Skip to content
Music Contract

What You Should Look for When Signing a Music Contract

Whether you’re an up-and-coming artist or a well-established one, signing a music contract with a label is a big deal. Music contracts can offer the necessary support to help unlock the business side of music by promoting and monetizing your music.

Contracts can also handle other aspects like administrative and marketing tasks, leaving you time to focus on your art. Contracts can also expose you to wider markets and offer you the equipment or tools you may need to succeed in your music career.

However, taking your time and reviewing the fine print when signing a music contract is important to avoid exploitation and misunderstandings. Here are some things you should look out for when signing a music contract.

Engagement Term

The contract terms refer to the duration of time during which the contract will be active. The term can be dictated by duration, for example, one year, or based on the number of the released album or EPs.

It is important to settle for terms that are beneficial to you. For instance, companies might want longer contracts, so they’re able to make more as your popularity grows. As an artist, however, it’s critical to consider both pros and cons before deciding.

Shorter contracts make it easy for you to bounce if things don’t work out, giving you a chance to find a more suitable partner. Keep your options open with flexible contracts that give you enough wiggle room to either easily terminate or renew the contracts if they continue to align with your values and goals.

Companies’ Skills And Experience

Music artist management is a skill, and before signing a music contract, you must ensure that the company has those skills. Ensure that the company has experience managing others in your genre to ensure a smooth relationship.

Experienced companies will have the networks, resources, and knowledge to guide your journey. A professional company will also know how to nurture your talents, minimize friction, and support your creative process.

One way to check a company’s credibility is by reaching out to artists who have worked with the company before. You can also check the company’s portfolio for a record of clients they have worked with before.

Creative Control

Creative control means having a say in how you create your music and how the final product appears and is utilized. Before signing a music contract, it’s crucial to understand to what extent the company will affect your creative process to avoid misunderstandings.

As an artist, it’s important to have creative control as your music and style can evolve, and these changes can clash with the expectations of your label. Consider a contract that understands you and your artistic vision and gives you the space to grow without limitations.

The company you sign up with should be able to nurture your creativity as opposed to limiting you.


Royalty is the payment that will be made to you by others for granting them the right to use your music. There are different types of royalties, including streaming, digital performance, sync licensing fees, public performance, mechanical royalties, etc.

Royalties are shared among a wide group of stakeholders, including songwriters, publishers, distributors, recordings artists, labels, and many more. Most companies will pay your royalties after returning what they invested in your music.

Different companies will offer different royalty rates, and it’s advisable to only settle for rates you’re comfortable with. The rates are usually based on your level of expertise, depending on whether you’re a beginner, upcoming, or experienced.

It’s important to look for hidden charges that may impact your earnings. You should also look for discrepancies between your music’s revenue and the amount you receive.

A good way to handle this would be by conducting royalty audits to track how your company manages your royalties. It would help if you also worked with a legal expert to fully understand the fine details of the royalty agreements in the contract.

The copyright of the recording can be owned by the artist, the recording label, or both. Ownership determines how the final product is used, and it’s important to decide on ownership before signing a contract.

There are different ownership rights involved in music production. For instance, publishing rights refer to ownership related to composition, such as lyrics. Master rights, on the other hand, refer to ownership of the original sound.

The person with the master rights earns from the reproduction of the music or when it’s used, including streaming and download royalties. The one with publishing rights earns from publishing royalties like performing and mechanical royalties.

You must review the company’s ownership policies before signing the contract.

360 Deals

A 360 deal is an agreement between you as an artist and the company you sign a contract with. It means that you permit the company to a percentage of your earnings generated from other sources apart from your music sales and royalties.

In exchange, the company supports you financially and otherwise through marketing, tours, and promotion, among others. There are many ways to earn income as a musician.

For instance, you earn money from live and virtual performances; you can also promote property and products for other companies. You can also earn royalties, merchandise, marketing, endorsements, and other avenues.

Signing a 360 deal authorizes your label to receive income from these sources. With careful planning, a 360 deal can help your career. However, it can also expose you to exploitations and loss.

Before signing your music contract, take your time and consider if a 360 deal is ideal for you or not, then make up your mind.

Dispute Resolution

As with all relationships, disputes may arise from time to time. Look through the contract for dispute resolution methods before signing the contract. It is important to know beforehand how the label will handle any issues.

Some common issues include your creative style, working hours, the expected level of commitment, differing opinions, and lack of communication.

Deliverables and Commitment

Check on the deliverables of the contract and the expectations from both the company and you as the artist. For instance, the company may expect you to produce a specific number of records within a specified period.

It is crucial to ensure that, as an artist, you can live up to these expectations. Ensure that the contract doesn’t rush you, which might make you produce substandard work.

On the contrary, you should mutually agree on the scope, and the requirements should be reasonable and attainable. The company should also detail the support it can offer you and its deliverables, such as production and distribution.

Final Thoughts

Signing up with a music company can help you create a successful musical career. These companies have the resources, networks, and experience to accelerate your progress. However, not all musical companies are the same, and due diligence is key. Before signing up, consider how much creative control you want and your stance on ownership. You should also take your time and review the contract’s details, preferably with a legal expert’s assistance, to fully understand what you’re getting into. Remember to visit different companies before settling on one so that you can compare terms and find the best one for you.