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The Perils of Being Signed
Many artists and bands have always felt that signing by or being offered a recording contract is the ultimate goal of their musical ambitions. In some cases this may be true, but in general it may be the beginning of a whole new problem that the musician may not have known before or wanted.
These days, recording contracts are nothing more than raising the money raised by a recording company by selling your product. If it does not sell as expected, you still have to pay it back somehow. Music companies are a business and they are there to make money without losing it. It is no different than going to the bank and getting a loan to market your music yourself, unless the record company has a way of making products sell, broadcast and distribute products nationwide or even worldwide. Recording companies lend you money to produce music and get your money back by distributing it. Artists usually make a small contribution on a CD – most of the money comes from merchandise and tours.
If you can get a recording company to be behind your music, fine and good. But beware of record companies that try to influence and change your voice so often that you rewrite your songs and even change your band members, or worse, still force you to record songs that Made by other people.
Here are some of the horrors that can happen to musicians who have signed up and thought they were on their way to fill stadiums around the world.
A group is signed; Earn advanced money for recording. The song was recorded and finished, but the record company ‘shelves’ your act and you never see the light of day, but you can not take your product elsewhere because you have already signed. Often you can not even play live gigs without giving% of your performance value to the record company. This happened to Billy Joel, who was waiting for his five-year contract to play the piano.
The song is changed.
Often you will be ready to record your song, and the record company will bring in a co-author or producer who changes your composition beyond all recognition to “fit the style of the label”. You start making hard rock albums and you end up with rap albums with all your instruments removed and samples replaced. You think you just Metallica to end up like Jack Johnson. Then you have to advertise something that you really hate and your product is no longer recognizable.
Where does all the money go?
Beware of big money first to create and promote your music. If not sold, repay with interest like bank. How do you pay for it? Live broadcasts, radio tours, shopping malls, etc. for the next ten years. How do all the artists who made millions of dollars go bankrupt? All the bills they did not know they had to pay. They are so happy they never see where the money goes. Read good print so you do not end up like MC Hammer.
Where does my team go?
Often the musical differences between the band members and the recording company are resolved by the elimination company and replace any band members who disagree with them. They are always trying to get work for their own players and already signed artists. You will often see the work of all the guitarists re-recorded by the studio man or the producer to fit in with the sound of the label or smooth over the tension in the band.
I think I’m a musician, not a pop star.
More and more recording companies are trying to “cross the media” with any action they can. They will market to you as much as they can, and they will make you do things to increase your exposure and them in the way they can. You can end up advertising dog food on Big Brother or God Forbidden on Australian Idol. Many recording companies are just big journalists who control television, radio, music and print media, and they will market you in any way they see fit to re-invest your investment. . Most musicians are short-lived, so companies want to increase their profits now before the public hears the next big thing. (We’ve all heard of the second level drop!)
Remember that the music business is 95% business and 5% music. Try to be independent if you can, market yourself on websites like Axebay and build a personal presence Your body in the world. The more successful you are in the beginning, the more negotiating power with the recording company. If you get an offer, find a good lawyer. You do not want to spend five years in a piano bar.
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