A large portion of our practice at Troglia Kaplan is within the music industry. We work with clients in every segment of the industry from musicians to managers to labels to distributors and more. Because of our diverse client base and years of experience, we are able to recognize certain trends, hot topics, common misconceptions and red flags while working within the music world. Each month we are going to look to highlight one of these areas that, to us, has a deep impact on an artist's career as a musician.
#1 Misconception: Once I Get My Deal, I'm Good.
For some reason there is this complete falsehood that runs rampant throughout the music world that once an artist signs a deal with a label or a publisher (or these days, with a distributor) they are good to go. We could point out the countless song lyrics that allude to this gross overstatement, but we don't have enough room here for that.
In actuality, here is what happens when you sign a deal (regardless of what type of deal it is, publishing, recording, management etc.): a contract is signed (hopefully reviewed by a reputable attorney), royalty or revenue splits are agreed to, an advance may be paid, deliverable requirements in the form of music recordings or compositions are promised, dates and budgets are set once music is delivered and accounting cycles are determined wherein reports and money will be paid (or might, depending on if you recoup an advance). While this is definitely a gross over-simplification of what actually transpires, it gives you the gist of what happens upon signing.
The advance portion is obviously super important to all involved and it should be. However, it is what happens after that money is delivered to the artist that is really important.
Depending on the deal that an artist signs, that advance may actually be a recording budget, it may be an all-in lump sum for living expenses, recording, tour support and marketing; maybe it is a bit of all of the above with some percentage paid out at signing for living expenses and the rest to be utilized to record the next project. Sometimes deals are backloaded with incentives. If the first LP does well maybe you get a bigger advance for the second album and so forth. The point is, if you don't know what you are supposed to use that money for, you may have just completely screwed yourself.
Imagine getting a six figure signing bonus. Naturally, anyone would want to spend some of that money on "non-essential" and "non-music related" items. But if that is all the money you get to record, mix and master and then promote (which includes, PR, tour support, radio promotion, videos and more) and you spend a large chunk on a house or a car or both, how is your music ever going to actually get produced?
There is no question that a solid deal can help an artist's career in a major way (pun intended). But it should never be viewed as the end of the work required by that artist or her team. The responsibility does not get transferred. Someone still needs to make sure registrations are being registered, statements and payments are delivered and are accurate and that promised support is actually made. Options need to be exercised or termination notices need to be made. The work continues...