71% of Producers & Sound Engineers Have Worked for Free In the Past 3 Years, Report Finds

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A report from the Music Producers Guild reveals that 88% of sound engineers and producers are asked to work for free. 71% agreed to gratis work for at least one client in the last three years.

The report was shared at the MPG’s annual Pivotal Music Conference. When surveyed, 50% of people indicated that they were doing a favor for a friend. 20% said they felt under pressure to do a favor for an existing client. 42% of participants reported doing ‘on spec’ work ⁠— meaning they’re only paid if the client ‘liked the work.’

That’s a startling statistic, but it turns out self-funding artists are the most common recipients.

77% of respondents reported doing a favor for a self-funded artist. 34% of them said the unpaid work was for an indie label. What’s astounding is that 17% of respondents reported doing unpaid work for a major label. Other beneficiaries of free sound production include TV and film productions, radio stations, and charity projects.

So just how much time are these free projects eating up?

According to the MPG report, 41% say they spent anywhere from one day to a week on the unpaid work. 36% say they spent anywhere from one to four weeks. 5% of respondents said their gratis work was how they spent most of their time.

MPG estimates that the average value of this unpaid work per year to be about £4,000 GBP ($4,915 USD) a year.

MPG Executive Director Olga Fitzroy says she was shocked to see the percentage divides here. Unpaid work has always been a problem for those who work ‘behind-the-scenes’ in the music industry.

“I knew unpaid work was a problem in our industry, but I didn’t realize how endemic it was. Of course, people will do favors 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.”

The Music Producers Guild is an independent and democratic organization in the UK. They hosted several panels at the conference, including one for self-producing artists.

19 Responses

  1. Above

    How many musicians did a free gig? I bet that is about the same or more

  2. Thunder

    The Music Industry Is Run By Business Men & Lawyers
    They Have No Knowledge Of Music
    They Have No Respect For Music
    Or Musicians
    Under There Bio They List Bands They ENJOY
    Lisa Is An Attorney Who Grew Up With Bands Like Led Zepplin
    Lisa Doesn’t Know JACK ABOUT MUSIC

    Even Though We Are One Of The Only Industrys Left That Have An
    You All Cucked To Them And Allowed Them To Steal From Independents
    And That TASTE Of Free Money, Free Work Was To Good

    And Can’t Find A Way To PAY THEIR WORKERS?!?!

    The Model Is To Pay Us NOTHING
    This Is The Cost Of SELLING OUT
    Now Indie In Cali Can’t Hire People As Needed On A Project
    So The Only Choice You Have Now
    Is To Work For One Of These Lying Corrupt Thieving COMPANIES
    Or Move!!!
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
    Still Won’t Work Industry SHILLS
    FIRST Quarter Of This Financial Year
    I’m Sure Were In for A Great Show
    Popcorn Ready?
    Music Ready?
    Our Day Is Coming!!!

  3. Aussie Jack

    I want the names of the people working for Indies for free
    I need some free work done
    Never heard so much dung in my life
    This is the LABELS not Indi
    This is the INDUSTRY
    Indies are the ones benefiting?
    I call BULLSHIT
    I’ve never NEVER received FREE work this doesn’t exist!
    Hey mate I got a song to make
    Can you work for free?
    Blaming Indies is gross and shows the inexperience of the author
    And the plot of this rag
    Blaming Indies geez

  4. Sammy

    I am certain the same thing is true of many professionals, including doctors, lawyers, teachers — you name it.

    • April With An I

      I’m sure it is but those professionals get paid an astronomical amount of money!
      Most musicians live in there car hand to mouth because music has been so devalued by the business persons running it into the ground.
      So yeah it’s not the same thing

      • Sammy

        I included teachers in the group of professionals.

        Your false retort: “those professionals get paid an astronomical amount of money!”

        And you want us to take you seriously, right?

        And public defenders (lawyers) or nurses or … why list them all. It’s not at all unusual to have performed free work, especially others in the music business other than sound engineers and producers at issue here.

        • Anon

          Most musicians only make a hundred bucks a gig
          Most musicians don’t make 10g a year
          You must be the author
          It shows you know nothing about the Music Business

          • Sammy

            If only you knew you wouldn’t even suggest it.

            But that’s par for the course.

        • Aussie Jack

          Didn’t this website just list how poor musicians are?
          Guess your not a reader just the author
          Child go home the grown ups are here
          And we are sick of these companies sending children like you to be their dirty voice.
          study hard
          buy gold

          • Sammy

            Condescending speech is the refuge of scoundrels.

            Buy gold?


            Meanwhile, everybody gives and takes. Sound engineers and producers are little different.

  5. Nicky Knight

    As a producer and studio musician I have seemingly always worked for free and rely on royalties from the labels.. of course you mostly never see any because most smaller labels don’t have the software to go through rheems of streaming data or employ a person to oversee royalties… So it’s generally bad news… Luckily I’m with a good Indy now but it’s still small fry and not enough to make a living by.
    You have to have your own pot of gold to keep yourself going otherwise you’ll end up back in a nine to five situation.

  6. Aussie Jack

    Didn’t this website just list how poor musicians are in this country
    Guess your not a reader just the author
    Child go home the grown ups are here
    And we are sick of these companies sending children like you to be their dirty voice.
    study hard
    buy gold

  7. Nicky Knight

    Talking of getting paid made me think of today’s pop songwriters trying to make a livelihood out of it.

    Don’t you wish it was 1984-1989 when there was less competition & hugely much greater rewards for songwriters and producers. Since the internet took over the world and streaming took over downloads the fabulous wealth that a hit single could deliver has pretty much evaporated.

    For the behind the scenes writers and producers its not the rich pickings as it once was. Compounded by the dominance of writing songs by committees.. 3 or 6 or more writers to write a pop hit.. its crazy ..
    A “real” songwriter should be able to write a song from start to finish without having a board of co-writers putting in their bit.

    Imagine if someone like Holly Knight was starting out her songwriting career now with today’s version of a song like her then hit “Love Is A Battlefield” .. A totally different era for writers… Luckily for her, the timing was right and a career and catalog was built that provided an enduring quality of life.

    • Make Me A Bird

      This business is Frankinsein’s Monster
      It will be gone in the next market crash
      And thankfully because of the way they “make music”
      THEY can’t live outside of their million dollar businesses
      And those that can will reap greater treasure than ever imagined

      • Coreay

        I feal u I wanna make it till thea beginning teal thea end stick with mea..

  8. BAC

    You can always say NO.

    The problem is with the individual who can’t say NO.

    Not the industry.

    Same thing with salaried people in office jobs who choose to put in extra time at night or on the weekend. DON’T DO IT.

  9. Sam

    Good. Producers and engineers don’t add much to music anyway. Why should they get paid at all? Jeez.