Musicians Union Welcomes Recording Engineers

[Note: This announcement has been updated and clarified]

The Nashville Chapter of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and the Nashville Musicians Association, AFM Local 257, have reached an understanding that could dramatically benefit recording engineers in the Nashville community. Recording Engineers can now join the Nashville AFM and sign the Union cards as a musician on recording sessions. There is now a heading “Engineer” in AFM listings. The first of its kind in the US. Here is a breakdown so you can determine if this is the right option for you.

Some of the Benefits:
A. Retirement Benefits through the AFM-EP Pension Fund
B. Funeral Benefit/Union Discounts
C. Additional Payments for New Use and Re-Use
D. Protection and Legal Backup for Contracts 
E. Instrument and Group Health Insurance Plans

Member Obligations
Yearly Union Dues (currently $250/yr) and
Work Dues (currently 4% of scale wages)

Note: All Union dues are tax deductible!

How will this work? The Recording Engineer will need to join AFM 257. If you play an instrument(s), you can list that in the AFM 257 directory and website, but now for the first time there is an engineer category in these Union listings. As the recording engineer and Union member, you will be able to sign the Union card on recording sessions.

How you would get paid for the session: All sessions must have a signatory employer. The paperwork is simple and Local 257’s Director of Recording, Juanita Copeland ([email protected]) can help you with this. You will need to work out with the employer how you will get paid. You can invoice them as usual and mark “paid direct” on the time card, or be paid with the other musicians on the session from the contract that the Union creates to invoice the employer. You cannot declare more income “on the card” that you actually made that day. This is a Federal Tax Law violation.

In other words, you can still request your hourly or day rate, be paid that way, and still sign the card for the sessions you engineer. If so, you would write your name, SS #, check the number of sessions to create a wage amount that corresponds to your total payment, without going over that amount, and write “paid direct” under your name. This way you will be receive a 11.4% pension contribution on top of your wages. Or, you can sign the card and wait to get paid, just like the musicians on that session. You will still receive the pension contribution.

What you have to do to make this work for you?

  • Join AFM Local 257 as a member.
  • Always make sure that the employer is an AFM signatory.
  • Engineers will need to sign the time card enough each year to show “on the card” scale wages over $3,000.00/yr for a period of 5 consecutive years to become vested and be eligible to collect your AFM – EP Pension.
  • You can take your pension after reaching age 55 at a reduced rate pro-rated every year until you reach 65, when you will receive benefits at the full rate.

How are Union Dues calculated? Each time you sign the card, and you are paid by an signatory employer, the scale wages you made on the session as a Union member will be subject to Work dues, currently 3.5%, which you will pay to Local 257. So, if you made $400 on the card, your work dues would be $14. But remember, that you will have a Pension contribution of $45.76 over and above your scale wages. In other words, you are coming out ahead by $31.76 and building a Pension for the future.


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