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Thread: Studio Work

  1. #1

    Default Studio Work

    So I've been asked by a buddy to lay down some sonorous saxophone sounds on a friend's record.

    He has almost no budget other than for mixing/studio time. (I'm helping him out for next to nothing.)

    What would be a good way to protect myself from them using the saxophone tracks without due credit or recompense *should* the record happen to go multi-platinum

    I ask because I've been in the situation before where I've had tracks that were not intended to go on the record end up on the record. I was only paid for the tracks they said they would use.

    Should there be an hourly wage, a per track wage, or is it just player beware in this situation?

    If anyone has experience or insight, I'd love to know it.

  2. #2
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Studio Work

    Theoretically any label need the consent of any performers before they release a recording with your performance, so you are actually protected. But it's best to get an agreement with the owner of the copyright in the recording about any payment (either one off or royalties) and/or credits due to you if it's released commercially. If at that point they still have no money, then there's no excuse to not grant you a royalty and proper credits.

    It should not be a verbal agreement, those aren't usually worth the paper they aren't written on. A gentleman's handshake can go wrong.

    If it's royalties, there's no guarantee you'll actually get them: Very few favours go unpunished. (Cynical, moi?). I say that because I once did a favour for a very famous artist (a saxophone player in fact, but I'm mentioning no names as I don't like badmouthing anyone personally here) who owes me a 2% royalty on an album I produced. I know for a fact that thousands have sold, but I never got a bean. For a while that was something that was on my mind, but in the end I just shrug my shoulders and get on with my life.

    Another time I did a session for a band who never paid me. It was a track the singer was producing and I rang him several times after the track was released, in the end he laughed at me, told me to F off and try suing him which would be pointless because he could just say I didn't do the session and that it was someone else playing the saxophone.

  3. #3
    Distinguished SOTW Member Woody Reed's Avatar
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    Default Re: Studio Work

    Budgets for everyone have been slashed over the last 10 years. And quite drastically in the last 2, as the recording industry has just been crushed by file sharing (stealing). With record industry revenues down $1,500,000,000 (according to the IFPI) from last year, it only makes sense that budgets would go the same route. So, what once were typical fees for musicians, studios, engineers, art directors, manufacturing, distribution, retail prices, etc., are anything but typical these days. Studio albums are now mostly promotional tools for touring. Revenue from physical and online sales are a much smaller piece of the pie.

    All that said, if you are just hired to play sax, union scale here in LA for a 3 hour session is about $400 (dbl for leader) http://promusic47.org/wage2/wageSR.htm

    So, seeing that that should be the fee for payment upfront, you should aim a little higher for a spec deal, since your taking a risk of no payment at all. The old joke is "I work for double spec" when your doing a favour and not getting paid. As far as collecting on any royalties, as pete mentioned, is only as good as the reputation of the payer. Just get it in writing what the deal is. If it does go muliti-platinum, you'll have no problem finding an attorney to take the case - on spec I'd assume.
    Last edited by Woody Reed; 08-31-2011 at 09:59 PM. Reason: IFPI not IFPA http://www.ifpi.org/

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    Distinguished SOTW Member RandyJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Studio Work

    Most of my studio work (about 80%) is done in and around Nashville and Muscle Shoals. I have a musical contracts lawyer that fills in the "blanks" that I want and the contract gets faxed to the label and producer, if they don't sign, I don't play. So write yourself out a simple contract with what you want and have it signed for it to be worth anything.

  5. #5
    Distinguished SOTW Member Woody Reed's Avatar
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    Default Re: Studio Work

    Quote Originally Posted by RandyJ View Post
    So write yourself out a simple contract with what you want and have it signed for it to be worth anything.
    I think the OP is wondering "what" he should ask for. What should he put on the contract?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Studio Work

    Thanks for the responses. They have provided some good insights and advice.

    And yes, what should go into the contract? What do you think would be fair to ask for? I'm not at the live shows pumping CD Sales. I'm just playing on a few tracks.

    Should I ask for a % of sales or profits once they hit a certain number, should I ask to retain copyright of my tracks? (If that's possible) I'll definitely ask for credit on the jacket.

    I'm just trying to cover my butt so I don't get burned, most of this is, of course, speculation.

  7. #7
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Studio Work

    Quote Originally Posted by Travesty View Post
    should I ask to retain copyright of my tracks? (If that's possible)
    If you just played saxophone on your tracks, you can't have the rights to the tracks. There are two copyrights that exist for a recorded track, one is the copyright in the recording, owned by the person or company who pays for it, and the copyright in the composition (the person/s who wrote it and the publishers they may have assigned their copyright to)

    However you down the copyright in your playing, which you will always own unless (as I said above) you assign it to someone else, ie the owner of the copyright of the recording (who will never actually "own" it entirely until there is consent from you in regard to your performance.

    The simplest thing is to get a session fee in return for your consent.

    Otherwise, how to calculate a fair royalty depends on many things. If you lived in the UK I would advise you join the Musicians Union who will give you good and free advice. What you get here will be free, but will vary in its quality and understanding of the exact situation.

    A typical band royalty might be 15% to 20% of net (dealer price), but that would be for the whole band, so how that chunk is divided is the crux of the matter.

    Say there are 4 musicians, it could be split 4 ways. But some may have done a lot more than others so you would need to agree among who did what and how much time they put into it.

    Here's an example:

    Say the available artist royalty is 20% of dealer price

    Musician A recorded for 8 hours
    Musician B recorded for 6 hours
    Musician C recorded for 5 hours
    Musician D recorded for 1 hours.

    That's 20 hours. Musician C did 25%, so gets 25% of the available 20% royalty, but musician D only did 5% of the recording so only gets 5% of the 20% artist royalty, ie 1%.

    Then you take the number of tracks into account. If you are musician D, and only played on 6 tracks of a 12 track album, your 1% royalty is only on 50% of the album, ie 0.5%

    That is what I would find fair.

    The biggest problem is actually getting paid. If it's just a gigging band producing their own album (ie no established label), accounting is liable to be lax or non existent. They may just get CDs pressed and sell them on gigs for cash and not actually know how many are sold until they run out of CDs, which is usually the point at which you get paid, as then it's easy to say, "we pressed 1000 and have run out, so we can now pay you on 1000 sales."

    It may be that your royalty doesn't get paid until after they have recouped recording costs, in which case a higher royalty should be fair because there's a very good chance you'll get nothing.

  8. #8
    Distinguished SOTW Member Woody Reed's Avatar
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    Default Re: Studio Work

    Quote Originally Posted by Travesty View Post
    Should I ask for a % of sales or profits once they hit a certain number, should I ask to retain copyright of my tracks? (If that's possible) I'll definitely ask for credit on the jacket.

    I'm just trying to cover my butt so I don't get burned, most of this is, of course, speculation.
    Playing sax on a recording for someone else is usually not a royalty situation. Don't over think things. If your writing, then that would be a writing credit. A performance would probably be just a fee for services. Unless you were already vert famous and your name might carry some extra benefit for sales. i.e. The band hires David Sanborn to play a solo. Sanborn has a built in fan base that would contribute to album sales just because he's on it. So, here is my suggestion.

    Use the Local 47 wage chart I gave the link to above. Calculate your time and fee from that. Show the band what that would be if they were paying you upfront. Since it's backend speculation, ask for a leaders fee, or basically double scale for the risk. Maybe they pay you that if sales reach X number of units. I would say 10K units would be reasonable. Sound fair and simple?

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