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Category Archives: Music

4 reasons why receiving Producer Credit may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

br-lazy"4 reasons why receiving Producer Credit may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s a common practice in the entertainment industry. Producers operating on shoestring budgets will, in an effort to secure the property and/or services of talented individuals, ofer them some kind of producer credit in lieu of the usual compensation those people might normally command.

This kind of thing is, somewhat surprisingly, quite attractive to many in the business. Perhaps it’s the prestige of being a producer, or perhaps it’s taken as recognition of one’s value to a project.

But, receiving a producer credit on a film, play, musical or album is often a bad idea. Here are some of the reasons I advise my clients against accepting credit.

The Lead Producer doesn’t have any “skin in the game”

If you’re taking producer credit in lieu of compensation, the lead producer is getting a huge bargain. As such, he (or she) is taking a much smaller risk with the project than would be the case if you were being paid what you’re really worth. And, if there’s less at risk, the lead producer may feel freer to take bigger risks elsewhere, thus leading the project into peril. By contrast, when a producer has money on the line (whether his own or investors’), he’s less likely to take unreasonable risk or maintain untenable positions with the project.

Undervaluation of the recipient’s contribution to the project

If the lead producer isn’t willing or able to pay you an appropriate fee, it should tell you something about the value he or she places on your services. Essentially, the lead producer is telling you, “hey, I don’t think you’re worth what you charge for your services, so let me give you something that doesn’t cost me money, instead.”

More importantly, however, if you’re willing to take less than ‘normal’ compensation, it shows the lead producer and the rest of the world that you think the same way. Your services really aren’t worth what you charge.

Of course, sometimes you’ll get involved with a project you feel passionate about and be willing to discount your fees to be associated with them. And that’s fine. Just be sure you’re discounting for the right reasons.

In my view credit alone shouldn’t be one of them.

Control Issues

Time and again, I’ve seen situations in which a “producer” on a project has absolutely no control. He or she is getting producer credit, but exercises no real authority to influence the direction a project takes. It’s a little like being at the helm of a ship, holding the steering wheel, but not being permitted to turn it to avoid a collision. Without a meaningful degree of control (or at least a right of consultation) producer credit can be pretty meaningless. Even if the film wins major awards, it’s typically only the lead producer and the core producing team that actually benefit from the recognition.

Exposure to Liability

As I’ve written about before here, recipients of producer credit can find themselves in the crosshairs of litigation from angry contractors, unpaid vendors, disgruntled investors, and anyone else with a beef against the project. Being identified as a producer tells the world that you are a person responsible for the production, and everything that flows from it, whether good or bad. It doesn’t matter whether you are really responsible. If someone has a problem, they’ll go after all of the producers. In one recent case, for example, a credited producer with a minority financial interest in a theatrical production (and thus no real control over the project) was held vicariously liable for copyright infringement when the lead producer unilaterally decided not to pay the playwright. He hadn’t, the jury concluded, done enough to prevent the infringement. So, under the principle of joint and several liability, he’s responsible for the entire $250,000 judgment. ( See Keeling v. New Rock Theatre)


So, receiving producer credit may actually be worse than not being involved in a project at all. At the very least, acceptance of such a proposal can send subtle signals about the parties’ valuation of the recipient’s services.

Of course, there are plenty of valid reasons to receive a producer credit. Foremost among these, though, should always be that you’re actually a producer of the project, not a mere figurehead, but wielding real influence over the project, and thus earning the right (and responsibility) of being called “Producer”.


Asked & Answered: Can co-writers exclude music rights from screenplay rights?

Q: I am writing a musical with a talented writer and filmmaker. We have agreed to a  60%-40% split on the scriptwriting. Since I am the sole writer for the music and will pay for it's production, we have mutally agreed that I keep 100% of the music rights. We plan to sell the script.

In part, the Writer Collaboration Agreement mentions that

“… all sequel remake and television spin-off rights, novelization, merchandising, play, radio
and audio rights to the screenplay be shared by…

How can we reword this to clarify our 60%-40% shared rights in the scriptwriting, and my 100% ownership of music?

A: Yes, it is possible, in a collaboration agreement, to separate rights in certain components of the work, so that a composer retains Continue Reading

P.R.O.s continue policy of suing bars and Restaurants. Are your licenses in place?

As  I blogged  here last December,  Performance Rights Organizations like ASCAP and BMI continue their policy of pursuing legal action against bars and restaurants that play music without proper licensing.  The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog has a piece today, that reminds us of the policy.  8thnote

Earlier this week,  BMI filed a suit against a restaurant called “Pianos”  where the song “Talk Dirty To Me” by the band Poison  (among other songs) proved a toxic brew.  The suit filed by BMI and a number of copyright holders seeks an injunction, attorneys fees, and statutory damages, which can amount to as much as $150,000 per infringement.

The bottom line rule of thumb is this:  If you're operating a bar or restaurant,  larger than 3750 square feet, and/or playing music through a system of more than 6 loudspeakers, you need licenses from these Performing Rights Organizations, or you could find yourself on the receiving end of one of these lawsuits.

n.b:  It's important to recognize that neither the square footage, nor the number of speakers is a hard-and-fast rule.  Courts look to many factors in determining whether an unlicensed use is copyright infringement.  It should also be noted that the cases dealing with smaller establishments have involved radio being played in the business.  Playing music from CDs or other sources will most likely require licenses from the PROs. (revised 1/3/2011)

If you're  a bar or restaurant owner and you don't already have your license(s)., you may wish to consult your entertainment lawyer, to determine what's required.  Of course if you're contacted by one of these organizations, consult your attorney right away… BEFORE you respond.

360 deals – some basics from M.E.L.O.N.

My friend and colleague Tony Berman is at it again, preparing a useful and comprehensive blog post about the growing phenomenon of so-called 360 deals, where record companies participate not only in revenues from an Artist’s record sales, but also from merchandise, touring, ticketing, online presence, marketing, sponsorships, endorsements, and the like.  Essentially, any money… Continue Reading

Music Basics for Film and Video productions.

Music is an integral part of any filmmaker’s toolbox. Proper selection of music can help tell a story, set a mood, and build suspense. For most independent productions, however, music is either under-budgeted or not budgeted at all. Even when there IS a music budget, it’s often re-allocated to more pressing expenses during production. This… Continue Reading

Listening to the radio at work? You may be a copyright infringer!

A recent case in the UK Courts is raising some interesting questions about liability for copyright infringement by companies whose employees play music in the workplace. In the case at hand, mechanics for a Scottish car repair service played their personal radios in the work-bays of the company’s garage. Obviously, an auto-repair shop is a… Continue Reading

Restaurants sued for playing music without ASCAP/BMI licenses

In recent months, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has sued at least two dozen restaurants around the country for copyright infringement. The claims stem from the restaurants’ playing of music without obtaining a license from the performing rights organization. ASCAP and its competitor BMI (Broadcast Music International) are the two largest… Continue Reading

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