9 Words – Music Partner Expectations

Oftentimes I start working with an artist when she’s considering working with a new partner in her music career – a producer, a manager, a label, a publishing company, a sync agent, a collaborator, etc.

A common suggestion I propose is that the artist ask the other person these nine words: “What are your expectations of me and my music?”

When the artist is working with a producer, here are some of the more specific items that are ideally covered when discussing expectations:


  • Writer’s Share: The writing split of the composition between artist and producer (The question for the producer is what is your expectation regarding the writing split of the composition between us?)
  • Publisher’s Share: The publishing split of the composition between artist and producer
  • Master: Who owns and controls the masters.
  • Sales: The artist’s obligations to the producer based on the licenses and sales of the music, if any.
  • Credit: The credit each will receive.
  • Scope: Is the artist committing to work with the producer on one song, an EP, an album, or something else?
  • Approvals: What’s the approval process regarding all elements of the relationship, including how the artist’s money is spent?
  • Fees: Speaking of how the artist’s money is spent, what are the fees owing to the producer, and when are they owed? Are fees paid upon producer’s delivery or the artist’s acceptance?
  • Ending the Relationship: Under what conditions, if any, does the artist have a way to end the professional relationship before the full scope of the work is complete?

Whatever the arrangement, get it in writing. Also, ensure that if there are changes to be made to the relationship, that they be formalized in writing. Otherwise, if there is a dispute in the future, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact arrangement, due to conflicting memories, texts that are no longer accessible, phone and in person conversations that are hazy, etc.

“What are your expectations of me and my music?”

Those 9 simple words can lead to many interesting topics and issues to consider. It may seem daunting, or downright scary, but it’s a lot better to discuss, understand and be confident regarding the details of your relationship with the other person, instead of potentially having very different expectations.

Oftentimes some or all the relevant topics to be discussed aren’t even considered until it’s past the point of an amicable proactive discussion. It’s easier to discuss how to share money before it’s been generated. It’s easier to talk with your bandmates about who owns a band name if the band breaks up… before the band breaks up.

However, sometimes the conversation about expectations occurs after some or all the work is done.

A musician told me she wanted to stop working with her producer/collaborator/manager. They recorded an album together, which she still wants to release. They didn’t have an agreement, written or otherwise, about their relationship. I suggested before releasing the music, that she figure out her arrangement with her former music partner. I recommended the way to start the conversation with him is to ask: What are your expectations of me and my music?

As the producer/collaborator/manager also played a management role, there’s a question of what the person will expect as he’s no longer managing a musician that he helped to develop. Asking him about his expectations would at least gauge whether he wanted any form of compensation moving forward to compensate him for his contributions to date as a manager.

A challenge with releasing music before all rights and obligations are figured out with everyone involved in a composition and its recording, is that if a lot of money is generated, the others involved might take the position that they are collectively owed a lot of that money. Before any money is generated, if ever, it’s easier to get rights granted from people for free, or much less money as compared to what might need to be paid if you wait too long. Since we’re all hoping that our music will be successful, we might as well plan for success.


Edwards PC, Creative Law is a boutique law firm provides legal services to Music, Film, Animation, TV, Digital Media, Game, Software and Publishing industry clients. For more information and blogs, please visit www.edwardslaw.ca

Regarding music law, Byron Pascoe works with musicians and music companies to assist with record label agreements, publishing contracts, distribution deals, producer agreements, band agreements, etc.

© 2018 Edwards PC

* This blog is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please contact Edwards PC, Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.



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