music production
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This article is written by Dhruv Vatsyayan of Law School, BHU pursuing his 1st year of B.A.LL.B. In this article, he deals with Types of Agreements Related to Music Production.

Introduction

Almost every one of us loves to listen to music, be it Jazz, Country, Indie or EDM. But, the music we listen to as the final product, is the result of a long process which involves various people like artists, directors, technicians, etc. 

Nowadays, the music production industry itself is worth billions and is one of the most exciting and fascinating industries.

We may say that music production is a process where various people are collectively involved in producing musical tracks and songs which includes recordings, writing, editing, etc. Moreover, it also involves certain promises, commitments, and financial transactions. Thus, it becomes important that these commitments and transactions are regulated by law, and thus, there is a vast scope of legal agreements in this industry.

So, let us discuss various legal agreements that are involved in this industry per se

Stages of Music Production

Just like every creative production, the Making of Music also involves various different stages. To understand the importance of legal agreements in music production in a better way, it is necessary to get an overview of these stages.

These stages are:

Song Writing

The very first step in creating music is songwriting. A greatly crafted song must contain the following elements:

  • Melody
  • Harmony
  • Lyrics
  • Rhythm

This stage mainly involves two sub-stages, i.e. Lyrics writing and Music Composition. This stage involves various players, like lyricist, music director, instrument artists, and others. This stage ends up creating a composition.

Arrangement

Arranging instruments and voices in such a way that it pleases the listener is another important stage of music production. It often happens that a piece of music has a good melody and beat, but it sounds boring just because the music gets too repetitive.

To avoid such a situation, this stage is very important. It involves the question like when to include a particular tune or beat, what instruments should be used in which part of the music etc.

This stage involves the music director, vocalists and instrument players.

Sound Design and Production

After being done with arranging all the parts, the next stage of music production is sound design and sound production. This stage includes adding multiple effects to the arranged sample, adding various layers of music, editing synth presets and more.

In this stage, various techniques are used, like:

  • Filling the sample music arrangements with various effects like sound effect and transition effect.
  • Editing the samples creatively by stretching the music sample, by chopping it up or by pitching the sound.
  • Controlling or modulating the pitch and amplitude of the instrument’s sound.
  • Finalizing the track after deciding upon what part should remain or what part should be chopped out.

This stage involves players like the sound designer and technician.

Mixing

This stage of music production involves combining the various layers of music and audio tracks to make the final audio. Mixing involves the following things:

  • Equalizing
  • Compressing
  • Balancing
  • Harmonics enhancing

This is the stage where the experience and knowledge of the music technicians come in handy. 

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Mastering

This is the final stage in the process of music production. It’s the stage of processing the audio mix and then preparing it for further distribution. The purpose of mastering is to balance the stereo mix, make all the elements sound cohesive, and to reach commercial loudness.

Distribution

In this stage, the finalized tracks and albums are sent to the market through a distributor who distributes it to various shops and platforms. A distribution company that specializes in Music Distribution signs a deal with the producer/artist which gives them the right to sell the music to the shops. In layman language, the distribution company just acts as the middleman between the producer and the store.

Importance of Legal Agreements in the Music Industry

During the production of music through above mentioned various stages, a whole lot of agreements and contracts are signed between the production house and various other players.

From the very initial stage of lyrics writing to the final stage of distribution, the process of Music Production deals with a lot of Intellectual Property rights and thereto related legal drafting.

There can be negotiations between the music producers and different people involved in the process by means of contract or agreement varying from the IPR to the Competition law.

The whole process of Music Production involves a lot of monetary and business transactions. Failing to document these transactions in the form of written contracts and agreements may lead to confusion, ambiguity and hefty losses.

Earlier, in the music production industry, due to negligence and unawareness regarding written agreements, people and companies were not able to exercise their rights and ignored their duties towards others. But now, with the emergence of media and entertainment laws, this industry takes its contractual and Intellectual Property Rights seriously.

Also, the contracts made in the form of legal agreements provide the parties with the option of approaching the courts and tribunals for dispute resolution. This helps in protecting IP rights and enforcing the contracts.

Now let us discuss the different types of agreements that are most commonly used during the various stages of Music Production.

Types of Agreements used in Music Production

Various types of agreements are used at different stages of music production. One can not make a comprehensive list of such agreements which are to be used during the entire process but there are some agreements which are most common. These are:

Work-Made-For-Hire Agreement

This agreement is one of the most basic and initial agreements in the music production industry. This is more of a general form which guarantees that you accidentally don’t abdicate your rights to the other contributors in the making of music. This form may also include a waiver in case if the artist/Contributor is signed to a production company or record label.

Now, the question that comes is, why is it important?

This agreement is very important because, in the absence of any such Work-Made-For-Hire Agreement, all the contributors in the making of the music may claim joint ownership of the Intellectual Property.

Illustration

The song “Addicted” was sung by Enrique Iglesias and was produced by Interscope Records. The other artists involved were Paul Barry and Mark Taylor. So, if the company Interscope Records doesn’t sign a contract with all the artists, then, Enrique Iglesias, as well as Paul Barry and Mark Taylor can claim ownership of the track.

Music Collaboration Agreement

Another very basic, yet very crucial agreement between the producer and the artists is the Music Collaboration Agreement. This agreement is the most common agreement in the music industry and is signed between the music producer and the artists.

This agreement establishes that the producer is collaborating with some particular artists for producing an album or a single track.

This agreement basically deals with the agreed percentage share between the producer and the artists. After rounds of negotiations, this agreement is signed with consent and assent of both parties.

Illustration

All the songs of ‘Kabir Singh’ Album were composed by Sachet Tandon and Mithoon. The album was produced by T-Series productions. Now, when the artists were signed initially by the production house, they must have negotiated upon the percentage share, and later, the profits must have been distributed according to the agreement.

Side Artist Agreement

This agreement is equally important as the music collaboration agreement. These agreements are used where a side/auxiliary artist is engaged to contribute to the music production process. In the case of lyrics writer, this agreement may also allow keeping the part which he has written, with him.

Split Sheet Agreement

Whenever the producer is going to register the work with the competent authority of intellectual property, having this agreement in hand helps greatly. 

This agreement basically, is a form that shows the distribution of shares from profits gained by selling the composition. Having this agreement with the other contributors helps to a great extent as in the absence of such agreement, you may not be able to get the royalties and profits from the sale of music.

Illustration

Suppose that a track is being produced by a Record label XYZ. The contributing artists are Mr AB, Mr CD, Mrs GH, and Mr ER. So, to avoid confusion and dispute at the time of profit-sharing, the percentage of shares are decided already:

  1. Mr AB               25%
  2. Mr CD              20%
  3. Mrs GH            20%
  4. Mr ER               7%

So, the agreement drafted may look like:

Split Sheet Agreement

*This split sheet agreement may not be modified or amended, except by a document signed by all the co-writer named below.

        Effective Date      23.04.2020  
  Recording Artist                      Mr RT & Mrs JK
  Album Title Sunshine on the Mountain
Record Label(s) Paramount Music
   Recording Location  Hollywood, United States

 

Co-Writers

Ownership Share in Percentage

Mr AB

25%

Mr CD

20%

Mrs GH

20%

Mr ER

7%

Mechanical License

A Mechanical License means that the rights are granted by the producer to a record company to use the musical composition.

Such a license is important for claiming the mechanical royalties, in absence of which, the record label may not grant the royalties.

Record Company & Producer Agreement

These contracts are used when a producer enters into a contract with a recording company. Some agreements can also be used after modifying the format of the contract.

Such an agreement must include:

  1. Terms and termination clause
  2. Engagement Clause
  3. Clause describing the Recording Process
  4. Payment Clause
  5. Rights and Duties Clause
  6. Dispute Resolution Clause

In such cases, the producer agrees to deliver the master recording of the music to the record label and the label agrees to pay a pre-decided fee to the producer. Such agreements also include a clause about payment of royalties to the producer, from the sale of the recording.

Recording Studio Rental Agreement

Recording the track is undoubtedly one of the most important and challenging stages in the whole process of music production. The recording is generally done in a recording studio. Although most of the big production companies have their own recording studios, the smaller one is dependent on third party recording studios. They undergo recording by renting a studio. Renting the studio also requires an agreement and such agreement is known as the Recording Studio Rental Agreement.

Such agreements should ideally include the following clauses:

  • Engagement Clause
  • Recording Procedure Clause
  • Compensation Clause
  • Facilities & Services Clause
  • Dispute Resolution Clause

Such agreements may also include the clause regarding using the technicians and other facilities of the studio.

Release Agreement

Such agreements are made when the producer of music, the engineer or the production company and an artist agree to release each other from the obligations under a contract previously signed by both parties. These agreements are used as a piece of evidence that the producer and the artists are not working together with any longer. Such agreements should include the following clauses:

  1. A clause specifying the parties,
  2. Termination Clause,
  3. Consideration Clause,
  4. Additional Agreements Clause (if any).

Such agreements may also be used as documentation of release after the breach of contract happens and a dispute arises between the parties.

Parental Consent And Guarantee (Used With Minors)

Such agreements are used in cases where the vocalist or the instrument player or any other artist is below the age of 18 years. In the Parental Consent agreements, it is necessary for both the minor and his/her parents to give consent to the contract.

Conclusion

Other than the agreements discussed above, several distinct types of agreements are also used in the music production industry, such as the Letter of Direction and Master Use License. Thus, it’s quite evident that the process of music production involves a whole lot of written agreements and contracts. Among all these most of the contracts and agreements are signed for the purpose of protection and licensing of the Intellectual Property of an artist or the contractual rights of the producer.

There may be different requirements for particular music and different for another, thus it is very difficult to standardize the agreements involved in music production of different albums/tracks.

References

  1. https://iconcollective.edu/music-production-process/
  2. https://www.waves.com/six-stages-of-music-production
  3. https://www.songstuff.com/music-business/article/music_publishing_contracts/
  4. https://www.lawyersrock.com/music-license-agreements/
  5. https://www.musiccontracts.com/shop-label-contracts/parental-consent
  6. http://www.trafficpolicemumbai.org/2018/10/different-types-of-music-contracts-for-artists/
  7. https://www.audiorecording.me/music-production-process-how-does-it-take-to-produce-a-song.html
  8. https://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2014/12/basic-legal-tips-for-record-producers-draft.html

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