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How to avoid being screwed over by a label?

After you’ve worked your a** off and finished your song, it’s time to release your song, and a lot of us choose the label route. However, what can you do to avoid getting screwed over by a label? Here are a few comments on that…

4 THOUGHTS FROM ME

1. Do your research about how the label performs before you send your songs to them. The first thing you should always do when looking for any label is do your research on them. It’s important for you to know about the performance of the label since having the perfect experience with a label that doesn’t deliver anything in terms of results can also be considered getting ‘screwed over’ as well, right? For example, if the label delivered promotional videos for your release, but your release didn’t get enough plays on Spotify, would you be happy? Therefore, check (1) how many streams they have on average on Spotify, (2) how many radio plays on SiriusXm and BBC Radio, or any other podcast plays since these could help with royalties; (3) how many DJs support on average the songs that are being released using 1001Tracklists, and (4) how is their release promo package since the more promo assets they make, the less you have to make. You can do this by asking people you know who have signed with your desired label, and if you don’t know anyone who has done that, you can also find that in our discord server since we have a lot of different labels in there. In any case, start by doing your research and understanding if the label you’re after delivers what you’re expecting as this will avoid any frustrations from you in the future and will guarantee a good release for your song.

2. Ask your friends or on forums about the experience of signing with that label. It also doesn’t matter if the numbers are great, but the experience is terrible, right? To find the best deal that you possibly can for you and your song, make sure to also research what is the experience of signing with the label you want to. With this research, you’ll be able to understand any problems that you may have with a label and consider if you’re willing to go through these issues or not. For example, recently I gave up on sending a song to one label because that same label almost released a song from a friend of mine without authorization and previous consent, which is definitely something you don’t want for your music as this can screw your release planning as well. “But, how do I discover this if I don’t know anyone?” In our discord server, as said, we have people who have signed to almost all labels in the melodic house industry and you can ask anyone about their experience with these labels. “But what should I ask them?” First, how is the experience of signing with your desired label. Second, you should also ask about things to keep an eye on and also (3) if something that they request is ‘unusual’ or ‘iffy’. For example, from talking to friends about labels, I discovered that when you sign a song to a label (Label X) that is really close to another label (label Y), it might be hard to get your song at Label Y since they could try to avoid issues with Label X. Therefore, make sure to do your research so you can gather all the info about your experience pre, during and post-release with them to avoid any surprises and have a smooth experience with the label.

3. Be aware of red flags when negotiating a deal with your desired label. After making sure the label, on average, delivers what you’re looking for, it’s time to send your song and, if/when accepted, sign your contract, but some clauses in it might raise some red flags. First, ask all the questions you need before you sign the deal since you have to be 100% certain of what you’re getting into. However, I’ve seen some things that I would recommend not to sign or be aware of: (1) You should never be asked to pay for something by a label. If a label is asking you to put money into promotional efforts, don’t sign it. The label is supposed to invest in your release and recoup the costs they had with the royalties you’ll generate with the release, but you should never pay to be released, so don’t sign this.. (2) Be careful with clauses that require you to be present anywhere at their request. A label once said that I should be present in case a video clip needed to be recorded, but I changed that to IF I WANT TO BE PRESENT, and not at their discretion. (3) Another label had a clause about including a $30 USD fee for mastering as a recoupable cost, but I was the one doing the mastering, so I had them take this fee out. (4) If someone makes promises that are not in the contract, beware! Therefore, make sure to understand these issues as this will help you protect yourself from possible issues with the label and also prevent you from any future frustrations with the label. Lastly, feel free to ask me directly as I’ve dealt with many labels and I can surely help by giving my opinion on how I would act in case you’re going through this right now, or read more in this post.

4. Be REALLY careful when signing deals that extend beyond the song that you’re trying to release. Some labels, including some big labels, offer 360 deals or First option deals to artists and these can be a bit tricky. Briefly, a 360 deal is a deal where the labels not only take a portion from the song you’re signing, but also from all the other revenue streams you have, but these are mainly for BIG labels and not so common. A second kind of deal that is more common is a First option deal. These are lighter than full exclusivity 360 deals, but with first-option deals, the label has the right to the first option on every song you make, so you have to send all your songs first to this label. This may not seem too bad at first, but it can drain your motivation, as it happened to me, if you keep getting rejected by that label. “Leo, wait, what? The label that signed you and wanted more songs keeps rejecting you?”. Yes, that could happen. I had 4 songs to sign with the label, but then it took me 6-12 months to sign my last song with them and I almost gave up on producing. Therefore, when/if this happens to you, try to lower the request to 1 or 2, at most, additional songs from the ones that you’re signing to avoid any problems. But, if possible, try to get rid of this clause. Why, though? (1) Getting rejected sucks and it can drain your motivation, as said here, so a lower quantity of tracks might help you fulfill your contract faster; (2) There are some really good labels that don’t ask for this which I’ve released with in the past, and they are amazing in terms of results and workflow, so you might not need to go through this type of deal; (3) Sometimes, when you get stuck in these deals, you can start making songs ‘just to end the contract’, and that is terrible for your music since it can make you sound generic, which will only get your songs rejected by other labels as well and you even more frustrated. In any case, remember, don’t sign what you’re NOT fully comfortable with.

PS. Remember to get some legal advice as this is just an opinion about this topic!

1 QUESTION FOR YOU

What else should you be aware of when signing with labels to avoid getting screwed?
1. Be careful with recoupable costs in contracts: Make sure to understand all the costs that the label is putting in your contract so you can avoid any issues with royalties and also maximize your revenue, as mentioned in this post;
2. Be careful with the revenue share they are asking from you: BIG labels that I sign normally give 25-30% of the royalties, so smaller labels should normally give you more than this (50% is the highest you can get, by the way). The bigger the label, the more they will ask fro.m you, but the more you need to expect back in results to be worth signing with them.
3. Avoid labels that don’t communicate well: When a label ghosts on you and disappears, then re-appears out of nowhere, or does anything without consent, is a NO GO. It shows a lack of commitment and professionalism, so avoid labels like this.

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Leo Lauretti

Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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