The One-off Grand Deal
I've just been reading this ABC/Double J retrospective piece on the legendary, Australian record producer,Tony Cohen. Tony was the man who placed the mics, encouraged performances and pushed faders for artists like The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Jimmy Barnes, plus many Australian greats besides. His memoir, "Half Deaf, Completely Mad," provides much of the background for the piece. The article is a ride of a read and the book, yeah, gotta get me copy!
A student and friend of the great Aussie producer and TV presenter, Ian "Molly" Meldrum, Tony sat behind the console and guided many of Australia's global contributors to rock music, yet the thing that stands out from the article...
"The only band that has consistently paid me producer royalties is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds," Cohen writes in his book. "It's due to Mick [Harvey] I receive royalties. There was never an agreement with the band's label, but he made sure I got included. I can't thank him enough..."
A few paragraphs further on...
Cohen very briefly laments a lack of royalties received for his contributions to The Cruel Sea's monumental 1993 album The Honeymoon Is Over – "I received $1000 once – big deal" – and Olson says is symptomatic of how the industry can treat figures like Cohen when success arrives.
Labels are doing this shit all the time. Not just to producers, to the "lead" artist, even!
This is why I espouse the DIY approach to music. Own your own gear, learn how to use it. It DOESN'T need to be "the best", use what you can afford, learn it, work with its "foibles." Audacity and a 2x2 audio inteface? Fine, work with it. Be your own booker and label. You might have to deal with manufacturers and distributors and publicists, but don't contract. Produce on-demand. But really, use bandcamp.com - it's free forever, they only take a small cut of your sales, they can provide you connections to disk pressers and tape copying services, for real media.
When you record, find a producer, somebody who understands your art and can tell what works or not, but doesn't get your hackles up when they tell you the dirty truth. In the digital era, you don't need a label, you only need your art, the gear you can scratch together. My nephew uses an old Mac of mine with Logic Pro and an aging Behringer 8 channel interface. He doesn't share his work with me, because I'm his uncle. I respect that, you should not! If you have connections, even weirdo uncles, use them if they're willing. Retain control, give credit and divide the cash equally amongst everybody who works on the project.
AND INCLUDE YOUR PRODUCER IN THE ROYALTIES DIVISION EVERY YEAR, QUARTER OR MONTH! They've sweated blood and walked on eggshells for you, to help you create. It is EQUALLY AT LEAST their work.
That is all.