A Recording Studio Contract Rundown

A recording deal isn’t the only contract that a musician will end up signing…

recording studio contractArtists will often have to sign a recording studio contract as well. 

There are several parts to a recording studio contract that musicians should understand. The contract lays out all of the rules that both the recording studio and the artist should abide by. The agreement can provide musicians with access to the recording studio resources that they otherwise would not have. There are a number of clauses in recording studio contracts that might not be clear at first glance. Below is an explanation of those clauses:

Studio rates

This portion of the recording studio contract outlines the hourly rates charged by the studio. However, a studio may also charge a musician a block rate, or a set amount of money for a full day of recording. An artist may be required to place a deposit based on the total that he or she would be expected to pay. There may be other fees included. For example, charges for CDs or DVDs – though this is likely less common than it was years ago – or charges for using the studio’s house musicians. 

Rate reductions

The contract will also outline any discounts that you may receive from the aforementioned rates. A musician who lays down his or her own tracks, uses his or her own engineer or personally sets up the equipment may be able to squeeze these discounts into the agreement. Another section may touch upon refunds. For example, if all of the recording covered in the contract is not completed, a refund could be in order if it is included in the agreement. 

Ownership

This clause touches on who will own the masters that are produced during an artist’s time in the studio. Most recording studio contracts confirm that the musician will retain ownership of the masters once recording is concluded. It is very important to ensure this portion of the contract is included. 

Indemnification

Studios include this clause in contracts for protection from expenses associated with lawsuits and attorneys. A recording studio may also require the artist to guarantee against copyright infringement suits. 

Recording schedule

There should be a time-frame included in the recording agreement, outlining how much time the musician intends to spend in the studio. It is important to work around other commitments that the studio may have. 

It is important for artists to review contracts to ensure that they do not include any surprise fees, propose a reasonable time frame, clearly establish who will own master recordings and whether there are any discounts or refunds included. Remember that often all of the provisions in a recording studio contract are negotiable, which gives artists the opportunity to ensure that the agreement can work in their favor. 

If you’d like help going over a recording studio contract, or putting one together, ask an entertainment law attorney for assistance with going over the agreement. 

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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