A Look At Recording Studio Contracts

Often, particularly for a young band, a chance to go into a recording studio is the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow of aspiration and hard work. As satisfying as writing songs, playing shows and winning an audience can be, it still seems fleeting and temporary until something is actually laid to tape (or, as is more and more accurate today, to a computer). Still, working in these studios is not cheap, and with so much money being spent, a contract is needed to ensure the both recording studio and the band are in agreement to the terms of the working relationship.

Now, recording can be tricky, as record labels and/or producers are often involved, and sometimes these parties will have relationships with the recording studios, which can influence these conditions. However, in the purposes of this article, we will only look at recording studio contracts concerning an artist working directly with the studio. While the specifics will change dependant on the studio and the band, the basics that outline what the contract will contain are as follows:

Fees – Studios usually book bands in one of two ways, at an hourly rate or at a block rate, which is often a set amount of money for a day (usually eight hours). This fee will obviously be stated in the contract along with other fees the band will incur, such as a fee for CDs or DVDs of the sessions, fees used to pay “house musicians” of the studio (if applicable), and fees for tape if using analog recordings.

How Fees Will Be Paid – This will vary extensively on a case-by-case basis, but studios often require a credit card to be placed on file that will be charged if the client does not comply with the agreed to payment conditions. Additionally, it is usually stated that no recorded material will be released to the artist until the amount is paid in full. This section will also state any applicable late fees and returned check charges.

Ownership – Usually, in the case of a band working directly with a studio, the band will retain all rights to the songs recorded, and this fact will be expressly written in the contract. However, the contract will also state that it is up to the client (artist) to obtain the copyright for this music.

Other – The remainder of the contract will outline everything else agreed to by the client and the studio. A wide range of issues will be addressed here, such as terms of cancellation, relationship between the two parties (if any), and a clause naming the contract void if any terms are violated.

For artists, recording studio contracts present exactly how much you will be spending to record your music, eliminating any surprise fees that may put you over budget. These contracts also provide an important legal basis for studios to collect payment for the services they render. All in all, the terms in these agreements are extremely important to both sides, and it’s important that both sides agree to those terms before a single note is recorded.