Should I ask for a cut of publishing? Need some guidance...
Old 7th December 2012
  #1
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Thread Starter
Should I ask for a cut of publishing? Need some guidance...

Hi everyone!

I have a situation that I need some guidance and feedback on.

Way back in the early days of my engineering-for-money adventure, I tracked and mixed 9 songs for a local band.
I was paid at the time of the work (something crazy like $200... so long ago I don't remember, and nothing was ever on paper.)
The work I did technically included "record production", as I have always been aggressive about people being in tune, and I have always had a knack for knowing when a take is right or not right.
But to say I "produced" these tracks in the classic sense would be a stretch. The band had a sound, knew what they wanted, and wouldn't have let me interfere too much had I even wanted to.
The sessions were fun, fast, low key, low tech. I was young and they were even younger, none of us really knew what we were doing, but the result was pretty good.
Nothing to write home about technically, but the tracks had a great energy that still translates today, really fun recordings to listen to.
Not a terrible showing on my part, despite how inexperienced I was. This is largely due to the songwriter and singer, who was incredibly talented.
When we were done, the band took all the masters. (which was a couple of 1/2" 8 track analog reels, and the DAT tapes of the mixes.)
At the time I didn't make any backups for myself or for safety. It seemed greedy and weird to do so at the time.
Massive, massive mistake. I was young and was not thinking of the future...
All of what I tracked and mixed for the band (save one song) was released at the time on various 7" and 10" vinyl pressings. Nothing digital.

Years go by, and lo and behold these guys become a hugely famous and dare I say influential band.
The band changed their name sometime after I worked with them, and their subsequent success is 100% encompassed by their newer and still current name brand.

Fast forward to now:

The band now have plans to remaster and re-release all the recordings they made during the early period, before they changed their name.
(this includes a full length CD that I did not work on)
The original masters for the songs I did cannot be found by the band, so they contacted me to ask if I had any of it.
All I had was the original vinyl pressings, barely played, and a cassette of about half the songs, printed directly from the master DAT tape right after the mix sessions. (thank god for that cassette)
The one band member that I know best and I eventually decided to gather all the vinyl we had between us, and do a transfer into Pro Tools with some good converters, etc.
These transfers would just have to be the new "masters". Nothing else we could do really.
I've appealed to the band to search and search again for the lost masters. It may pan out and they may find something, but maybe not...
I struck a deal with the band for my help in compiling and transferring all this stuff. It was a flat fee, and pretty reasonable for both parties. Under a grand.
They did need my help, and definitely my cassette, but really I am not doing a whole lot here.
For my flat fee, I've agreed to assemble a master for them, as I do a lot of mastering for local clients so it's something I can do decently well.
But all parties know that my master is a temporary solution, and I have strongly encouraged them to get the project mastered by a pro M.E.
If my master is helpful to the process, or even used in the end, that would be great but really I'm just doing it to be cool, and satisfy myself, practice, etc...

I have completed the vinyl / cassette transfer and delivered the raw tracks via a very simple and clean Pro Tools session.
I also wrote fairly extensive notes about the original sessions, and the current vinyl / cassette transfer session, in order to hopefully help the eventual mastering engineer put it all together.

I have all sorts of people asking me if I am getting "royalties", "publishing", etc., as part of this new release.
I have no such agreement, and I'm wondering if it's appropriate. I've never been the aggressively opportunistic type, which is how I would instinctively feel about trying to get publishing here.
But then again, maybe I actually do deserve it and it's a perfectly typical scenario in a situation like this?
I have no experience in this arena so I have no clue. All my work has only been local and regional bands, nothing nearly this official. In fact this is the first time I've ever had to sign a W-9, invoice a record label, etc.

Painfully out of my league here, I could really use some advice...
Even the smallest cut of a project like this could change my life financially, but I don't want to be inappropriate just because of that.
How should I proceed here?

Old 7th December 2012
  #2
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kafka's Avatar
 

Personally, I'd say they shouldn't be offended if you ask for a production or engineering credit, as well as some royalty. It may be old material, but it's new material to their fans, and it's an established act. You helped them out with a cut rate to help them get going, and now that they *are* going, you're helping them to *keep* going.

True, your rights probably ended with the check you received from your work-for-hire agreement. However, your pricing was based on this being a speculative release by an unknown band. Now that it has become a revenue generating release by a known band, I don't see why you shouldn't be credited and compensated in a more noteworthy manner.
Old 7th December 2012
  #3
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drBill's Avatar
 

Publishing? No Way. You can fight to the death, and you will never get that. Royalties? Maybe, but doubtful. The fact that you were paid again for this go-round, and no one brought up royalties pretty much seals the deal for you. BUT, if the band is grateful for your early help, and if they are generous, and if the record company is not squeezing them to to limit, you can ask and see if they have mercy on you. But as far as your RIGHTS go, you basically have none without an agreement up front from years ago. Good luck though. Perhaps what might serve you the best is a CREDIT for helping them. Either engineering or co-production. If the band is really as huge as you imply, that in and of itself could change your career.
Old 7th December 2012
  #4
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narcoman's Avatar
 

Agree with Dr Bill.




as usual..... cripes this is getting dull.... gimme an argument man!!!
Old 7th December 2012
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Publishing? No Way. You can fight to the death, and you will never get that. Royalties? Maybe, but doubtful. The fact that you were paid again for this go-round, and no one brought up royalties pretty much seals the deal for you. BUT, if the band is grateful for your early help, and if they are generous, and if the record company is not squeezing them to to limit, you can ask and see if they have mercy on you. But as far as your RIGHTS go, you basically have none without an agreement up front from years ago. Good luck though. Perhaps what might serve you the best is a CREDIT for helping them. Either engineering or co-production. If the band is really as huge as you imply, that in and of itself could change your career.

What he said. Did you do any songwriting? If not, why would you receive publishing?
Old 7th December 2012
  #6
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Thread Starter
Dr Bill, thank you for the distinction.
Yes, I believe I'm talking about a royalty and not publishing. Sorry I lumped the two together...

I know damn well I have no rights here, no delusions as far as that goes. I'm just wondering if it's out of line to ask them to be generous.
The songwriter has his own label now, he's in control not a major label.

My instincts about the situation match your evaluation.

I have not actually invoiced the label for my work yet, I have nothing to lose by asking I suppose.

Keep the thoughts coming please, I really appreciate the feedback everyone!
Old 7th December 2012
  #7
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narcoman's Avatar
 

I think there is no harm in asking. I wouldn't be offended if you asked me. I'd hope you would take it in the same light if i said "no". Only you can know if your relationship with them works; trust your own judgement.
Old 10th December 2012
  #8
Lives for gear
Engineers are hired hands and never get points.

But do ask for credits (i.e. sleeve notes) for the recordings in the first place and for your work today.
Old 10th December 2012
  #9
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dlmorley's Avatar
A credit is always nice. A share of any profit? I can't see that working, but being on good terms with a "big" band and having people know you worked with them is a positive thing.
Old 10th December 2012
  #10
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narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
Engineers are hired hands and never get points.

But do ask for credits (i.e. sleeve notes) for the recordings in the first place and for your work today.
not entitled to points, sure. You're not entitled to them for ANY work. Negotiation awards all kind of rewards. I've had points for just mixing. I've had points for just recording.
Old 11th December 2012
  #11
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Thread Starter
Guys, thank you so much for this discussion.

I am still thinking about how to do this right.

The only reason I think it may be appropriate to try for some points is that my original work does encompass *some* degree of production.
There are other recordings from the same period that were done by others, and they don't work as well as mine did.
On mine, the vocals are suddenly an important part of the deal, and rightly so, this guy's a fantastic singer.
Specific spots for doubled vocals and harmonies, etc.
The engineering was a little ragged, but some of the decisions were not.

So while I wouldn't say I was their "producer", I absolutely produced the sessions... if that makes any sense.
You can hear it in the results, compared to the other stuff.

That might be worth something.
Although, I think you are all correct, I am not entitled to anything here legally speaking.
But yeah, what if a little negotiating could pay off...? I think it's worth a shot, I just have to figure out the best way to propose it.

Thanks again, I seriously appreciate this feedback!
Old 11th December 2012
  #12
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Galleddrim's Avatar
You got paid the first time. Agreement and payment. That's done. You got paid this time for remastering. I think asking for royalty on top of that may come across greedy. Sure you gave them a good deal, but that was years ago. Just tell them to come back to you when they need more work, or to send their friends your way, with the understanding that you won't be as cheap as you used to be. If you ask for more now, they may (subconsciously even) have the impression that you'll always be trying to get the most out of them (money-wise). A good relationship you can build on is worth a lot more than a tiny royalty cut.

I'd say forget about royalty (since you haven't rights to it anyway), and milk the liner notes credit for all it's worth. Which is a lot if they are a well-known band.
Old 11th December 2012
  #13
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Galleddrim -

You make some great and sensible points.

My natural instinct is that it's greedy. But then again, I can be way too passive and nice. This business doesn't always reward nice.

There's no real chance of me working with the main songwriter in the future, I won't get into why here except to say that for one, he doesn't live here anymore.
But some of the original band members do live here, I have a good relationship with them.
Credits will be great, although since they aren't for anything recent I doubt they will help me in any tangible way. I could be wrong...?
In any case...

You may be right on the money here. I appreciate your thoughts -
Old 11th December 2012
  #14
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You could have used the cassette master as collateral in making a deal ... though they may have said, 'we'll just use the vinyl we have' anyway. Sounds like it's too late for that. If you had the original masters or multi-tracks, you'd be in a great position to make a good deal.

This is something all folks could learn from: If you work on a project that you think is special and has potential for something bigger, save your stuff and/or put a clause in your agreement with the artist or band/producer.

I don't think it's about being greedy or nice. Are you legitimately owed anything, or were you just in the right place at the right time?
Old 11th December 2012
  #15
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Thread Starter
donnylang:

Spot on regarding the original masters.
Hands down one of the biggest mistakes of my whole career so far, not making ADAT backups of the 1/2" multitracks, or making my own copies of the DAT masters.

I am not legitimately owed anything. Right place at the right time, but who knew...?
They themselves didn't even appear to have much professional ambition at the time.
(although it's silly to think that the songwriter didn't have those aspirations privately at least)

Lesson learned, believe me. Although things are much easier now with computer files vs. tapes. But still...
Youngsters take heed. Don't make the same mistake, you never know!

The more we discuss this, the more I feel I will probably not ask for points.
Negotiate for credit, and enjoy the bragging rights which are impressive and something I've avoided all these years for some reason.
Although the tracks I did were not released as a full album, they do all sound exactly the same and were done in a short time period.
There are 9 of them in total, so really I tracked and mixed the first "album" by an alternate version of what is now a famous and well loved band.

Pretty cool in and of itself, really...
I wish I actually remembered more from the sessions themselves, it was so long ago it's hard to remember details.
Another lesson for the youngsters, something that took me forever to start doing... TAKE NOTES
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