Sound Recording and Musical Composition
The first thing to clarify is that there is a difference between the sound recording, which is the mastered track, and the musical composition. The mastered track incorporates the musical composition. However the properties that make up the finished mastered track are treated separately for copyright purposes i.e. the songwriter and the singer each have their own rights. The singer owns the copyright in the sound recording, and the songwriter owns the copyright in the musical composition. Some artists are the authors of both the musical composition and the sound recording, and so are entitled to the rights that are attached to both properties. Every time a mastered track is copied both rights holders are entitled to royalties. The licence for copying of the mastered sound recording is called a mechanical licence.
Functions Of A Producer
A music producer has 2 main functions, they oversee the creative development of an artist’s music and they deal with the business aspects of producing the music.
The Creative Producer
Managing the creative development of artists is in a nutshell committing the various ideas of an artist or a band into a master recording. In detail it might include bringing new ideas to the table to create the perfect sound, mixing and mastering songs, providing orchestrating and instrumentation on tracks for synchronisation for TV and film , helping to shape the artist’s image, choosing what songs the artist should release, and/or providing voice coaching for the artist.
The Executive Producer
The other aspect of a producer’s role is the business or the executive side of an artist’s development. These kind of producers are known as executive producers. Their job spec might include: booking studio time, managing budgets, hiring session players and equipment, and negotiating licences. Major record labels have in-house creative and executive producers. However many record labels outsource production to smaller labels, or to very well known producers like Stuart Price (Madonna/Seal). Our list of the greatest producers of all time include Dr Dre (Eminem/50 Cent). Our top ten would also feature Butch Vig (Nirvanna), Quincy Jones (Michael Jackson), George Martin (The Beatles), and Pharrell Williams (Despicable Me/Daft Punk). These producers have their own teams and very high-end recording studios often in their own homes.
Not all music production is at the high-end. Music producers offer a vast range of services including: producing music composition for: video games, TV or radio adverts, TV documentaries and shows, feature films, websites, even Internet viral marketing campaigns, and working on post-production sound engineering. Producers might set up a production music library which is specifically for the aforementioned services.
One of the business models available to a producer is the PRS model. The producers become PRS members for a fee. PRS and MCPS collects royalties for the producers when the music from their library is used and/or reused. MCPS are part of PRS.
Music Production vs Music Producer Agreements
It is useful to note that a producer agreement and a production agreement are quite distinct. A production agreement is a recording contract relating to the release of a master recording which if successful will be sold or licensed to a third party for release. A producer agreement is usually entered into between the producer and the record label for the production of the artist’s master recordings. The producer will need another agreement with the artist(s).
Rather than set out the basic producer agreement or production agreement, it is perhaps more useful to set out some of the challenges that occur relating to each type of agreement. Some of the challenges overlap.
Production Agreement With Label
Is the record label obliged to pay the artist(s)’ fee? The artist(s) may not be able to afford a lawyer to negotiate on their behalf.
The producer wants to retain ownership of the musical compositions, and the master sound recording.
What are the commitments owed by the band to each other? The lead singer decides to start another band, and the bass player also decides to be a guest musician with another artist or band.
The artist(s) is approached with a much better offer by another label towards the end of the agreement term.
The label wants the artist(s) to record more tracks but it is not covered in the budget.
The label does not want to accept the master recordings.
After the end of the agreement, the label want to re-release the artist(s)’ tracks as a greatest hits album and wants to use images of the artist(s) to market it.
The artist(s) are concerned as to how Net Receipts are being calculated.
The label want to use their own in-house producer and the artist(s) have access to a better producer.
The label are not performing.
The royalties are not being properly calculated.
Producer Agreements With Label
The producer has been paid the first part of his advance but on the first day of recording they don’t turn up as they were out partying the night before. The studio has been hired along with session players.
The producer wants to retain ownership of the musical compositions and the master sound recording.
The producer wants to walk away due to a new commitment that pays more.
The producer wants to be paid separately for their own creativity in the master recordings.
There is an issue with royalties due to the producer based on sales.
There is an issue with the restrictions placed on the producers share of royalties.
What will be the producers share on the master synch fee if one of the produced recordings is used in a film?
Is UK law appropriate for the contract?
The above are just some of the issues that arise in the relationship between artist, producer and label in a recording scenario. Specialist advice is needed to anticipate as many of these issues as possible and to maximise your opportunities whether you are a label, producer or an artist in the above scenarios.
To book a face to face consultation for commercial legal advice you should contact a specialist music solicitor (charge rates may apply and may vary).