This Is What Happens When a Producer Refuses a Label's Up-Front Payment for a Remix

An important lesson for all artists: Don't undervalue yourself.

Record labels might be notorious for squeezing money out of the pockets of producers, but more often than not, it's the producers themselves who mistakenly, accidentally or naively have done the robbing.

Case in point: In 2016, Common Tiger, a record producer from Grants Pass, Oregon, approached Austrian electronic producer and friend filous about remixing his "Shaded In" single. 

"I'm hungry for growth so I ask filous if there would be any chance I could get a shot a remixing one of his tracks," Common Tiger explains to DJBooth via email. "He agrees, but with no promise that the remix would ever be released."

Upon completion, Common Tiger shared his remix with filous, who told him how much he loved the final product. Soon thereafter, Ultra Records offered to get behind the remix for an official release. It was all happening.

When Tiger received paperwork from Ultra, he was explicitly asked: "How much do you want to be paid for the remix?" Without letting an entertainment lawyer review the contract, and out of fear that if he asked for anything substantial the remix would never see the light of day, Tiger scribbled a "big 'ol fat zero." 

Fast forward two years, Common Tiger's remix of "Shaded In" has racked up 4.5 million plays on Spotify, but to date—and by his own doing—it has generated a whopping total of zero dollars and zero cents in revenue for him.

Typically, when a label contracts a producer for a remix, they will be paid a one-time, flat amount, with no opportunity for publishing on the back-end, which means that as soon as Common Tiger agreed to forgo his front-end payment, he guaranteed that his work would produce no future income.

"I did it for the exposure," Common Tiger continued. "It definitely opened up a lot of doors, especially huge playlist placements on Spotify, but I learned my lesson. Don't undervalue yourself."

While Common Tiger admits that feelings of resentment still exist, and rightfully so, he doesn't blame Ultra Records or filous—he blames himself.

"It would have been nice if they said, 'Hey man, you should get paid for your work' or 'Man, look at all these plays, here's a check to show you our appreciation,' but I didn't expect the label to look out [for my best interest]. They are there to make money."


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