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