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Music rights dilema

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by pcrecord, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I wonder what you guys would have done in my situation.
    A customer to my homestudio is a some kind of spiritual guide. She wanted to record a meditation guide with music. Her first reflex was to bring some CDs but since she want to sell the product online, I convinced her not doing so. She said not having a lot of money and ask me to make some music, she was ready to pay for 3 studio hours.

    Thing is, her text needed 15min of music to support it and dawm me and my creativity, I went crasy with the composition, recording, mixing and all.. At the end it took nearly 15 hours.

    Now, I know it's my fault from not respecting our deal. but since the value was greater that the fee I thought it would be right to ask her the 3 hours pay but make her sign an agreement that let me use the music that was mine for other avenue and even sell it. What she did'nt diggest is that in the event that a label wanted to produce the music at a later time, I wanted the possibility to ask her to stop to sell the product, givin the resonnable time to remove it from selling point. This of course not sooner than 1 or 3 years to let her do as many sells as she want.

    Since she did'nt accept this. I proposed to produce a simpler music using the original given time and sign her an agrement that hands her all the rights for the music so that even me could'nt use it in the futur. but I guess she was already in shock at the fact that I would even talk about legal rights that she left asking me for her voice alone on a cd.

    I know it was my mistake and I should have talk legals before I started the project but now, how can I approach her to regain her confidence and not loose her future business?
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Pal, you already know that clients can be incredibly naive about the recording process, along with the music business in regard to things like copyright and publishing.
    Most of them have no idea about what it really takes to record and release a commercial project. LOL... This ain't your first rodeo, my friend. You've been at this awhile now. ;) )

    If you are acting in the position as that of being strictly an engineer, your job description is simple: position the mics, push the buttons, turn the knobs, slide the faders - give the client the best sound you can based on what they give you to work with. Unless you are acting as executive producer, it's not really your job to educate them to, or handle for them, the intricacies of the music biz, although you did do the right thing by waiving her away from using the commercial music she originally brought in.

    Your best bet probably would have been to look at music beds that already existed - compositions that she can buy-out or use royalty free, or at least, for very cheap.

    So, your first mistake was jumping in and spending 15 hours doing a custom composition without her knowledge or approval. She paid for three hours. Give her the best three hours of your time and talent that you can.
    I applaud your enthusiasm, but don't sell yourself short either. If a client pays for three hours, then that's what you should give them, making sure that you give them the best three hours that you are capable of.

    Your second mistake was going back - after an agreement had already been reached - and changing the original terms; telling her that her using the music you created was based upon your option to pull permission for her to use the composition... so, basically what you were telling her was that her project had a limited shelf life... and, well, I think you'd agree that that's a pretty substantial change.

    Either write for your client, or write for yourself, PC.

    If you write something for yourself that you give her permission to use, you can always hold onto the copyright and the publishing, and you can still use it for any of your projects - and still allow her to use it on her project for an indefinite period of time.

    Simply tell her - up front - that any music that you write for her will belong to you, both in copyright and publishing, and that you are giving her permission to use that music - within the confines of that project alone - for as long as she wants.

    And, if you do write for your client, make sure you stick to the previously agreed-upon number of hours that they are paying for, and that the client had agreed to up front.
    Leave no gray areas... and most importantly: always honor the agreements you make.

    IMHO of course.
    kmetal and bigtree like this.
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    You're right Donny, I guess I needed a confirmation of my thoughts.
    Of course I am open to discussion with her and that's why I also suggested creating a complete other composition, made for her, free of rights and using only those 3 hours we agreed.

    I guess I'll let her some time to digest our disagreement and propose to do a 3 hours recording or propose to find a royalty free bed (which is a great suggestion)

  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    words of advise from Donny.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    For anything creative and only if I feel something is worth my time, I do one for free with no strings attached. If they like my work and I liked what I did for them, and know it will be a win win, I will discuss it further. Otherwise, its a simple cut and dry service.
    kmetal and DonnyAir like this.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've done this as well. Many times. Doing this serves several positive purposes.

    1. It makes the client feel as if they are being treated special
    2. It gives them a chance to check out my work
    3. Most importantly, it lays the groundwork for further future work with not only that client, but potentially with other people they know as well.

    During my time in the trenches as a studio owner, a solid 75 % of my new clientele was by word of mouth -through the referral of other clients that had positive experiences working at my studio.

    If you do decide to go that "extra mile" once in awhile for selective clients, that's fine. I did it all the time. But, you can't charge them more than what they initially told you they had to spend and/or what you both agreed upon at the start.

    One of the things I learned over my many years as a studio owner was to ask the client about their project... find out what they want to do, what they hope to accomplish, what their budget is.
    And...get to know them a little. Find out a little bit about them. This will give you a bit of an indication as to how easy they might be to work with, or, how much of a pain in the arse they might be.
    At that point, you can determine what it is that you can do for them, what you are willing to do for them within their budget, and... whether or not you really want to work with them. ;)

    Then... charge according to Donny's "BSF Scale". BSF stands for BS Factor. LOL. If they seem well-mannered, polite, professional and easy going, then you're good to go.

    If you get the hint that they are gonna be a hair-pulling experience that makes the idea of a direct jackhammer kick to the crotch-chimps sound more preferable, then up the rate...or, even possibly turn the project down completely, if it has the potential to be bad enough. There are just some people that you shouldn't work with. These people are rarely happy, no matter what you do; and it seems like the more you give, the more they then expect from you... it's the old "give an inch - take a mile" thing.
    And... you'll never get a good referral from them anyway. If you've determined a potential client to have the potential to be that bad, then either price it out of the ballpark, or tell them you are simply just too busy to give their project the attention that it deserves... ( insert eye rolling emoticon here. LOL )

    IMHO of course. :)
    bigtree likes this.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    if you wrote 3 hours of stuff once you can do it again. you should honor the original agreement you made and let her have the music you provided. most likely in ten years the music you wrote will not be an issue to you so just keep your word and let it be a lesson learned. the worst outcome would be an unhappy client going around telling others you are a shyster.
    bigtree likes this.
  8. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    When people don't understand anything about the business, and want something like this, what I do is offer them a price for the music and give them a five year license to use it without needing to pay me any money. For people who would be wary or feel uncomfortable with 'contracts and legal stuff' - I just email them and say something like...
    "I've read the ideas you had and I'd love to compose and produce the 20 minutes of music you need. As you don't know quite how many CDs you need, or if you're going to put it on your website, what I can do is let you have it for the sum of £XXX, and copyright wise, you can use it for X years with no extra payments due at all. After X years, you'll probably have some new CDs anyway and we can consider doing it again. If I license the music to you to use on your products, then you can do what you like with them - sell them or even give them away!

    I do this for video projects - record music 'in the style of' and just license them to use it. I never give them an exclusive license - effectively just giving them permission to use it, retaining all the rights. It works very well for me.

    I must say the idea of spending this much time on a lower paying job doesn't appeal - I usually just sit at the keyboard, selects some of those evolving presets and just play, using cubase to record it, so if I make a major mistake I can edit it. For these kinds of projects, it's lots of washes and pads and layered sounds moving from chord to chord. The idea of doing a proper long winded time consuming multitrack recording for this kind of background seems counter productive.
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Seems complicated to me. I keep everything simple, cut and dry so the deals keep flowing in and out smooth with no fear or lawyers.
    Pay me what I ask and its over. If I write it, its mine. If we write it, its ours. If you write it, its yours. If you are paying me to add stuff in an existing song with your lyrics, your melody, its still yours unless I was to say, I want part of it because my part rocks. But, thats where it gets complicated and that has to be determined before its ever touched. Can't start asking for extra's after the fact. That's the remedy for disaster imho. I never do that.

    Unless I'm going to make millions, KISS and keep on rolling.
  10. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    But if you write it for somebody else, then they will assume that it's theirs - like going to the store and buying any thing. He wanted to sell it, and keep it to use again. This is pretty common, but rights rule the world now, so sorting them out in advance is pretty vital.

    Herbie Flowers dreamed up the bass riff in walk on the wild side, and got a session fee for it, the guy who writes a 30 second piece for a TV game show and sees it syndicated all over the world kept his copyright and made a mint. Can any of us see it coming?
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Fun topic :)

    As an example, I have done many cool tracks for artists, I made their music sound great and we all know it. My part, made the song "better". My engineering, made them sound like stars, they inspired me to get there. But, its still their song and I got paid $500 to do it. Crap money for a months worth of work. But, its part of the bigger picture imho. The $500 was squat ; meaningless. BUT, the song and what I did to it, having others hear what I did is why I do it. Pick your talent carefully is my model. In this business, we get paid chicken feed until we are proven to be worthy of the big bucks. Most of us will never get paid for our time.

    Keep the peace. Also, do things that help others make money around you or off of you.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    If you write something for someone, lyrics or melody, its your song. If you write a very cool bass line, .... you are musician who wrote the bass line. What thats worth is standard. Determined your value before hand, not after. If it starts getting a buzz doesn't mean we should be able to squeeze more out after the fact. We can feel like a bozo and live and learn. Thats' my take on it.

    Just because they sang it doesn't make it their song. But, maybe their voice is branded and their voice made your song money. Lucky you, lucky them. Now the next one, you can charge a $*^t load to write for people and they can build a bigger pool of writers, Lucky them. win win.
  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I'm glad I started a nice discussion here. Thing is, we must discuss things before starting a project, but doing so may scare some customers who may find that complicated. I'll look for some educative tools to give the idea without making people fear of ending up in court for doing a fun thing like music !!

    For my part, I sent an email with the possibility to do a 3 hours job as agreed in the beginning and suggested royality free music sold online and she finally appoligise for over-reacting and accepted that I'll do a new song with the original 3h plan.

    So in the end, it's all good and I gave her better knowledge about music rights
    And to me, a big reminder that I should not make my customer's project my own and invest myself too much.
    We grow every day ! :)
    kmetal likes this.
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    glad you resolved the issue without offending the client. kudos!
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "But if you write it for somebody else, then they will assume that it's theirs..."

    I don't think that's true, Paul. You might run into that mindset occasionally if you were working with someone completely clueless, but that's an easy fix.... before you write, and as part of the initial project consultation, you simply tell them that anything you compose is yours, but that you are giving them permission to use it. I never put a time limit on this, but I do tell them that their usage is limited to that particular project only.

    Glad to hear things worked out, PC. ;)
  16. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Normally, I'm quite happy to simply give them the music and let them have it - but only when they pay the proper price. when people want things and have no budget, my little system means I'm free to re-use the music. In most cases of course you don't it does't quite work - but when I've done things for 'good causes' it works.
  17. Dr_Willie_OBGYN

    Dr_Willie_OBGYN Active Member

    Is copyrights what you are asking about? Copyright law comes down to whether it was a "work for hire" or a case of you working as an "independent contractor". If an independent contractor then you still own the music. If done as a "work for hire" then the hiring party owns the music. Usually copyrights can only transferred via written contract. It's only in the absence of a written contract that the work for hire VS independent contractor debate comes up in court, and the law is very nuanced. And in this case if you were to sue this other party then I think that at worst it would only be for "breach of contract" -- not "copyright infringement". Sounds to me like she has every right to use your music and sell copies of her "spiritual guide" but for no other uses -- otherwise you wouldn't have provided the music.
  18. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    In Canada, if you compose a music, you'll always be the composer. Unless you signed a contract that says otherwise, you own the music and can sell it as you wish. Also, when you're the composer, you may receive money for every use of that music. Same thing for author work.

    In my case, I did'nt respect our agreement which said 3 hours to compose music. It was my fault, I went crasy and worked for nearly 15 hours to do the best music for myself.
    In the end, We both agree I'd produce a music a little less complex using only 3 hours. She came to take it today and seemed happy.
  19. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    The mistake here is that creativity and quality have NOTHING to do with hours - from the CLIENTS viewpoint. They have no understanding about how music is made, or how difficult or time consuming it is. They want a product, and need to know how much it will cost.

    In your head, you will have a much better idea of how much time it will take and you use this to make your business profitable. Of course one job may well cross subsidise the other. Your mistake was by saying a 3 hour piece of music or a 15 hour piece of music.

    My most profitable job on the work involved front was 3 minutes of mood music for some footage shot in a jungle/dense woodland. I've got a collection of synths dating back to the 80s - and I remembered one had some very odd and musically useless weird sounds - I found one that was an evolving and constantly changing pad type sound with odd noises and a drum beat. I pressed middle C and held it for 3 minutes. Job done!

    I've spent an entire week creating a string quartet for a similar length project. Only people who do this every day will understand the time problem, and very often you start with an idea you might expect to be simple to see it morph into a big one.

    Today I have a third visit from a client who is working on a specialist area music product. The last one involved one day on location on a grand piano and probably a days editing. This project involves more sounds - percussion, some brass and woodwind - and a piano part from a sampler, played in on a MIDI keyboard. I've totally underestimated the time for this one - but I'm working on a fixed price project - my fault.

    My point is quite simple - don't get hung up by hours, it evens out over a period. Charge sensible prices that do not need clock watching. If the clock is ticking down towards a deadline, will you fix what needs fixing, or say "that will do"? If you listen to what you've produced and it needs an extra hour - it needs it!
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I never work by the hour. Every one is less stressed, there are never arguments when you take the clock out.

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