Monday, March 26, 2012

Needs Music Producer Agreement

Dear Rich: I have your Music Law book but it doesn't contain an agreement that can be used with a music producer. I am an artist and need a producer agreement. There are a few music producer agreements floating around the interweb but before you start downloading, keep in mind that these agreements come in three major flavors:

  • record company/producer agreement. In this arrangement, a record company hires a producer to produce a song or an album. Even though the record company hires the producer, the payment typically comes from the artist. That is, the record company pays the producer and then later deducts that cost from the artist royalties. The royalties that are paid to the producer, often in addition to the producing fee, are also usually deducted from the artist royalty. So, for example, if the artist is getting a 15% royalty, the artist may have to pay 3 or 4% of that to the producer. This type of production agreement usually includes a few major components including: the producer assigns copyright to the label, the producer takes on some specific administrative tasks -- for example, hiring the studio or paying musicians, and the producer performs certain production tasks in terms of delivering acceptable master recordings. 
  • artist/producer agreement. In this case, the artist, not a record company, hires the producer. This is a common course of action for an indie artist who wants to release music directly or wants a suitable master to shop to a record company. In this case, there may be a flat fee (say $500 per song) and no royalty payments. This type of agreement would include an assignment of all copyright to the artist, as well as a detailed listing of the producer's obligations. Typically, in this situation, the artist pays for the studio and any extra costs. 
  • spec agreement - production company/artist. In this situation, a production company or producer agrees to produce a song or an album, often on spec (that is, without an upfront payment), and in return, the production company usually helps to shop the final product and obtains various future rights. These may include future royalties, part-ownership in songwriting, a percentage of any record company advances or even more, such as dibs on merchandise. 
Putting together an agreement? We're going to assume you don't need the first or the third agreements, mentioned above. Both of those are fairly complex and are usually prepared by lawyers.  You might be able to prepare an informal, enforceable version of the second type of agreement -- an agreement between an artist and a producer -- by yourself, particularly if you already know and get along with the producer. A bare-bones version would contain the following provisions: (a) an assignment of all copyright for work created, performed or produced by the producer,  (b) a schedule for payment and delivery, (c) a division of labor --  who does what and pays for what and a system for resolving disputes. Payment should be fixed (per track) and you may want to set it up to make the payment in stages based upon delivery of the tracks. You might also want to include an approval process although such provisions are tough to create and difficult to enforce.