May 16, 2020

What royalties can I claim as a music producer?

I received a few questions earlier this week from a producer friend about producer points and royalties.

What royalties can I claim as a music producer?

I received a few questions earlier this week from a producer friend about producer points and royalties that will possibly be of interest to those of you who are producers as well as to artists who are working with one.

Before I share my answers, I will start with a disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and this stuff is important so if you’re serious about getting this locked down, talk to a music lawyer. I can recommend Carol Isherwood who is based in Manchester and Tim Fowler based in London.

That being said, I’ve tried to answer as best I can below. Any questions, let me know.

1. What is a standard % for recording, mixing and mastering? Will this % go up if I help with lyric changes, melody changes, structure changes or play any parts and perform on the song?

As far as I’m aware, it doesn’t work like that in terms of there being a standard % for recording, mixing and mastering. They are three distinct jobs and production is another one that is separate from all of them. You can produce a record and get points on it without doing any of those other three roles.

Where things get a little more complicated is when you are helping with things like lyrics, melody, structure, parts etc as then you’re crossing over into the other copyright in a recording, the song or publishing copyright.

Usually, producer points are only paid on the master recording rights by the PPL and not on anything to do with the song itself where royalties there are paid out by the PRS for the exploitation of the publishing copyright.

The two copyrights in a song are explained better, and by an actual lawyer, here.

Typically, producer points are 2 – 5% of the artists share of record sales… which nowadays translates better to 2 – 5% of the artists streaming income.

If you think you might also be due some royalties for helping with the songwriting, then you would need another separate song share agreement in place.

It’s a bit murky really but generally, the song is considered in the eyes of the law to be the lyrics and the melody. Nothing else. If you helped with that, then you could argue the case for a writers share.

But… you would really need to agree that upfront with the artist or be happy to contribute musically knowing that you’re in it for your fee + producer points.

It can be very messy to try to sort the songwriting stuff out afterwards once the songs a mega hit!

There is a good article about producers and publishing/songwriting credits on the CD Baby blog here.

2. Should % be discussed before or after the recording and where can I get a simple contract that would confirm the agreed split in writing?

I answered the first part above – Definitely before.

I have yet to see a simple producer contract! The ones I have seen, signed and tried to avoid signing are pages long and include loads of legal jargon that make me feel stupid. There must be one flying around somewhere but I don’t know where so I would suggest you consider joining the Music Producers Guild or at least ask them beforehand if they have or know of a simple short-form agreement.

I would also suggest you use the PPL’s Eligible Producer Form to make sure you’re allocated any non-featured performer fees that you might be due for any non-audible contributions you make to recordings. In fact, this might be a good place to start before you go down the route of getting producer contracts drawn up with a lawyer as it will enable you to start earning royalties without too much effort and zero cost.

With regard to any songwriting split, there are loads of song share agreement templates online like this one from SongTrust.

3. Some distributors now allow artists to register the splits on upload. How can I make sure the artist will do this fairly?

Other than ask them nicely and hope that they’re legit when they say they’re gonna do it, you can put in a claim yourself with the PRS (whether the artist has or not) and the PPL (if the song has been registered by the owner of the sound recording) if you think you’re owed something.

Of course, whether you can prove that you’re owed what you’re owed will depend on whether you agreed anything with the artist in the first place and got them to sign some sort of agreement but in all honesty, a copy of an email will probably do unless the artist is contesting your claim for some reason.

You can check any songs details once it’s in the PRS and PPL databases to make sure you’re on their system simply by searching Artist Name + Song Name. Their systems are a bit clunky but it’s simple enough to check.

4. What if the artist I am working with isn’t registered with PRS? Am I still able to claim my % whether they claim themselves or not?

Yes you can. You can register any songs where you have a claim to royalties and the PRS system will automatically merge any duplicate registrations if the artists joins and registers the song at a later date.

It’s slightly different with the PPL in that the sound recording rights holder (artist or label) needs to be a member and only they can register the recordings.

5. Can I simply state what % I am expecting as part of my booking confirmation invoice and prompt the band before the release to make sure I am included in the split?

To be honest, I think this is the simplest way to begin with but you probably need to make it clear what the artist is agreeing too as if you have a clause in your booking confirmation invoice that says something like “You are agreeing to PPD at 4%” they will most likely not know what you’re on about!

Just make it really clear and transparent, discuss it with them upfront, be prepared to negotiate and direct them to some of the resources above and below 👇👇👇

Producer Royalties: How Should Your Producer Be Paid? by Kurt Dahl (Lawyer/Drummer)

Should My Producer Get Publishing and Songwriting Credit? by Chris Robley on the CD Baby blog