WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAID FOR A PLACEMENT
By: Adam Freedman and Alyssa Minnec
As we’re sure you are aware, a big part of collaborating in hip hop these days involves producers simply sending their beats out to anyone they can find to record songs over — be it artists, managers, record label A&Rs, etc. It seems like, specifically in hip-hop, hardly any songs are created in the studio completely from scratch anymore.
While this system may be efficient, it also means that there are almost no barriers to entry. Total rookie producers can land placements with huge artists (which I’ve seen lead to life-changing opportunities), even though they have absolutely no experience navigating any of the business aspects of the industry.
Specifically, our firm receives countless inquiries from producers saying basically the same thing: “I produced the song ________ by _________, but nobody has contacted me, I haven’t been paid, and I’m not sure what to do.”
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, it’s simply a reality of hip-hop that music often gets released before having paperwork or the producers getting paid. This also means that, if nobody reaches out, many producers will learn that they received a placement only after hearing it as part of an artist’s new release.
We know that it seems difficult to chase down an artist or record label simply to pay you for work, but it will help to realize that the delay is most likely not intentional on behalf of the artist/label.
RELEASING MUSIC WITHOUT PAPERWORK IS NOT A WAY FOR ARTISTS TO SCREW PRODUCERS
In the current state of the music industry, artists are typically announcing their albums only a couple of weeks before (or even the same week as) their scheduled release dates. In these cases, it’s very likely that the artist only finished the project right before he or she turned it in to the label, and only then does the artist/label start working on the paperwork and contracts for all the collaborators and producers involved.
Realistically, that is simply not enough time to get everything done before a release.
Another reason that nobody reached out to a producer about a placement is that nobody could find his or her contact info. Do you include your contact info in your emails when you’re sending people music? Is your contact info in the sample pack that you released?
These days, a large percentage of hip-hop artists don’t even work with producers in the studio. Instead, they just have people send them beats, and an artist will, for example, have his engineer simply play him or her all the beats that were sent. So many artists will record over a beat and have no idea who produced it, but what if they can’t even track down the producer?
When sending out beats, make sure to take that extra step and include your contact information as part of your message, as well as in details of the music file itself. This could save a lot of time on the back end.
HOW TO FIGURE OUT WHO TO REACH OUT TO
As explained above, we hear from so many producers who found out they had a placement when they listened to an artist’s new release, but they simply have no idea who to reach out to. The email you sent beats to (For example, Migosbeats@gmail.com) will not be the same email you reach out to sort out the business. Most likely, nobody from the artist’s team or label is checking that email address.
There are many ways to find the correct person to contact to get the ball rolling on your placement. First, a lot of artists will include a management contact in their social media profiles. That’s a great place to start.
If you are a total rookie or are just starting out and have no industry contacts, have you thought about asking other producers? If you collaborated on a song, perhaps the other producers involved in the song know, or you can ask other producers with who you have built up a rapport.
Even if you have zero contacts, we recommend messaging other producers on social media and asking around. I’ve found producers to be especially responsive, and if you’re coming from a point of already having a placement, it shows that you actually have something going on. And, maybe your track is one that the other producer already really enjoys. Even if you don’t get your answer, the best-case scenario is that you formed a relationship with those big producers you were looking for an “in” with.
Another option is that you could do some research and find an email on the label’s website and start there. If there is no label contact to be found, you could ask the other producers involved if they have the artist or their manager’s contact and then get in touch with the label that way.
THE CONTRACT WILL MOST LIKELY BE BETWEEN THE ARTIST AND PRODUCER, BUT THE LABEL IS THE ONE ACTUALLY PAYING
Our firm receives just as many messages from producers who actually signed a contract but are wondering why they still haven’t received payment.
What we want to clarify now is that even though the contract will most likely be between the artist and producer, the producer will have to get in touch with the label for payment (unless there is no label involved). A lot of the issues we see come down to simply that the producer didn’t know he or she had to reach out to the label, but nobody told him or her what the next steps were.
You should not be afraid to ask the other side what to do next.
However, unfortunately, a lot of artists don’t place a high priority on making sure producers get paid. This is where you’re probably going to have to step in and reach out yourself instead of just waiting for someone to tell you what to do next.
KEEP FOLLOWING UP
Once you’ve negotiated and signed the contract and gotten in touch with the right people for payment, it’s still going to take some work to get paid. Unfortunately, even in agreements with big artists who sought out the producers themselves, it sometimes takes months of following up with the label or artist manager, resending invoices and documents, and nagging once every few days to finally get paid. As of now, your best bet is to just keep following up.
I can’t tell you how many producers we’ve spoken to have waited for months simply because they never followed up. The major labels are huge entities that are often understaffed, and your paperwork may have simply gotten buried in their email inboxes.
If chasing a payment starts dragging on for weeks, we would not hesitate to follow up more and more frequently, even every day if it gets to that point.
If all else fails, hire a lawyer to contact the artist or the label and get things done that way.
If you have a placement that you haven’t been for, do not hesitate to contact us at the Law Office of Adam C. Freedman, PLLC to learn more about how we can help.