I just got a check from the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists for $596.70. They were holding it in trust for me, and apparently would have held it forever if my mother hadn't happened to google my name just for the fun of it and found my name on a list of performers owed money. AFTRA didn't know my whereabouts, which is not surprising since I'm not a member of AFTRA.
The money is residuals for an appearance J and I made on an episode of Premium Blend, a show on Comedy Central, in 1998, which they have rerun every summer since. Beats me why this money was sent to AFTRA, a union with which we've never had any affiliation. And why are we being paid residuals for 2005 and 2006 (that's what the check stub says) and not for 1999-2004?
We still get a check for about $13 every year from BMI for this TV appearance. BMI is the organization that collects (some would say extorts) money from radio and TV stations, restaurants, theaters, and other venues that broadcast recorded music and distributes it to the writers and publishers of the songs according to an arcane mathematical formula. That thirteen dollars represents our share of money paid by Viacom (who owns Comedy Central) in royalties to BMI for permission to broadcast songs written by BMI artists. We sometimes get an extra couple bucks every year for radio play in various Eastern European or Scandinavian countries.
Whatever. The check could not have come at a better time, and I'm grateful.
It's a big fucking mess, the way artists get paid (or not, usually) in this country. But I shouldn't complain; I'm usually an advocate of pulling down the whole "intellectual property" paradigm. As soon as I deposit this check, I'm going right back to that stance.