Recording Contracts

The most important and exciting moment in any musician or band’s career is when a recording contract is offered to them.  In the excitement to sign with a record label you may sign whatever contracts are handed to you.  I sincerely encourage you to meet with an experienced entertainment lawyer such as myself before signing any contract.

The music industry is incredibly complex and the language and terms associated with recording and publishing agreements require an attorney’s review.  The contracts offered to musicians and bands also vary greatly.  I have seen three (3) page contracts and forty (40) page contracts.  Some contracts are fair and favorable and others are borderline robbery.

Issues that are negotiable and need to be carefully reviewed in a Recording Agreement include, but are not limited to:

•    Length of the contract;
•    Payment and nature of royalties;
o    Including royalties from singles, LP, digital downloads; ringtones, etc.
o    Merchandise
o    Video rights
o    Live performances
•    Value of cash advances, production costs, and other expenses;
•    Percentage of copyright ownership;
•    Mechanical royalties;
•    License agreements

Instances of recording artists falling victim to bad contracts are common.  Recent examples include Hawthorn Heights lawsuit against Victory Records; Toni Braxton was forced to file bankruptcy despite selling millions of records; Collective Soul made almost no money from the single “Shine” even though it was one of the biggest hits of the 1990’s, and there are hundreds of other examples.

If you have been approached with a Recording Agreement, be sure to call my office right away so that I can review the documents.  If legal fees are difficult for you to cover, you should know that I may be able to take your case on a contingency fee basis.  As with personal injury cases, if I take your music case on a contingency fee basis you will not owe me any money for the time and effort put into reviewing your contract and negotiating a fair deal on your behalf.  Once the contract is finalized, my fee will be paid as a percentage of the negotiated deal (generally between 5-10%).

It is also important to know that because the language of music contracts is universal, I am able to help bands and musicians across the country even though I am licensed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.