Five Steps to Protecting Your Music and Your Money
There are a lot of independent labels out there waiting to use a talented musician to make quick money. The offers may seem hard to refuse, especially if you are a struggling artist or band that has struggled to get a record deal. A little money and exposure may seem great for the moment, but you run a high risk of getting contractually bound to that record label for the rest of your life. If a better deal comes along later, you may not be able to accept it, or you may get robbed of your rightful percentages. All of this I learned the hard way. I was very fortunate to be able to get myself out of trouble and get a fresh start in the music business. I also took time to educate myself through books and the experiences of others, as well as my own, to conceive a plan on how to avoid a repeat of what happened once before. This plan I believe will be very helpful for you ambitious artists pursuing your dreams. It is put into five easy steps, but make sure to read the details listed within each step.
1. Copyright your music
This is one of the most important things you can do to protect your music. Take the time, fill out the forms. There have been many instances where a person wrote a song and nothing ever came of it. Years later a signed band steals their song and remakes it. The original artist had it copywritten and sues the other record label for thousands if not millions of dollars. Instant riches! Protect your tunes.
2. Understand what you really want from your music
Figure out whether you are looking to sell your songs to record companies, or be the band and artist who performs the songs. There is good money in just writing songs for other bands. Ask for a percentage if that is your decision, because that will generally make you much more money in the long run than an up front payment. The only thing you sacrifice by writing instead of performing is the fame and exposure. Also, determine how much you stand behind your music. Are you willing to allow the record company to make several changes to your songs and try to mold you into “their sound”? How much do you believe in your product?
3. Get a contract lawyer and agent
You need an agent to represent your band to the record labels. This person doesn’t need to be an established agent in the business. It can be a friend or relative if they can talk assertively and won’t make any quick decisions without consulting the band. The record companies only want to talk to one person, not three, four, or five members of a band. It gets too confusing for them and they don’t have the time. Make sure they are looking out for your best interests and not theirs. A contract lawyer is especially important. Just call around and find a local lawyer who specializes in contracts. When it comes time to sign the dotted line, make sure the lawyer is by your side. Don’t sign any contracts or documents until you and your lawyer have taken time to read them thoroughly and make a decision. If a record company is rushing you to sign any papers, walk away. Patience should be allowed to you if they are truly interested. If they rush you, they are planning to manipulate you.
4. Promote yourself tirelessly
Artists have been discovered a number of different ways. Every band has a different story. Use every media avenue you can to expose yourself nationally. Unless you live in L.A., New York, or Atlanta, local exposure isn’t going to be enough. Think big with your music!
5. When offers are made, research them well before committing
Don’t take the first offer made to you, only unless it’s a major record label and you researched what they offer very well. Signing bonuses are nice, but long term percentages are most important. Every artist gets a different percent with their label. The longer you have been in the business, the better your percents will get. Don’t get too greedy. Aim high and let them work you down. Twenty-five percent on the total profits on you album is very high. Most bands don’t get that. Remember, the suits and ties are the ones who make the big money. Without them, you are just selling CD’s out of the back of your trunk. If you don’t write your music, your percentages won’t be near twenty-five percent. Singer/songwriters make more money.
Good luck as you venture into the formidable music industry. There are several independent labels that are legit, but there are thousands of them that aren’t. Be careful and try to follow these steps listed above. I hope you can gain good fortune using these five steps.
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