Top tips for deciphering Remix Agreements
An insight in to fee structures, publishing splits, contracts and more. [Written by Ilona Smyth, Legal & Business Affairs Manager at Beggars Group]
Recently, a friend of a friend reached out for some advice regarding one of her recordings. She had been approached by a mid-level remixer who had enjoyed some success having remixed a major label owned track.
The remixer was enquiring about a fee and a share of publishing, but she had no idea what was considered reasonable for remixes.
This short piece sets out some of the basics to consider, whether you’re a remixer or an artist wanting to get your tracks remixed.
(This is a very basic summary of the rights involved in remixes and common terms you might expect to see in a remix agreement. This article does not offer formal legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.)
What is a Remix?
Put simply, remixing is the process of taking an existing recording and creating a new recording from the stems.
A remix is not a cover (i.e. where a new recording is made of an existing song) because it uses audio elements from an existing recording. Therefore, remixes involve both the master rights (the recording) and the publishing rights (the composition or song embodied on such recording). A remix is also different from a sample (where a new recording is made using parts from an existing recording) although the line between a remix and a sample is ever changing and much debated.
In order for a remix to be released, sold, licensed and made available, approval must be granted by the master rightsowner and the writer (or publisher).
How does the Remixer get Paid?
Commonly, remixers are paid a “buy-out” fee (i.e. on a “work for hire” basis). The fee is usually paid on delivery of the remix. This means the remixer will relinquish all rights to the remix to the original master owner. The fee can range from £1-£3,000 + depending on the remixer’s bargaining power and standing.
If a remixer has remixed a recording without the master owner’s approval (and later approaches the artist for approval), the remixer is unlikely to be in a position to negotiate a fee. Conversely, if the artist or the artist’s label has commissioned the remix, a decent fee may be payable.
Another method of compensation is agreeing a ‘swap’. Swaps are becoming increasingly popular, not only for remixes but for featured artists and producers. Essentially this means that the remixer agrees to remix the artist’s track and in exchange the artist will feature on one of the remixer’s tracks later down the line. This can be a good way of not parting with any actual money.
Remixers very rarely receive a share of the money on an on-going basis (i.e. a royalty). On the odd occasion a top remixer may be able to negotiate 0.5–1%.
What about Publishing?
Usually, a remixer will not receive a share of the publishing as they are deemed, in most cases, not to have added any new copyright to the composition. However, remixers with a lot of clout may be able to negotiate a few percentage points of publishing.
Common Terms Found in a Remix Agreement
It is important to set out clearly the title of the original master, the artist, the agreed remix title and the remixer.
This is likely to be the world unless the original master is owned or licensed in specific territories only.
This should set out that the remixer is being engaged to provide their remixing skills to the best of their skill and ability and the delivery requirements.
4. Recording Costs
The recording costs of remixes are usually borne by the remixer (unless the remixer has been commissioned to do the remixer by the label, in which case the label will pay in accordance with the artist’s agreement).
The original master owner will usually own the copyright in the remix.
The remixer should warrant that they have not included any recording samples or compositions which could infringe the rights of a third party.
Although there are thousands of unauthorised remixes out there, it is always advisable to approach the master owner and writer/publisher for clearance prior to releasing a remix.
Remixing existing tracks can be a really good way of getting your name out there as a budding producer and there have even been occasions where unauthorised remixes have become so popular that the rightsholders have cleared the remix and gone on to sell well, but this is not always the case.
Thank you so much to Ilona for sharing her insights and experience.