You're probably here because you're a musician looking for a gig, or you might be an AD or UPM, music supervisor or other film maker curious about how to hire and deploy sideline (on-camera) and/or recording musicians.  We'll make this easy for you either way.  Visual Music Service (VMS) works with all kinds of music and musicians. If you're interested in working with us as a musician or as a film maker using our services, here's what you'll need to know.


This is the correct term for on-camera musicians.  They may be pantomiming or actually playing and/or recording as they are being filmed.  When a production company is a party to the AFM (American Federation of Musicians; an international labor union) master contracts for film and television, anyone depicted playing an instrument should be working under an AFM contract unless they are a speaking performer or they are primarily singing (as opposed to mostly playing an instrument).  In either of the latter cases they would be covered under a SAG/AFTRA contract.  Like any labor agreement the AFM contract specifies hours and amounts for each employment case, working conditions, meal intervals, payment conditions, wardrobe requirements, and more.

AFM sideline musicians are not "extras" or "background actors.  They are full-time, professional musicians using their talent and craft on camera.  They are often the same musicians that might later play on the score of a TV show, film or new-media project.  They may have also (in the case of musicians working with VMS - frequently) recorded the music they will be seen playing. AFM sideline musicians on a set are treated as cast and crew - they eat the same food and have the same privacy, parking and care requirements as the featured actors and talented craftspeople around them. These protections and guarantees extend as well to non-union members who are working under an AFM contract.  

A production that is not signatory to the master contract can become AFM-sanctioned through the use of an "assumption agreement."  For more about this, contact your payroll provider, the AFM local in your area or get in touch with VMS and we'll show you how easy it is to work with professional musicians on any project.  There are low-budget agreements that can help almost any production become a union production and thus gain access to the best in professional musicians for on-camera and off-camera work.

Rick Fleishman of VMS often functions as a "music contractor." This means he secures the services of sideline and/or recording musicians for productions or other clients.  As such he, and all VMS personnel, subscribe to certain rules and conditions - some mandated by the AFM, some simply based on tradition and "best practices."  The roots of this company go back to the people who made these rules.  Respecting tradition and embracing change, our concern is always to do the right thing.



Musicians engaged to play on a score, song, or in any capacity on a signatory production are working under an AFM contract that determines the length of time they can work, the amount of music to be recorded in that time period, and other factors.  Music that is pre-recorded for use as playback for sideline musicians and music recorded on-set is subject to the same contract. Musicians that record during a sideline engagement are paid recording scale in addition to the sideline scale.


  • A VMS leader, contractor or other qualified person is always on set or in the studio for the entire length of the shooting day or recording session to supervise the musicians and provide help of any kind. The VMS leader and/or contractor (if more than nine musicians are contracted) appear on the AFM contract and are paid double all scale amounts.  There are additional fees added if twenty musicians or more are contracted.  VMS can prepare a detailed budget in advance, exclusive of items we can't control - overtime, meal penalties, unanticipated changes that take place "on the day" - so you'll know what to expect.
  • If necessary, VMS provides photos of prospective on-camera musicians via a private web link.
  • VMS is the liaison between production staff and musicians.   We will distribute call time, location and parking info, wardrobe and gear requirements to all musicians.  One call to us takes care of everything.
  • VMS knows all requirements - what the musicians can and cannot be asked to do on a set -and our musicians are pros who know what's expected of them and want to do a great job for you.  
  • VMS handles all AFM and SAG/AFTRA (where applicable) paperwork as well as IRS and DHS forms, and works with all payroll providers so you won't ever have to worry about payroll and paperwork. 
  • We also offer solutions for emerging film makers, new-media producers, off-network television, indie music and film producers and other forms of non-traditional production.  Contact us; we want to work with you.


Visual Music Service is always looking for new people.  Young, old, niche music styles, ethnic or unusual music or instruments - your thing just might be the next big thing and we want you in our files. Here's what to do:

Email a photo and a sample of your playing, or a link to a website (not a Facebook page). With your permission, we can copy photos and audio from your site.  

  • Photos should be clear, current and show your face and body type.  A picture with your instrument is best.  You don't need a pro headshot for VMS, but send a good picture.
  • We work primarily with full-time professional musicians and singers, mostly on union projects, so membership in AFM or SAG/AFTRA (for singers) is helpful though not mandatory. If it's going to be your first time on a union contract you may be obligated to join the appropriate union for your next gig. In either case, even as a non-member your rights will be protected on a union contract.
  • There is never a fee to be on the VMS database and we don't take a percentage of your earnings.  We are not an agency or manager.  
  • You must have pro-level ability and pro gear.  You have to be able to execute the music you're hearing on-set.  For recording sessions or pre-records, sight-reading ability might be needed, depending on the type of music being tracked.
  • Familiarity with diverse musical styles (unless you're a specialist), and appropriate clothes for the music you perform.   A surprisingly large percentage of scenes that involve sideline musicians are weddings, "charity balls" and other formal occasions, so a tuxedo or formal wear is a good thing to have also.
  • Know how to work with email, PDF and MP3 files.
  • Be prepared to bring proof of identity to each gig. We will let you know which documents are appropriate.  We will need your Social Security number and other identity information for payroll and DHS forms.  VMS does not retain or share this information.  
  • VMS works with music and musicians only; VMS does not work with or represent actors or background actors ("extras"). 


Acting is a noble profession; it's just not what we do and we don't know much about it. We're not an agency or manager. VMS gets many requests from actors to be listed with us as musicians.  If you are primarily an actor but you meet the above requirements, submit your info to us, especially if you are already AFM.  Be clear, though, that you will probably not be working on a SAG/AFTRA contract or voucher when you work with VMS.  We do not generally recommend agents or managers; there are simply too many for us to know who is reliable and who is not and, like we said, we really don't know much about this field and don't want to lead you astray.

In general, actors' agents/managers DO charge a fee for representing you.  Their business is based on this model and it's legal and necessary for them to do so: they will promote your career and they get paid a percentage of your earnings for their efforts.  AS your earnings increase, so do your agent's and your manager's.  If they're doing a good job for you, they deserve the reward.

A few actors' resources that are time-tested are listed below.  VMS does not endorse or in any way guarantee that these will help you, though others have found them helpful in the past:

  • SAG/AFTRA - the union for on-camera actors, singers, dancers and variety performers.  The Los Angeles branch can be reached at 323 954.1600;
  • Central Casting is the best-known agency for background actors for all types of media. 818 562.2755;
  • Actors' Equity is the union for live stage productions. 323 978.8081;