The Deal - Or Not
By Chris Standring
I cannot stress enough how
artists need to learn about record contracts if they intend
to sign a record deal. Now, I know that most of you think that
legalese is a whole other language, a pain in the neck, and
often it can be. The main principles of record contracts are
not that complicated however and need to be fully understood
by those that intend to put their John Hancock on the bottom
of them. To illustrate this point I would like to recount a
little story of my first record deal signing...
About seven years ago I was offered a deal by a small independent
label. I won't mention names, it's probably not fair. I was
very excited about this new situation as we had several meetings
and the label talked about its company being "artist oriented".
(Looking back this brings a big smile to my face). The band
was managed by a very capable friend of mine (who later went
on to head up a label within BMG). The label's A&R man was
very enthusiastic and we were looking forward to recording the
album and putting a single to radio. The problem lay, not with
the label, but the label's attorney who was not prioritizing
this project. I would have a meeting with my manager and attorney
and discuss what changes needed to be made in the contract.
We handed in those changes and waited two months before we received
a fresh draft. Those changes, although agreed upon at previous
meetings, were not reflected in the new draft. This happened
three times! Ten months went by without a signable contract.
I couldn't believe it. After almost a year of waiting for a
contract to sign I literally gave up. After the last draft arrived
with still no changes, I personally got on the phone to the
label's head of A&R and said; "I've had enough! I cannot
wait one more month to receive a bogus contract. We are walking,
I'm sorry, this situation is simply not good enough, your attorney
is clearly incompetent!"
I couldn't believe what I heard next. He said, "Chris -
it's just wording!"
I screamed. "You want to tie up the next 6 years of my
life and justify it as wording???"
"Well how can we save this, we really want to sign the
group" He said.
"Here's what I suggest we do. Talk to my manager, draw
up a one album licensing deal with no future options, DO NOT
under any circumstances have this dealt with by your attorney
- we will not respond to him, but use your in house head of
business affairs to draft. I want to sign and seal this deal
within seven days or it's over."
Sure enough, we signed a deal within a week. We were free to
walk from the record label the minute we handed in a finished
master. And after about six months of working the record, having
some success at radio, that is exactly what we did.
I personally believe this deal was saved because I understand
how contracts are organised. I knew all along what changes needed
to be made. Most importantly I was prepared to walk, possibly
the best negotiation tactic there is. I know that, left to the
attorneys, my bill would have been way more than our advance
and I might still be waiting for a deal to sign today!
Of course you have to trust your attorneys, but they do not
have the interest in a label deal that you have. They are dispassionate.
This may be a good quality to have for negotiation purposes
but it is you who has to deal with the record company
and build a relationship with them over years. Learn about contracts.
Learn about the people you have to deal with. Understand what
you are signing. This way you will know how to make the best
of your future situation. "All
You Need To Know About The Music Business" by Donald
Passman is most entertaining and a great way to start.
|| Chris Standring
is the CEO and founder of A&R Online (www.aandronline.com).
He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed to
Ultimate Vibe Recordings. For more info on Chris' recording
career go to his personal website at www.chrisstandring.com
to article directory index
Learn how to put your music career on the map with A&R Online's
free 7 day intensive Wake Up E-Course
. Sign up below:
A&R Registry Includes
regional A&R contacts not listed in any other directory. Lists
entire A&R staff, direct dial numbers & assistants names!