Recording contract: Please Don't Just Sign, Be Careful

Updated: December 1, 2020



recording contract

Photo Credit: Pixabay

It's not a rumor, it's a fact that an enormous number of musicians are doomed due to lack of knowledge. Record companies don't play fair, these huge music firms retain people's ideas through a recording contract.

"Whatever ideas you have in your head are not yours they belong to Warner Brothers" - that was MO Ostin telling the late Pop star, Prince, who tried to part ways with the record label after their relationship went beyond diplomacy.

Technically, these contracts are created to confirm a complete transfer of ownership of the master recordings or ideas from the artist to the label. Moreover, the baddest part, the record company gain more c-notes than the content creator. The signing phase is the phase where an uncountable number of musicians exchanged their goldmines for whiskeys.

For rookies in this subject, a recording contract is a legal agreement between a record label and a recording artist or a group of artists, requiring them to craft a series of records for the label to sell and promote. What does the word "Master" stand for? - it's just a jargon they use to refer to the original sound recording copyright of a song.

According to the team fromTheRoot, for every $1000 made after record sales, an individual signed to a certain record label gained $23,40. What an unbalanced game were the doors of blessings and favors are only facing the noble class (the music company) segregating the less privileged (the content creator).

But what prompted most of these people to sign up for these fraudulent kind of deals? It's because they had no knowledge about contracts or who to approach first and foremost before signing or they had no marketing muscles / power, top qualified managers and funds to pour for their ideas and projects, so the only mountain to climb for all those crucial asserts and tools are music companies.

Labels are the only heroes cursed and injected with super powers to psychologically spread music content or any music-related project to the eyes and ears of the public, except if and only the content creator's pockets allow him / her to move solo without investors.

These big companies are not groups of villains though, they are groups of professionals and investors trying to make profits off their investments. Therefore they try to put greenlights only in roads leading to their goals as much as possible.

Whenever it comes to this type of paperwork phase, a top qualified lawyer is needed to stand as an advocate for artists who seek to be employed by the label. So in order for music creators to dodge enslavement, they need top-level music attorneys for reviwals. As this subject is the core part of this post, we are going to dive deep into this aspect more.


Please evade the slaveowners by calling a music attorney to take care of your deal

Record Companies Enslavement

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Sometimes a contract is written in a language that require a lawyer to review. Like I said, these documents were created by geeks who attained a level of higher education and by all means they try to transfer ownership of the master recordings or ideas from the content creator to the company for good.

Top music-industry consultant, Moses Avalon, who has produced and engineered records for Warner Brothers and BMG is really concerned about musician's deals, so it forced him to expose all top secrets and all top information about music contracts and the business world of music in his book:Secrets of Negotiating a Record Contract: Revised and Updated Edtion (Music Pro Guides)

His goal was to enlight all recording artists, putting a light bulb in a library filled with classified documents about music for the whole world to know.

Remember this - the label owners try thier best to create the best atmosphere for their businesses in each and everyway in order to generate more money to feed their families, to pay taxes and to pay people who provides labor to the company off someone's music and ideas.

As a result they try their best to retain the masters or any valuable idea forever. This prompt them to hire experts and top policy makers for the creation of documents and formulas that add more weight and profits to their side or business. If you rush into the process of putting ink on those dotted lines printed on the documents without reviewing the papers properly, you are to carry heavy loads in exchange for attractive rags and tatters.

Therefore, someone with the tact and subtle skill in dealing with the music business so as to avoid or settle hostility is the only key. A top qualified music attorney / entertainment lawyer is the golden tool needed to review the contracts. He / she will negotiate with the label and ensure that there are no grievances affecting both the artist and the firm and also ensures that the terms / policies are not one-sided.

What does it mean to own master recordings

It means that you are able to control or run the creative sessions of your music without rules and regulations from a record label and you are free to release music whenever you want via any channel you wish to use. If you get full control of your masters, it also mean that you have full control of the financial gains from those recordings.


What experts recommend musicians to do before engaging into record deals and the music business

Recording artists

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The one who inverted the saying - "Knowledge Is Power" is not a psycho. Millions of people died or they were severely oppressed in whatever deals they were involved in due to lack of knowledge. Like i said, what push most of these artists to involve themselves in recording contract that are one-sided is due to lack of knowledge about what to do or who to approach first and foremost.

According to Blinkist Magazine, Bill Gates reads "50 BOOKS A YEAR" why? Because: he is trying to learn new things, to think differently and become wiser day by day. Therefore, it means he can make better decisions in life and work, and this leads him to success.


Invest hours in studying more the business world of music and record companies

If music is in your blood, don't just depend on your attorney, you are recommended to read more than a lot, books and articles about the atmosphere of the business side of music so that you dive into critical thinking trying to choose correctly your needs and wants. Find out more about:

Music Marketing,

Digital marketing,

Consumer Behavior

Music distribution,


Payment of royalties,

and the most important, top books about recording contract - For example,The Moses Avalon Book


Spend more days and months on Creativity and content creation

If you wish to see successful marketing campaigns, create marketable quality content that prompt the consumers to check on it everyday.

Artists should spend more time on content creation, crafting high quality projects that are able to positively impact the listener's emotions, perception, livelihood (e.t.c), than to focus on quantity.

In return, your label will consider you as a valuable asset, forcing them to invest more on your projects or ideas. This is the reason why J. Cole advised Cardi B to put more hours in her work, content is the only path to the top of the mountain.


Signing up for accounts that track royalties

According toWendy Day, a career builder and author, who shared more about the music business via Dj Booth- there are numerous services that were designed to track your royalties and other related incomes that a musician must earn from his / her distributor. Mendy urged artist to find out more about these services.


Always look for an attorney when it comes to contracts

We are going to repeat this till death, you might have knowledge about a recording contract or hesitate to pay attorneys but you are really required to hire a trustable one whenever these firms drag you to the paper-signing time.


Please don't end up like these Musicians: Music stars who regretted their record deals

Record Deal

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The Warner Bros issues


It wasn't a stunt when the late Pop star, Prince, hopped in front of journalists, cameras and fans with the word "SLAVE" written on his face. What was he trying to imply? Technically it was a protest, a war against his employers.

Let's rewind back to the 90s, in 1992 the Pop star made a deal with The Warner Bros when he was aged 18. The firm trusted the lad after the commercial success of his 13th studio album, "Diamond and Pearls" and as a result, it prompted the label to invest a lot money and essential tools needed for the young star to fund for his ideas.

It was a $100 million deal to fund six albums, to fund a newly created sub-label - Paisley Park Records and also a reward for the Pop Star's duty, being part of the A&Rs.

A lot of spectators pressed the upvoting button for this move while others were moving in the opposite direction. It was a big-money stride but it picked the popstar from his comfort zone and dropped him on a pressure point. The company wanted the music star to craft 6 top-charting albums. Not top-charting only, but 6 successful projects.

Its true, nothing can last forever. No one superstar is going to carry on as a chart juggernaut for eternity, even Drake. He was suppose to think about this factor before signing the recording contract, he could have opted for a short term deal.

According to experts, a longterm contract (4 plus years) that require the signee to fufill numerous aspects, requires the signee to look for a dependable and an honest attorney, who will be there to make sure both the artist and the label will benefit.

He released his 14th studio album and unexpectedly, the album failed to achieve what was expected in terms of sales.

the late star and his colleagues pointed their fingers to the label for the decline in album sales. The young man decided to rebel against the company and in response the label deployed their special ops.

Mo Ostin exposed the whole truth to the singer after telling him that whatever ideas he had in his head were not his, they were owned by the label. Even if the purple rain singer chose not to visit the studio, the firm owned all his unrevealed ideas and his last 5 non existing albums.


The Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun conflict.

People were surprised to find out that a top figure like Taylor is also involved in these paperwork issues. Yes, even a president, a billionaire, a womanizer or the most important person on planet can't escape whatever a contract require him / her to do.

This whole thing started when one of the pop Goddesses, Taylor Swift, disclosed that her record label owners disallowed her from performing her old songs on a television show. She exposed the issue to her fans, asking her loyal followers to join the battle.

Swift wrote: "I feel very strongly that sharing what is happening to me could change the awareness level for other artists and potentially help them avoid similar fate"

Alright this is what actually happened, Scott Borchetta, the one who was the owner of Big Machine - a record label that signed Taylor way back when she was 15 years old, sold the company together with the singer's first 6 albums master recording rights to an American entrepreneur, media proprietor, record executive, investor, and philanthropist - Scooter Braun, for 300 million.

Braun is now the one who owns Swift's first 6 albums, except for Folklore. This is the saddest part, the 'Cardigan' singer was now begging to Braun, to get a chance to own her projects. She parted ways with Braun, exposing their fued to the public.

In 2018 the singer abandoned Big Machine, she owns rights to her 2020 surprise album, folklore. Like Mark Quail(an attorney) said - long-term recording contract might lead to troubles after years and they require a top qualified attorney to get equipped for a time-taking review, making sure that label owners are not oppressing the signee and that they should allow a reversion.

She broke her silence, trying to express her inner voice - "The message being sent to me (by the label owners) is very clear. Basically, be a little girl and shut up or will be punished "


Kanye West VS Sony / UMG / Roc-A-Fella

In September 2020 Kanye took twitter as the battle ground and a platform to expose what he thought was an unfair game done by his record companies. Kanye via Twitter - "The music industry and the NBA are modern day slave ships," and he called himself "The new Moses", as the one who is going to change the policy / contract making formula.

Mr West signed a co-publishing deal with EMI (a publishing company) a long time ago. What happened after this deal? In 2003 Sony acquired EMI. In January 2019, the 'Wash Us In The Blood' rapper filed a lawsuit against the publishing company, in trying to terminate their contract. According to NME, the contract indirectly require Mr West to remain as a full-time songwriter, producer and crafting major studio albums as his principle occupation for the rest of his life.

A lot of attorneys criticized the entertainment lawyer or whoever advised Kanye West to sign those recording contracts offering that kind of a deal. They advised upcoming stars to demand a reversion under any certain circumstances.

The rapper filed another lawsuit against Universal Music, which acquired Roc-A-Fella back in 2004, because of some unpaid royalties and he wanted a full control of his master recordings, just like Taylor Swift.


DISCLAIMER - The author behind this article is not an attorney. Therefore the content in this article should not be taken as legal advice. If you want to ask specific legal questions, we advise you to look for a trusted top qualified music attorney.

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an afiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commission incomes by advertising and linking to Lorrdds


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