Indie Artist Tips: Working With Producers

Excellent Indie Artist Tips for Working With Music Producers

Amazing indie artist tips for working with music producers

Being an independent artist is a full-time job within itself. No matter what level of success you’re on and how what level you’re trying to reach it’s always work to be done. There are so many elements and layers to being an indie artist. One of the most important layers is recording. It’s very important to record your work. Whether you’re an indie singer, rapper or songwriter you’re going to have to record your music. This means you’re going to have to work with a producer. To the naked eye this may seem simple and even the easiest part. This can be assumed especially if you already know the producer you’re going to work with. However, this is actually one of the most common areas things can get tricky and sometimes downright ugly. To avoid this here are some excellent indie artist tips on how to work with music producers.

Creating a System

One of the most important indie artist tips I can stress is to create a system. This applies to working with a music producer but also every aspect of your career. Remember you’re independent. Meaning you have no major label or entity taking care of business for you. You’re literally doing everything yourself. This is more than enough reason to have a system with every aspect of your career. When working with a music producer don’t just book a time with him or her, go into the studio, record a song and hope for the best. Everything must be structured and planned out. This benefits both parties. It allows for less confusion, it’s much more profession and saves time in the long run. Everyone system won’t be the same. However, here are some key factors every artist systems should at least have:

  • The date, time and location
  • A list of who all will be involved in studio session (and their role listed).
  • Price
  • Studio start and finish time
  • List of songs to be completed

Establish the Pricing Beforehand

An extremely important indie artist tip when working with a music producer is to establish the pricing. I can’t stress how important this is. So many artists, producers, family and friends have had falling outs over studio time cost and prices. This is one of the most important independent artist guide tips out there. It may seem simple and rather redundant. However, you’d be surprised by how many people get started a studio session without setting a definite price. Before you even book your session with the producer make sure to ask how much is the session? Also verify if the producer charges by the hour, song or session? Whatever you do don’t let the producer give you a round-about answer. For example don’t let him or her say “I charge around $40.00 an hour”, or “It won’t be a lot.” No, make sure he or she gives you a specific amount and specifies what that amount pays for. Does it only cover recording? Does it cover mixing and mastering too, etc?

Explain Your Vision

Another important note to take on my list of indie artist tips when working with music producers is to always explain your vision. What I mean by that is don’t just go into a studio, pay your hard earned money and record a song. Go into the studio and breathe life into your song. Create magic. The only way to do that is to have a solid relationship with the producer/ engineer you’re working with. The best way to establish that relationship is to get familiar with the producer and explain to him or her your vision. Let them know which direction you want the song to go in. Let them know which emotions you’re trying to tap into with the song. Explain to them what the song is about and what inspired it. This is how you develop a true partnership with the producer and yourself. I can’t tell you how much money and time I wasted in the past working with producers where there was clearly a disconnect in the studio. The producer would literally just push a button here and there, barely communicate with me and move on to the next task. Your relationship with your producer will definitely reflect in the final finish of your song. It plays a major part in your career and it’s also important in regards to all around indie music promotion.

Establishing a price and budget when working with a producer is one of the best indie artist tips to keep in mind

Sign a Split Sheet

This indie artist tip you may have heard before, you may have not. However, whenever working with a producer or any fellow artist always sign a split sheet. A split sheet is an agreement that writes out in details who have ownership of a song(s) and literally how much percentage he or she receives. This is extremely important to have especially if you’re an indie artist or unsigned artist. Without a split sheet it’s so easy for someone to steal your songs and lie about the agreed upon percentage of ownership of the song. Another factor to keep in mind is to always fill out and sign a split sheet BEFORE  you work on the song. This way who’s involved and the percentages are all agreed upon before the song is even started. This helps for anyone who may try to switch up or be unfair at the last minute. Also make copies so each party involved can have their own copy of the split sheet agreement. Also keep in mind if you’re working on a list of songs with a producer(s), you should sign a separate split sheet for each individual song.

Visual example of what a music split sheet looks like when working on a song with fellow artist including music producers

Exclusive Agreement VS. Lease Agreement

As an indie singer, rapper or songwriter when working with a music producer it’s imperative that you understand how agreements work. I’m referring to exclusive and leasing agreements. You have to know the difference between the two. If you wrote a song and the producer created the beat for you then it’s the producer’s beat. He or she owns it. However, you’re going to want to promote your song and perform it. This is where agreements come in. You can either lease the beat. Meaning you pay for right to use the beat until a certain time period. The average leasing agreement last for a month. However, you can always negotiate and do a 3 month or even 6 month leasing agreement. For a month lease the price is usually $30.00 per month. But keep in mind every producer is different. Also keep in mind with the lease agreement the producer still owns the beat. With an exclusive agreement you pay a larger amount to keep the beat solely to yourself. This means the producer can’t lease the beat to no one else. You’re the only one that can use the beat. However, the producer still owns rights to the beat so if you make any money off it you have to pay him or her their rightful percentage. Exclusive agreements are more expensive because you have more permissions to do as you please with the beat. The average exclusive beat price ranges from $200-$400 depending on the producer.

Understand How Copyrights Work

The most important thing to know out of all the indie artist tips when working with producers is how copyrights work. This is extremely important because copyrights are the official certification that acknowledges who owns the song. Once it’s determined who owns the song, this also determines who gets paid once the song starts to make money. If you’re a rapper, singer or songwriter and wrote your own songs but had a producer create the beat for you, then that producer is also an owner of the song. The beat is considered apart of writing the song. This means the producer gets credited as a writer and has ownership to the composition (song). You still have ownership as well, but it’s important that you’re owner the producer does as well. If your producer is also your engineer and did production on the song then he or she gets part ownership of the sound recording (master) copyright. The song and sound recording are 2 different copyrights. However, depending on which parties played a part in which aspect of the song they’re entitled to part ownership. This is why understanding how copyrights work are very important. Having a split sheet will also help when you cross the “filing for a copyright” bridge.

Now that you know the basics to the business side of working with a music producer or engineer the process should be much more effective. These indie artist tips shouldn’t only be applied to working with  a producer. They can be applied in any area of your career.

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