Personal Engineer

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megajoe
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Personal Engineer

Post by megajoe » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:12 am

Tomorrow night I'm meeting with a certain celebrity athlete. He wants to hire me as a full-time audio engineer. My job will be to mix, record, write rap beats and be available to travel during season/training. His will pay for all travel and accommodations, a mobile rig and 60k/year. As you can guess I'm pretty excited about this opportunity being presented to me.

Some things I was thinking about: If I'm writing music and/or melody, and he's selling records, I should get a cut of the royalties. What's reasonable? Also, I think I should have some things to protect me from being exclusive. If I'm making a signature sound, I don't want to have my composition style tied to him. I also want to be able to work with other artists during my downtime and not be in a Tiger Woods' caddy situation. It would be salary, but I seems reasonable to have a minimum and maximum amount of hours I work per week. Do people do that?

Any advice, things I should make sure I have or things I should look out for? I've been friends with the guy for about four years, and I know he's cool. There will be a simple contract, nothing crazy long.

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Gregg Juke
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Post by Gregg Juke » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:01 am

1) Don't sign any paperwork with the term "Work for Hire" in it.

2) Get Donald Passman's book, and devour it asap.

3) Subscribe to Moses Avalon's blog; get his books.

4) Get a music business/entertainment/intellectual property attorney asap.

5) Try for a piece of the song-writing/publishing (call it a "bonus"), rather than just getting straight salary or paid "by the beat." If you are creating/writing/composing music, you are doing more than engineering.

6) Re: The salary end-- ask him about a benefits package.

GJ

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Post by CurtZHP » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:19 am

Be prepared for a clause in the contract he presents that says anything you write for him is his property. Not saying "like it;" just saying be ready for it.
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Gregg Juke
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Post by Gregg Juke » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:09 pm

(see above)

That's the "Work for Hire" part; you want to avoid this at all costs. Try to establish/separate the concepts of technical expertise (engineering) and creative (writing/producing/co-writing/arranging).

Also, you'll want a clause stating how long the initial relationship will last, and a renewal option (you won't want it too short, but you don't want to be locked-in for too long, either).

GJ

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Re: Personal Engineer

Post by DrummerMan » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:14 pm

megajoe wrote: There will be a simple contract, nothing crazy long.
Besides seeking the advice of an actual lawyer for how to go about this, I'd say that the above sentence struck me as potentially problematic. My experience has told me to be VERY CLEAR/DETAILED about what's expected in entering into an agreement, and this goes doubly so when it involves a friend and so much can be assumed and left out under the flag of being cool and gentlemanly and presuming mutual respect and a mutual set of personal priorities. It's worth a couple extra pages to make sure you're both protected. It'll relieve a lot of the stress of ambiguity.

Other than that, it's all fair game and what either of you can get away with. Despite what anybody else ever says, there's rarely such thing as a "standard" contract, especially in the arts.

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Post by joel hamilton » Wed Aug 17, 2011 5:36 am

All of the above. PLUS I would add this:

Remember the contract isnt really for you and him if you guys are cool. Its for the 900 lawyers in the legal team of whoever gets these tracks.
Just like a points deal with a band you grew up with... ts not THEM you have to worry about, its the accounting department at whatever giant label (or label at all) releasing real numbers when it comes time for your pre specified points payment to be made.

If you are cool with this person, then just go to him and present the case that you need a very complete contract to make sure you are covered in the event that one of these tracks fully blows up for you.
Have a good lawyer do it. Again: its going to have to hold up against a large army of legal if it becomes something that is generating real money.. believe me.
I have been fortunate in that regard that I used a great lawyer up front on a few things I produced/engineered and you want that contract to be incredibly clear and airtight or you will be left out of the party if it ever really happens.

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Post by kslight » Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:24 pm

So I have a question...are you an engineer only now or are you an established professional (collecting royalties) musician also? Because to me if you are not the latter then thinking about publishing and a signature sound it seems somewhat less relevant at this stage in your career.


Second question, if he is your friend and you've known him for four years, why don't you discuss this with him directly, before even bringing lawyers into the picture? I mean if he's genuinely a cool guy then he will probably at least listen to what you have to say, and if he agrees then he might help make the contract to suit you. Just ask him direct, "what will it mean exactly" to be his engineer/etc...find out what his expectations out of the deal are.


I have a similar relationship (though not salaried, paid per gig) with a celebrity rock star. My thoughts are before signing anything: Either hire a lawyer that specializes in music business/record contracts to outline what his contract means for your benefit...or if you are concerned about publishing and points/royalties then seriously consider hiring an artist manager to handle the details for you (assuming they have a legal team...mine does) and let them battle it out.

I can promise you that if your potential employer is serious then he will have his manager or lawyer draft the contract that you will sign.

However if he seeks to employ you on salary then I'm guessing that he will want to own the work you produce. Thing about publishing, is it ain't much, really, in perspective. Depending on your credentials I would seek "producer credit" on his releases and the appropriate point level of said producer (this would be something that a lawyer and/or manager would help establish). That's probably the most I would expect, and then just to make sure the contract doesn't bind you to only write for him.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:44 pm

A few things I agree with, LOTS I _disagree_ with in KSLight's post above.

Bottom line, do your research, and get professional advice (_legal_, not from this or any other forum).

GJ

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Post by joninc » Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:56 pm

kslight wrote: Thing about publishing, is it ain't much, really, in perspective.
in what universe is publishing not much? that's WHERE the money is now
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Post by megajoe » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:30 am

First off, thank you very much for the responses everyone.

We just kind of hung out and mostly shot the shit since it's been a while. His lawyer will be emailing me a draft of a contract this week. I have a lawyer for myself in mind.

We talked about me getting a cut on royalties, which he has no problem with. His idea behind the salary was for it to function as a retainer during the busier parts of his sports job, so I'm still getting a regular paycheck when he gets busier..

The simple contract thing was his idea. Maybe because he has people regularly reviewing these insanely long contracts for him and he doesn't want me to deal with that??? The intention seems good, but it makes sense what y'all are saying about making something solid for the people that will try to pick it apart.

ksknight: I am a composer that regularly gets pieces programmed into concerts and conferences. I am not a member of a PRO, I've been reluctant for a long time due to mob-esque stories I heard about them. Dumb? Maybe. Eventually I have gotten to the point that if they are going to collect money for my performances any, I may as well collect.

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Post by kslight » Fri Aug 19, 2011 5:06 am

joninc wrote:
kslight wrote: Thing about publishing, is it ain't much, really, in perspective.
in what universe is publishing not much? that's WHERE the money is now
Not the same universe I work in, apparently. I'm talking in regards to cd/mp3 sales, not about licensing. Licensing is certainly where money is...but it's a tough deal to make a dime on publishing unless you're just selling a butt load of units (and having a celebrity involved does not guarantee this...I'm just speaking from first hand experience). Too many mouths to feed on the path to actual sales to see real money (or at least enough to be worth turning down a $60k gig over).

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Aug 19, 2011 6:10 am

kslight wrote:
joninc wrote:
kslight wrote: Thing about publishing, is it ain't much, really, in perspective.
in what universe is publishing not much? that's WHERE the money is now
Not the same universe I work in, apparently. I'm talking in regards to cd/mp3 sales, not about licensing. Licensing is certainly where money is...but it's a tough deal to make a dime on publishing unless you're just selling a butt load of units (and having a celebrity involved does not guarantee this...I'm just speaking from first hand experience). Too many mouths to feed on the path to actual sales to see real money (or at least enough to be worth turning down a $60k gig over).
LOL

cd / mp3 sales IS LICENSING. It is but a part of what you do IN licensing.

Now, whether you do it yourself, or give that task to someone else, makes a difference in how the income is divided. But it is still a licensing situation.

When you do it yourself, you are giving yourself license to duplicate and distribute your own work. You get to keep more money. In this case, a written agreemtn, or license is not necessary, and usually not written up. When someone else, like Amazon, iTunes, or a brick and mortar label does it, you have to give them license to do it. This license it typically called a "mechanical license" or very similar to that. Depending on what sort of business agreement you enter with a "distributor", this mechanical license will undoubtedly appear somewhere in the contract. And they then get to share a piece of the income to cover their expenses, plus some profit.

Jeez, someone get kslight a lawyer or a good music business book to read...
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Gregg Juke
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Post by Gregg Juke » Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:51 am

Nick,

Dig what you're saying, but many people break the royalty/publishing/licensing income nomenclature into two simple strands (this is even in many of the music business books and seminars)-- "Publishing" (monies from song income, and even record royalties get mushed in here, as technically inaccurate as that is!), and "Licensing" (monies from _non-record related_ licensing income-- TV and film sync licenses, internet media, internal/industrials, jingle re-purpose/re-use, etc., etc.).

I think KS was refering to that aspect of "licensing," although he may correct me if I'm wrong.

I still disagree heartily that "there is no money" in _any_ of it. There's huge money in ALL of it. Getting it, and getting it accurately accounted for, is a whole 'nuther thang...

GJ

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Post by Gentleman Jim » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:30 am

3 weeks from now you're going to get that "simple" contract. It will be simple; it will basically say that your beats are Work for Hire.

Another possibility: it will offer a very small royalty, and the athlete/artist will explain that the $60k/year + travel + accommodations + buying the mobile rig you agree on all adds up. He's on the hook for this money whether he releases anything or not, much less if anything "blows up," gets licensed, or brings in a dollar of publishing.

At that point you will either have to make a leap of faith and see where it all takes you, or stand by the idea that you'd rather say no to this than to find yourself "ripped off" later. And none of us can answer that conundrum for you.

Is the history of the music business littered with stories of people who have been ripped off? Yes. But nowhere near as many people have been ripped off with a successful song they didn't get money from than the legions of people who never went anywhere because they didn't want to risk whatever tiny patch of safe ground they stood on when an opportunity arose.

More realistic way of looking at this: in essence your friend is asking you to pick lottery numbers for him. Would you take a $60k/year paycheck to pick lottery numbers for someone who might become a millionaire for your efforts? I think I would.

Two more thoughts, and then I promise I'm done.

It may be easier to insist that you get named credit for your beats, etc. That way if something does "blow up," get licensed, etc. you'll be able to build on that success with more work later with better financial arrangements.

Finally: join a PRO already. They all suck a little, but you should have someone on your side.

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Gregg Juke
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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:52 am

Good points from the other GJ. Negotiate for the best you can, though, you never know, might get pretty close to "having it all"... If you go straight salary, try to get a locked-in contract term and benes (3 years?), so at least that aspect is covered.

GJ

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