All producers and writer agreements technically should be executed before a project is released.
The reality is this doesn’t always happen.
In fact, some projects get released before even one agreement has been completed.
In this scenario, I have always assumed the the producer has leverage for the eventual deal – Since the track was technically released without paperwork, they could arguably demand any terms they want.
However, one of my favorite lawyers today informed me it actually can be the opposite.
When the track is delivered, the producer’s leverage disappears. Under copyright law, so long as the releasing artist is a co-writer of the composition, there is no claim for copyright infringement. All the producer can do is sue for an equitable payment. And if their rate and royalty is clearly established from prior dealings, the artist can easily establish what the producer is owed.
If this is the case, then the leverage in negotiating a song deal is in the hands of whoever has the master. Therefore, it could be in a producer’s best interest to wait to turn over the mix or stems until a deal is agreed to, at least over email.
However, can they really do that when the artist or their team is demanding the track? I’m not sure…
Since I’m not a lawyer, this is far from legal advice… Nonetheless, I would advocate producers and their teams get at least an agreement of the headline terms in an email before delivering stems to the mixer.