Your not a music professional if you haven’t been screwed out of money at least once. That’s par for the course and part of the learning process, but it obviously becomes a real problem if it continues to happen. Regardless of what end of the music business you work in, as an independent contractor it’s your responsibility to make sure that your covered business-wise. Here’s a “getting paid” checklist from the latest edition of my Music Producer’s Handbook that as relevant for musicians and engineers as it is for producers.
By the way, I posted this about 4 years ago, but there’s always questions about these scenarios so I’ve provided an updated list.
Before any serious work on the project can begin, there are a series of important questions that the client must answer about your payment.
1. What’s your compensation? Will you just get a flat fee? Will you get a percentage of revenue? Is publishing or merch included? How about streaming and YouTube revenue? Do you get a combination? If so, how much?
2. How are you getting paid? Will you be paid per song, on spec, by the hour, or with a flat fee for the project?
3. Will you get an advance? How much is it? Does it come out of the recording budget? If you can’t get it all, can you get at least half of your fee up front?
4. Who’s paying you? Is it a record label, the artist or band, the manager, or an investor?
5. Who’s doing the accounting? Is it a label? A band member? A member of the band’s team? The management company? This is essential to know in case there’s a payment hiccup down the line.
6. When will you get paid? Determine the exact date that you can expect a check, wire transfer, paypal transfer, or direct bank deposit (you did figure that out already, right?)
Needless to say, get these all in writing! People have a tendency to forget the details over time, even if they’re well meaning and not out to take advantage of you. Even a crude piece of paper signed by each party works wonders in jogging the memory.
These questions may be hard for you to bring up, especially before even taking the gig, but they’re vitally important to getting paid for your hard work.
You can read more from The Music Producer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.