Guest post by Canadian entertainment lawyer Byron Pascoe
You’re a mother (or father) and your son or daughter is a musician. Your child has appointed you as his or her music manager, or perhaps you gave yourself this role. Either way, you’re the Momager. Good luck!
Whether a musician’s manager is a friend, music veteran or parent, there are similar considerations and goals. However, there is an added layer when you’re also the parent.
This article does not provide advice about the psychology of the relationship. Instead, this article will focus on two of the key music rights related situations that Momagers encounter - “production deals” that producers want your child to sign, and singing competitions.
The Production Deal
The role that a producing partner might take on in the context of a production deal includes helping to write one or more songs with your child, and then taking those lyrics and music and turning it into a completed work. Along the way, the producer records, produces, mixes and/or masters the song.
Scope: The producer might request that the scope of this arrangement be a single song, about 5-6 songs (referred to collectively as an EP), or perhaps about 10-12 songs (referred to collectively as an album).
One way to protect your child is to limit the relationship to one song, as a start, to see how the creative process goes. Another way to protect your child is to save the favourite song that he or she has been working on for a long time until after you have explored one or two other songs with the producer.
Approvals: Further to the comment above about song choice, it’s important that your child (and by extension you) have a say in the song selection. You want to ensure that if you are working on one song with the producer, that you must confirm which song will be worked on together.
Ask the producer to outline the various steps involved in the process, and ensure you have the right to provide meaningful feedback and approvals along the way. It’s a lot easier for everyone involved if major changes to the song get figured out before too much time has been spent by everyone involved.
Fees: It’s important to have clarity with the producer about what fees you are paying her, and at what intervals. Don’t pay everything up front. You can tie your approvals to payment. If you pay everything up front, and aren‘t happy with the progression of the work, the producer has less incentive to ensure you’re satisfied.
If the producer is requiring that you pay other third party costs, ensure you must approve these costs before they are committed. An example is that the producer might suggest that you use the services of her friends and colleagues, from a vocalist to sing in the background to a well known producer putting his touch on the song, to a publicist, and everything in between.
Rights and Obligations: In another article I wrote about musicians asking the question, “What are your expectations of me and my music?” to anyone that the musician is considering working with on her music. Here again are some questions that are relevant to be determined, in advance, in writing, between your child and the producer:
Writer’s Share: The writing split of the composition between your child the musician and producer;
Publisher’s Share: The publishing split of the composition between musician and producer;
Master: Clarity about the musician owning and controlling the masters;
Sales: The musician’s obligations to the producer based on the sales of the music; and
Credit: The credit each will receive.
The answers to these questions depend on the situation. A good starting point is asking the producer what her expectations are regarding your child and his or her music, and more specifically what the producer has in mind regarding those five bullets.
Termination: What happens if your child’s expectations regarding the skill of the producer aren’t met? More likely the context is that the producer and your child don’t find their musical groove together. It’s helpful to proactively have an escape plan in place, including as it relates to fees, should the musical experiment between your child and the producer not work out.
Written Agreement: Whatever the arrangement, get it in writing. Also, ensure that if there are changes to be made to the relationship, that they be formalized in writing. Otherwise, if there is a dispute in future, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact arrangement, due to conflicting memories, texts that are no longer accessible, phone and in person conversations that are hazy, etc.
Entering Singing Competitions
Thanks to massive programs from American Idol to the Voice, there are many other singing competitions heating up and launching, in cities, states, and across North America and beyond to give your child a shot.
Some key considerations before advising your child whether he or she should enter a competition include, but are not limited to, the following:
What time commitment is involved? Does it interfere with school, other musical initiatives, etc.?
What is the fee to apply, if any? The fact that there is a fee doesn’t immediately mean that the contest is a sham. But in all cases it’s important to do your due diligence to ensure legitimacy. Are there other costs involved that won’t ever be reimbursed, such as travel?
What rights, if any, does the contest programmer receive if your child sings one of his or her own songs? What happens if the song being performed is co-written between your child and someone else?
What rights are you providing to the company running the competition regarding future music? Oftentimes this is in the form of giving the company the “option” at their absolute discretion, to work with your child on his or her next single(s)/EP(s)/album(s). One consideration is ensuring that the potential reward of entering in and/or winning the competition is balanced by the rights being provided. A related consideration is knowing whether you’re granting the company these rights whether or not you win the competition. Also, how do your pre-existing songs fit into what you are being asked to sign?
Is there a time during your child’s involvement with the competition in which he or she is not allowed to release other music and/or perform at all? This might be referred to as a blackout period.
For both the production agreement and the contest application, it’s important to understand what your child is getting into, ask any questions, and make sure that the opportunity is the right fit, with the right person/company, and at the right time. The role of a music lawyer is to help you navigate these exciting, yet sometimes bumpy waters.
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Byron Pascoe is a Canadian entertainment lawyer with Edwards PC, Creative Law and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Edwards PC, Creative Law provides legal services to Music, Digital Media, Game, TV, Film, and Animation industry clients. Byron works with musicians and music companies to assist with record label agreements, publishing contracts, distribution deals, producer agreements, band agreements, etc. This blog is for general informational purposes only and is not to be considered as legal advice. Please contact a lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.
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