In Hollywood there’s a saying: “Producers are unemployed actors.” This joke caught on due to the mystery as to what a producer actually does. The same holds true for the music industry. The role of the music producer varies from situation to situation. One person may be one kind of producer in one setting and then another type of producer in another.
Some music producers are musicians who assist with the technical aspects of putting together a song. They may be former recording artists or trained artists who prefer to operate on the business end of the industry. Some producers lack any musical ability but understand sound engineering and the complex process of manipulating digital music. Other producers understand what type of music sells to audiences and provides business consulting services. Then there are producers who bring sacks of money to the equation. They’re just as necessary.
Bands may need to hire a producer to finish their song. Many talented performers depend on music producers to cross the finish line. Sometime producers are retained for one-off events, other are retained for a percentage of the royalties. The correct business arrangement varies from situation to situation.
Some producers decide to groom talent to hand off to major record labels. These producers invest considerable time and energy into developing a band for major publicity. These producers generally demand considerable chunks of equity in the band.
Understand that a music producer who takes a band to unprecedented heights will demand a piece of a record deal. Producers can provide tremendous value to a band and will possess strong arguments in a court of law if they are excluded from a band’s sudden success.
That being said, some producers provide terrible return on their investment and end up becoming an obstacle for a band to overcome. As a result, it’s important for bands to understand that agreements with producers are critical. Many producers agree to develop bands and then shop the master recording license agreement to major labels on behalf of the band. The producer will demand compensation for opening the dialogue and dragging the band from obscurity to stardom.
There is no substitute for hiring counsel when courting producers. Producer agreements are very technical documents demanding diplomatic negotiations.