How do I get paid for producing an unsigned artist?
March 16, 2008 3:05 PM   Subscribe

I have co-produced a 5 song collection of songs for a friend, who is not in contract with a record label currently, but hopes to get signed. If this should happen, how would I make sure I benefitted financially by the investing my time and expertise into creating this record?, as well as collect any royalties to follow? Would a signed agreement between him and I be enough?
posted by JamesMCS to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
Actually, you should have gotten paid for doing this for him in the first place.
posted by konolia at 3:16 PM on March 16, 2008

This is something usually figured out before it's done.
posted by xmutex at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2008

Producers who do unsigned bands almost never get royalties, they get a flat fee for their work. As said, this is something you should have talked about beforehand -- but most production is work-for-hire, unless you're looking at big names who can demand royalties, and even then the royalties are pretty small - Butch Vig's royalty rate for records like Nevermind and Gish is somewhere around 3%.
posted by Jairus at 3:57 PM on March 16, 2008

I'm not going to nth the whole "take care of this before its done" vibe, because everyone's got to start somewhere - and you didnt' ask the question "Hey, should I do this before or after?"

But, remember that for the next time. :)

The standard rate is around 3%, as Jairus stated. Your issue is this: you produced a record. The lable that signs your friend is not going to use that record, unless you yourself are a fount of untapped talent, and not just a guy with a copy of Garageband.

Thus, you're not going to get anything, nor are you really entitled to anything (in the label's eyes that is) after he gets signed. I know - crap sandwich.

The guy you are friend with owes you a debt of graditude, and maybe free dinner forever. I think you deserve more than that, but thinking realisticly, that's probably all you'll actually get.

Something that could be done, but isn't really all that awesome for the artist, is to get him to give you a couple points on his publishing rights. 3% of that might actually get you something if he gets signed, as the songs will remain the same. Artists, normally, should run for the hills when they hear someone ask about a cut of their publishing income. In this case, it might not be that crazy of an idea.
posted by plaidrabbit at 4:10 PM on March 16, 2008

Yes, you should have taken care of this beforehand, but forget the "it's too late". Everything can be negotiated and no serious label is going to release anything without making sure this has been taken care of. Nobody wants you showing up looking for a check after the record is already out. But as plaidrabbit pointed out, it's doubtful that they would actually use your recordings anyway (sorry) unless you are pretty amazing as well...

But if they did use them, it is highly likely that your friend's deal with any label would address a producer royalty and provide for a LOD for direct payment to you. If it doesn't, the label will at least want to see a producer agreement directly between you and the artist entity or alternatively some paperwork showing you had been paid in full.

If you have an understanding with your friend, there is no reason you couldn't do a producer agreement with him now. In fact, you could even make an agreement with him to get a cut of any advance that he receives as a result of the recordings you produced, whether they are issued or not (meaning, if he gets a deal using the five song demo, he'll finally pay you like he should have in the first place).
posted by quarterframer at 5:00 PM on March 16, 2008

Your friend just made a record so he can show it to record labels and say "Hey, listen to this and see how great I sound! You should sign me so I can make another record!" You just produced a record, and now you can show it to bands and say "Hey, listen to this and see how great I made this guy sound! You should hire me so I can make your record!" The way I see it, just like this is a calling card for him, this should be a calling card for you. While you did him a solid, I think you got quite a bit out of it as well.
posted by incessant at 8:29 PM on March 16, 2008

Your friend can't commit the record labels to anything. If you want percentages, he'd have to give you a percentage of what he is paid.

He could potentially tell labels that he won't sign with them unless they compensate you with a royalty, in addition to what they pay him. But I'd expect that they wouldn't sign him if he did this.
posted by winston at 2:13 AM on March 17, 2008

If this should happen, how would I make sure I benefitted financially by the investing my time and expertise into creating this record?

You can't, you shouldn't, you won't.

Incessant's right, basically.

I mean, think this through—You produced a demo. Demos are there to get people signed so that they can make real albums. Those songs, that your friend wrote and performed, will be re-recorded if they're to be released.

So, not your work.

If they are released, it's going to be as an expanded album package, and you can negotiate with the artist and the label then. Or, you can ask him about releasing the demo now, and ask for a cut of that or an upfront fee. Then you'll only look like a jerk who said that he'd do something for free, as a favor, and then reneges on that.

If he gets signed by a real label, ask him to make sure that you get to produce a song or two on his debut. Otherwise, shop this production around to other bands.

But, most importantly, realize that you've both been unprofessional in not getting terms up front, and that attempting to make cash off of his success after the fact is unprofessional too. Treat this as a learning opportunity and not end up being known for trying to dick your pal over—this was an investment in your career, not his, and treating it as such will end up with you both happier and richer.
posted by klangklangston at 12:59 PM on March 17, 2008

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