Music Industry Myths: Four Myths About Record Labels

Posted: August 10, 2013 in Artist Corner


Just what IS the truth about record labels? You’ll hear some people say that their day is done, while other says they still control things more than anyone would like to admit. Do you need a record deal? Is a record label always out to hustle you? Get the real story behind some common myths about record labels.

1. Record Labels Always Take Advantage of Musicians

Record labels have taken advantage of musicians in the past with bad deals. They continue to sometimes lock musicians into bad deals. It’s true.

However, that is far from the truth about ALL record labels. It’s not just record label policy to try and rob musicians blind. Many labels were started and are run by dyed-in-the-wool music junkies who are in the business because they want to help musicians spread their work to as many people as possible. Many labels were started by people who have sacrificed personally to help the musicians on their labels accomplish things they didn’t have the financial ability to accomplish on their own. It’s true.

In other words, the mere mention of the words “record label” shouldn’t conjure up images of mythical creatures coming for the souls of good musicians everywhere. There are good apples and bad apples – like most things in life.

2. You Have To Have A Record Deal/You Should Never Get A Record Deal

Ah, that life was so set in stone. The issue of record deal vs. no record deal is bloodsport to many music industry pontificators, but in reality, there’s no one size fits all solution. Some genres of music – think pop – really thrive within the framework of a record label (especially a major label). Some musicians are perfectly willing and able to release their own music and definitely come out on top of what they would be looking at with a label deal. Some musicians never want a record deal, and some wish that there was someone handling their releases so they had time to focus more on their music.

Cut through the hoopla and figure out what YOU want your music career to look like and what feels like the best fit for YOU. That’s the only real answer to the question of to label or not to label.

3. Record Contracts Have To Be Long and Complicated

Major label record deals are long and complicated. They just are. There are too many attorneys involved – not to mention money – for them to be simple. Before you ever even dream of putting your signature on one, lawyer up.

However, there’s no rule that says that album deals have to even run into double digit page lengths. Many smaller labels will work with you on a simple, one page contract that you mutually agree to over a couple drinks. It really can be that easy.

4. A Record Label Has To Release Your Album If You Sign a Deal

Record labels have lots of outs if they decide they don’t like the album you produce after you sign a record deal. Under the Pay or Play clause included in many label deals (especially major label deals), a label can essentially buy you out of your deal. If you don’t meet the delivery requirements set out in the deal, the label can also refuse to release your record. A record deal is never, never a guarantee that your album will see the light of day. However, you can end a record deal if the label hasn’t acted on your release within a specified amount of time – provided the contract stipulates as much (and it should).

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