Recently, we’ve seen ownership rights of music come into the spotlight. As Scooter Braun purchased Big Machine Label Group, which holds the rights to Taylor Swift’s masters, a huge debate has developed over who owns the rights to a musician’s music; for some people, it may come as a surprise that the answer usually is not the musician themselves. However, for many artists, when signing onto a record label that agreement usually includes signing rights for their music to that label; even if the artist leaves, the music rights stay with that company.
For aspiring artists, this consideration is one of the major ones they must take into account when deciding to work with a company. Unfortunately, for many, there is no alternative because they do not have a variety of options or money to fund themselves or purchase the rights (if that would even be offered to them). Entertainment law is a complicated, often overwhelming, topic, which is why it’s so important for younger artists to find people they trust and someone who can advise them legally as they start their careers. Here are a few tips for newer musicians who are considering record deals.
Find a legal partner
One of the first steps to take when an artist is considering a record deal is to find a great attorney who understands entertainment law. You are going to need someone in your corner to support you and ensure that the deal goes smoothly and is in your best interests.
Work with a label you trust
While newer musicians may not have many options for labels to work with, that does not mean they need to accept the first offer that comes along. You can be successful without a solid label deal, but you can also benefit from one. The most important thing to do is wait it out until you can work with someone you trust.
Brush up your own knowledge
Take time to do online research and see what other artists have to say about the situation. Being able to speak the language and understand the various aspects of a record label contract gives you an edge.
Determine what you want to control
There are many facets of signing a contract with a label, particularly when it comes to what content the artist owns versus what the label does, how that content can be used, and how the profits are split. Understand what you want to keep control over and how much you can afford to give to the label.
Have clear terms
Know whether or not you want to work with the label for a year, longer, or per album. You need to determine what works for you, but make sure you do not create an agreement that lasts too long; it can severely limit your options.
Be nice to people
Overall, remember to be kind to people from every level of your career. If you recognize the people who helped you get to where you are now, they’ll be appreciative and it can help you with finding record deals and choosing the best label for you. Many artists forget to thank the people who helped them on their way or burn bridges; do not let that happen to you.