Working with Vocalists Cheat Sheet

Finding a Vocalist

  • Search your local independent newspaper’s A&E section
  • Ask other producers or musicians for intros
  • Ask local studios for referrals
  • Search ReverbNation, Fiverr, Upwork, or AirGigs
  • Solicit on social media; ask friends to share the post

Vocalist Considerations

  • Do they have any prior stage or studio experience?
  • Do they have their own setup for recording a first take
  • Do they have good mic technique?
  • Does their sound translate to your genre and style?
  • Are they professional, punctual, and easy to work with?
  • Do they trash talk others?

Set Expectations

  • Payment information
  • Define singer deliverables
  • Define producer deliverables
  • Songwriting split
  • How will the singer be credited?
  • Vocalist financial arrangement:
  • Work-for-hire, royalty sharing, or hybrid
  • Artist fee if work-for-hire
  • Studio fee if applicable
  • When payment is due: up front or upon completion
  • Agree upon deadlines and a schedule
  • Technical requirements:
    • File format, bit depth, sample rate, headroom
    • How will files be shared and transferred?

Prepare for Recording

  • Provide the tempo, key signature, and chord charts
  • Provide a lead sheet with melody and lyrics
  • Complete a skeleton Instrumental arrangement
  • Record a scratch vocal of the song, or at least provide
  • Provide reference tracks to the singer
  • Schedule the session
  • Optionally schedule a backup or rework session


  • You don’t need a professional studio
  • You don’t need an expensive microphone
  • Reschedules might happen; be professional and gracious
  • Have bottled water available for the singer
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Beware of headphone bleed
  • Give the artist space to do their thing, but. .. also don’t be
    shy about giving feedback
  • Promptly pay the studio and/or vocalist
  • Acquire all files from the studio and/or vocalist