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Record Label Contracts Explained | Major Labels New Evil Deal Exposed!

Any artist fighting for independence wants to stay out of the way of major labels. I understand your position. The problem is that there is a new hidden deal lurking about, and most artists don’t even know about it. No artist should be blindsided by what I’m about to talk about today.

Artists Don’t Want Record Deals

Labels recognize these issues with artists. It simply stems from the fact that artists can record, distribute, and promote themselves to an audience. However, labels know that artists want to be as big as they can be! The question is, what can the labels offer to artists and still be in the game with them?

Artists Want Label Services

What artists want, however, are record label services. This is the full staff that can competently work their records and songs rather than their ragtag crew of friends that banded together to make something happen. These services are temporary hires while the project is being released, but there are already independent-level label services companies out there to help. So how does the major record label intervene?

Major Labels Have Acquired Companies to Help

Distributors that many artists use now are being acquired by the majors. This process started in the early 2010s, but now, as we move deeper into the 2020s, every distributor is attempting to boost their roster in the hopes of being acquired by a major company. By having a major behind an indie distributor, this offers the smaller distributor access to the majors' systems without the artist knowing and offers smaller deals to artists without the branding of a major label. The major label can finance these deals when the small distributor cannot, and the label still gets to be in business behind the scenes.

The New Evil: The Upstream Deal

The upstream deal is the new evil. It allows record labels to get in on the ground floor with artists early, gaining access to data and financials to see which artists will be a good bet based on their digital A&R systems. Whereas labels have used outside data before to track artists, they will now have access to more inside data to catch artists even earlier in their rise to the top to offer artists a more fair deal under a new name that ultimately ends up back in the major system to prop up profits.

How Do You Escape This?

Find an independent distributor. Call and ask if they have a deal with any major company or do your research to see if a major label is a shareholder in the distributor.

Should We Even Care?

In the grand scheme of things, you may see your distribution fees and qualifications change in the near future, but you shouldn’t be affected too heavily by it. Just watch how many checkboxes you click when signing up for your distributor of choice.

Is an Upstream Deal Good?

Upstream deals lock you in for a long time. I wouldn't do them simply because you don't know which way your career is going to move when you’re getting started. You’re also not a priority; you’re pretty much a "let me sign you and see how you perform" kind of artist. Don’t expect special treatment with this deal.

Check This Out!

If you're a music creative or executive looking to build your label or publishing company in 60 days or less, with a step-by-step foolproof process, grab the 60-Day Record Label Course and get it done today! You’ll gain the ability to get real funding, avoid contractual pitfalls, and keep the middleman out of your pockets. Click the link below to get started now! If you’re skeptical, grab the free guide, "10 Ways to Increase Your Record Label Profits," which comes with a free split sheet download.

Avoiding These Deals

Avoiding these deals allows you to grow into your career without pressure. This is healthy for you as an artist just in case things get too big and you need to bow out or you want to expand how you want to.

Taking on This Deal

Taking on this deal is more than likely not going to pan out the way you wanted it to. Why? Because it's still a bet that the labels are taking on you; it’s just that they can make that bet on a cheaper entry fee by having the first option to put you in a standard deal versus other companies.


If you were struggling with staying out of the arms of major labels, you now have more insight to stay independent. Use this knowledge to navigate the industry wisely and keep control of your career.


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