Case Study: Background Vocalist
Previous: Reflections, Part 1
Even within our two-year sample, the unions collected mailbox money for three seasons of this Background Vocalist’s primary show and two seasons of its spinoff, not to mention all of the previous work she’s done. If a production company changes midstream or a show changes networks or gains syndication to a new broadcaster domestically or abroad, this artist doesn’t have to renegotiate a rate for her work or fill out more paperwork; the union manages the changes.
The same applies to the recording mailbox money she receives from the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund. Without the union’s work collecting royalties from multiple domestic and foreign sources, this money would require much more time, effort and organization on the part of the session musician to collect.
Certainly unions have more relevance for some genres of music and some musician roles than others. For example, classical orchestra players and session musicians like this Background Vocalist benefit most directly from union affiliation, as the unions often represent their interests at the bargaining table. For those whose work fits within a union’s mandate, a musician union can bolster income with its mere presence, administrative know-how and negotiating power. Nevertheless, all musicians – union or not – benefit from the unions’ advocacy on behalf of artists.