The Pros – Producers

Working With Producers

The unsung heroes, at least to the listening public, of the music industry are the producers. The producer can wear many hats and have a major impact on an artist or band’s career trajectory. There are different kinds of producers. Some producers are great musicians, writers and arrangers in their own right. Many successful recording artists go on to be producers. On the other hand, there are producers that can’t play a lick of music but know how to create, package and sell a recording project. These producers, rather than being killer musicians, have a Rolodex full of great musicians and arrangers. Rather than focus on a particular riff they are focusing on the overall groove, feeling and never take their eye off the prize. Both models can be successful.

Another aspect of a successful producer is that they have business savvy. Many producers know exactly what doors they will knock on when the mix is finished before they lay the first track. If a producer is working a speculative deal, he may often become an equity- or royalty-based partner. Producers can work on both a speculative or royalty-based model or they can be brought in under a “work for hire” arrangement. The CD has examples of a number of producer scenarios from a basic artist/song deal to a film/television synchronization agreement. Let’s look at a few of the more common platforms.

Work for Hire: In this scenario a producer is hired to complete a particular project with a certain artist within a certain time frame and on a budget. When the job is done, the producer walks away with no further interest in the recording or the artist. This method is preferred by smaller labels as it gives them a fixed cost rather than having to compute, report on, and pay further royalties to the producer. Many producers who normally get “points” in addition to their fees will do a fee-only based project as a favor or for an artist they are particularly fond of and want to associate with.

With Points: Producers with a track record of success will almost always be asking for points in the sale of the recording, particularly when dealing with the major labels. They are sometimes brought on by the label to develop a new act and their input can be regarded as the foundation for the sonic branding of the band. Producer points are not a very large piece of the pie, generally ranging from half a percent to three percent.

The Producer as Equity Partner: A producer can fall in love with an artist and decide to go way out on a limb and produce a master without any up front compensation. The producer will pay all the studio, musician, arranger, engineer, mastering lab and all the other expenses of getting the artist’s vision into a viable sonic product. This is a considerable expense and a producer will justly want to be compensated for it. In many scenarios the producer is grooming the act for a hand off to a major label or management company. The producer has brought all the pieces together to make not just a recording but a product. With a great master in hand and the right relationship with the label, the producer has done all the work of the label’s A&R department and in-house production. The producer delivers a turnkey product to the label, making their job easier, and will share in royalties paid by the label to the artist.

If it is indeed the producer that brings the artist to the record company’s table, it is likely they will also want to share in a piece of the advance or other money that will be paid to the band by the label at signing and beyond. By making the introduction, the producer is taking an “agent” fee. It is conceivable, even likely for some producers, to be looking at three-fold income on one project. The money they are paid for the actual production including the recording budget, a finder’s or agent’s fee for getting the band to the label and a royalty on the recording produced. If a producer works a number of projects and stays busy over the years, this can be a very prosperous career.

You can mix and match components of these different production deals. Nothing is etched in stone and what may be applicable in one situation won’t work for another. Don’t forget the successful producers are artists and stars in their own right. They have managers, agents and publicists too. They may not make the girls faint but bands are sleeping on their doorstep in hopes of a shot.

Let’s look at a speculative deal that would have a producer paid a fee but also granted the right to shop the master to the major labels. The artist has already opened a dialog with a label and this one label is off limits to the producer. The producer is compensated not only for producing but also if the master gets placed.

Producer’s Letter of Agreement


Dear Mr./Ms. __________________,

This letter shall serve as our agreement in respect to _________________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Producer”) services in producing Master Recordings (hereinafter referred to as the “Masters”) of the recording artist(s) professionally known as _________________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Artist”).

1. The term of this agreement shall commence as of the date hereof and shall continue until the completion of Producer’s services.

2. (a) Recording sessions for the Masters shall be conducted by Producer under this Agreement at such times and places as shall be mutually designated by you and Producer. All individuals rendering services in connection with the recording of Masters shall be subject to your approval. You shall have the right and opportunity to have your representatives attend each such recording session. Each Master shall embody the performance by the Artist of a single musical composition designated by the Artist (subject to your approval, not to be unreasonably withheld) and shall be subject to your approval as technically satisfactory for the manufacture, broadcast and sale of phonorecords, and, upon your request, Producer shall re-record any musical composition or other selection until a Master technically satisfactory to you shall have been obtained, provided additional production costs will be paid by you. Producer agrees to begin pre-production, rehearsals, and recording on _____________________, 20__.

(b) Producer shall deliver to you a two-track digital master suitable for duplication and manufacture of phonorecords for each Master. All original session tapes, rough mixes and any derivatives or reproductions thereof shall also be delivered to you, or, at your election, maintained at a recording studio or other location designated by you, in your name and subject to your control.

3. All Masters produced hereunder, from the inception of the recording thereof, and all phonorecords and other reproductions made therefrom, together with the performances embodied therein and all copyrights therein and thereto, and all renewals and extensions thereof, shall be entirely your property, free of any claims whatsoever by Producer or any other person or person engaged in the production of the Masters. (It being understood that for copyright purposes Producer and all persons rendering services in connection with such Masters shall be Contractors for hire).

4. (a) Conditioned upon Producer’s full and faithful performance of all the terms and provisions hereof, you shall pay Producer, as an advance recoupable by us from any and all royalties payable by you to Producer hereunder, the sum of $ ________ dollars payable upon commencement of recording, and the balance upon the delivery to you of the Masters.

(b) Notwithstanding anything contained in (a) above to the contrary:

(i) in the event the Masters are released on any label other than __________ or its subsidiary or affiliate label or labels, Producer shall not receive a royalty in connection with the sale of such records;

(ii) in the event the Masters are released on the ______________ label or a subsidiary or affiliate label, Producer shall be paid in respect to the sale of such phonorecords a royalty rate of three percent (3%) of the suggested retail price of each CD or phonorecords sold and paid for in the United States. Payments of royalties from foreign sources shall be ONE HALF of the United States royalty rate. All fees paid to Producer hereunder shall constitute recoupable advances which shall be recouped prior to further payment of royalties.

5. Producer has agreed to assist you in presenting the Masters to major record companies in pursuit of a record production agreement with a major label. Producer understands that you will also be presenting the Masters to major labels and that Producer will not be your exclusive representative. Therefore, Producer agrees to notify you prior to making any formal contact with representatives of any major record company on your behalf in order to coordinate our respective efforts and agrees to contact on your behalf only those companies we mutually agree upon. In the event you enter into a record production agreement with a major label for the Masters recorded hereunder and the further services of “Artist” as a result of substantial efforts and negotiations by Producer with such company within the period of one year following the completion of the Masters we agree to pay you a commission of six percent (6%) of the actual cash advances (exclusive of recording budgets) received by you upon execution of said agreement. A major record company as defined herein shall be a company or corporation with gross sales of one million (1,000,000) units in the calendar year 20__.

6. Producer hereby warrants, represents, and agrees that he is under no disability, restriction, or other incumbency with respect to his right to execute and perform the services described in this Agreement.

7. You shall have the right, at your election, to designate other producers for recording sessions with the Artist, in which event Producer shall have no rights hereunder with respect to the Masters produced at such other recording sessions.

8. We shall have the right, at our election, to assign any of our rights hereunder, in whole or part, to any subsidiary, affiliated, or related company, or to any person, firm or corporation acquiring rights in the Masters produced hereunder.

9. (a) This contract sets forth the entire understanding of the parties hereto relating to the subject matter hereof. No amendment or modification of this contract shall be binding unless confirmed in writing by both parties.

(b) We shall not be deemed to be in breach of any of our obligations hereunder unless and until you have given us specific written notice of the nature of such breach and we have failed to cure such breach within thirty (30) days after our receipt of such notice.

(c) Nothing herein contained shall constitute a partnership or joint venture between you and us.

(d) This contract has been entered into in the State of ______, and its validity, construction, interpretation, and legal effect shall be governed by the laws of the State of _______.

(e) This contract shall not become binding and effective until signed by you and countersigned by a duly authorized agent of ___(Company)_____. If the foregoing correctly reflects your understanding and agreement with us, please indicate by signing below.




The next short example is an attachment to an original, “Recording Services Agreement,” that was designed by the recording studio. To compensate the producer, this rider was added to the contract.

Attachment A – Royalty Provisions of Producer Agreement

This attachment to the Producer Agreement between ___________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Company”) and ___________________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Producer”) dated _______, 20__, is to specify the payment of royalties to Producer by the Company as follows:

1. Producer has received Eight Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($8,500.00) for his production of two Master Recordings of the Company’s recording artist __(Artist)__. This is deemed as a recoupable advance against any royalties earned from sales.

2. After the Company’s recoupment of the abovementioned advance, the Producer will be paid royalties at the following rate:

(a) For long playing compact discs or phonorecords and any and all other methods of mechanically reproducing the performances embodied in the Master Recordings that are produced on the Company’s label, it’s affiliate or subsidiary labels a payment of Two And Two Tenths Cents (2.2) per copy thereof sold and paid for in the United States of America.

b) For single song electronic deliveries releases which contain the Master Recordings produced by Producer a royalty of Two And Three Quarter Cents (2.75) per side which embodies the Master Recordings produced by Producer.

(c) For any sales or license of the Master Recordings outside of the United States, a royalty of ONE HALF (1/2) of the United States royalty rate shall be payable on each copy that is sold and paid for and for which the Company has received payment in the United States. Royalty payments from such foreign sources shall be calculated at the rate of exchange at the time such foreign royalties are received by the Company in the United States.

3. Royalty statements and payments shall be made semi-annually and will be made within 45 days of December 31st and June 30th of each year for the six month prior accounting period.

4. Such royalty statements and payments to Producer shall be deemed to be final unless written notification by Producer to Company is made within one year specifying the reasons such statements and payments are unacceptable.

5. Upon such written notice by Producer to Company, the accounting books of the Company which involve the Producer’s royalties shall be made available to a certified public accountant designated by Producer.

6. This Attachment is the sole basis for any and all payment of royalties by Company to Producer and supersedes and replaces any prior oral or written agreement between the Producer and the Company.

Understood and agreed to by the parties who have set their names below