Recently a few people have contacted me with concerns about a record contract that a “Record Label” offered up to them. They were all completely bogus and, I’m going to help you spot fakes.
1. This is the easiest one to check for.
Get to the end of the contract where they ask you to sign. If there is no space made for a notary or an attorney. Don’t even bother reading it any further. Record contacts are a dig deal and you’ll often be talking about large sums of money. Record companies will not offer you $500,000 if there is ANY room for doubt that you, in fact signed the contract.
2. Multiple, grammatical errors.
I’m not an English professor and, my grammar is off at times too. I’m a normal guy so, hey… I know enough to communicate. When a record contract is drawn up, it is usually done by an entertainment attorney with reviews completed by their team. No one is perfect of course, you may find something that isn’t spelled correctly but, if there are constants, this may be a time to walk away especially if there are mistakes made as far as money is concerned. For example, If they state that they are offering you a $340,000 signing bonus but it’s worded as Four Hundred Fifty Thousand, uhhhhhhh. No thank you.
3. Changing contracts.
Contracts are usually up for revision and, as a result, may be changed because let’s say that you did actually negotiate that $340,000 signing bonus to $450,000 – The contract format will return to you the same with those numbers changed. However, If you were initially looking at a 68 page contract and asked for a revision and then it comes back as an 8 page contract… Bye Bye.
4. As a general rule.
Most record contracts will only be for one year. Be very cautious if the record contract in front of you is for over a year. one year is a testing ground. They’ll invest in you, get you out there, if your numbers are good then, they’ll renegotiate with you. Would you commit to hiring someone for 5 years if you just met them? if your numbers are in the record companies favor, they’ll generally go for a 3 year deal next unless your numbers were incredible, 5 years or longer wouldn’t be crazy.
5. You are asked to spend your own money to sign the record deal.
I’ll make another point about this in a minute but, this would apply to major record deals. If you get a message to the effect of, “$300,000 signing bonus and all we need from you is to pay for your flight and hotel ($700)” – This is bogus. That should be very clear. A record company is not going to offer you $300,000 to have pay for anything. They will fly you out, they will put you up.If their interest in you is enough to the point where they’re going to give you a large sum of money, they’ll take care of amenities.
- Counter point: Some indie labels will have a sign up fee around $300-$500 to get you signed to their label. There are deals like this that are legit but, it’s more of a promotional deal rather than a full fledged record deal. They’ll more likely than not use that $300 (or whatever amount) to pay for advertising and get your name out there to gauge where you stand in the music world. It is extremely important that you do your research with these types of deals. Google, Google, Google and, when you’re done Googling, Goolge again.
6. Lack of a physical address.
Record companies are often times owned or operated by media companies. Def Jam records for example was in part owned by UMG (Universal Music Group)and was founded by Rick Ruben and Russell Simmons. Even if there were no physical address for Def Jam, There would be enough info available on UMG to find theirs. If it’s just a website. Steer clear!
7. Email. Guess what…
Def Jam doesn’t use their Yahoo email to contact you. if you get an email that says SonyRecords@gmail.com I think it’s safe to move that email into the trash folder. Record companies can afford professional email addresses and websites and do not have to rely on free email services. In fact, companies spend Hundreds of Thousands of dollars to hire a third party company to manage their email contacts. Masked Wolf’s Secretary isn’t sitting there sending out emails to 1,000,000 people.
8. Asking for personal information.
Yes, you must pay taxes on what you make so, your accountant will have all the necessary info for your taxes. If you get an email that says, we need your birthday, social security number, physical address to get you into our system. So long sucka!
Listen up folks. Go by the old narrative that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Use common sense to guide you through your music career. There are deals that will look legit and if you run into one that’s too difficult to tell then, spend the $250 and hire an entertainment attorney to look it over for you. It’ll be a lot easier to handle a loss of $250 rather than $250,000 – Imagine you gave personal info out and now someone else now owns your house or ran up a $10,000 credit card debt. Your info, your responsibility. This is why I noted the signature section as the first point. If you sign and send the “record deal” out, it’s super easy to scan a piece of paper. You then give all your personal info and, disaster. Be careful.
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- This article first appeared on the Indie Pulse Music website at https://www.indiepulsemusic.com