November 29, 2013

Merry Christmas From AFM / AFTRA

Many many years ago when mrsguy was a little baby, she and her bandmate were asked to sing on a track on their favorite musician's 3rd record. Oh glorious happiness! Proximity to the handsome singer and a few pieces of nigiri at the restaurant down the road were all it took to keep us singing.

He and his manager asked us to write up and sign a contract saying that the $50 or $75 they paid us was sufficient. To the contract, I added that they were entitled to have my firstborn child for that sum as well, so that whatever bogus contract they had us sign was obviously nul, and in gest.

Pages fly off the calendar. The album absolutely tanked and disappeared beneath the waves. Then, miraculously, the single we sang on began to chart. BIG. I remember the thrill of hearing the song on the radio for the first time, coming out of a convertible rolling past the restaurant where I was working. An old boyfriend heard my voice floating out of a rice paddy in China. The mamoo delights in hearing me at the grocery store or wherever. 20 years later, the song won't go away.

And yet, because I am a non-featured performer, I have seen no part of the action. I wasn't even paid scale to sing at the original session, to be quite honest. And I recall hearing myself on another of his singles while I was in the check-out line at Thrift Town, and at the same time wondering if I had enough cash for my purchase. 

For his next album the artist later gave us the choice of being paid for gigs *or* recording sessions, although I sang at both. Honestly, I would have done all of it for free, so I'm a little conflicted. I have this weird pleasure of having the experience of singing with my then-favorite performer and being part of this evergreen song and also having the occasional embarrassing and impertinent question come up about how much I was paid. Sometimes I feel bad for myself, and sometimes I feel bad for him, because he's a notorious skinflint. Years later one of his roadies asked me how much the artist had paid me and off the top of my head I said "In the mid two figures." He laughed really hard and so that became my stock answer when I am asked.

A few years ago AFM / AFTRA developed a fund for non-featured performers. I signed up as soon as I heard about it. The fund collects a teensy percentage off the top of digital plays for songs and sets it aside for people like me who performed on songs but were not the recording artist. Nothing much happened for a few years. Then one day, when the mamoo was visiting, I picked up the mail and found a check for the low THREE figures. We eat tonight! I think it's been two years since I last heard from AFM , but today I got another check. Mrguy comments that I am now firmly in the MID THREE FIGURES. 

Thank you, AFM / AFTRA!

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