More Questions for Artists: Record Producer Agreements, Part 8: Credits

Please note: This is an installment in a multi-part post.  Each post has information relevant to prior posts, so until we get to the “Final” there will be more information to come. See also More Questions for Artists: Record Producer Agreements, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. Part 6 , Part 7, Part 8 , Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12 and Part 13  Watch this space for further installments, or subscribe to the RSS feed.  A post with all the current parts in one post is available here, and see also “Artist Management Agreements” on the Semaphore Music blog.

Artists who are signed to record companies can promise producers any credits they want as long as the credit provision says something like “subject to the record company’s producer credit policies”.  Realistically, the producer can expect credit in “label copy” which usually means the liner notes on a physical disc, advertising of certain kinds such as print ads of a minimum size (such as a quarter page), Billboard front cover “strip ads”, and sometimes the “label” on a physical carrier.

With the advent of digital distribution and online advertising, this starts to get more complex.  Producers are typically not credited on iTunes, Spotify or other digital retailers, even on the “Get Info” panel.  I frankly find this insulting and a gross oversight, but it is unlikely to be fixed anytime soon.  It is still a good idea for producer representatives to request that the producer credit be included in metadata, particularly for sites like All Music Guide, Reverbnation, and other similar sites.  Whether they use it or not—and if you read All Music Guide, records somehow seem to produce themselves—at least the credit is provided and maybe someday these sites will come to understand the business they are in and who the members of the creative community are.

Online advertising should probably not be treated any differently than the customary producer credits—meaning an ad that is not so small that it becomes burdensome to get the credit into the advertising copy, but it might make sense to include the producer credit in Facebook ads in proportion to the “artwork title” of the record, such as a size of type that is 20% of the artwork title, or what you are comfortable with and what the producer will agree.

If the artist is not signed to a record company, the artist needs to be specific about where the producer will be credited and what obligations the artist is undertaking.  At a minimum, the artist should expect to credit the producer on the back cover of a physical carrier and in print advertising of a quarter page or more.

One other thing to keep in mind is that if you are going to have a mixer, that mixer will likely want credit which is typically subordinate to the producer credit.  The mixer will want advertising credit, too, so that should typically be limited to advertising for a single track that he mixed of a minimum threshold size and the Billboard strip ads.

Some mixers, especially remixers, ask for a credit of “Additional Production and Remix”.  Artists will need to be careful about that credit being interpreted as a breach of the producer’s credit provisions by crediting someone else as a producer of the same track that the producer worked on.  Of course, if you try to clear this up front, you run the risk of the producer’s lawyer having a hissy fit over the idea of someone getting credited as a producer—even if they replace every single track on the album version except the vocals.

Producer lawyers will often ask that the producer has the right to remove their credit if a version of their recording is created after the producer completes their services and the track is accepted.  This situation arises if a subsequent producer is engaged for creative reasons—not because the first producer gets fired and someone else has to be hired to save the recording.

This request is in the nature of “moral rights” in copyright laws such as the Berne Convention, which provides that independent of the author’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of those rights, the author shall have the right to object to any modification of their work, if the modification would be “prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation”.  As long as the removal of the credit is prospective—meaning that it applies only to physical devices manufactured after the producer makes their request—and that the producer waives any injunctive relief or monetary damages, the producer’s request is reasonable.  And frankly hard to argue against.