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Before You Sign a Music Producer Contract

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Man using audio mixing board
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A contract with your producer is an important part of the recording process. Music producer contracts protect everyone involved in the recording by explicitly detailing duties and compensation. Many times, up and coming musicians are tempted to sign a production contract that they don't understand just to get a big name producer on board. Bad move. Production contracts are famous for being one of those little things that sneak up and bite you when your career takes off. Before you sign a contract with a producer, make sure you understand it. This guide will help both musicians AND producers figure out a fair deal.

 

Learn the Lingo

 

Before you jump into the world of record producer contracts, there's some vocab you'll need to know. Check out these glossary definitions before going any further.

 

Know the Job Description

 

Some producers are VERY hands on, and others, well, aren't. What kind of producer do you want on the job? The production contract should specify exactly what is expected of the producer. Will they be arranging songs? Creating beats? Or, do you want a producer to basically make sure the songs are being properly recorded and stay out of the creative stuff? The nature of your relationship with the producer should be decided up front, and it should be spelled out in the contract.

     

    Pick Your Points - Part One

     

    Points are a producer's bread and butter. Each point represents a percentage of income from record sales that a producer will receive. The number of points a producer gets is commensurate with their experience and track record. Some big name producers get 5+ points on an album while a producer trying to get started in the biz may work for no points at all.

    When it comes to points, not only do you have to decide how many the producer will get, but you need to decide if these will be record one royalties and if the points will increase if the album passes pre-established sales goals.

       

      Pick Your Points - Part Two

       

      When you settle in on the points to be awarded to a producer, you also need to figure out if the points will be payable on retail price or dealer price and if the producer will be subject to the same manufacturing "charge" by the label that you as the artist pays.

         

        Producer Advance

         

        Your contract should state whether or not the producer will be paid an advance for their work. A producer advance is common, but if you are working with an up and coming producer rather than an established one, you may be able to work out a deal that does not include an advance.

           

          Mixing Rights

           

          Some production contracts include a clause that gives a producer first refusal on remixes of a project. If this clause is in place, it means that if you are unhappy with the final product and want to take it to someone else to mix it, you may have to allow this producer to try and make some changes first. This clause is not ideal for you as a musician - try to negotiate it away.

             

            Who is Paying for All This Anyway?

             

            Your contract needs to state who is responsible for paying the producer. Is it you, or do you have a record label footing the bill? If a third party is paying the bill, a producer will want some kind of written clarification of who will be responsible for settling up if the project goes over budget. If you have an all in deal, that could be you, the musician. The ideal set up is for you to take the hit for budget overages that you cause and the producer to take on the overages that they cause.

               

              You Don't Own Me

               

              A few misplaced words could give your producer a piece of the ownership of the finished product. Avoid this conflict by stating clearly that any finished recordings and masters are owned exclusively by you.

                 

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