Working with labels is often a given, but it can sometimes be a curse when you don’t fully understand what you’re signing into. Over the years, and also while talking to friends, these are the top 4 red flags to look up to when signing your track:
4 THOUGHTS FROM ME
1. Don’t sign a contract without specifying your name AND especially the track name. Recently talking to a producer friend, his contract had his name, but not the name of the track, and that could be understood from that contract as signing the artist, and not a single track. Of course, it depends on other clauses in the contract, but always make sure that the name of your track is within the contract you’re signing, and/or that the contract is limited to only one track. Not paying attention to this could potentially have your whole project signed with a label, limiting your options in the future to sign elsewhere.
2. You don’t have to pay for anything and if they ask you to pay something, be careful. As an artist signing to a label, you are not responsible for basic marketing costs like cover photos or any other cost that the label may have. It’s normal for a label to ask to only pay royalties after they have recouped the costs they had with your release, but never for the label to ask you to pay for these costs directly. If a label asks you for something like this, run, and run fast. I think that the only scenario I’d consider putting my own money into label costs is if a label is REALLY big and/or is a HUGE COLLAB, but even then, it’s not your job to pay for distribution and basic marketing costs. At the same time, if you want to make additional marketing assets (videos, etc) than what the label provides, then I’d be ok with paying for it.
3. Be REALLY careful with full or partial exclusivity contracts unless you’re 100% sure about it. Some labels will ask you for a full exclusivity contract, which means you can only sign with them and no one else. Additionally, some labels will ask you for ‘First-Option exclusivity for XX tracks’, which means you have to send all your tracks first to that label until you’ve signed XX tracks with them, which is something I’ve done before. It’s not that you can’t sign contracts like this, but beware of what they represent as not knowing could end up having you trapped with a label that you don’t want to sign to anymore. For example, even though the ‘First Option’ contracts don’t seem ‘as bad’ because you can sign the track elsewhere after you get a rejection, they can suck your motivation if you have constant rejections, something that happened not only to me, but also to many friends in the industry, so beware.
4. Believe in promises that are written in the contract, and not on what they said. I’ve once worked with a label that said they would put my song on the radio, soap operas, commercials, etc. if I signed exclusively with them, which I ended up not doing because none of that was written on the contract, but my friend did. He ended up not having any of that as the label said ‘If it’s not written, they can’t guarantee anything’. Promises are often used to lure you into the label, but miracles normally don’t happen. Therefore, if a label is promising you the world, check if the current artists they have on their roster have any unfulfilled promises that were made to them, because if they can’t do it for current artists, why would they do it for you?
1 QUESTION FOR YOU
What to do when a label wants to sign your track but is acting weirdly?
1. If they don’t answer you, give them a deadline to answer and if this is not met, ask them to pull off the release;
2. If they don’t clarify your questions and just redirect your questions to something else, BE CAREFUL. They might be hiding something from you;
3. If they give you a really tight deadline for something you’re not comfortable with or unsure of, like a contract, ask for more time or pull off the release. Doing things, especially contracts, in a rushed manner can lead you to problems in the future.