists. Collection without distribution is theft. Theft from a nonparty to a convention is still theft.

Consider the practice here in the US. The US Copyright Act provides a digital performance right for performers (arguably more important today than a terrestrial broadcast right) that many European and Spanish-speaking territories are lacking. Pursuant to various copyright conventions to which the US adheres, SoundExchange and the Fund send abroad millions of dollars in digital royalties every year on behalf of featured and nonfeatured artists, despite the fact that the foreign PMOs are unable to reciprocate. We do this because it is morally and legally the right thing to do.

In contrast, the contention that US artists are not entitled to their royalties from abroad, unless a PMO in a Rome Convention country is representing them, is outrageous. The fallacy is one of false choice, namely, that if our artists want any portion of their royalties from abroad, they must pay an inducement to foreign PMOs and agents. Otherwise, they will receive none of their royalties. This is not a “choice.” This is coercion.

Lately, the aggressiveness with which the PMOs and their shills are hustling the right to manage US artists’ foreign royalties—and split the skim—is alarming. And, why now? The PMOs have been collecting and keeping US royalties for decades with relative impunity. What is the urgency to obtain mandates to distribute the money? 

There are perhaps two factors motivating this activity. First, the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, adopted in 2012 but not yet in full force, slammed the book shut on the discussion of collection without distribution. The official record of that convention memorializes the principle of “no collection without distribution” as the proper application of national treatment in copyright treaties. The global consensus is unambiguous. Collection without distribution is morally and legally wrong. Moreover, time is up. Noncompliant PMOs should be feeling the pressure to get with the program.

Second, robust lobbying efforts by the AFM and other US stakeholders to obtain a terrestrial broadcast performance right, and Congressional bills like the proposed Fair Play Fair Pay Act, are gaining traction. If and when such legislation is achieved here in the US, the primary excuse maintained by the PMOs for collecting without distributing would be eviscerated. It appears they are attempting to hedge the consequences by obtaining mandates to collect and distribute royalties on behalf of the most celebrated and exhibited musicians in the world, and draw down a lot of money in fees for doing so.

Every agent standing between musicians and their money is picking musicians’ pockets, and every PMO that is withholding money it collects on US content is in flagrant violation of international norms. The AFM is calling on foreign PMOs to release musicians’ foreign royalties without conditions, in accordance with well-settled international principles, instead of extorting valuable rights from musicians, the Federation, the Fund, and SoundExchange.

On a different topic related to the Fund, I am delighted that Stefanie Taub has been appointed as its new chief executive officer. I am confident that new and exciting initiatives under her leadership will benefit all participants.

AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund Names New CEO

The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, the AFM, and SAG-AFTRA have named veteran music industry executive Stefanie Taub as chief executive officer of the Fund. Taub comes to the fund from SAG-AFTRA, having served as the head of its Music Department for more than 20 years and as a trustee of the fund for the past six years. In her new role, Taub will oversee the fund’s collection and annual distribution of more than $45 million in royalties to nonfeatured musicians and vocalists. Taub’s hiring concludes an extensive, nine-month national search.

SAG-AFTRA Demands SBS Recognize Union

SAG-AFTRA is demanding that the Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) recognize the union as the legally certified bargaining representative for workers at two popular Los Angeles radio stations—La Raza (KLAX/KXOL 97.9 FM) and MEGA (96.3 FM). The on-air talent voted overwhelmingly to join SAG-AFTRA last August, but SBS has refused to bargain in good faith and also retaliated against its on-air talent.

SBS employees chose to organize after enduring poor working conditions that in some cases violated stage and federal laws. Complaints include, among other things: payment of less than minimum wage, plus denying overtime pay, breaks, and access to bathrooms during events.


AFM & SAG-AFTRA: New Developments in Performance Rights

by Dennis Dreith, Executive Director AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund

Background and Beginnings

The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund was initially established as a joint project of the AFM and AFTRA (prior to its merger with SAG) for the purpose of distributing royalties stemming from various statutory provisions in US copyright law, and agreements with foreign collectives. Specifically, in the US, the passage of the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), the Digital Performance Royalty Act (DPRA), and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) established, for the first time, a royalty for both featured and nonfeatured performers in sound recordings.

While these royalties are applicable to digital media only, and exempt terrestrial radio, they represent a dramatic first step forward in providing US performers royalties similar to what those performers in virtually every other civilized country in the world have been receiving for decades. Prior to the passage of these provisions, only the songwriter and the publisher received performance royalties in the US. Moreover, the existence of these laws in the US  makes it possible for the Fund to enter into reciprocal agreements with foreign collectives to collect royalties in their territories for performers on US sound recordings.

Clearly, the absence of a performance right in the US for terrestrial radio still inhibits us from collecting significant foreign and domestic royalties, and has delayed implementation of digital radio here in the US. But these laws, nonetheless, provide substantial royalty payments to US performers. It should be noted that the laws that made collection of these royalties possible were passed, in large part, due to the vigorous lobbying activities of the AFM and SAG-AFTRA, in cooperation with the record labels and related trade organizations.

Then and Now

The Fund certainly had a humble beginning. However, it has experienced massive growth in size and scope since first being activated in the final months of 1999. When I first took the reins of the Fund, it had less than $250,000 to distribute, no office, and no employees. I immediately hired one employee who occupied a corner of the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, using what amounted to hand-me-down equipment and borrowed office space. That one person was the entire research department, the allocations department, the participant services department, and whatever else that was needed department.

Now, the Fund has 44 employees with an independent research department, as well as accounting, IT, software development, participant services, administrative, and legal departments. The Fund recently purchased its own building. Last year, it collected in excess of $42 million on behalf of session musicians and background vocalists (nonfeatured performers).

Show Me the Money

Presently, the Fund receives relatively small amounts of private copy remuneration pursuant to the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), with the largest share of royalties generated from the Digital Performance Royalty Act (DPRA) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The latter are collected from SoundExchange on behalf of nonfeatured performers, and include royalties from digital subscription services, webcasting, and other digital services.

To date, the Fund has 28 reciprocal agreements with collectives in foreign territories (with several other negotiations in progress). These include active agreements in the UK, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and many others. The majority of these agreements are for private copy remuneration and digital broadcasts. However, the Audiovisual Department and its initial agreement with the Spanish rights collective AIE holds tremendous promise. It covers motion pictures and television films containing performances of AFM and SAG-AFTRA members exhibited in Spanish cinemas and broadcast on Spanish television. In fact, audiovisual distributions, for the past two years combined, amount to just under $7 million.

We have just concluded negotiations with German rights collective GVL for an audiovisual agreement covering similar exhibitions in Germany. As with the audiovisual agreement in Spain, this covers performances of the underscore, as well as sound recordings licensed for use into motion pictures and television films, and makes distributions to both featured and nonfeatured performers.

Union vs Non-union

An area that seems to have generated a bit of confusion is the question of whether or not union membership is required in order for the Fund to collect royalties on behalf of a performer. The answer is actually yes, and no!

For royalties collected pursuant to US copyright laws (e.g., domestic royalties from private copy, digital subscription services, webcasting, etc.), the Fund is required under federal statute to distribute to union and nonunion members alike. The situation for foreign royalties is quite a different matter, and the laws of most foreign territories mandate that royalties can only be collected on behalf of members. I can’t overemphasize the importance of this fact. Simply put, we cannot make a claim to collect foreign royalties for anyone who is not a member of the AFM and/or SAG-AFTRA.

I have also been asked if a performer can join a foreign collective (such as PPL or GVL) to have them collect their foreign royalties, and still collect domestic royalties from the Fund. This is a complicated matter, and while it may in fact be beneficial for some individuals (especially those with dual citizenship), it may, in many other situations, delay your foreign royalty payments due to mandate conflicts, or in other cases, preclude you from receiving certain royalties altogether, such as audiovisual royalties. As this is a complicated issue, I strongly suggest you contact the Fund to discuss your individual circumstance prior to making a determination.


The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund has recently updated its website and included many new features, such as a private area access where you can view and print current and past statements, and manage other personal information (direct deposit information, beneficiary designations, and more). I strongly urge you to visit the website www.afmsagaftrafund.org and register for the private area access and sign up for direct deposit, if you haven’t done so already. The direct deposit option will ensure that you receive your royalty payments in a timely and secure manner, and minimize the possibility of lost checks. Plus it is good for the environment! You can also contact the Fund by writing to: AFM & SAG-AFTRA IPRD Fund; 4705 Laurel Canyon Blvd. Suite 400; Valley Village, CA 91607 or by calling the participant services hotline: 1 (818) 255-7980 #2.