From Points to Publishing, ... | Hapilos
With greater distinctions for payment by genre and widely varying upfront fees, there are greater possibilities to earn publishing income than ever.
The most reliable form of income for producers: a sum owed for their work before the song comes out. Fees tend to start around $15,000 to do a track for a major-label-affiliated pop or R&B/hip-hop artist; a superstar-level producer might charge up to $75,000 (or higher), but $30,000 to $40,000 is considered a good range for one who is well-established and working with a major-label act.
When producers work across an entire album of songs, it’s common to reduce per-track rates. “It might be $30,000 for the first three songs, $20,000 for the second two, and $10,000 for the last song,” says Lucas Keller, founder of producer management firm Milk & Honey.
These fees are paid half upfront and half upon the delivery of a record that the label deems “commercially satisfactory.” While that first half is a producer’s to keep, the second is an advance against master royalties earned from the song. In today’s streaming economy, however, many tracks don’t recoup their fees.
Independent artists and/or those with little-to-no recording budget sometimes get more creative in paying producers what they are owed. Instead of a fee, “a lot of producers are getting 50% of the master monies, either in perpetuity or until the artist makes the producer’s fee back,” says Audrey Benoualid, partner at Myman Greenspan. Producers can also receive a fee under the aforementioned $15,000 for their work.
The percentage of master royalties producers receive for their work. Earning from two to five percentage points of a record is common today, starting at two points for a newcomer and four to five for a well-established, in-demand producer. This amount is subtracted from the act’s percentage share of the recording; labels aren’t expected to cede any of their share to compensate a producer.
In rare cases, a superstar talent may command six to eight points: Rodgers and his manager, Hipgnosis founder and CEO Merck Mercuriadis, confirm that, on average, Rodgers earns six points, but every song is a unique negotiation. As Keller explains, things can get more complicated when two producers are involved: “Let’s say two sizable producers want four points each. We likely won’t get to take eight all together, so what about we try to split six points down the middle?”
Because modern musicians often write and record as they go, the line between songwriter and producer is blurrier than ever. Many creatives that are now primarily classified as producers are also part of the songwriting process — and these multihyphenates earn publishing in addition to fees and points.
“Back in the day, when people talked about what a songwriter did, it was the guy who wrote melody, lyrics and chords. Today, if you come up with the beat, like many producers do, you can also be credited as a songwriter,” Mercuriadis says.
This is especially true in hip-hop. Michael Sukin, a top music attorney who has worked in the business since the 1970s, credits the genre’s emergence as a big part of redefining what a producer does. Timmy Haehl, senior director of publishing at Big Machine’s Los Angeles office, says, “In hip-hop, publishing is sometimes split down the middle: 50% for the top line, 50% for the track.” (In pop and other genres, there isn’t a standard amount of publishing a producer-songwriter can expect; that share of the composition is negotiated on a case-by-case basis.)
Some producers can pocket extra income through neighboring rights — performance royalties earned on the master side of income in many countries outside the United States. This, however, “has to be for a qualified record or qualified person,” Benoualid says. “You can’t be a U.S. citizen, unless you record in London and the studio is credited on the album — then you qualify for neighboring rights there.”
Producers in the United States qualify to earn a similar (but more limited) royalty from their masters playing on digital radio stations like SiriusXM, Pandora and other noninteractive digital transmissions. This is paid by SoundExchange, but producers aren’t entitled to this income unless the artists they worked with tell SoundExchange to pay the producers part of their royalty directly.