5. Contract

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Working with a composer

Pfff… this is so annoying. And everyone has their own template, their own requirements, diva stuffs. Anyways, there are some ground rules that should not even be discussed. Composers try to protect themselves, and so should everyone, even when they have been best friends since kindergarten. Here are a few points that appear on every standard composer agreement.

  • Fee: I would assume if you are at this stage of the process that the fee has been discussed. Two types of payments are still in use these days: composer’s fee, and package deal. Composer’s fee means the producers will be responsible for all music costs. It’s fantastic as the producers have full control and can decide how to spend the money, but it’s more work. Package deal means the composer is responsible for all costs (previously estimated by the composer and approved by the producers) and gets what is left at the end. Hands off for the producers, but it may end up being more expensive.

  • Deferral payment: If the budget is too low for the composer you want to work with, you may want to offer them part of the fee as a deferral payment. When the product sells, they can expect to see the rest of what they asked for. Or even a percentage, to be negotiated.

  • Payment schedule: Composers have their preference, usually half upfront, half upon reception of the final approved product. If cash flow is a problem, the payment schedule can be broken up into smaller steps. It should not create problems as it would mean less upfront money, but more will have been cashed for the composer as we get closer to the deadline.

  • Rights: It is normal that the composer keeps the rights for their music. In some countries it is even the law, no one can claim someone else’s intellectual property. In the United States, that law does not exist because there is always money in the banana stand. If the composer accepts to sell their rights, why not, but it comes with a price.

  • Credits: Most composers are freelancers, if you are happy with the work they did and decide to use their soundtrack, the credit should come naturally. Your project will help their portfolio which will help them getting new projects in the future.

Comments, suggestions, experiences you had with composers, and consequent advice for others are encouraged.
This blog will be updated with new experiences and illustrations as they occur.