Saturday, December 18, 2010

Producer Checklist For Your Next Studio Session

Work Out A Budget • Will you be renting studio space? • Are you renting any microphones, amps, or other gear? • Schedule dates for tracking, overdubs, editing, mixing, and mastering • Are you hiring musicians other than the artist? • You need to pay them even if they are “your friends” • How much will you charge for your production fee? • Even if you’re client is “your friend” they should be paying you too • For larger projects, food, housing, & other living costs could be included in the budget

Write With The Artist If You Can As a producer, I like to write with the artists I produce whenever I can, because there simply is not enough money coming in from production advances (for most independent producers.) By writing, you can get royalties (which can be substantial if you’re writing with a successful artist/writer). If an artist comes in with most of their album already completed, a good producer will sit down with them to help polish up the songs, offer directional advice, work out arrangements, or even write a few new songs with them. During this process, you should be creating a track list of songs you know you want to record that will most likely be on the album. If you – as a producer – are writing with the artist, you should be given a percentage of the copyright to each song you help write – but its negotiable between you and the artist whether you should get 10% for writing a key lyric, or 50% for re-writing most of the chorus melody and changing the song completely.

Songwriter Split Agreement This is an important contract to write up (you can do it yourself too) that stipulates what percentage of the copyright you own to a song you co-write with another writer (or writers). Writers usually take an even split – if there are two writers, each writer gets 50%, if there are three writers, each writer gets 33.3%. If no split is discussed, but all writers are in agreement that they intentionally co-wrote the song together, then the split is legally assumed to be even between all writers.

What Are “Producer Points?” Producers can often negotiate “points” on an album for their creative input into the process, which equate to the percentage of sales they can receive from album sales. However, it’s not often that a producer sees back end (producer royalties) from albums they produce – this is why songwriting is so important! If you think you need to brush up on your songwriting abilities…read one of Cliff Goldmacher’s articles

Contracts If you get to a stage where you have artists that you produce that are doing more with their music than slapping it up on MySpace and playing local gigs, you probably should consider getting an entertainment lawyer to write you up a producer contract. Just sitting down and talking with a lawyer can give you an idea of what sort of things you need to discuss (legally and contractually) with your clients before any tracks get laid down. A producer contract should address your rights and the artist’s rights to each other’s work, ownership of sound recordings, the production fees & budget, a pay schedule, your commitment to providing the artist with the best possible product, and all that fancy lawyer jargon.

Encourage Your Client (the Artist) to Practice! Make sure your artist & band is prepared before you start tracking, especially if you are renting studio time. It’s a good idea to have a rehearsal session scheduled before tracking – just like you’d have a rehearsal before a live show.

- Jake Hartsfield

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