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Fairness in Your Music Contracts

Nov 9, 2007
Music contracts are constantly on the mind of everyone in the industry. Whether they are looking to sign one or they have one they need signed they are simply all around us in the industry. Lately you have been hearing horror stories of people signing bad contracts or getting basically screwed out of what is morally there's. But what can you do?

Well, there is nothing you can do to save those people from their signing or horrible music business contracts, but you can learn from their mistakes. You can also get a lawyer but not many struggling or up and coming musicians can afford that. So, the best thing to do is educate yourself a little on recording contracts and music contracts.

Your best hope is for your music contracts to be artist-friendly. Fairness is above all the most important quality and they shouldn't contain a bunch of mumbo-jumbo language that only a person with a 10 year degree in music business contracts could understand.

The top few things they should contain are as follows:

1. Profit sharing is pretty understandable. You want to split all proceeds fro the recording, manufacturing and marketing straight down the middle, 50/50.

2. Royalties. If you are an artist this is not an unfamiliar term. Your royalties as an artist or if you are naming royalties for an artist, royalties should be clearly stated and proportionate. For instance, if your album retails at $10.00, and your royalty is 20%, then you should receive $2.00 for every CD sold. Also make sure royalties are defined for each category, cd sales, merchandising etc...

3. Check for deductions of royalties, namely for packaging. This is not as common as it used to be because there is only a small cost associated with packaging and distributing your records. Be on the look out for Downloading clauses. There should be no deductions for sales derived from downloads and don't accept it if there is.

4. Find out where your music business contracts cover you, this is known as the territory. Is it the continental U.S. or is the world? You should find this out!

5. Check for the clause referring to tour support. If you are signing with an independent label then be extra careful in this area. But keep in mind that it is normal for a label to recoup their cost in aiding the artist on tour.

6. Lastly, you have your merchandising. Unless your label is actively creating, advertising for and promoting your merchandise then they should have no right to your profits. On the other hand, if they are truly aiding in promoting this stuff then by all means they are entitled to some profit share.

I'll tell you what, music contracts and recording contracts can be tricky to the untrained eye. The bottom line is though that you have to be trained. You need to know what to look for and you definitely need to brush up on your terms. Let's face it, an entertainment lawyer is out of a lot of people's reach so sometimes you have to do it yourself. Just make sure you are thorough and careful before signing anything in writing!
About the Author
Owner of Platinum Millennium publishing, former record label owner & national music industry seminar speaker/panelist. Author/creator of best-selling music biz books, courses, audio products & "How to" resources that helped 1000s. Go to http://www.musiccontracts101.com for more info on music contacts, recording contracts & music business contracts.
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