If I’m hiring musicians or vocalists who are not a permanent part of the band to play on my recordings, what do I need to do?
Congratulations, you’ve written a great song (or great album), played it over and over, refined it, figured out how you want it to sound, raised the money and now you’re ready to hit the studio.
If you’re a band then this is much easier as you have a lot of the musicians that you need already at your disposal, and, as they are part of the band, you should already have your pay-divisions discussed and arranged. However if you’re a solo act, you need to hire all the musicians you want to use. If you’re a band, you may still want to hire extra musicians to put a specific instrument or sound onto your record, or perhaps hire professional backing singers to give it that polished sound. Remember, a record is just a recording, it’s not necessarily how you’re going to play your song live every time. You have a lot of creative freedom in the studio. So you audition musicians, take recommendations and rehearse in preparation for the studio. But what do you have to do legally in order to make sure these “outside” musicians aren’t claiming ownership of your recording?
When a person creates something, they own it. This is known as Intellectual Property (IP). The legal definition of IP is an intangible creation of the human mind, usually expressed or translated into a tangible form, which is assigned certain rights of property. This goes for all fields of art and creation, be it drawing, painting, photography and, of course, music. A person’s creation of music includes the style in which they have played or sung it, the intonation used, the volume, the emotion, all aspects of the performance. So, although two people could be singing the exact same line, it can sound completely different depending on how it’s done. That is the creation and performance aspect that causes it to be owned by the creator. Therefore, although you may have written the song, if you have someone else sing on it or play an instrument, they own their performance, especially if any form of improvisation is involved that uses the artist’s own creativity and specific talents, which is usually what you’ve hired them for in the first place. This can give rise to them effectively owning a part of your record at the end. So how can you avoid this?
Every time you hire an outside person to work in the studio with you, you need to have them sign a work-for-hire agreement. This is an agreement that states that you have hired them to do a specific job, for a specific amount of money, and that in exchange for this, you will own all rights to the work at the end. The agreement should contain the project name, date or dates worked, the amount of money that you are paying the musician for their services, and the statement that the musician understands that in exchange for this, you will own all rights to the recordings made on that date and the musician will have no claim for royalties or any further form of payment. One thing that I also like to add into my work-for-hire agreements is a clause allowing the use of the musician’s image and / or name in the promotion of the album. That way, if you take any great behind the scenes photos in the studio, you don’t have to get further permission to use the musician’s likeness in promoting your song or album.
Remember, the music business is a still business, so make sure you’re protected!
Lily Lambert graduated from The University of Hertfordshire School of Law with Honors, and proceeded to be involved in the Entertainment Law field for the next 8 years.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be, or replace, legal advice. The law is constantly changing and will differ depending on your location, therefore information contained within this blog may not apply to your location or set of circumstances. Nothing in this blog is intended as a substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed to practice within your jurisdiction.