Get Paid: Alternative Royalties For Indie Artists

Live Television Videotape Supplemental
Markets Fund (LTVSMF)

Another great royalty source that I’ve seen grow substantially in the 21st Century is LTVSMF. It collects and distributes residuals to musicians who have worked on live television/video productions.

Shari Hoffman, Fund Manager of the LTVSMF, explains their exact role. “We’re a non-profit organization that works in association with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) to ensure the collection, processing and distribution of residuals to qualifying musicians who have performed music used on live television programs, such as Saturday Night Live, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, various award shows (GRAMMYS, Academy Awards, CMA Awards, etc.), live reality programs (American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, etc.), and the soap operas (which in the olden days were live broadcasts).”

Hoffman says the basic contract provisions that generate revenue to the Fund are the result of a collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the AFM and the major television networks and television producers in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The actual responsibility to distribute these monies was transferred to the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF) in the late 1990s with an official “sub-fund” established to distribute monies collected for musicians working on these programs circa 2002, with a full-blown division formed in 2010 known today as the Live Television Videotape Supplemental Markets Fund.

“The provision,” says Hoffman, “is that you had to have worked on at least one original AFM scoring session for a specific live television production. A live television/video production must generate some income or revenue as a result of exhibition in a supplemental market to trigger an obligation on the part of the producer/production company to contribute to the Fund.”

How Important Is This For The Musician?

Can a musician expect to be paid well beyond the original airdate of a program? Hoffman asserts that many musicians receive payments far in excess of their original session payments for a program, provided that they have worked under the AFM Television Videotape Agreement. “The payments,” she says, “can often continue for many years beyond the time when these programs were first produced, providing compensation for musicians and their heirs (beneficiaries) long after a musician has ceased being actively involved in recording and performing. Those who work non-union primarily get compensated only for their original session performance, and nothing else. Or, in other words, they work for a buyout.”

For example, I get a check each year from the Live Television/Videotape Supplemental Markets Fund that is paid for by ABC-TV, since they own the cable station SOAPnet. This payment is for the past Union sessions I’ve produced for the daytime drama series All My Children, whose reruns are being shown on SOAPnet.

In order to get paid, there must be an AFM session contract filed with the appropriate Local for the original session(s) for the sound recording. If you ever did an AFM session for live television, this is something you need to look into because they keep a page on their website that lists names of people who have unclaimed checks with the fund.

A few years back, the payment schedule was erratic, but during the past two years the checks have become more stable, with an annual amount paid during the month of May. Though many of the soap series have been retired from the major networks, they have found a new home on cable TV and this is a great thing for the daytime composers like myself, since we all took a big hit when the majors canceled the shows.

Know The Difference

Again it is important to be clear that, like SoundExchange, the LTVSMF has its own area of focus compared to the Performance Rights Organizations. “The PROs manage performance royalties for composers and publishers of music,” adds Hoffman. “The Fund  collects and distributes supplemental market  payments due to musicians who performed under the AFM Television Videotape Agreement. The payments from the Fund are more of a delayed wage compensation closely related to residual payments, while payments from the PROs are royalties.”

You may ask, “Hey, where does the money come from that the LTVSMF collects?” According to Hoffman, the Fund collects monies from companies that are signatory to the AFM Television Videotape Agreement. These are primarily the major television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), as well as the Producers of the programs previously mentioned. “While the residuals come, in large part, from current programs,” she says, “a large number of older programs such as The Midnight Special, The Carol Burnett Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and many others also continue to pay residuals to the musicians who worked on those shows.”

It is important to reiterate that the LTVSMF does not pay royalties, but rather deferred wages that come from the producer’s obligation to report and pay on supplemental market revenue such as DVD sales, in-flight uses, uses on Basic and Standard Cable, etc.

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