Signing a contract for anything is not to be taken lightly. Yet far too many people who enter into agreements (some of which can be life-changing), fail to take legal advice. Whilst legal advice isn’t compulsory, it is recommended. Particularly if you don’t thoroughly understand all the terms in your contract.
The music business in particular seems to thrive on contracts. This is mostly due to the overly complex copyright laws that often differ from country to country. It sometimes seems like the more pages you get to read, the better the contract is! Don’t be fooled by this analogy! A contract is merely an agreement between 2 or more people that is outlined in writing so that everyone understands what is expected of them. The problem with many standard music business contracts is that the legal jargon and minute details can run to 100’s of pages, whereas in layman’s terms, most of it can be outlined in less than 10.
Ok, so you’ve signed your record deal, so what happens next? Think of a record deal as a glorified loan that pays for you to go into a studio with a top producer in order to make a product that is then owned by the record company who gave you that loan. Of course, as with any loan, at some stage they will want that money back. But before you start ranting about how record companies exploit artists; steal their songs; and pay them a pittance in return, there is a big difference between the loan you get from a record company and the loan you might take out to buy a car. This is that the risk of repayment is all on the record company and not on you, the artist. If your record fails to sell, you don’t have to repay that loan. If, however your record does make a profit, your loan is recouped from those earnings.
So now, think about how much it would cost to make your record, distribute it, advertise it, and most importantly, persuade people to buy it! An indie artist with no record deal and all the necessary equipment & skills (i.e. recording equipment, mixing, mastering, marketing, online distribution and plenty of free time) could probably get a record out there from as little as £50. To use a low budget studio and pay for specialist services such as PR, Song Pluggers and physical distribution, a successful indie artist might spend as much as £15,000 on a single, to £80,000 for an album and tour. A large independent record label or major label might spend anything from £15,000 to £300,000 or more on a new artist.
There is no dispute that record companies used to make good profits 30-40 years ago. But things are now vastly different in the music business. Looking at the figures above, think about how many downloads you need to sell just to break even. Yes, … A LOT! So how many can you expect to sell? Well if you are doing it all yourself and it’s your first record, your release will probably be among the 97% of releases that fail to sell more than ONE copy (and that’s usually bought by the artist’s mum!). So if your 2000 Facebook fans bought the average 0.5% of downloads between them, you might sell 10 downloads … Yippee! You are now one of the top 3%!! The chances are (if you’re lucky), most of your remaining fans will just be content to listen for free on Spotify. And if they all did, by some stroke of luck, you’ll earn the grand sum of £7.96p.
So if that is the average that an indie artist could expect, how much better would their chance be if they signed a record deal? Well, if you won X-Factor, or some other excrutiatingly cheesy TV talent show where you are shoved in front of an audience of several million people roughly 6 times, you will have a good chance of breaking even, or even making a bit of a profit on download sales alone. But without that, your success is easily measured by the amount of money, you and/or your record company can afford to invest. That’s not to say that working on a low budget will stop you from being successful; it just means that it will take a lot longer to build a solid fanbase of millions of followers (the equivalent of winning the TV talent show). Your fans will also need to engage with you on a regular basis. It is a fact that someone has to be reminded by an ad or some form of contact at least 7 times before they start to become interested in a product. So you now know why record companies are becoming so choosy about who they sign. On average they are signing fewer if any “high risk” artists, and instead only sign those who have already done 99% of the work and have a following of millions.
Now, if you’ve visited some of my other web sites, or even read some of the small print on this site, you’ll be aware that Wobbly Music is my record label. It is a label that is unique in the music industry, in that I am non-judgmental. In other words, you can choose whether to sign a deal with me. You don’t even have to ask. You don’t have to be a performing artist. You could be a bedroom guitarist or a lyricist or someone who just loves to sing. I will give you the opportunity of a formal record release and teach you how to record your parts at home and how to promote the final product. You can retain your independence. My contracts are non-exclusive and open-ended. You can sign with any other company at any time. And, yes, my contracts are less than 10 pages long and are available to sign online 24/7!
So let’s take a look at some of the questions I get asked all the time. Most of the answers are already available on my web sites, but for those who can’t be bothered to look (or simply don’t have the time), here they are all in one place so that you can be just as lazy as I am in not being bothered to answer the same questions a thousand times!
I am based in [insert yor country here], can I still sign a record deal?
My artists are based all over the World. I make records that are sold all over the World. The Internet makes the World a very small place! Seriously though, as long as you are able to send and receive money via Paypal, you can sign a deal.
Where is your studio?
My full address has always been on the contact page, but for those who never see past the home page it is in Accrington, Lancashire, North west England, UK (of course, if you never get past the home page, you won’t see this FAQ either! LOL)
How can I record my single I am in [insert your country here]? I can’t afford the travelling expenses, do you send me the plane tickets?
No, if you want to come to my studio you are welcome, but you have to buy the tickets yourself. However, you really don’t need to travel. I will teach you how to record your parts at home, then all you do is upload them to my online studios.
Will my record be in all the shops?
My record company sells only digital downloads, but we do distribute your record to all the major online stores such as iTunes, Amazon and many others. In fact you will even earn money if your record is used on someone else’s video on YouTube! Your record will also be available Worldwide via my online store at SeniorSounds.com
Do I get to do a video and go on tour like other famous artists?
Hang on a minute … OTHER FAMOUS ARTISTS?? … The chances are that if you’ve signed a deal with me, you are certainly not that famous yet! Yes I can do you a low budget video that is suitable for YouTube, but that is only included in the larger marketing packages. You’ll probably need to send me some still shots or video clips that I can edit together to go with your single. As for touring, it is not viable unless you already have a band and a good following. Build your fan base online first to a stage where you are getting plenty of demand to perform live. Start with gigs in your local area, then travel further affield. Playing concerts is a very expensive business. It is not worth doing until you have sufficient demand to fill a venue. If you are local to my base in LANCASHIRE, I may be able to set you up with some guest appearances at gigs I organise or play at with my band.
Will I be on TV and radio?
I can get you on YouTube and some internet radio stations but you will need to contact your own loacal stations for the opportunity to be a guest on their shows. The good news is that with a bona fide record release, this job might be easier than you think.
Will you provide me with Limos and some cool new threads?
That is something that would normally come out of your advance (Loan), but as my record company doesn’t give you an advance, you have nothing to repay, and therefore no money for Limos or cool threads, sorry! However, if you can prove yourself by selling 100’s of 1000’s of downloads, there will be enough money in the pot to hire a Limo for you to arrive in style to your follow-up record launch party.
Can you get me a manager?
I provide a management service in conjunction with the “You’re A Star Funding Foundation” to local artists; and a correspondence course for International members. However, if you are on the other side of the World, I would recommend that you find someone local if you can. First, though, you need to ask yourself whether you actually need a manager yet. This normally comes much later when you are in demand as an artist and are too busy to handle your own affairs. Would a manager worth their salt want to work for you? The simple answer is that when 25% of your earnings are greater than the average wage you might just be able to afford to employ a manager. Meanwhile, if you’re one of my signed artists, I can certainly provide you with all the managerial advice that you need, and I won’t charge you my usual £60 per hour consultation fee. ;o)
What will happen if my record flops?
Short answer … Nothing!
Long answer … I will lose money, but you will still have the finished product to add to your career portfolio and can use it to approach other music industry professionals. However, one record does not make a music career. You are quite welcome to sign yourself up to make a follow-up record.
Can I make an album?
As you can imagine, there is a limit to how many people one person (me) can help in a lifetime. In order to help as many new artists as possible, I restrict my deals to singles only. However, if you have made an album elsewhere and want me to release it, just sign one of my distribution deals. Alternatively, if we release a couple of your singles and they make lots of money, I may make an exception and get some of my fellow producers to take over the singles whilst I concentrate on your album. You see, I can be very flexible when a profit may be involved!
How do I find out how many records I’ve sold?
You can ask me for an update at any time. Full details about payments and how royalties are calculated can be found in your contract. Please bear in mind that many stores only send their full sales reports through quarterly.
Will I make any money? How do I get paid?
There is no guarantee that your record will make a profit. Even though we only have distribution & affiliate fees to clear before you get your royalties, it will take a lot of work from yourself and from whoever else you can persuade to assist you to get people to part with their cash. Once your royalty profits exceed our minimum viable payout of $50, you will be paid via Paypal. Accounts are rendered on the 7th day of each month. Income that does not exceed $50 is rolled over to the following month. It is highly recommended that you and your friends promote your record via an affiliate link. That way, you can earn extra money from your release and your friends can also earn money by helping you.
Do you have any more questions? Add them in a comment below…