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.