Isn't it nice how all the superstars seem to be playing instruments
and singing background on everybody else's records? These
nonfeatured appearances are known as sideman performances,
and there is hopefully a trend toward calling them sideperson
performances. Now that you're educated, don't you wonder how
this is possible? Doesn't it violate the exclusivity provisions
of the superstar's agreement when he sings background for
his pals on another label?
The answer is that there is a strong custom in the industry
(and indeed you can have the provision inserted in your contract
just by asking), that sideman performances are freely permitted,
on the following conditions:
- The performance must be truly a background performance,
without any solos, duets or "stepping out."
- Your exclusive company must get a "courtesy credit" in
the form of--"Artist appears through the courtesy of _______ Records."
Before I started in music I always thought they did that
just to be nice.
- You can't violate your re-recording restrictions for any
selection, even as a background performer.
- If you're a group, no more than two of you can perform
together on any particular session. This is because your
record company doesn't want your distinctive sound showing
up on another label.
There is an exchange of correspondence between the record
companies giving sidemen clearance in each specific instance,
but this is usually just a rubber stamp process (unless one
company is having a fight with the other about something unrelated
to the sideman). After all, if one of the companies makes
an issue of it, they won't have such an easy go the next time
that the other company's artist shows up as a sideman on their
label. The process is something like porcupines dancing carefully
with each other.