UK, what session fee to pay?

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    hi Folks,
    I am about to begin recording a song i wrote, I would like a friend to play accordion and possibly piano on it. I may need him to do an accordion solo which I have not written so unless i base it on the vocal melody of the song (already written by me), he may come up with something that works better.

    The song will be sent/pitched to music libraries with the intention of TV/film placements. In the past he has done a piano part for me (with a solo) and he has been kind enough to agree to wait for a placement before I paid him a fee (which I did). We have gigged together for years and I want to pay him fairly. I am prepared to take a chance that the song may not get a placement although I have a strong belief that it will. I would get him to sign a release form on completion of the session.
    My questions are:
    1) What kind of fee ballpark figure would be fair if I need him to record and perform a solo as well as rhythm chords on accordion. Even dollar fee suggestions are useful to me as a guide.
    2) If he does a solo that he composes should I give him a cut of the copyright, if so what percentage?
    3) If i need him to also record piano what would be a resonable extra fee for recording a second instrument?
    He has said to me in the past that he would love to record more with me but I don’t want to compromise our friendship by getting him to do it as a ‘favour’, I am aware that this could potentially cause problems in the future especially if the track does well with sync fees and royalties without him having been paid enough or not at all (which I wouldn’t do).
    My sister who is a singer will record vocals and she is happy to wait for some revenue for me to pay her a session fee, we work closely together as performing artists and teachers and have trust and open communication.

    Any suggestions or advice would be much appreciated, many thanks.. JD

    Art Munson


    Rhythm Scott

    Have you tried asking your friend what their recording fee is, normally? Even if they don’t do a lot of session recording and don’t have a normal fee, I often find it easier to start a money negotiation by having the other person make the first offer.

    That being said, as a session drummer in Denver, I’m happy if I get $100/track but have also done sessions for $50/track. As far as a cut of the copyright, usually on jazz recordings, players who are hired don’t earn part of the copyright by performing a solo – only the composer who wrote the main melody & accompanying chord changes that the soloists are playing over retains ownership.

    Regarding the piano & accordion parts, I’d probably just ask if he’d be willing to do both for $100 total. You can always start somewhere and negotiate as you go.

    Michael Nickolas

    We have gigged together for years and I want to pay him fairly.

    The last friend I hired was a clarinet player, he played a written melody and improvised solos on two songs. I paid $200. That said I often work on trade with friends and find that works real well. As in you contribute something to my project and I’ll contribute to yours. Why keep passing the same $200 around?


    I deal with session players quite a bit, and here’s what I do..

    1) A Solo, is not an actual part of the Writing/Composing of the song. So, it is “usually” just considered a “session”.
    2) If you have more than one purpose that you will need them for, simply be absolutely clear about what you will be needing, and work out a fee that is comfortable to both.
    3) If this person is working thru an organization, or “some type” of Union. Ask them what those fees are, and what “hourly rate & minimum” would seem fair.
    4) Have everything clearly written up in a “Work For Hire/Session Musician Waiver” to make it absolutely clear what the terms and expectations are.

    Once everything is in “Writing” at your discretion you can always go back to the person(s) and give them a “Bonus payment or gratuity”.

    Hope that helps.


    I I think the price is all over the place depending on what, where and who is doing it. I have paid as low as $50 a song up to $1500 a song for a singer who is more well known and better than everybody else. I think getting everybody to sign a Work for Hire agreement is the way to go for sure. You want to walk away form the session owning the product fully and not have to worry about paying anybody in the future. Especially for Production music. At least that is my feeling. Your situation may be different.


    I have no experience in the UK. In the States, Beatslinger’s advice is solid. However, in the UK, given the very strong trade unions, it might not be so simple.
    I found this web page from the UK Musician’s Union regarding session musicians. It might give you some guidance. If your friend is a union member s/he may not have leeway in what must be paid.


    Thanks to everyone for your helpful comments.
    I know my friend is not a musician’s union member (not trying to take advantage of him because of this).
    I am glad to know that a solo from a session musician would not require giving away a copyright share and I don’t think he would expect one. For this song I will probably have the solo melody based around the lead vocal one as the more I think about it, I realise that that is what will work.
    I would of course get him to sign a release form which I think is the UK equivalent of a WFH form in the USA.
    I have signed such a form here when I have done sessions and have understood it to mean that I have no future claim of further payment and that I have been paid a stated amount.
    I gave up my own Union membership last year as I found that subscription was costing me too much for what amounted to the included public liability insurance (while doing gigs etc). I found the same cover independently for much less (and from the same underwriter). I did use the union legal advice a couple of times to check out library contracts but learned how to understand them myself through that. I also found that the unions understanding of the typical library contract was not so helpful as they came at it from the direction of a commercial or record label type deal so the advice was not always appropriate to the music library deal I was considering.
    Regarding a session fee for my friend I think the best approach is to be clear about what I want him to record, agree on a fee and get him sign the release form on completion . If the session ends up taking longer then pay him more. I will probably offer around £100 for 2 instruments (plus a bit more for travel costs to get to my studio) which I think he will be happy with but obviously negotiate a fee that both of us are OK with.
    He is a composer himself and has had his work in a film (in Latin America I think) and also performed here in the UK. I have been urging him to join PRS which as yet he hasn’t done,
    Alternatively as suggested above, we could agree to do a favor for a favor if he needs my skills (guitar /vocals/production) in return for the session. I am sure we can work out the best deal that suits both of us.
    Thanks again for all your thoughts which have helped me get clarity on the topic.


    Here in the US, I usually pay $100-$150 (Usually $150 min. for a good vocalist) for a session and of course, have them sign a work-for-hire release. That being said, if the amount of work is more than a typical session, I could see paying more. By “session” I mean one instrument or a vocal performance (lead + harmonies) on one song. Everything is negotiable.

    Another option if you are asking someone to do something that is more work intensive and really “makes” the song, you *could* offer a co-write. However, my practice is co-writes are always equal shares, the way most professionals do it. So it would be 50% (IMHO). A downside is they would have to sign off on any future contract for the song. Most do that easily but once in a while you get a PITA person.


    Thanks Advice for your thoughts., they more or less tally with mine, good to know I am on the right track. As the music and lyrics are completely written (have performed the song multiple times) it is unlikely to need more than the tracking of the instrument(s) mentioned so a writer split shouldn’t be needed in this case.
    Much appreciated!


    My lawyer said that we do not have to worry about paying the immigrant visa fee until my husband is back in the US. I believe that advice contradicts what I am reading on this site…that you need to pay the fee before entering the US. Can you clarify this please? Thank you

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