In the real world, session musicians get payed for the recording session, and a bit more if the song or album sells a considerable amount. We pay the studio musicians according to the Limited Pressing Scale, which simply means that they are paid up through 10,000 copies of your project. If you sell more than 10,000 units, you would pay the musicians a bit more to bump them up to the Master Scale.
Let’s look at a typical session player’s pay for a demo session, a limited pressing session and a master session (typical session being 3 hrs in length). Information readily available at http://www.nashvillemusicians.org
Demo: $156 Limited Pressing: $196.50 Master: $380.02
Taking into consideration that on top of session scale fees you need to contribute to the pension & health and welfare fund (11.9% and $22.50 respectively), here is a breakdown of a typical 3hr Limited Pressing Scale session using a six piece band compromised of A list players (they have played on many Master Scale sessions and you’ve heard them on the radio).
A recording session done “on the card” (using musician union players & paying union scale) always has a band leader, who in turn gets paid double the sideman rate. This person is responsible for writing the charts, hiring the band and helping the session run smoothly, as well as being a musical “leader”.
Bandleader: $393 (session fee) + $46.77(pension contribution) + $22.50 (health & welfare contribution) = $462.27
Sideman: $196.50 (session fee) + $23.38(pension contribution) +$22.50 (health & welfare contribution) = $242.38
Session total: 462.27 + 5(242.38) = $1674.17
A usual session can contain up to 5 songs, but I find it best to cut 4 songs max. The more time you can dedicate to each track the better they will turn out.