When you sign your record deal you’ll be agreeing that the deal is exclusive. This shouldn’t come as any big surprise as, of course, the label doesn’t want you going out and recording songs with some other label while you’re under contract with this one. That just wouldn’t do. Your label wants you to be theirs, exclusively. But what exactly does ‘exclusive’ mean for you?
Most record deals will state that you can’t re-record the same song with another label, while you are under contract with your label, and forever after that! Now, there are ways you can get around this, as the language used is quite specific. The fact remains you can’t, even after your deal has come to an end, re-record the same song with another label, or even for films or commercials. The label you had the original deal with wants their cut of any money that song makes in the future. But there’s nothing to stop you re-recording your own song, as long as it doesn’t sound like the original. So, to get around this problem, you simply re arrange the song and record it differently.
Record labels have very cleverly defined the word ‘record’ as meaning any medium your album or song is played in. ‘Record’ no longer means purely a physical thing, it means any way in which your album or songs is played or used. So, this includes, films, television, radio, and now also, streaming both audio and video, and even broadcasting your own concerts on the internet. In other words, the label wants a piece of EVERYTHING, Youtube, local radio play, everything. Of course, this only applies if you are making any money from any of this, and quite often you won’t be, but be aware that if you do, you owe your label their share.
If you thought you could do what you want when it comes to selling T shirts and you get to keep all the profits, think again. How this goes will depend on your label and the deal you make. Some labels will want all your merchandising rights. This means they deal with your merch completely, manufacturing and distribution, and then pay you a royalty on the sales, just like with your music. Independent labels tend to be a little worse in this area as they will still want the merch rights but they don’t have the capability that bigger labels have to manufacture and distribute your merch, leaving you with a much smaller income from this area. Merch can be a massive cash cow so you want to make sure the deal you make is reasonable, but as with your music, bear in mind that deals might seem unfair, but the bigger the label the further your Tshirts are going to sell.
Signing your record deal is a bit like entering into a marriage. You’re agreeing that you’ll be faithful, loyal, and exclusive to your partner. Remember, you can achieve much more together than you can on your own.
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