Music Producer Agreements – Before You Sign the Contract

Music producers are the unsung heroes of the music industry… the creative and talented force that transforms a group of musicians in studio into a platinum album. If you are a music producer, or an artist preparing to work with a music producer, here are a number of things that you need to know before entering into a recording or production contract.

At the most basic level, a music producer is paid per hour or a flat fee for studio time in which he or she records a bands music. At the highest level, a superstar producer writes beats, harmonies, contributes lyrics and is as well known as the artist singing. If you are paying a fee to a producer who contributes nothing to the music and is not looking for any payment more than his per hour, then this article is irrelevant. If you are that type of producer, or are working with that type of producer, enjoy your time together because the relationship ends when the recording is done.

But what about the well established producers who contribute to a song? Are they entitled to royalties? If so, how much? After all, more and more record labels are allowing producers to find and cultivate talent and then buying out the contracts or purchasing songs for publishing. This has allowed talented producers a great opportunity to hit it big. Do it right and protect yourself by having an experienced music lawyer draft and review your contracts.

There`s no better feeling than just going in and just working with someone and what comes out is something that the world knows about.

Pharrell Williams</blockquote

There are two ways for a high profile producer to be paid. A beat can be purchased for a flat fee, or a contract can be signed assigning producer points. Producer points generally range from 1 to 6 points. 1 point for generally unknown producers and 6 for superstar producers. The points are taken from the musicians royalty rate. For instance, if a musician has a recording contract with 15% royalties and signs a production agreement with 2 points, then the musician will get 13% royalties and the producer will receive 2% royalties. Producers are generally paid “record one” royalties, meaning that they are paid from the first sale and do not have to wait for the record label to recoup their investment before receiving royalties.

I get a half a mil’ from my beats,
you get a couple gra-an-and
I’m a real producer and you just the piano man

Timbaland

In many cases, the producer also collaborates on the composition. In these cases, the producer is entitled to more than the producer royalty. He or she is entitled to a percentage of the copyright and publishing royalties. If the producer is going to contribute music and/or lyrics to a project, his or her percentage is best agreed upon ahead of time, else it can become contentious once the song is completed.

As with anything in the music industry, contracts can get increasingly complicated. It is absolutely best to work with an experienced entertainment lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected.