It’s a great day in the life of a sound designer when they get that first email, text or call that one of their beats have been placed with an artist on a major record label. The great news is that a getting a placement can open up other opportunities for you and get the momentum rolling in your favor. The bad news is that often artists, attorneys and A&Rs can sniff your inexperience and take advantage of your first major label placement opportunity. A common question I get from producers all over is: What should I do when a manger/artist contacts me about a placement?
What To Do When You Find Out You are Getting a Placement
The easiest answer is don’t agree to anything until you have discussed with your attorney or manager. One of the biggest mistakes I see from inexperienced producers is agreeing to material terms before they have a representative involved. “Material” terms in this context would be your fee or advance, producer points and publishing splits. Often times if you do not have a representative involved, A&Rs and artists are more likely to offer you less respectable terms. Bringing in an attorney or having an experienced producer manager, should alleviate some of those concerns. The right manager or attorney could have the vital relationships in place to make sure you are compensated properly. The reality is once you agree to something as a business principle you should stick to it unless the circumstances included mitigating factors. In layman’s terms, once you agree to $500, 2 points and 40% publishing it would be elementary to renege on your commitment because you now realize you didn’t know what you were talking about. Remember, it’s nobody’s business to teach you business.
With that being said, there are a multitude of factors you should be considering when deciding what to ask for and where to compromise. The first is the size of the label and the strength of the artist. While many producers would love to have a standard running price for a producer fee, often times there has to be give and take. If the artist you’ve landed a placement with is with a big label and has achieved a certain level of success or priority, the more you should ask for. In turn, a smaller label or less notable artist might not have the same resources or budget and you might be willing to compromise because of the placement opportunity. Remember, if you compromise on your front-end price always try to ensure your compromise is met on the back end with increased producer points or better legal terms in the contract.
What If an Artist Wants to More Than One of Your Beats?
Anther situation might be if an artist or label is buying in bulk. If your normal producer fee is 5k per beat and you have 5 songs placed on an album that could be a lot for a smaller artist or label to digest. In this scenario you might be willing to give them a deal on the upfront costs of the instrumental, for better back end terms. It is very important to remember you are still a businessperson and must understand the market. One of the fundamental elements of establishing a great business mind is truly knowing the circumstances of a situation and understanding your leverage. If you don’t have any placements, you should not demand a 10k advance and 5 points, but it might be your first placement and you could request a full 5k advance depending on the label and/or artist. The key is understanding that this part of the game is fluid. The more placements and bigger reputation you earn, the more you get to dictate what you receive. This does not mean that you must settle for terms that are unfavorable or flat out disrespectful. Still, talk to any producer you love, they have waived their producer advance in certain circumstances, and they have taken less money for opportunity in pursuit of the bigger goal.
Other factors that might put you in a situation to compromise is understanding there are several co-producers on a song, the instrumental contains a sample or that the song is simply a “loosie” and not getting a push. While these factors might not mean a thing depending on your level of production success, for most they are reasons to compromise.
I represent several major label artists’ too. Producers demanding too much or killing an artist’s budget is a real occurrence. A label can be 100% ready to release a song with an artist and look to clear the track with the producer and the producer kills momentum with a ludicrous ask or an unreasonable request. That scenario might result in a missed placement opportunity and a burnt bridge because of a misreading of the situation. Nobody wants that to happen.
In an era where producers rarely produce songs by themselves, paperwork can be frustrating, and budgets can be difficult. The producer you might have collaborated with might request 8k because of their success and you might be stuck with a marginal 2k. You must remember there is a heavy cost to doing business, and your prior success and platform will dictate how much leverage you create for yourself. This leverage is earned over time.
Things are getting better for producers slowly but surely however it is crucial you educate yourself on the business and align yourself with the right representation for continued success.
6 Things to Remember When You Land A Placement:
- Do your research on the Artist and the Label
- Don’t lowball yourself or demand a ludicrous fee
- Be flexible especially early on in your career
- Know your rights
- Never sign away your publishing
- Get an attorney or experienced producer manager
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available in this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this article should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.