Limited Pressing Session Budget

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

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.

Demo vs. Master-Which should I record?

Ah, the age old question. Here’s how I break it down.

A demo is a “demonstration” recording of your song that will be used to “pitch” to recording artists. Usually these recordings are made (paid for) by music publishers and/or songwriters, with no intent to sell the recordings.

A master recording is something that you plan on selling via cd’s or digital downloads. Since many demo studios have the gear to produce master recordings, and since the talent pool is so great in town, it is highly feasible to record a “master” in a “demo” studio. Difference is, you MUST pay the musicians a different (higher) rate for the session. This schedule of fee’s is called a “limited pressing scale” or “master” scale. When paying the musicians “limited pressing scale” you are authorized to make up to 10,000 copies of your product to sell via cd’s or digital downloads. Master scale costs even more, and is used when the project is expected to sell more than 10,000 units (major label, etc).

Here are two examples of the Nashville Musicians Union Scale/Wage Chart. Compare the slight difference between demo and limited pressing rates.

For a full list of rates, scales and other wonderfully valuable insight, please check out the Nashville Musicians Association website.

Demo Scale

Limited Pressing Scale

It all starts with a song

Song Selection

Let’s first assume that you’ll be looking for some terrific Nashville tunes for your project. These are songs written by hit writers here in town that haven’t found their way to radio yet. One of the things I hear all the time is, “Wow, that song is so great…..! Why isn’t it on the radio?”.

Let’s be honest. Nashville is filled with thousands of good writers, hundreds of great writers, dozens of songwriting legends, and only a relatively few spots on the radio for hit singles. This town is absolutely brimming with “hit” songs that will never be heard by the general public. It’s my job as a producer to help you find great big songs that fit your unique style, voice and musical expectations.

I have forged some wonderful friendships and co-writes with great writers in town, so I have a pretty big catalog of songs to pick from. Of course, not all songwriters let their songs go to independent artists, but many do. I’ve had 100% success in finding the right songs for my projects, it just takes some time and a little homework.

Some of my clients bring in their own songs and we create some awesome tracks! Maybe you’ve written some stuff that needs a little creative attention, or just needs some brushing up. That’s cool, we can do that. But if the songs stink, sorry, I’m gonna tell you. Plain and simple.


In order to pay the rent (or maybe just buy a gallon of milk, I’ve had those checks too) songwriters rely on royalty income from the songs they’ve written. But get this, when you record one of their songs, you only have to pay around .09 cents per song/per album.Β  So if you put 10 songs on an album, your total royalty payment would be around .91 cents per album. Small change considering the quality of songs you can find if you know where to look.

There’s a little paperwork involved too, called mechanical/compulsory licensing. Basically, this is the contract you make with the publisher (songwriter) stating the details of the recording (album title, artist, track length, label, number of copies) plus your required fee. Sometimes you deal dirctly with the publisher, and sometimes you can do all the licensing (including payments) online using a service like The Harry Fox Agency.

Contact me with any questions you may have.

Demystifying the Nashville Recording Process

County Q Studios tracking room
County Q Studios, Nashville TN

I keep busy throughout the year producing artists from around the country and most of them are experiencing the Nashville recording experience for the first time. In addition to the excitement of making a “record” in Nashville, there comes the importance of getting the most value for your budget, using proper time management and correctly completing the necessary contractual paperwork to record and distribute music.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who come to Nashville only to be ripped off by a less than honest producer or manager. Every chance I get, I try to educate aspiring artists about the true nature of the recording process; what to expect, what not to expect, and most importantly, where the money goes. Be wary of “project quotes” that don’t have every single expense clearly written in black and white. If your producer can’t tell you what something really costs (or give a very close estimate), move on! Trust me on this one!

There are many different scenarios that bring people to Nashville to record. Certainly the most common is the opportunity to make music with the most talented musicians and engineers on the planet earth. I’m not kidding. I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and I never cease to be blown away very time I sit behind a recording console and watch the magic happen. It’s hard to describe, but easy to hear.

So, in my future blog posts I’ll share some of the responsibilities I have as a producer/songwriter, and I’ll describe the recording process from start (looking for songs) to finish (holding the finished cd in your hand). I’ll include real world budget figures too.

Feel free to contact me with questions.