Contracts for Studio Producers (Part 1 of 2) – Session Musician and Service Agreements

In the following paragraphs we analyse the contracts that studio producers and sound engineers are likely to require as part of their work. Our objective is to clarify when sound engineers are entitled to ownership of copyright and when a one-off fee remuneration will suffice.


The Session Musician Contract

Generally, sessions musicians will be engaged in the making of a record by a producer or a sound engineer. They, as professional musicians, provide instrumental or vocal performance on a track that the producer or songwriter has composed and arranged, and when the songwriter or producer is unable to perform to the standard a session musician is able to.

In the event the song they performed on starts generating considerable income, session musicians may feel they are entitled to more than the fee they were paid for their studio work

To protect the musician and the producer – and to set the record straight for all parties involved in the making of a record – we recommend to draft and sign a Session Musician Contract. 

In its most basic and common form the session musician agreement will list:

  • the name of the songs the session musician performed in;
  • a fee payable to the session musician that is a full and final remuneration for the work carried out;
  • a section explaining that all the copyright in the recordings and the underlying composition created during the session and paid for will be owned by the party engaging the session musician. Said party can be an artist, a record label or a producer. This section will also state that the party commissioning the recording and paying for the performance will have the right to use the end result and derivatives in whatever manner they may wish, including: selling, broadcasting and editing.

Session musician contracts fall under the category of ‘contracts for services’ (also known as ‘work for hire contract’ in the US) meaning that everything created as part of the performance of said contract belongs – from inception to final form – to the party commissioning and making the payment. The party being paid to perform the tasks described in the contract will have no claim on the ownership of copyright or any related intellectual property rights related to his/her musical performance.

The key to having a session musician agreement is that a sufficient payment ought to be made from producer, label or artist to the session musician(s).

Click here for a Session Musician template from our web-store.


The Music Composition and Recording Service Agreement

This contract is very useful for sound engineers that work as producers of music for adverts, jingles, films and TV programs. It also falls under the category of ‘contracts for services’ as explained above in the ‘session musician contract’ section.

For work produced under these terms, a flat fee will be payable to the producer as full and final remuneration for the satisfactory completion of work commissioned by a company that requires musical content for use in media productions (i.e., film, TV and radio productions). All possible rights in the recordings, compositions and derivatives at any stage of completion will be the property of the party commissioning the making of the musical content.

As in any producer contract, this agreement will include a detailed description of the services provided by the producer and a timeline or schedule for delivery of the material.

Sound engineers will earn a flat fee and nothing else regardless of whether the music they made is used for a small company internal video or in a worldwide distributed film or Netflix or HBO broadcasted TV series. Therefore, we recommend producers negotiate a substantial fee and don´t undersell their work.

Click here for a Music Composition and Recording Service Contract from our web-store.