Mar 11, 2016

10 Frequently asked questions when negotiating a record deal

Credits - 
In my years of servicing the Nigerian Entertainment industry, I have had to deal with queries on what a standard Recording Contract should entail. My understanding of this subject is shaped from various cases of providing representation to either of the parties at the negotiation table – Talent or Record Company.
These questions are offshoots of expectations. They betray the enthusiasm stomached when at the brink of forging a relationship which should serve the best interests of the parties.
The intent of this post is to describe how I have dealt with these questions. Here are my short-hand answers to the frequently asked questions.
So lets start with our FAQ!
1. What will the Record Label do for me?
This is usually asked by a talented Act with a growing audience. He is the toast of music lovers and creating waves on radio, on the internet and local arenas (campus concerts, clubs, churches etc.). He is now being courted by an established record company or an entrepreneur who thinks he could be the next big bankable musician.

A record company will invest in an individual’s talent and showmanship. They will provide resources (financial and human) to develop same with the end goal of maximizing the individuals artistic potentials in the marketplace. They will also ensure that you are commercially viable as a brand to exploit your performance and image in a sound recording, concerts, MP3 downloads, corporate endorsements and mobile ringtones.

2. Can the Talent be exclusively signed to our Company? 
This question is usually posed by the Label. They acknowledge that the Talent might have enjoyed the support and guidance of some other people before they sought his service.

To recoup all the monies invested in the Talent, it is important that the Label retain ownership and control of the Talent’s services in order to make a profit. Most of the time, this exclusivity applies to a worldwide territory.

3. Am I getting a Signed-On Fee?
These are monies paid to the artist on account of future earnings. They are also described as Advances. The Talent receives this compensation upon the execution of the contract deal. If he receives N3,000,000 (Three Million Naira) before he sells any music, he is expected to pay back this money when the Record Company starts earning income off the exploitation of his musical works.

Getting sign-on fees is a rarity in the Nigerian music space. Most Record Labels will rather invest these monies in the production and promotion of the Talents works.

4. Will I get decent Accommodation and will there be provisions for Transportation?
Many Talents consider a Record Deal a ladder to the next level of affluence. They desire comfort and security. This is often the fantasy peddled on the blogs, newspapers, recordings and films. However, it is not necessarily the case.


It is expected that a Label sees Talents signed under their imprints as an extension of the Company. In Showbizness, these ambassadors of the Label must maintain a minimum lifestyle that is decent and befitting of their new status.

5. How long will the relationship last?
This relates to the duration or term of the contract. It is calculated by reference to an initial fixed period of possibly beyond 2 years.

This is open to negotiations, and often dependent on the kind of Artist involved. If the Talent is new to the industry, it is expected that the Label considers the degree of anonymity and pool of fans the talent possesses. It will take a while to cultivate a money-spinning brand and followership for a Talent with no solid fan base. The Company might propose a longer term so as to reap the benefits of its investment (Marketing Budgets) on the Talent. It will then forecast how many albums or commercially viable hit songs can be produced during the term.

6. How many albums must be delivered during the course of our relationship?
A Record deal is forged with the intention to profit off the Talents musical works, identity and audience. It is usually the practice that the Record Company retains ownership to all Copyrighted works (songs and videos) authored by the Talent. All these works are stacked as albums – a Long extended play of songs.

The answer to this query is intrinsically linked to the duration of the deal. In some instances, the number of albums delivered and sold has been used as the milestone or yardstick to determine the expiration of the relationship. An investor must think carefully before agreeing to the number of albums expected of the Talent.

7. Can the relationship be terminated or renewed?
There should be an option for continuance or the termination of a relationship. Not all business relationships will be successful, as such a stop-gap should be provided for instances where the relationship has not been of any benefit to either of the parties.
The Label will be interested in leveraging on the initial period it helped cultivate the Talent as a household name or profitable brand in the industry. It will insist that it reserves the right to extend the term of the contract for a further term. The Talent will also want to renegotiate the term of the contract if the term will be extended. This is an issue that is usually subject to serious negotiation.

8. Who acts as the Talent Manager?
While a Record Company invests monies in the careers of signed Talents, Talent Managers are known to be music professionals who shape the Careers of Talents and guide them towards new opportunities. In Nigeria, Labels insist on doubling as Talent Managers so that there can be synergy in the funding of the project and the project management. However, these dual role could be detrimental to the Talent because a Label-appointed Manager is loyal to the Label, at the expense of the Talent.

Notwithstanding the side of the divide I find myself, I admonish that both parties have a say in determining who the Talent Manager is.

9. How will earnings be shared?
Both parties are eager to know how the monies realized will be split after necessary costs and advances have been deducted. A well-negotiated deal will ensure that the artist and the Label do not feel cheated as the relationship blossoms.

This depends largely on the clout of the Talent. It is understandable that the Label which has financed the project will enjoy a larger percentage of the pie. More importantly, there should be a designated account for the benefit of the talent, record keeping, auditing of accounts, and scheduled periods of payment of earnings.

10. Is there a dedicated team and budget to oversee my project?
The Talent is curious to know if he can secure a commitment from the label with respect to experienced music professionals and a minimum marketing and production budget to fund songwriting and recording sessions, promotion of songs, videos and interviews. Should the label fail to perform he relishes the option of taking a walk.

When a Talent asks this question, I am excited. This query shows that the Talent acknowledges the importance of Money and Manpower in orchestrating a successful music expedition.
What other questions do you consider important? Kindly share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 By Akinyemi Ayinoluwa.


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