Record Deal Advice

In the last few months I’ve been approached by some smaller indie labels that want to publish my music. Being kind of new to the electronic side of music, I fully admit I don’t exactly know what kind of deals are considered standard and which one reside on the shady side of music business.

So, how about we gather some tips for those new to the game on what to look out for when approached by smaller labels that want to publish your music?

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And since this is my topic I’ll just parrot the first advice from a friend of mine: “if the label wants you to pay something for them to publish your music, just walk away”.


How many records are they going to press? How many shops will carry them? Do they have international distribution? Who is doing the artwork, sleeve design? Advertising? Promotion? Gigs?

If its not actual records, but digital online, then how do they dsitribute the music? Who is responsible for mastering? Cover art? Sales reports? What sort of advertising and promotion do they do? Gigs?

What kind of profit split is in the deal? How do they make sure you get paid? What (if any) exclusivity rights are involved?

What can they do for you that you cant do yourself?

If you cant get good answers to the above questions, its not a record deal. They are not doing anything you cant do yourself, for free.

Good luck.


If they use a Fountain Pen for you to sign with start running.

Assuming vinyl release

50:50 deal
Advance on royalties (£400-500 depending on qty to be pressed)
Retain publishing
Limited time exclusivity (typically 3 years, negotiable)

Register with MCPS/PRS or the equivalent in your country, they distribute performance/airplay/mechanical royalties.


…when it comes to deals…it’s the publishing deal that counts…labels are just labels…
multiplication is a good thing…and so are UR copy and master RIGHTS…
claim them always upfront…
exclusive signings only for limited amounts of time and reasonable amounts in advance…

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The last time I read any music law was the early 2000s. In the past, advances were potentially large (at least for rock and indie bands) but would get recouped from royalties before the artists got paid. This meant the artist had to live on the advance before they saw any royalties. If you could manage it, a smaller advance was (boring, but…) actually better in the long run because you got royalties earlier and kept more of them. Plus, very few people got to keep their publishing rights.

What’s the story now?

(I assume more people keep more publishing rights, but labels have less money, releases gross less and advances are smaller. Perhaps there’s more nuance?)

Does money from streaming go through collection societies, or direct from the streaming companies to labels & aggregators?

a good basic indie vinyl release deal starter pack here

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Publishing is something totally different from actually releasing it. Make sure you are clear on the distinction. Most money in music is made from publishing rights, the mechanical rights (putting sound waves on plastic) are a separate issue, and are not how big labels make money any more. With a small label which actually runs off selling physical media you should retain full publishing rights, and are within reason to expect a 50/50 split on the revenue from pressing the records after production costs (if it gets to that). Be careful what you sign. Make sure you have it all in writing. And good luck.

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The only thing labels have to barter with now is money up front for promotion/marketing.

Distribution? Nope. You can do that yourself, easily and cheaply. Worldwide.

Physical? No one cares about anything except maybe vinyl. Even then, it’s a small market, wait until there’s a demand for it. Then, you can finance a small run yourself. Most pressings are about 6 months lead time now anyway, so who cares, skip it.

Your only real question(s) right now for these labels before you give any publishing away is how much money they are going to put into promotion/marketing and if they have any licensing and sync action already going you can hop on.
That’s it. Everything else you can do yourself and keep all the rights to your music.
It seems reductionist, but in practical terms, it’s true. I just got out of dealing with all this over the past 10 years with several different bands and different labels. A couple indies and UMG.

Bottom line. If they aren’t putting you on massive Spotify playlists, getting you good copy in major publications/websites and paying for advertising, Instagram influencing or the equivalent, you don’t have anything to gain.

It’s kind of beyond me why there’s still an allure to “being signed” these days by indie artists, tbh. Perhaps I’m just a little salty from bad experiences with “indie labels”, like, for instance, being left high and dry across the Atlantic Ocean starting a tour with no fucking merch (which pays for your tour/advance), waiting for someone from the label to “get back to us”.

Fuck labels. Especially “indie labels”. They are generally a bunch of wannabes or never-made-its with big dreams and no capital to back them. Like most bands, lol.

That’s just my .02c
good luck with it


Time for an update! A deal has been made and this will be out on vinyl sometime later this year!

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