Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Demo Lead Vocals: Can They Be Released?

I was asked this great question by a relatively new session singer who is starting to get some demo work:
If I sing a demo and get paid up front and then it ends up getting used (with my vocal on it) for commercial purposes, do I have any right to any more more money? I'm being asked to sign a contract that is essentially for a demo, but in the contract it says they can use the master for anything they want. I'm just concerned that this song will end up being the biggest selling single of all time with my vocal on it and I'll only $100 out of the deal. - Kinda New At This Game
Ouch... That would indeed suck. My two cents:

Union affiliation:
Here’s the thing- if you are a member of SAG/AFTRA, the contract both parties would sign specifies the allowed uses of your recorded vocal performance. The minimum payment scale is established - and is more for doing leads than just backgrounds.  You put on the contract whether you sang a solo, duo, small or larger group, and the applicable fee applies. If a recording is played long enough (it takes a lot) you may even be eligible for royalty payment as a session singer.

Non-union work:
If you are not in the union there is no set fee or protection for session work... you just have to make your own deals. What's fair? For a demo lead vocal, $100 is a fair fee… but not if they will put that record out for release and sale. That’s not a demo, it's a master, and it would not be fair. If you want to go ahead and sing it anyway for your reasons - maybe for studio experience or the money that they are offering - that’s your business choice.

If you sign a contract that says your recorded vocal performance can be used for any purpose, or if you haven't had them sign a contract stating you DON'T give permission to release it, then they have the right to release it if they want to, with no further payment to you.

Consider your career goals:

Are you going for a session singing career? Do as many sessions as you can- leads and background vocals. Network as a session singer, get a demo reel done and get it in the hands of songwriters, publishers, producers and other session singers who might book you.

Are you going for a recording artist career?  The quality of both the song and the recording need to be good so that it’s not a career negative for you if it does aired publicly. I've known about some nightmare scenerios such as when a recording artist sang what she thought was a demo lead on a dumb, low quality song/recording. It was released to radio and soundly trounced by a major music reviewer. Ouch!

Bottom line:

It's good to make an informed choice about the leads we sing for others. Hopefully this can help you make a wise one.

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