Is there a downside to signing a recording contract?
When I was younger, I would have given anything for a record deal. Now times have changed and thanks to the internet, musicians can release music without any help at all. But being signed to a big label still holds a special attraction. Could you resist if you were offered a recording contract today? I must admit, I’d still find it hard to say no.
This is what makes a 360 deal so dangerous. People sign them because having a recording contract offered to you is difficult to walk away from. The difference with a 360 deal is it’s not just a chunk of your album sales the record company wants to take from you.
Are you going on tour? We’ll have some of the ticket sales please.
You sold some merchandise? Ok, where’s our percentage?
Did you get paid for those interviews and personal appearances? Come on, hand it over.
There are different kinds of 360 deals but some literally want to take a cut of everything you do as a musician. It’s no longer about the albums and singles the record company releases. It can cover everything. If someone else records one of your songs, the record label might also want a percentage of your royalties, even when they had nothing to do with it. They want a percentage of your merchandise sales, you tour money, appearance fees. Anything at all you make money from. It might not even be music related.
And on top of that, there are also active interest deals. With a passive deal, the record company sets a percentage in the contract for various activities and lets you get on with it. With an active interest deal, the record company gets involved and can take complete control over your career. Is that really how you want your music career to work?
In the internet age, musicians can have complete control everything they do. You can literally make a complete album on your laptop and release it yourself. Nobody else has to be involved at all. The number of digital streaming and sales services is going up all the time. You can design your own merchandise and sell it through print-on-demand companies. You don’t even need the cash upfront. They will print and send your merchandise directly to your fans whenever you receive an order.
You can organise tours and promote them via social media. You can reach out to bloggers and online magazines for extra exposure.
Every single part of your career can be, and should be, in your hands. You can retain complete control and keep the rights for your own music. This is how it should work. As an artist, you are the creator. Sure, if someone else helps you with a certain part they have every right to ask for something back. But do you really want to give them a slice of everything? I know I don’t.
It’s time to step back and look at what’s really on offer, and more importantly, what would be taken away from you. The industry needs to start rewarding musicians for their talent and give them a fairer deal. Without musicians, there would be no music industry.