Sound Recordings

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Sound Recordings
Step 0

The SAG-AFTRA Sound Recordings Code covers sound recordings on digital, CDs, vinyl, etc., and includes all music formats as well as audiobooks, cast albums, and any other sound recording utilizing vocal performance. The Code not only covers singers, but announcers, actors, comedians, narrators, and sound effects artists as well.

Sound Recordings
Step 1

The Code applies to artists who work at scale and overscale, and who appear as both royalty and non-royalty artists. In addition, some artists may be royalty artists for their own recordings, but qualify as non-royalty artists when they appear on other artists’ recordings.


Sound Recordings
Step 2

 The Sound Recordings Code has been in existence since the early 1950s.Today, more than 600 companies are signed to it, including the three major labels: Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and most of their subsidiary labels.

Prior to Session
Step 3

Prior to hiring SAG-AFTRA members, there must be a SAG-AFTRA signatory attached to the project. The signatory is generally the owner of the material being produced and will remain financially responsible for any future obligations under the Sound Recordings Code. 


If the company is currently signed to the Sound Recordings Code, please note that all vocal sessions are covered under this agreement. If you aren’t sure if the company is signatory, please call the Sound Recordings Department at (323) 549-6864 to verify.


If you would like to apply to become a signatory, complete the Sound Recordings Information Sheet.


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Prior to Session
Step 4

The Information Sheet will be reviewed and you will be contacted by a SAG-AFTRA Business Representative. If approved, we will provide you with the Letter of Adherence (LOA) to sign.

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During the Session
Step 5

Keep track of overdubs and hours, as performers are paid per side (overdub) or per hour, depending on whichever is greater. 

Be sure to collect each performer’s W-4 and I-9 forms and Session Report and provide those to your payroll company to ensure payment is made on time to avoid late fees being assessed.


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After the Session
Step 6

Payments must be made within 21 calendar days. Please send all talent checks (issued to each performer with proper tax deductions) as well as the health and retirement payment (issued to the AFTRA Retirement Fund) directly to the local office nearest where the work was performed.

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And that’s it!
Step 7

If you have questions throughout any of the signatory process, please contact your SAG-AFTRA Business Representative at (323) 549-6864.

Thank you for working with SAG-AFTRA.


Are songs recorded for TV programs, theatrical films, commercials, and video games covered by Sound Recordings?

No. Songs/music for each of these areas are covered by the respective contract in those areas. Sound Recordings only covers songs produced specifically to be released as records.

Can I pay the performers directly?

No, it is a violation of the Sound Recordings Code for performers to be paid directly. To ensure proper payment, the checks are sent to the Local nearest to where the work was performed.

Do I need to take out taxes from the performers’ paychecks?

Yes, employers collect W-4s at the session to ensure that all proper tax deductions as required by law are made on all union wages. 

Does the Sound Recordings Department collect and/or receive the Royalty Artist's royalties from their record label?10. Does the Sound Recordings Department collect and/or receive the Royalty Artist's royalties from their record label?

No.  Though record labels report royalty earnings to us for AFTRA H&R purposes, artist royalties are paid directly to the artist by their record label. However, we can assist an artist with obtaining copies of their royalty statements or other information from the label when necessary.

Does the Sound Recordings Department cover instrumental musicians?

No. Instrumental musicians are covered by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Vocalists/singers are covered by SAG-AFTRA.

What about voiceovers?

Voiceovers are generally not covered by Sound Recordings, since a voiceover performance is usually part of an audiovisual work (commercial, TV program, trailer, etc.).

What if a song originally recorded under the Sound Recordings Code gets used in another medium (TV, theatrical, commercial, video game, etc.)?

Sound Recordings generally handles these claims, which are called "conversions" or "new use" claims.

What is a Royalty Artist?

A Royalty Artist is the featured recording artist who is signed to a royalty contract with a signatory record label.

What other aspects of the music industry is the Sound Recordings department involved in?

SoundExchange ( – Distributes digital royalties (fees that digital radio services, such as Pandora, SiriusXM , webcasters and cable TV music channels are required by law to pay for streaming music) to featured recording artists.  SAG-AFTRA has a seat on the board of SoundExchange.


Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies/AARC ( – Distributes royalties generated by the sales of automobile infotainment systems, blank CDs, personal audio devices, media centers, and satellite radio devices that have music recording capabilities, to featured recording artists. SAG-AFTRA has a seat on the board of AARC as well.


AFM and SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund ( – Distributes the non-featured artist share of SoundExchange and AARC royalties, along with other royalties negotiated on behalf vocalists and musicians. This fund is jointly trusteed by SAG-AFTRA and the AFM.


musicFIRST ( – SAG-AFTRA is a founding member of musicFIRST, which works to ensure music creators get fair pay for their work, on AM/FM and wherever and however it is played.  It also rallies people and organizations who make and love music to end the broken status quo that allows AM/FM to use any song ever recorded without paying its performers a dime, and to stand up for fair pay on digital radio — and whatever comes next.


Government Affairs and Public Policy – Through the union's Government Affairs and Public Policy department, SAG-AFTRA is actively engaged in the support or opposition of legislative and policy matters that impact recording artist and vocalist members.  These issues currently include public performance royalties and pre-1972 sound recordings, copyright matters, and digital theft.

What types of performers do Sound Recordings contracts cover?

The Sound Recordings Code covers the featured recording artists (Beyoncé, Tim McGraw, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, etc.) and session/background singers, actors, comedians, and sound effects artists.  The Music Video Contract covers all on and off-camera performers, except background actors and instrumentalists.

Where do I mail the performer’s check?

All Sound Recordings talent checks are required to be mailed to the SAG-AFTRA Local nearest to where the work was performed. When in doubt, you can send all checks to the LA Sound Recordings Department.