Case Study: Background Vocalist
A Note About Session Work
They might call themselves background musicians or sidemen, guest musicians, session musicians, freelance musicians, or backup singers. To simplify the language for this study we call them all session musicians. These are the musicians and singers who are usually hired by a featured artist or bandleader to perform in a live or broadcast setting, or on a recording. Session musicians can solo, may get billing, or even appear to be a regular member of a band. What makes them different than featured artists is that session musicians are paid a fee or a predictable salary for their time and expertise as musicians or singers. Generally, they do not assume any of the risk in a recording or live performance endeavor; they get paid even if the recording or tour loses money. Session musicians often accept a “buyout” – a one-time payment for work in a recording studio or in a live performance in exchange for signing over most or all of their rights. While they are entitled to some income that flows from copyright, session musicians are not considered the featured artist in a performance or recording. This is not a hard and fast category. Like everything else in the music business, the lines between roles are fluid.
Color coding for Background Vocalist
We have tried to use a consistent color palette across all the graphs and charts we have generated as part of the Artist Revenue Streams work. For instance, income from compositions is red, and live performance work is blue. We have used shades of these colors to signify specific types of revenue in these broad categories.
If we were to religiously stick to this color palette when describing this Background Vocalist’s income, the graphs and charts would all be shades of teal, as all of her income included in this case study is session work, in one form or another.
In order to provide a visual differentiation, we have added another color to the palette. In the case of AY, her TV- and film-based session work is brown.