Music producers generally elicit and capture artists’ performances in the recording studio to produce artistically, commercially, and technically acceptable master recordings. Often times, the artist-producer relationship is laid back and casual due to the nature of the music industry and the people therein. Some artists and producers avoid explicitly discussing the details of their relationship as it can negatively influence the workflow and creative atmosphere when there is too much business and money talk. Nevertheless, the artist-producer relationship is one of the most important relationships that exist in the music industry and there are key contract terms to discuss when both parties are ready to get down to business.
When is an Artist/Producer Contract Necessary?
If an artist is simply working with a producer to explore new sounds or to learn about each other’s creative styles, a contract may not be immediately necessary. However, once they have decided to collaborate on a project, each party should express their intentions clearly in order to avoid excessive confusion in the future. For example, the parties should discuss whether they intend to be joint authors in the musical work or whether the recording will be considered a work made for hire. Generally, an agreement should be in place when there is money on the table or significant risk involved, however, both artists and producers should speak to a music attorney in order to assess the risk involved in pursuing a relationship without a written agreement in place and calculate the cost of negotiating and drafting such an agreement.
It is important to note that as an artist or producer progresses in their career as a creative professional, they may enter into other contracts with record labels, publishers, and other artists. Some of these agreements may require the artist to make certain representations and warranties regarding their rights in their music and their ownership of the relevant intellectual property. This means that the artist or producer must have agreements in place with any individual who contributed to the creation of the musical work so that it is clear (from a legal perspective) who owns the copyright in the masters and/or the compositions and so that they can make the promises
The Material Terms and Issues of the Artist/Producer Contract
Ownership and control of the master recording must be explicitly stated in the contract. The artist will typically be adamant about keeping 100% ownership in the master especially in circumstances where the producer has been properly compensated for their time and work. However, where more fluid relationships are concerned, the producer may be working for free or they may make extensive creative contributions to the extent that said producer would expect to receive some portion of the master recording.
Master Royalty Split:
Royalties and/or “points” are the percentage of income from record sales that an artist or producer will receive.
Producers are typically also given a percentage of the musical composition based on their contributions during the songwriting process. This is done by having the parties sign a split sheet indicating, for example, a 50/50 split or some other division based on the number of parties involved (studio musicians, band members, featured artists, etc.).
Producer’s reputations lie in the tracks they receive credit for; therefore, producers often seek proper and specific recognition. The producer agreement may include specific credit language that should be used in connection with the song. Also, the parties may limit each other’s ability to license the music they create by requiring one party to obtain written approval from the other party before they can enter into a sync license agreement.
Some producers are paid an hourly rate for their time, while others are paid a flat fee for specific services including recording, mixing and mastering. Furthermore, there are producers who prefer to receive points on the back end or a larger ownership percentage of the master or composition in exchange for a much smaller fee up front.