Signing your first deal? Here are the most important tips for working with recording companies. Many artist rush into their contract and end up right where they began. Broke and playing in a basement somewhere. Even popular groups like TLC, who sold over 60 million records, ended up in bankruptcy court! They didn’t fight for a good contract, and they decided their best option was to file for bankruptcy. Learn from their mistake by following these tips to success with recording companies.

  1. List your expectations and make sure they are reflected in your contract. If you are expecting your contract to help you bring in money, inspect that contract to make sure your expectations are reflected. Don’t skim over your contract or have someone else do it for you. You don’t want to be surprised if something goes against your expectations down the line.
  2. Hire a manager from outside the label. Be very careful about who you have managing you. Your manager needs to be somebody who will fight for you. If they are connected to the label, even just friends with an executive, it could potentially spell danger. You want to be sure they are dedicated to you, not the label. 
  3. Understand what each entity on the team is asking for. When TLC signed with the producer, they didn’t realize that the producer wasn’t also covering distribution and label. That means they had to pay out more cuts than they expected to random companies. While this is common practice, you should know who all of these people are and where your money is going. Make sure you aren’t paying out four different percentages to different companies. That can leave you with very little in the end.
  4. Read and understand your royalty agreement. So many artists fail to read and understand their royalty agreement until it’s too late. Don’t wait until you are broke and wondering why! Some artists, who came up with their own name and branding, end up paying the label for ownership of that trademark. TLC ended up paying one-million dollars for each letter of their name! If you are planning to sign with a company, be sure to register your own trademark. That way, you own your own name outright.
  5. Have your own attorney. Some labels will try to persuade you to use a specific attorney or use the same one they use. That can be dangerous conflict of interest. If you find yourself in a dispute with your label, your attorney may not fight for you like they should. I’m sure the record label will pay them a lot more than you can pay them.  
  6. Never lose your creative control. When you think “music business,” you are probably focusing on the word music. Your label and production team, however, focus on the business side. Many groups go through entire overhauls of their musical stylings, lyrics, and even how they can present themselves. It is sadly something that can’t easily be avoided. You can try to keep your creative rights by adding an agreement in your contract, but many labels won’t go for it. Read more about this and four other key things to consider in this article by Patrick Hess.