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The MPG reveals 71 per cent of producers and sound engineers work for free

As many as 77 per cent of respondents doing unpaid work for self-funding artists. Next were indie labels

Executive director of the MPG – Olga Fitzroy

During their ‘Should You Ever Work For Free’ panel at Pivotal Music Conference today, the MPG discussed new research revealing that many recording professionals are not being paid for their work.

In fact, it was unveiled that 88 per cent of producers and sound engineers reported that they’ve been asked to work for free, while 71 per cent agreed to work for free in the past three years.

Reasons for doing the unpaid work varied, with 50 per cent saying they were doing a favour for a friend, while 20 per cent felt ‘under pressure’ to do a ‘favour’ for an existing client. 42 per cent had done ‘on spec’ work, undertaken on the understanding that they would be paid if the client ‘liked’ the work.

61 per cent of MPG Full members worked for free in the last three years, while 64 per cent of those with managers worked for free in the past three years.

Self-funding artists were by far the most likely to ask people to work for free, with as many as 77 per cent of respondents doing unpaid work for self-funding artists. Next were indie labels, with 34 per cent doing unpaid work for an indie label and nearly 17 per cent doing unpaid work for a major label. Independent TV and film productions, as well as radio stations, commercial studios and charity projects are amongst the other clients who have benefited from free labour.

41 per cent of the sound professionals spent one to six days a year on unpaid work, and 36 per cent spent one to four weeks. Five per cent said it was how they spent most of their time.

The average value of unpaid work per year was estimated to be around £4000 per person, ranging from a few hundred pounds to £40,000.

MPG executive director Olga Fitzroy commented: “I knew unpaid work was a problem in our industry, but I didn’t realise how endemic it was. Of course, people will do favours for friends, but it’s completely unacceptable for record labels and commercial studios to exploit professionals in this way. We don’t employ someone to put in a new bathroom and then decide to pay them if we feel like it.

“It was good to see that MPG Full members were doing less unpaid work than other groups, but we will be analysing these results in depth and seeing what more we can do for our members, who already benefit from free legal advice. I find it shocking that assistant engineers are being expected to work for a month for free in commercial studios before having the chance of a paid position. Nobody wins if our pool of talent is reduced to those with a bank of mum and dad to rely on. This is one of the reasons why we are launching an assistant engineer membership to try and support those at the beginning of their careers.”

“I produced many demos of songs for an album for an artist on a major label to then have my production parts copied by another producer. They got paid and I didn’t” (producer)

 “Everyone is asked to work on spec now and then. If the artist is someone truly extraordinary and undiscovered, when I’m also writing the songs then maybe I do a couple of days free to see if it’s anything. Don’t we all do that if time allows? It’s part of the deal with the devil, isn’t it?”  (producer)