What are the main deal points in a recording studio agreement?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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If a recording studio agreement is being considered, there are certain key issues that should be addressed and clarified. Some, but not all, include:

(1) Parties to the Recording: Obviously, all parties expected to be involved and paid in the recording process should be expressly identified or dealt with in the studio recording contract. For example, if there is a band agreement, who has power to sign the studio recording agreement?

(2) Studio Rates: Studios generally charge on an hourly basis. Determine in advance what they will charge you per hour, and be sure to tell them how many CD’s and cassettes you plan to press. Also advise them how long you expect to take to record your demo.

(3) Studio Hidden Costs and Surcharges: Ensure in advance exactly what you are being charged for and what is (and is not) included. Sometimes studios charge extra for engineer or producer fees, mixing and mastering , drum set-up time, etc. Also, studios generally charge different hourly rates for recording, mixing and mastering services.

(4) Rate Reductions: Sometimes you may want to ask for certain “discounts.” For example, if you lay down your own tracks with your personal engineer or music producer, those service charges should not be included. And, try to get a exclusion or reduction in the hourly studio time price for setting-up your own drums.

(5) Method and Manner of Payments: Clarify in writing if you need to pay the studio up-front, or in payments. Determine if the studio gets paid an “all-in” payment, or whether the engineer or music producer and paid separately.

(6) Refunds: If you have to pay the full studio recording fee in full and in advance, be sure to provide for a partial reduction in the studio fees if the project is not completed due to reasons beyond the control of the parties.

(7) Indemnification: This is a legal clause in a contract that many studios insist on to help protect them from costs of lawsuits and attorney fees. Studios often require you to guarantee them against any copyright infringement suits.

(8) Recording Schedule: Put down in writing a time-frame for the completion of your project. Inquire what other recording commitments the studio and/or engineer has that may potentially interfere with the timely recording of your production.

As in all music-related agreements, all provisions are negotiable, but largely dependent on your clout. Whenever possible, a music lawyer should be consulted before any recording studio agreement is signed.

(Reprinted with permission of Ruben Salazar, Esq.)

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