This month I decided to respond to a question that was emailed to me from Daniel H. He asks: “I had a Producer tell me that if we recorded a project, I would own the songs but he would own the actual recordings…is that true?”
This is actually a fantastic question and one that every artist needs to ask when working with a Producer / record label / etc. The answer, however, can be a bit complicated depending on the situation: are you working with a label, indie Producer, etc? If you have written ten songs and record them with a producer, usually you will own all of the publishing rights to the original material; because you are the author of the songs. But the producer will almost always be co-owner of the master recordings. This is because of his “sonic fingerprint” – any overdubs, re-takes, or any significant suggestions he might make during the recording process give him part ownership of what winds up on the final master cd, and therefore the ears of anyone listening. So in essence, yes, the Producer owns a portion of the master recordings. Of course you can always try to negotiate full ownership of the masters in any contract you sign, but a scenario where the Producer owns half of the masters is typical.
So what does that actually mean in terms of sales? It can mean one of two things depending on the type of agreement you sign with your Producer. If you sign a back end deal, it means that any money made off of the sale of the record will be split to some degree with the Producer… this can also be called “points”. If you pay a flat fee to the Producer up front, it means you can go your separate ways monetarily speaking, when the project is completed; and you won’t have any financial obligations to the Producer beyond that. This is usually how it is done in the Indie world.
If a Producer says that he wants to have points on the record, that can be an opportunity for you to discuss a discounted rate for the up-front fee. Sometimes, when the Producer really believes in your music, he might even offer a free-of-charge recording in exchange for points on the back-end. These arrangements can be great for Indie Artists who don’t have the money to spend up front, but a word of caution: the points system can become complicated, so make sure you have good legal counsel when drawing up points-based recording agreements. Even recording agreements where you pay for your project up front can sometimes be complicated, so make sure you always fully understand what you are signing, but as long as both parties are fully aware and in agreement, the process should go smoothly.
This month PopGun studios is offering one lucky artist the chance to win a free production consultation as well as studio and production time with Dustin! To be considered all you have to do is send an MP3 along with a brief bio of yourself and your contact information to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be selected this month and announced in next month’s newsletter. PopGun looks forward to receiving your submissions! Good Luck!