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How to understand music contracts to avoid getting screwed

What's the Deal? You don't want to get screwed

All musicians at some point will need to sign a contract with a music producer, label, publisher, or some other source for the advancement of their careers. The problem with that is when you’re new you probably have never seen a contract before because you’re focused on creativity.

Now, because you have never seen a contract you don’t know its basic terms or terminology to grasp an understanding of what will unfold in front of you. Secondly, you may not even have an attorney. This is quite nerve-racking because there’s money on the line that you, in some cases, may desperately need!

This is the one thing I hate about the music industry when it comes to the saying “There’s no school for this” because on the one hand, the main industry tool of choice is the contract, and in this industry, nearly 90% of all newcomers don't know how to look for its most basic terms and most will never know throughout their entire careers.

The reason why this channel is so successful is because I took the time to truly understand music contracts to a pretty high degree. Though some things change here and there most of it stays quite the same. You don't just explain this stuff with ease after 20 years so let’s hop in!

Contracts are all about give and take

Contracts are all about give and take. You're going to be asked to do something in exchange for what you want (a record deal, an advance, etc.). That's why it's important to know what you're giving up and what you’ll get in return.

  • Is this contract too restrictive and what clauses make it that way?

  • Is the contract flexible enough to allow for future changes in your career?

  • Does it cover all the details or does it leave anything out?

You may be willing to change your sound a bit for the sake of getting more exposure or promotion from the label, but make sure that doesn't mean giving up too much creative control over your music. This is why we must move on to the next section, Copyrights.

The 6 rights of copyright