Orchestra Musicians x Gramex

Dear orchestra musician,

Did you know that Gramex royalties are the responsibility of orchestra musicians whenever the orchestra makes recordings? Join us in developing common practices to ensure that royalties are properly distributed! Getting started is easy: familiarize yourself with the information and make sure the basics are in order. Also, please share this information with your colleagues in person and on social media.

– Gramex & the Finnish Musicians’ Union –

The Gramex royalty paid to musicians for performances on recordings is a significant part of income generation and professional recognition for many. However, sometimes when working with larger bands or orchestras, Gramex matters may be overlooked, or their practical organization may be challenging. Orchestra musician colleagues share tips on how to handle Gramex matters properly, even in the orchestra field.

The biggest challenge in handling Gramex matters for orchestras is often a lack of information.

“As a freelance musician, I’ve recorded a lot of music in various genres over the years – including classical recordings with different orchestras. In the field of popular music, the procedures are clear, and Gramex royalties are almost always taken care of, but when recording with symphony orchestras, the issue is usually not raised by the employer,” says freelance musician, national Shop Steward of the Finnish Musicians’ Union, and trombonist-percussionist Juho Viljanen.

For some orchestra musicians, Gramex matters become familiar already from school – or from tips from colleagues.

“I became aware of Gramex’s membership when I came to study in Helsinki; especially during studio gigs. Experienced musicians guided us through the process. It’s worth reminding colleagues,” says cellist and chief shop steward of the Tapiola Sinfonietta Janne Aalto.

According to Heini Eklund, a violinist with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and chairman of the orchestra’s musicians’ association, fortunately, there is already a lot of information available about Gramex matters. However, action is still needed.

“Probably everyone in Finland knows about Gramex; it’s well-known. Yet many orchestra musicians are not Gramex members. That would be the first step.”

Iiris Lehtonen, the Executive Director of the Finnish Symphony Orchestras Association, representing Finland’s professional symphony orchestras, recognizes the importance of information from the employers’ perspective as well:

“Sometimes, what seems like an easy matter may have been left incomplete due to sheer lack of information or gaps in communication. It’s beneficial for everyone that awareness is being raised and things are being put in order. Ultimately, the issue isn’t really complicated at all.”

The Finnish Symphony Orchestras Association, along with orchestra administrations, is also involved in the Orkesterimuusikot X Gramex information campaign.

“We’re actively sharing information about Gramex matters with artistic directors and other administrative personnel,” Lehtonen confirms.

Gramex compensations are every musician’s personal right whenever recordings are made. They are an important part of livelihood and professional recognition.

“Gramex compensations and the system created for them contribute to our musicians’ recognition in every way and also build internal self-esteem. We should be proud of the high level at which classical music recordings are made in this country. Musicians themselves deserve to be compensated for this work,” says Janne Aalto of the Tapiola Sinfonietta.

The popularity of orchestral music has increased globally in recent years, which is also reflected in the sums paid out by Gramex to performers. Especially for the use of classical music, more compensation is being collected internationally.

“Thanks to the increased international demand for orchestral music and Gramex’s activity, the amounts paid out are no longer insignificant. For an actively recording musician, the sum can be equivalent to a couple of months’ net salary over a few years. On the other hand, even small compensations accumulate to be paid out when the five-euro payout threshold is exceeded,” says Aalto.

Handling Gramex matters is straightforward: first, ensure that all musicians are Gramex customers. Membership is free, and you can join online.

Next, decide together with your orchestra colleagues how you want the payouts to be handled. Does each individual receive their share of the compensation directly into their own account from Gramex, or are the compensations collectively paid to, for example, a musicians’ association? If collective payouts are desired, it must be noted that individual payouts must be arranged for each member if they wish. The right to compensation is personal.

“We believe that the compensations that belong to us as musicians should go to us musicians. Hopefully, after a long debate, we at the Tapiola Sinfonietta will transition to individual payouts,” says Janne Aalto.

In the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the musicians’ own association has so far wanted to handle the compensation payouts through the musicians’ association.

“Whenever there’s a recording, I receive lists from the technicians, listing all the musicians appearing on the recording: both permanent employees and freelancers. After that, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra Musicians’ Association, of which I am the chairperson, handles the matter. I individually ask each musician on the recording for a transfer authorization, which specifies that they authorize the collective payout of compensation from the recording to the musicians’ association. In the future, we might also transition to individual payouts. However, different orchestras have different situations and varying numbers of recordings, so the matter must be agreed upon among the musicians of each orchestra,” says Heini Eklund.

According to Eklund, the position of freelancers must be improved in the future: they should receive individual payouts. Shop Steward Viljanen agrees.

“Information about freelancers performing on the orchestra’s recordings and their Gramex numbers must be collected. Compensation for freelance musicians should always be paid out individually. Freelancers do not benefit from or participate in the advantages or activities of a communal musicians’ association,” emphasizes Shop Steward Viljanen.

In addition to Gramex membership, it’s crucial to remember to gather the information of all the musicians in the lineup at the time of recording. This information is included in the recording notification, usually filed by the producer or record label. Orchestras should establish their own administrative routine for collecting the details of artists featured on recordings.

“For example, in Vantaa Entertainment Orchestra, the Gramex number is requested directly on the same form as tax and account information,” says Janne Aalto of Tapiola Sinfonietta.

“In the end, it’s not really complicated; it’s actually quite simple when all parties know and do their part. At its simplest: when making a recording, identify the musicians involved and gather all their Gramex numbers for the record label or producer, who then submits the recording notification to Gramex. We have a good system in Finland, and by following it, things fall into place,” Aalto concludes.

  1. Join Gramex as a customer – it’s free. Get your own Gramex number for yourself. Every musician is individually entitled to compensation whenever recordings are made.
  2. Decide. Coordinate with your musician colleagues on how you want to handle the payments. If you want to deviate from individual payments and prefer to handle them through, for example, the musicians’ association, agree on this together and put it in writing.
  3. Collect. Ensure that the information of all musicians in the ensemble – including assistants and guests – is included in the recording notification at the time of recording. The producer of the recording is responsible for submitting the recording notification to Gramex in Finland.
  4. Check. You can also verify that all your recordings are registered with Gramex. Especially check recordings made with foreign producers, as they may not always be reported to Gramex. You can check your own information, for example, by emailing tilitys@gramex.fi or by logging in to the MyGramex portal with your customer ID.

For over 30 years, Alba Records’ Timo Ruottinen has been one of the go-to figures for producing orchestral and choral music recordings in Finland. Throughout its tenure, Alba Records has produced thousands of recordings, collaborating with hundreds of orchestras and choirs that employ professional musicians.

According to Ruottinen, the essence of properly handling Gramex compensation lies in compiling the lineup list, which includes the names of artists performing on the recording.

“Gramex compensation is only paid for recordings that are reported to Gramex. As a producer, we take care of making the report, but it’s often challenging for us to obtain information about hundreds of musicians or singers: sometimes, we don’t get any information about the performers at all, or it’s pieced together bit by bit. This is where orchestras could also help the process: gather information about the musicians who performed on the recordings, along with their Gramex numbers (or date of birth if the number is unavailable), on a per-piece basis at the time of recording and provide them all at once to the producer. This way, the report can be completed promptly and comprehensively—and the compensation can find its way to the right recipients,” explains Ruottinen.

From the producer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter whether orchestral musicians or choir members decide to transfer their Gramex compensation collectively or individually.

“Of course, for the producer, it doesn’t matter whether the performers’ Gramex compensation is transferred collectively at the ensemble level or individually at the personal level. Performers receive half of the Gramex compensation, one way or another. But performers should consider this from an economic standpoint: if recordings made by their own group are few and far between, and they are rarely played worldwide, the five euro transfer threshold may not be exceeded in personal transfers. In that case, it may be worth considering transferring compensation through the orchestra’s or choir’s collective route,” Ruottinen suggests.

More information

Gramex: The customer service for musicians and producers

Heli Kosunen, Service Developer
+358 10 248 9201

Tarja Henriksson, Client Manager
+358 10 248 9207

The Finnish Musicians’ Union

Mirkka Kivilehto, Head of Contracts

Sanni Kahilainen, Communications Manager