A Guide To Music Producer Agreements

Traditionally, a music producer or record producer is the person who oversees entire production of the artist’s recording(s). Record producers will participate in the recording, mixing, and mastering process, more or less, depending on their level of experience and skill, and on the skills of the other professionals involved.

With the creation of hip-hop music a new kind of producer has arisen that is referred to as a "producer of tracks". He or she wears two hats: one as the creator of the music and one as the producer of the recording of that music. The “producer of tracks” creates and records the music. After that, the artist records vocals to go with the musical track. Some “producers of tracks” will help the artist to complete production of the vocals, but most will not. Instead, the artist will employ a different producer to mix the vocals with the music to obtain a final version of the song.

The music producer contracts that are used for these two types of producers are different and used in different scenarios. And the terms may be different depending on whether the producer is being hired by the artist or the record company.Some of the different types of producer contracts are listed below with a brief explanation of each contract and its purpose.

Record Producer Contract:

This agreement is used by a producer that will produce an entire album for an artist. Even if the producer is producing a hip-hop or pop artist that is using recorded from tracks from other producers, the producer that is helping the artist, group or band perform in the studio, will use this contract. The producer is traditionally paid a fee and an additional "record royalty". A record royalty is an amount paid each time an audio product (CD, digital download, etc.) is sold. This royalty is related to the sale of the master recording used in the audio product.Typically the producer receives 20% to 25% of the royalty the artist is paid from the record company each time an audio product sells. The artist is usually paid between 90 cents and $1.50 for the sale of an entire album or about 9 cents to 15 cents for each single download. The producer is paid 20% to 25% of that amount.

The producer produces the album as a work for hire for the artist or the artist's label. This means that the record label or artist owns the copyright to the recording created. The producer only retains the right to receive a royalty and has no control over the recording. Unless the producer helps the artist writes the songs on the album then the producer is not paid a separate mechanical royalty for the songs just because they help to produce the album. However, some producers help an artist arrange and craft the songs for an artist may attempt to negotiate the right to receive some income from the publishing rights to the songs. This will depend on how much the producer plays in this area, how successful the producer is in creating hit songs. The producer must negotiate this in the contract since by the copyright law they are not a natural owner of the copyright to the songs must because they produce the album.

If the artist is on a record label the label may contract with the producer directly or the label may require the artist to negotiate the contract separately. However, if the artist negotiates and signs the agreement with the artist, the record label may ask the producer to sign a producer declaration. This declaration merely states that the producer has signed an agreement with the artist, the producer will look solely to the artist for payment and that the label will own the copyrights to the recording.

The contract can be used by the producer, record label or artist when a producer is being hired to complete the entire production process of one song, several songs or an entire album.

Producer of Tracks Contract:

The Producer of Tracks Contract is used by a producer that creates only a musical track. An artist or other songwriter will write lyrics to the musical track and the artist will then sing or rap vocals over the musical track in the recording studio.These tracks are usually used by artists in the hip-hop and pop genres. The producer usually creates the music and the music track simultaneously on a computer or electronic musical instrument like a keyboard. Even though this is done in one process, there are two separate copyrights that exist--the copyright to the music (the notes) and the copyright to the recording of the music. The copyright to the music is considered publishing rights and the producer of tracks should retain these rights. The producer of tracks will co-own the song with the person that writes the lyrics and they will share in any publishing income from the song which includes sales of audio products or synchronization income from the song being placed in a movie or television show.

The master recording is simply the recording that the producer created while recording the music. Another person could take the same notes and record live musicians playing the music. The producer of tracks still owns the music, but because a new recording was created with musicians playing the music, the producer does not have rights in the new recordings. Typically, the same recording the producer created is the recording the artist uses in the studio to record over that eventually get mixed together for the audio product.

The producer of tracks, like the producer of an album is paid a fee for the services of creating the recording. The person who hires the producer and pays the fee will own the recording of the music. However, the producer will keep the rights to the music as explained above, and along with the writer of the lyrics and be paid half of the mechanical royalty each time an audio product of the song is sold.The producer of tracks may also negotiate a record royalty just lime the traditional producer. However because the producer of tracks is only producing the music and not the whole album the royalty is a 5% to 8% of what the artist is paid. And this royalty is shared with the other producers of tracks for tracks that appear on an album.The artist pays a total of 5% to 8% to all the producer of tracks and each producer gets his or her share based on how many tracks a producer produced that end up on an album.

This contract can be used by the producer, record label or artist when a producer is creating a musical track that someone else will write lyrics to and that will be used as the musical recording that will be mixed with the artist vocals for the final recording to be released as an audio product.

Producer Development Contract:

This contract is entered into between an artist and a producer when the producer is producing master recordings of the artist that will be shopped to record labels to try to obtain record deal for the artist. The producer, artist or both may be the one sending the recordings to the labels. The contract will address who owns the recordings, who has the right to shop the recordings to labels and what amount of money is paid to the producer for the producers services up front or in the event that the artist receives a deal.

There are many variations of these types of deal. The producer may be paid their full fee, a reduced fee or no fee. The producer may have their own studio and require the artist to pay only for studio costs or none at all. If the artist gets a deal the contract can provide for the producer to be paid a percentage of the advance the artist receives, a flat fee, and/or a royalty from the sale of the recordings released by the artist's label. If the producer is successful in being the person that obtains the deal, the producer may get an extra fee or percentage. The contract may also provide for the artist to use his or her best efforts to get the artist's label to use the producer to produce several tracks on the album or the entire album.

This contract can be used by the producer or artist when an artist is recording demo or master quality recordings that will be used to shop around to record labels to try to obtain a record deal for the artist.

MusicContracts.com has a version of the contracts described above on the website at the following link: Music Production Contracts