Providing service and support to film and television musicians.

Musician's Overview

How the Fund Began

In the late 1950s, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and some of its Los Angeles members became entangled in a series of ongoing disputes over the lack of adequate representation of full-time recording musicians and the payment structures for musicians working in film and television. In the 1960s the combined Union leadership agreed to a new approach to contract negotiations. It was in this spirit that the AFM, representing musicians working in theatrical and television motion pictures, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) met and negotiated new collective bargaining agreements that helped producers hold the line on their up-front costs, while at the same time provided an overall compensation package to musicians commensurate with their contributions to, and participation in, individual productions. This new structure led to the establishment of the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund in 1972 (f/k/a the Theatrical and Television Motion Picture Special Payments Fund).

How the Fund Operates

The Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund ("FMSMF" or "Fund") serves to collect, process and distribute secondary market residual payments and act as third party administrator on behalf of the producers for purposes of paying residuals. Secondary Market residuals generally follow the entertainment industry's standard pattern for "supplemental market" residuals as found in the other entertainment industry union/guild contracts, except that the AFM percentages differ from those of other union/guilds and the FMSMF handles all the administrative work and details for distributing payments to musicians.

The FMSMF collects residuals derived only from "secondary market" distribution of motion pictures. Residuals paid to the FMSMF do not include any revenue from any primary markets:

  1. No Domestic Box Office
  2. No Foreign Box Office

Residuals payable to the FMSMF are triggered only if a picture generates revenue in one or more of the secondary markets:

Primary Markets Supplemental Markets
Theatrical Film DVD/Home Video, Pay TV, Free TV (including Basic Cable), New Media
TV Film or Series DVD/Home Video, Pay TV, In-Flight, New Media
Direct to Video Free TV (including Basic Cable)
Direct to Pay TV Free TV (including Basic Cable)
New Media DVD/Home Video, Pay TV, In-Flight, some New Media

Films initially produced for the home-video market (i.e., DVD, pay-TV) make no payment for DVD or pay TV sales.

The contribution formula is generally 1% of the Producer's Gross directly received from the applicable secondary market(s), minus certain allowed deductions as described in the Guide to Understanding Secondary Markets Residuals.

Each July, the Fund makes an annual distribution of contributions received throughout the preceding fiscal year, which runs from April 1 of the prior year through March 31 of the current year, to participating musicians. Participating musicians are sent a package which contains their annual disbursement check as well as their itemized member's statement. Participating musicians who have taken advantage of the Fund's Go-Paperless option receive payment by direct deposit and receive all information and updates electronically. In addition, the Fund serves musicians and their beneficiaries throughout the year, allocating and tracking contributions, researching and allocating newly paid films, resolving outstanding inquiries, as well as dealing with address changes, beneficiary information, check reissue requests, deaths, divorces, levies/liens, tax withholdings and the like.

Which Theatrical and Television Films Make Secondary Markets Payments

A "covered" motion picture must meet the following conditions:

  • Have at least one original scoring session, or utilize sideline musicians, pursuant to the AFM Basic Theatrical Motion Picture or Basic Television Film Labor Agreements; and
  • Sessions must be done for a signatory employer (i.e., a producer or company signed directly to the AFM labor agreements or a non-signatory producer using a signatory payroll company with an assumption agreement); and is either
  • A theatrical motion picture (i.e., a film initially released to theaters) that commenced principal photography on or after January 31, 1960; or
  • A television film or series (i.e., initially released to television) that commenced principal photography on or after July 1, 1971; or
  • A film or program made for initial release on "new media" (e.g., downloads, web streaming, subscription services, etc.,) that was produced on or after April 14, 2010.

Definition of "Participating Musician"

Any musician who is listed on an original recording session contract filed through the AFM for a covered theatrical or TV motion picture is eligible for secondary markets payments if they fall into one of these categories:

  • Musicians (including leaders, conductors and contractors) employed by a signatory employer/producer to record music that is used in the covered motion picture.
  • Sideline musicians (musician photographed playing an instrument on camera) employed by a signatory employer/producer whose performance is used in the covered motion picture.
  • Music preparation musicians (including orchestrators, copyists and librarians) provided that there was at least one original AFM scoring session or sideline session for the specific film they worked on.
  • Musicians entitled to a "new-use" payment for the inclusion of a pre-existing sound recording used in the music score of a covered film. Eligibility for secondary market participation for such "new-use" requires:
    • The film using this music must have been produced after January 1, 1991.
    • The sound recording was made in the U.S. or Canada under an AFM contract.
    • The original recording session(s) were filed on an AFM sound recording contract (B4) and filed with the appropriate AFM local, or acknowledged documentation.
    • The participating musician was entitled to a new-use payment, even if the new-use payment was not actually paid.

How the Fund Identifies Musicians Who Participated in Films

In order to determine the participating musicians for a given film, the Fund relies primarily on obtaining AFM B7 contracts and studio orchestra manager reports from various sources, including AFM locals, the Federation, contractors and the studios themselves. Over the years, the Fund has compiled a vast library of resources to assist the staff in researching musicians who have worked on a film. However, we still rely on the participating musicians themselves to assist in obtaining the most complete information available.

How Musician Film Inquiries Are Handled

Each inquiry received is entered, assigned a log number and maintained on our custom-designed database. A letter or email of acknowledgment is then sent to the inquiring musician. Inquiries are processed in chronological order, based on date of receipt. It is possible that a claim may be processed early due to another musician's prior inquiry about the same film. To expedite research and the processing of claims, we encourage musicians to supply us with documentation or information such as: copies of contracts, paychecks or pay stubs, dates and/or locations of the original recording sessions, etc. The Fund may request such items when they are needed. Further, it is not necessary to re-submit an inquiry concerning a film after the initial inquiry submission. Once a claim is verified, credit is given for prospective payment(s) for the respective film(s), as well as appropriate retroactive payment(s).

General Inquiries

The Fund has a professional and experienced staff to research, track and answer a variety of general inquiries for musicians. Based on the nature of the requests, the Fund updates and maintains a database that tracks changes and files the requests. Fund staff can best assist musicians when you provide us with up-to-date information such as address changes, email contact information, beneficiary changes and copies of documentation about films where there is a question. We appreciate your help in assisting us in providing the highest level of service possible.

How the Fund Tracks and Collects Payments

The Fund has a Compliance Department that continuously tracks released theatrical and TV films. The Department actively monitors, and pursues collection efforts if necessary, for payments that should be forthcoming. The Department also oversees the regularly scheduled compliance audits of the various contributors conducted by outside auditors engaged by the Fund.

Fund Policies

The Policies below have been abbreviated. For the complete and most current list of policies, please visit: Our Policies. Some of the Policies that generate the most inquiries include:

Musician/Beneficiary Payments

In the event of the death of a musician entitled to a payment hereunder, the Executive Director shall distribute such payment to the beneficiary or beneficiaries designated by such musician or alternate beneficiary (in the event the beneficiary pre-deceased the musician) on a form provided by the Executive Director for such purpose. If, however, no such beneficiary is so designated, the payment shall be made to the beneficiary designated by such musician pursuant to the American Federation of Musicians and Employer's Pension Fund; and if no beneficiary be so designated, then to the surviving spouse of such musician; and if there be no such person, to the beneficiary of the musician's estate.

In addition, a beneficiary of a musician or alternate beneficiary (in the event the beneficiary pre-deceased the musician) may select a beneficiary or beneficiaries (aka: the "BOB"), and if no beneficiary be so designated, then to the surviving spouse of such beneficiary; and if there be no such person, to the beneficiary of the beneficiary's estate. However, the Fund will cease to make any further payments upon the death of all such beneficiaries of beneficiaries.

Credit for Full and Partial Film Omissions – Prospective & Retroactive Payments

All musicians who are discovered to have been omitted from a covered film, partially, in full, or for whatever reason, and whose omission has been verified, will be credited prospectively. Retroactive checks will be issued for the period inclusive of the date of the first contribution on behalf of the film in question, from 1989 forward, through the date of processing. This policy applies to films from all the studios, production companies and payroll companies utilizing musicians under the auspices of the American Federation of Musicians and for which the first contribution was received by the Special Payments Fund during and after the year 1989.

Musicians who were omitted for work done on films for which contributions were received prior to 1989 will be covered when an inquiry is received and verified. These musicians will be credited prospectively, and retroactive checks will be issued which cover the period between the date of receipt of the first contribution, but no earlier than 1989, through the date of processing only.

If contracts are located for films for which the Fund has received no musician inquiries, omitted musicians will be credited prospectively. Retroactive checks will be issued which cover the period between the date of receipt of the first contribution, but no earlier than 1989, through the date of processing only.

Full and/or partial wage omissions will be processed similarly, without distinction between them. The same policy and system(s) will be utilized in the treatment of both. Retroactive payments for both will be drawn from the same combined reserve fund.

Exceptions to these policies will be handled on an individual, case-by-case basis, with the Executive Director making the final decision.

Participating Musician for New-Use – Addendum to Side-Letter Agreement

An AFM Side-Letter Agreement was amended in 2002 to provide:

"It is understood that the Special Payments Fund may distribute the payments provided under Articles 15 and 16 of the Theatrical Agreement and under Article 14 of the Television Agreement to "participating musicians," as defined in those Articles, and to musicians entitled to receive live session payments under Article 8B. Any musician entitled to receive live session payments under Article 8B shall participate on the distribution of such monies on the same basis as if he/she were considered a "participating musician."

This change – while necessary to enable the Fund to include numerous sound recording musicians for participation in secondary market payments who unequivocally performed on records utilized in motion pictures, but were not actually paid for such performances – had no financial impact on the Producers, and was intended merely to secure the appropriate participation in the Fund for the affected musicians.

Direct Deposit Policy

Irrespective of the permission granted in the Direct Deposit enrollment form that authorizes the Fund to debit a Participating Musician's or Beneficiary's account, in the event of an erroneous deposit into his/her account1, it is the policy of the Fund that no such debit(s) shall be taken without prior notification via certified mail to the Participating Musician or Beneficiary at the Participating Musician's or Beneficiary's address of record with the Fund. In addition, the Fund shall provide such Participating Musician/Beneficiary the opportunity to provide the Fund with a reason in writing why such debit should not be taken, and to request a reconsideration of the debit. The request for a reconsideration-which must be accompanied by the written reason(s) for such reconsideration-must be submitted via certified mail to the Executive Director, Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, 15910 Ventura Bl, 9th Floor, Encino, CA 91438, and postmarked within two (2) business days from the date of the receipt of the notice from the Fund of the erroneous deposit. The Executive Director shall review Participant's request and make final determination as to the validity of the claim.

If the Executive Director rejects the Participant's request or no request is made, overpayments shall generally be deducted from the Participating Musician's/Beneficiary's disbursal subsequent to the disbursal in which the overpayment was made. In the unlikely event that it should be necessary to debit the Participating Musician's/Beneficiary's account, final notice shall be given, via certified mail, to the Participating Musician or Beneficiary at the Fund's address of record for the Participating Musician or Beneficiary at least two days prior to executing the debit.

1"In the event that the Fund deposits funds erroneously into my account, I authorize the Fund to debit my account for an amount not to exceed the original amount of the erroneous credit."

Participant Replacement Check – January Moratorium

No replacement checks will be issued during the month of January. This policy supercedes the prior 2001 "Participant Replacement Check December Moratorium" policy. Replacement check processing will resume again in February of the following calendar year. Any exception to this policy will be at the sole discretion of the Executive Director.

Check Re-Issue Requests (7 Years or Older) Policy

For information regarding this policy, please contact the Fund's Particpant Services Department.


Please contact Nicole LeBlanc, Administrative Counsel, at (818) 755-7777 ext. 806, or before you prepare your final settlement.