Music Business Contracts

 By: David J. Spangenberg
Music Business Career Guidance
Educator, Author, Consultant
Music Legal & Contract Specialist

Here's a list of some of the more important Music Business types of contracts I write, negotiate and explain on a regular basis, with brief descriptions:

Music Business Contracts List

© 2010-2016 David J. Spangenberg

Note: Have all commitments in writing, especially if it concerns your/their involvement in any capacity that involves responsibilities and/or money.

A. Partnership Agreements [This Includes Band Agreements!]

An Agreement for when you are sharing responsibilities and/or income with another person[s] as some form of a “Partner”. It could be as part of a Production and/or Record Company and/or Management Company, and/or Band, for examples.

This is the contract people don't think about until it's often too late! It’s an agreement between any two or more people sharing the money and responsibilities of running one or more companies. Simply put, people “change”! It could be when money comes into the picture, or responsibilities, etc.

Whether it's two partners to fifty, this type of Agreement [should] distributes responsibilities, shares, money, protection to each partner, expansion, etc., etc.

B. Artist/Management Agreements

This is an agreement between an Artist and Manager, including responsibilities, monies, etc. This gives the Manager the legal right to represent the Artist. The Manager's job is to guide a person's career. [See Artist Development & Management Course]

C. Associate Manager Agreements

This is a mini-partnership agreement between 2 or more people sharing the responsibilities and profits, usually equally, in regards to the Managing of one or more particular Artist[s].

D Assistant Manager Agreements

This is basically a non-partnership agreement between two or more people, where one person(s) has control and the other one or more work as assistants, receiving a "piece of the action" for handling their responsibilities in regards to Managing one or more particular Artist[s].

E. Producer/Management

1. Producer signing with a Manager. [This has been very popular in the last 10 years.] The Manager guides the career of a Producer and will help Producer get sessions and shop products and handle the business…

2. Basically the same contract as an Artist/Manager, in that both usually have the same aspirations or possible career courses.

F. Artist/Producer Agreement

1. An Agreement directly between an Artist and Producer, where an Artist is hiring the Producer.

2. Besides the money and “points” angles, when a Producer is representing an Artist to others, they need the legal right to do so or there could become numerous problems later.

3. Often also involves a Publishing Agreement

G. Artist/Production Company Agreements

1. A deal between a Production Company and an Artist, wherein the Production Company:

a. retains all rights to the Artist while shopping for a deal with a Record Company, or

b. decides to do it all themselves, and act as a Label [Often accompanied by Publishing, and sometimes, Personal Management Agreements, nowadays – and yes, keep the Agreements separate – not as one document!].

2. Should be agreed-to and signed before you start spending a lot of time and money recording the Artist.

H. Artist/Record Company Agreements

1. An agreement between Artist and Record Company: includes everything from royalties to paybacks, from videos to merchandising, from responsibilities to liabilities, etc., etc. If you read between the lines, the initial contract between a Record Company and a new Artist is usually slanted very much towards the Record Company.

2. Most often, if it’s a small or Independent Record Company, Publishing Agreements are also involved and there’s no chance of a monetary “advance”. Majors aren’t “allowed to”, due to monopoly-like situations, directly ask for Publishing; though they often attain it through other means.

3. Sometimes, Management Agreements are also involved.

I. Artist Development Agreements

1. An agreement that's become very popular over the years. This type of Agreement in a “down cycle” right now due to the money crunch, but is still practiced by some Production & Record Companies.

2. In effect, usually either a Producer, Production Company or a Record Company "ties an Artist up" for around 18 months or so while…

a. Recordings are being made,

b. Everything else, [“packaging”, for example] is ready regarding an Artist’s career,

c. It also gives them time to decide to what extent they want to become involved with the Artist.

Options could be…

(1). Signing them to one or more of their Companies [usually Publishing, Management, and/or Production/Indie Label,

(2). Dropping them,

(3). Placing them with one or more other companies, such as a Major Label,

(4). "Selling" them,

…or whatever else is decided.

J. Songwriter/Publisher Agreements - Per Song

This is an agreement between a Songwriter and a Publisher where the Publisher [the business entity] only wants one, two, or three [usually] of the writer's [the creative entity] Songs to place with an Artist[s].

K. Songwriter/Publisher Agreements - Exclusive

1. This is an Agreement between a Songwriter and a Publisher wherein the Publisher wants the Songwriter to write exclusively for that Publisher. It usually includes all unpublished Songs that have been written by that Songwriter up to that point in time, as well as all s/he will write for the next two to five years.

2. Usually also presented with an Artist/Production or Artist/Record Company Agreements.

L. Co- Publishing

1. A Contract where 2 or more People/Companies split the proceeds of Publishing Income, and sometimes, Ownership of Songs.

2. There are four main types:

a. An “Exclusive” one, where the Songwriter owns their own Publishing Company.

b. An “Exclusive” one, where the Songwriter does not own their own Publishing Company, but still receives a share of the Publishing Income.

c. A “Per Song” one, where the Songwriter has their own Publishing Company.

d. A “Per Song” one, where the Songwriter does not have their own Publishing Company, but still receives a share of the Publishing Income for their Song[s].

3. Co-Publishing Agreements usually go hand-in-hand with a Songwriting Agreement, if the person wrote the song[s], also.

M. “Beats” Agreements:

1. The Leasing [letting someone use the tracks for recording, but the Beat Maker keeps ownership of the Track], and Selling of “Beats” [recorded instrument tracks] that have become very popular in the last 7 years or so.

2. Re: Selling of Beats, the “Producer” [as they like to call themselves] usually also want 1/2 of the Songwriting and Publishing credits and royalties.

3. There is way too much to go into here re: all the situations and related problems that may occur with this type of Agreement. See the Producing and Songwriting Courses.

N. Producer/Production Company & Producer/Record Company

1. When a Producer is hired by a Production or Record Company to Produce an Artist for them.

2. Producer may bring an Artist to the Company or Company might bring an Artist to Producer.

O. Production Company/Record Company

1. When a Production Company signs an Agreement with a Record Company, usually under one of the following two main circumstances:

a. Where a Production Company has an Artist signed to them that a 3 rd Party Label wants.

b. as a “Slash Label” – exclusively, or per project [example: Sire/WMG (Warner Music Group)] where the Label is involved with one or more or all of the Production Company’s Artists. Often the Production Company uses them for “P&D” [Promotion and Distribution], staff, or just for Money reasons.

2. In any case, the Label will ask the Artist to sign a “letter of inducement”

Note: Do not attempt to write or negotiate your own contracts! When you realize you need an Agreement explained, written up or negotiated, always see someone well-versed in the Music Business end of Entertainment Law, such as David J. Spangenberg, a Music Business Contract Specialist, or an Entertainment Attorney who specializes in the Music Business, to ensure you are being properly protected! Always keep in mind: It’s not only what’s IN a Contract that can hurt you, but what’s been Left OUT! It must be personalized to your exact situation!

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