March 24, 2023

Work-For-Hire Contracts: What You Need To Know

If you are an artist or beat-maker, it is essential that you understand the difference between a traditional collaboration model and a work-for-hire agreement.

An example of a Traditional Collaboration Model: A rapper approaches a beat-maker and a partnership is created. The rapper agrees to pay for studio time to lay down his vocal lines if the beat-maker agrees to create a unique beat for the track. The two decide to split all royalties and profits 50/50.

An example of a Work-For-Hire Agreement: A rapper approaches a beat-maker and pays him to create a particular type of beat for his track. The rapper wants the beat-maker to “help bring his vision to life.” The beat-maker does not receive any royalties or profits off of the finished product because his beat has already been paid for by the artist.

The most important thing to remember with work-for-hire contracts is that you [the one being hired to create a particular beat for someone] forfeit all Writer’s and Publisher’s Shares. This is key, as holding Writer’s and Publisher’s Shares are what will bring in royalty income if the song were to receive radio airplay or licensing deals with film, television, or video games. Whatever payment you receive from the artist or singer upfront is the total amount of money that you ever will make in association with that particular song.

Work-For-Hire Contract Pros:

  • You have certainty that you will get paid for your work [as royalties are not always guaranteed].
  • You can still receive written credit for your work on the song / the beat that you produced, even if you do not receive royalties. [You can include a statement in your contract that requires the artist to list you in their album and song credits.]
  • You know exactly how much money you are going to make off of your work / beat and when you will be paid [as royalties are never guaranteed and are received over a long period of time].

Work-For-Hire Contract Cons:

  • Your beat may never reach the public. [Once the artist pays you for your work, the beat is in their hands. It is up to them whether or not they actually use it and release a song with it.]
  • You give up creative control. [The artist, who is commissioning a beat from you, can choose to utilize it in whatever way they wish. You have no say in how the final product sounds.]
  • [MOST IMPORTANT CON] If the song that includes your paid-for beat goes on to make $1,000,000 in royalites, you will never see any of that money.

Consider these pros and cons carefully before entering into any kind of collaboration, contract, or agreement. Both traditional collaborations and work-for-hire-agreements have their place.

| Alisha Peru | |

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