Confused By Music Agreements?
Working as a music lawyer over the years, do you know what is still one of the toughest things for me to see?
When a talented artist or producer comes to me that is really starting to gain traction in their career (or an Indie Label with talent) but are haunted by some type of dispute from early days when they were first starting out.
Usually, it’s because they worked on music projects with either a poorly written contract or no contract at all. At the time, it probably seemed like no big deal because there was no money coming in anyway, right? And maybe you were collaborating with your best friend or family member.
There is no way you guys would ever let something like money come between you, right?
Well let me tell you from experience. No matter how close you are with your collaborators, you should always have a solid written agreement in place! I have seen it all. Disagreements between best friends, uncles and nephews, cousins, lovers, and even between artist’s parents (the artist was a minor) and grandparents. Common disputes include questioning who owns the copyright in the recording and disagreements over the composition ownership splits.
I have even worked with well-known artists and producers who have known each other for decades and still proceed to argue over thousands of dollars (when one or both have millions) because they did not have solid agreements in place.
I realized that most of the problem is when people are first starting out they don’t have the money to pay an entertainment attorney to put those agreements and contracts together for them. That’s why I have decided to release a Music Agreement Package that has what I believe to be 6 important legal agreements you need to have on hand at the start. Now, there are other agreements, such as Artist Agreements and Producer Agreements, that you may need as well, but the more complex agreements need to be tailored to fit the specific situation. A general form would not be much help.
Even for specific situations regarding these 6 agreements, you should still consult with an attorney, but these general contracts are based on ones that I have used for hundreds of music deals, and I am making them available for my readers for under a $100.
Below are 6 important agreements you should focus on getting together right away, no matter what stage you are in your music industry career.
1. Work-Made-For-Hire Agreement with Waiver
What is it?
This is a general, all-purpose form that ensures that you don’t accidentally relinquish rights to people who contribute to your music. This form also includes a waiver in case the hired person is signed to a company (i.e., production company, label, publisher).
Why is it so important?
U.S. Copyright law requires any work-for-hire relationship to be in writing. If it is not then all contributors are considered partial owners of the copyright! For example, if you hire a vocalist to sing a hook and you don’t have her sign an agreement, the vocalist can claim ownership in your recording of the performance, and potentially hold up the release of your music.