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Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Of course you expect it to work out. No musician or entertainment company would enter into a recording contract if they did not expect to release a commercially and critically successful album. On balance, I too am wildly optimistic. Every album is the one: awards, downloads and social media followers in the hundreds of thousands, and enough profit to live comfortably. As an attorney, I never felt it my role to rain on the proverbial parade with cold, impersonal statistics about what percentage of record releases fail regardless of talent and effort (unless asked). However, hoping and believing this contractual relationship will facilitate wealth and fame is not antithetical to protection against the relationship souring.

For independent entertainment companies that stumble upon a future superstar, the biggest fear is building up this artist just to have him or her express a desire to end the contractual relationship so he or she may explore options with "the majors." To help this process go smoothly, I often suggest a buyout clause. This way, the entertainment company can set the terms under which they would release the artist from their remaining obligations. The company then feels they've been fairly compensated for getting the artist to the point where a major label can rocket him or her into superstardom without destroying a potential income stream for all (by refusing to release the artist) or allowing the situation to become aggressively litigious.

When working on behalf of the artist, I often suggest including an option to end the contractual relationship earlier than the full term. A vaguely written agreement may encourage the entertainment company to adopt the position that the artist is locked in exclusivity for the full term despite extreme dissatisfaction. Some very talented musicians haven gone years between albums after becoming disenchanted with their recording label because they at least perceived themselves as having no option but to wait for their current agreement to expire.

If you are currently negotiating an Artist-Label contract, contact us to discuss edits to the current draft that would best protect your rights throughout the life of the agreement including provisions for ending the contractual relationship in a way most favorable to you.

Blog posts do not constitute legal advise or representation.

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