This one is a doozy. Have you delved into the deep waters of production contracts? We're all familiar with the inner-of artist deals per album, but how about producer deals being measured in points?
Let's start in the shallow end of the pool. What is the job of a producer? Often times, the producers can seem rather mysterious as they are typically behind the scenes, doing the heavy lifting regarding equipment. They are rarely the face that is stamped onto the CD cover. Well, "A music producer is in charge of the overall sound and feel of a record or album. He helps to create and deliver recordings. He makes sure that the end product is the best it can be when a band or musician is recording or mastering a song or even an entire album."
Now that we've got that covered, let's discuss how deals work with producers as opposed to artists and their album deals. When it comes to artists, they are typically given an advance, lots of fine little details regarding recoupment and a number of albums that they must complete within the allotted contact time. To this day, Whitney Houston still maintains having had one of the largest recording contracts of all time with Arista. The deal secured $100 million, with $25 million upfront, where Whitney promised to complete 10 albums in full.
For the thicker content, we arrive at the discussion of exactly what points even are. "Producer points are also sometimes referred to as points, album points, producer percentage, or producer royalties. They're a percentage of revenues earned by the work. One point is equal to 1 percent, and points can be awarded in a few different ways". These different ways include getting paid in points or percentages, for an entire album or perhaps only a few songs. Depending on the artist and genre, sometimes they may stick with one producer to maintain an overall "feel" to cross between each track, while with other genres, such as with rap, they may be more open to integrating varying styles of producers.
It is important to note that producers are not one-size fits all. Some producers are paid upfront for their work on an album, while others may negotiate royalties on the back end. Dan Daley states that "Typically, a producer negotiates between 2 and 4 percent of the retail sales of an album he or she produced, as well as a cash advance on those royalties".
How about the concept of ghost writing? Ghost writing is the idea of someone secretly writing behind the scenes for an artist who may or may not claim that the work of the ghostwriter is their own, while this also rings true with a ghost producer. This is extremely common with more well known producers. One must not mistake this as being purely malicious, as often times a popular producer becomes simply too busy to maintain all of their creative commitments. The producer may teach their ghost producer some of their tricks and exchange credit for cash as the deal.
We know that this is all quite a mouthful and you're head is most likely spinning alongside ours, but we strongly suggest that you take your time and let all of this information soak in. You'd be amazed at how many musicians, including legends, spend their entire careers with accounts, lawyers and managers negotiating their deals, never once understanding how the breakdown actually occurs.Check out some tips on negotiating as a musican here.
You'll be thanking your lucky stars in the near future for taking the time to really dig through those details with a fine tooth comb. If you're looking to spend your lifetime in this business, you've really got to know your stuff. Even if you're not a producer, we believe that it will only make you a stronger musician overall to understand how everyone in the room survives and thrives.