Do Dropping Record Sales Signal The Death of the Modern Music Producer?

Record producer’s income has always been based on upfront advances and percentages of sales, which, on a successful record would generate income for many years. With the new model for music revenue, based on licensing and advertising revenue (i.e. money a producer rarely sees) how can a producer still make a living?

The following is an excerpt/sample chapter from the revolutionary new book on music business survival, 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business, by industry veteran, Moses Avalon.

Moses Avalon

As income from direct record sales becomes more tenuous, producers can no longer afford to trust that the standard compensation three-to-five points on physical sales can generate enough cash to pay for the cost of production, let alone their personal bills, or God forbid, a profit. With budgets shrinking and upfront fees diminishing, unless the producer happens to be one of the top 10 players who can still command a six-figure fee, they may become an endangered species. Add to this is the fact that auditing a record label’s physical sales was already hard enough, but auditing ad-based revenue and blanket licensing is nearly impossible. With this new financial reality, what will producers do to maintain enough of a margin to allow them to take risks on new acts?


Just like record companies are focusing on inking 360 Deals with their acts, which take revenue from live shows and merchandise, and just as publishers now want to participate in the recording advances of their writers, the producer too needs to focus on sharing in more than just sales of recorded music of their artist/client; the producer royalty structure needs to include all income the recording generates, which includes airplay, film and TV sync licenses and publishing revenue.

There is quite a bit of opposition to this concept from songwriting public performance societies like ASCAP and BMI, who are trying to protect the interests of their members. But somewhere a new standard will have to emerge, or the profession will disintegrate and artists will be left to produce themselves.

This may sound tempting if you’re an artist who feels that labels homogenize music too much already, but not to labels who invest massive amounts in the artist’s development, especially when labels see already slumping sales dipping further against those acts that can afford a platinum-grade producer.

When evaluating which acts to invest in, labels now look at the entire team, which should include the producer, not just the demos, a lawyer and a fan page.

This is a new dynamic. In the past, the label, more often than not, saw themselves as the broker for the marriage of producer and talent. Now artists will have to hunt down and secure a top talent for themselves.


The modern producer needs to be more integrated into the acts they develop from the ground up. In rap, R&B, and hip-hop, this is already common, but it is rare in rock, country, and other types of acoustic music to see producers taking on more than a creative or administrative role. Now, they will become the artist’s partner in more integrated–or invasive (depending on your viewpoint) ways; their deals with the artists will resemble 360 Deals.

100 Answers to 50 Questions by Moses Avalon

An ironic twist to this is the subject of publishing. Asking for a percentage of the artist’s publishing was once thought to be the benchmark of a sleazy producer, but will now become the norm. Artists will be expected to give up a small piece of their songwriting pie or they might be perceived as unreasonable or underhanded.

In my new book 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business, we discuss the various forms that these new deals are taking, and how to cope with the changing landscape. Support this site and enhance your knowledge by picking up your copy today. Available on Amazon books.

(Thanks to Steve Addabbo for his contributions.)

16 responses to “Do Dropping Record Sales Signal The Death of the Modern Music Producer?”

  1. john brodey says:

    More to the point than simple economics is the fact that producers of mainstream rock and alt. pop etc. have been marginalized by the DIY model that see fledgling groups record and produce their own albums. Labels have increasingly adjusted to accepting a finished product. Most talented young bands have realized that you don’t need a label/producer to get your music heard. You’ve got to be smart and dedicated.
    In country, many producers have mentored freshman artists and their role has remained a fairly central aspect to the way that genre works.

  2. PAUL THOMSON says:

    Why do record companies think they have a right to create such limiting one-sided deals. With internet infrastructure, there must surely be new hybrid business models out there now to override record company rule. They can’t control how people get their music anymore.

    No one cares about the old style record company tools/infrastructure anymore: MTV is nothing much anymore now; Rolling Stone has no pull anymore; brick and mortar stores are not overly influential anymore; live music is nothing of what it once was almost anywhere, and high profile entertainment is costly to most consumers; demographically assigned music has disconnected itself from any homogenous mainstream listener appeal/culture.

    Record Companies are marginally relevant; their individual components can be outsourced now, therefore they no longer have the leverage from concentrated power as they once had. Not to mention the nasty internal culture they can create: ever read “Hit Men (Fredric Dannen)?”

    Record Companies should not have the right anymore to write the laws of ‘the deal’. They are more hocu pocus than the bedrock anymore.

    • Moses Avalon says:

      @Paul. Y’know, I wish that were true. But survey after survey shows that most artists still want the security and infrastructure that majors offer, not to mention the up-front cash. The clients I have who do music and nothing else and live in big houes all have one thing in common. They are singed to majors. That dosen’t mean I recommend this path for everyone. Just those who want to get rich off music. And we all know that getting rich has nothing to do with being good at your craft. But on some level you have to start thinking pratcialy, especially if you have a family to support and you don’t want to float your career with a day job.

    • Tom Woznick says:

      We are trying to change the entertainment industry in the favor of the artists, actors, models, musicians, comedians, authors, athletes, etc. Check us out. snotu dot com

  3. This is why, more than ever people in the music center I live in (Nashville) are starting to come to me to ask why I have so much work. I have always produced solely as a production company for hire per project. I get paid, then the artist moves on and so do I. Many LA producers are doing this too.

    I recently asked a prominent jazz producer and player if he was paid upfront, or with points for the producing he did. He responded “Points on what?”

    Get the gig, do the job, get paid. Then move on. It’s easiest if we keep our old studio/engineer/player mentality. Get paid for your job, then move on to the next one.

  4. W. Colter says:

    New paradigm, new shmaradigm. Taking a slice of publishing revenue from artists is the ultimate in sleazy, and will always be. Publishing income is for the writers who wrote the song and for the publisher who administers it — if you aren’t either of those – hands off!

    Transactions with producers should be clean and simple – pay them a fee for a service provided, period. Why is a producer’s contribution any more important than any other creative service provider — like a great mastering guy, or a terrific artwork designer? Are artists now supposed to share a slice of publishing revenue with them, too?

    If sales streams are drying up, labels and producers need to expand or enhance their services to artists, change their own paradigms, embrace new technologies or ideas that give them an edge (like all businesses – you morph or you die) — but NOT assume they’re entitled to revenue streams they have ZERO contribution to! That’s just plain sleazy.

    • Moses Avalon says:

      @Wendie I’m surprised. You seem to want everyone to innovate and find new ways to make money, except the aritst. Also, I think you might be confusing publishing with songwriting credit. The publisher takes between 10-25% of a song and they justify this mostly by just being a collection service. And they do this usualy AFTER the aritst is established. But the producer, who works on spec, investing in the artist at the ground level, helping to build the value in the copyright by making a great master, deserves no stock in it whatsoever? Humm. Any other opinions on that?

      • W.C. says:

        I’m suggesting producers get paid a one time fee like all creative professionals get when providing their creative services. Thats the way normal business works in the real world. (didnt Albini work that way?)

        What I see has really changed for producers is that artists are making great masters in home studios by themselves, and indie labels expect a complete product delivered by the artist. The old school producer is becoming obsolete for that sector. Major label deals have just gotten more heinous and greedy, and now you’re saying producers want a cut of pub royalties as well, leaving even less for the artist.

        • Jon Rezin says:

          This concept is pretty big…

          In many genres these days the producer is actually a writer… think hip-hop, R&B, Pop… so the producers get royalties as a writer etc….

          If we separate the producer/writer from the folks who just produce it gets a little more difficult. Many producers I know work on spec. They spend large sums of money on producing songs for an artist, even recording the artist on the track, in hopes that the song gets picked up by the label. If, and when it does, they have to spend countless hours negotiating for their fee (most often an advance) and royalties. But these royalties are based on sales… no sales = no royalties… no royalties = no more production.

          I don’t know too many artists who can drop a large chunk of change with a producer in advance of a song getting picked up by the label. So the producer, like everyone else needs to be more integrated in the process. Why should an artist/writer benefit in so many ways from a recording that a producer played such an integral role in (sometimes more, sometimes less) and yet that producer doesn’t get even a fraction of that value since they are not involved in the publishing? An artists career and bank account could be made from a hit single… shouldn’t a producer get to enjoy that financially as well?

          People get greedy when others start coming after money they feel entitled to… The artists perceive publishing as “their money” since it has been drilled down their throat for so long… changing conditions mean changing relationships… it is really a question of all parties being equitable.

      • Melly Mel says:

        Really it is boils down to what the parties can mutually agree upon. With that said, clearly, publishing and writers royalties are defined for all of us to examine. Those activities relate to that portion of the revenue generated for a specific purpose (i.e., actually publishing and writing the song, as distinguished from producing the song.

        At best, unless the parties otherwise agree, the producer should be paid for producing the song, unless s/he can negotiate a better/different deal. Getting points is just another method of paying a producer when one does not have the immediate cash to do so and the producer agrees to those terms in anticipation of the song producing revenue or income in the future allowing payment to him/her.

        The rest revolves around leverage – your position to get the best benefit for the bargain of exchange you agree upon. For A1 producers, a new artist likely has no stroke in dealing; so, the this A1 producer is uniquely positioned to get a fee and points, publishing, etc., if you want your song heard by the masses. In the final analysis, it all comes down to what one can negotiate and agree upon. Good luck or better yet, call a lawyer that may be in your best interest.

  5. Adam says:

    The Modern Producer is the Artist…and Vice Versa.
    At least in my world.

    Everyone I know in the EDM industry is (A the DJ, the Producer, and the Artist). And mostly sign single/E.P deals with indie labels.

    so, how does it work now…in regards to royalties, and publishing. I’m sure the number change..right?

    • Jason Miles says:

      I spent years in recording studios working with the very best producers. I can’t put a price tag on the value of what I learned. I got my PHD in production then went and started to use the lessons I learned on artists and projects I was producing.
      These days there is no place for a young guy to learn how to be a great producer. It takes years to perfect the craft and be the one who makes a difference. We are in a bad place because to me the production quality of many albums,songs etc that I hear are either very ordinary,boring or sub par.
      There are still some great producers and I can tell when I hear a great project. Because of economics I have recently produced some artist that maybe I wouldn’t have worked with a few years ago when the business was healthier. They were blown away because they never understood what a real producer did and the difference they make in the making of a CD etc. It does make a difference to have a master of the craft in the studio. I saw it when I was making albums with Miles Davis,Luther Vandross and many others. I’m trying to keep whatever is left alive because in the end of the day a great artist benefits from the expertise of a great producer

  6. Max Vasquez says:

    I’m just getting re-started after a fire that took me out for years. My business model: producer for hire. I charge a bit more on a per track basis, or with some discounts if they want a whole project. I don’t really expect anyone these days to have a runaway hit from what we do, especially since a lot of my indie clients focus all their budgets on making the records, completely oblivious to the marketing and sales end. So when anyone offers me points I politely decline now. It’s kept the lights on the past few years. Also, I have branched out into writing PR press releases and consulting/marketing for different types of businesses and artists. I saw the writing on the wall when the big stage studio I worked in went out of business over 10 years ago. Put your finger to the wind and don’t run Towards the hurricane, I say.

  7. Scott D. Harrington, Esq. says:

    If a producer’s deal is done correctly, he/she gets 18 to 25% (typically) of all master licensing income to the artist, as well as sound exchange, etc. I am not sure I see the problem. The lower income to a producer from sales and other sources is just a reflection of the same for the artist, not to mention the rest of us in this business. As it is, a producer will typically make more up front than an artist on a standard artist deal, and will make a fair portion on the back side if it is a successful record (where the artist will generally have much more yet to recoup). Are you suggesting the producer should get a bigger proportion of the artist’s also shrinking income? OR are we now going to start doing 360 deals with producers? Just be sure the producer agreement contains the standard clause that they get their prorata share of net receipts and licensing income, as well as Sound Exchange and other similar kinds of income, and I believe all is as well for the producer as it is for anyone else in this admittedly much tougher and leaner business. Auditing this income at the label level is no tougher than auditing record sales. Anything that might be hidden from the producer will also then be hidden from the artist, so it is not an issue that would be unique to the producer, not to mention it would amount to fraud by the label. It may just be that there are not as many opportunities to command huge producer fees/advances; and the huge 6 figure up front advances some producers were used to getting may have to be trimmed back a bit, simply as a function of the reality for all of us, not anything that is unique to producers. I don’t think it is quite time to start holding fund-raisers for the endangered producer.

  8. E.D. Miles says:

    I’m a producer, but I’m also a business man. I provide whatever service is needed to get myself and the artists paid. Sometimes that means just producing a project or sometimes it means booking them shows and helping them with marketing in addition to producing. When it comes to payment I put the ball in the artist’s court. They can either pay me up front or pay me in a percentage of sales. I only get a piece of the publishing if I played a major role in writing either the lyrics or the composition. Otherwise, I just accept a percentage of sales if they don’t have the funds to pay me up front. At the end of the day the job of the producer is to help the artist achieve their musical vision, not try to get over.

  9. Tom Woznick says:

    We are trying to change the entertainment industry in the favor of the artists, actors, models, musicians, comedians, authors, athletes, etc. Check us out.

    It is time to change the status quo. The record companies and websites like You Tube (owned by Google) and ITunes have been controlling artists and taking most of their money for too long. I need someone who is forward thinking and not afraid to change the entertainment world. I have a way to make a lot of money for you and several others and take the entertainment business back from the corporations. This will happen eventually anyway, so why shouldn’t you help initiate this and be the one to profit from it. I am determined, are you? Check us out on Facebook and get added to the Worldwide Talent Group. Our name there is Snotu Ymail and the group is Worldwide Talent.
    We are new and are trying to do something really special. I would value your advice, guidance, and contacts. Please base your opinion on the spirit of what I am trying to do rather than the current design or layout of the website. It would be great if you or someone you know would help me get a sponsor or an investor or at least a web designer or software developer. We would be open to any sort of help from you all the way up to partnership. I know you are extremely busy, so could you at least check out my website and give me your opinion.
    We would like to give you a free account for life. This means that you would be in full control of your career from day one, unlike record companies. We do not require contracts like an agent or manager would. We also do not claim rights or take proceeds like ITunes, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc would. We are new and are trying to even things up for females in the entertainment industry and believe you would be a great help with this. As Joan Jett said on Oprah lately we are going to “Push back the push back” or in other words we are going to provide an even playing field for men and women, any race, any age, any group size, unlike American Idol, America’s Next Top Model, Last Comic Standing, etc.
    Like Facebook brings together friends and family, snotu will bring together talented people. Let’s say there is a German band missing a singer, a songwriter, a guitarist, a drummer, a producer, etc and there happens to be one available in Japan. The German band signs up on Snotu and so does the person in Japan and once they find each other, music fans all over the world can download their music. Now let’s say the person from Japan was also a model, this would be promoted too, and maybe a company in Brazil will hire them for a commercial. So maybe you have always wanted to write a book, now you can and you don’t need to impress a publisher.
    We are different from other websites and businesses in the entertainment industry. We will promote talent worldwide without taking profits, or claiming rights to their material. We will not ask for anyone to sign a contract or direct them in their career. This means each artist will have full control and will not be told what to wear, where to perform, with whom they should be associated with, and what to produce. For example; Donna Summer was told she would have to record disco music, what she should wear at public appearances, even how she should look (hair, makeup, etc.). She also had her material and tour planned for her. She later stated how she hated all of this. Just imagine how her music might have evolved if she had control of her career. The same could be said about many other talents such as: models, actors, authors, songwriters, animators, dancers, entrepreneurs, video game designers, medical researchers, electronic technologies, fashion designers, etc.

    We will promote athletes. We will allow stats, videos, and profiles and keep their contact information private. The idea is to get all of athletes together on one site with the scouts from amateur and professional leagues worldwide. This will apply to all sports. An athlete may end up playing basketball in China or tennis in Germany, or in a rock band in Mexico, or maybe even as a sports announcer in Poland. In addition to this each sports team will have their events online which will eliminate one of the problems many sports programs face. For example, football teams will video tape their games at one or two different angles. They use these for review but also need to make it available for their upcoming opponents and other teams in their conference. What usually happens is they will mail a copy of the game or deliver it by driving, once in the hands of the other team some issues may occur. Not everyone has the same types of video recorders or playback devices and the format it is saved in is not always compatible with other teams’ equipment. Here is where we come in, each team would upload their game to our server and it would be converted to a format that works with our player and anyone with an account (coaches, scouts, parents, athletes, fans, alumni, etc.) can download our player and watch it from several angles. This will be a great undertaking for sure, but we know it will become popular quickly.

    It is going to be the first social networking site to bring together talent worldwide. It is called This was named this for the following 3 reasons.

    First it is catchy; no one will forget the snot part and will make jokes about it (free advertising). This is similar to the goo in Google.

    Secondly it is a statement. Every struggling singer, songwriter, musician, actor, model, author, entrepreneur, etc., has gone to an audition, producer, agency, talent competition, bank, etc., and was told we have only one spot available (one loan to give) and out of the many who tried out: “It’s not you” that was chosen. We are sorry, you are talented, but we have only so many slots available.

    Lastly it is an acronym: Social Network Of Talent Undiscovered.

    My brother was a cartoonist and a writer and really good but like many famous painters, he died poor. If only there was someone to promote him. This gives me so much motivation and I will succeed no matter what it takes.

    The talent will not have to be subjected to a panel of so called expert judges as it narrows down the amount of people to 12 and then only one country can vote to keep an individual in the competition. As the contestants get eliminated it becomes a contest of how many teenage girls find a guy cute or how many men vote for the best looking women, it rarely comes down to the most talented. This is shown by the 9 seasons of American Idol, there is only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood that have major success. Look at the way all of the competitions go, the got talent shows, next top model, last comic standing, next food network star, dancing shows, etc., they always have judges who cut down the number of contestants before anyone else has a say and the modeling and cooking shows never have anyone but judges decide. Now imagine every person who tries out is promoted, instead of judges, people from one country, people with a specific cell phone carrier; the world is their stage. If 100 thousand sign up they are all promoted and not just solo artists who are attractive, 16 to 28, and are singers. I will relentlessly promote each and every talent.

    Let’s say you are singer but can not read, write, play, or produce music. This website will bring together singers, songwriters, musicians, directors, and producers. Now consider these people coming from different backgrounds, for example: A group could be developed with a singer from Canada, a songwriter from Jamaica, a lead guitarist from France, another guitarist from The Philippines, a drummer from Africa, a pianist from Mexico, a music producer from Portugal, a video director from the US, a choreographer from India, a fashion designer from Paris, some dancers from Hawaii and Peru, a rap singer from Poland, and a horn player from the UK. Imagine the music from such a group of people. Just think of all the new types of music that would come from this. Now apply this same thought of bringing together talent worldwide into other industries. There would be great stories created, movies and TV shows that would be new and unique, clothing and fashion, jewelry, sports, entrepreneurs, businesses, medical technologies, IT, electronic technologies, computers, and a whole lot more. Now imagine all of the researchers around the world coming together to cure some of the most challenging medical issues, economic issues, environmental issues, political concerns, etc. and much more, the possibilities are endless.

    I have a business that can be started by anyone with no investment needed. This will include a website to promote your business. The website will have 100 MB space, 10 emails, domain name, web hosting, support and more. You can sell anything or it can be a personal website. There is no company offering all of this for so little. This will cover all of your advertising and will allow you to sell products if you wish.

    Thank you for all of your time and consideration in this matter;

    Tom Woznick
    CEO Snotu
    Bringing the world together one talent at a time.

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