Record label deals change in favor of artists (Music Biz 2022) – Billboard
Over the past few years, the music industry has gone through seismic shifts, resulting in various changes in how revenue is generated, how music is valued, and how artists can achieve success. This, in turn, has led to a shift in power dynamics, which can affect how deals are structured and negotiated as well as what they contain – and raises questions about whether artists even need to sign label deals.
That was the topic of “The Future of the Artist Deal” panel at the Music Biz 2022 conference in Nashville on May 11, which was moderated by Karl Fowlkes, lawyer, professor and founder/managing partner of The Fowlkes Firm. Joining him was freelance singer/songwriter Spencer Crandall; director of Crandall, Jeff Cherry; Samantha Juneman, Senior Vice President/Head of Marketing and Services at ADA; and founder of Riveter Management Charlene Bryant.
Crandall has built a successful career with Cherry, with 1.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify as an independent artist. The two began by explaining why they haven’t reached a deal so far, despite multiple offers. “Tags can obviously be very helpful, but you have to know what you need and how they can help you,” Cherry said, pointing out that signing with a tag isn’t just about waving a magic wand and having all your needs. supported. care of; rather, they need to add value, while an artist needs to know what they need help with in the first place. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What’s the end goal?'” Cherry said. “Is it to have money today or to build a long-term career?”
Crandall said he values flexibility and tailored deals in finding partners, rather than the traditional industry model; The standard record deals of the past aren’t necessarily attractive, he says, given that he’s built a solid career so far on his own. “My big goal is to play in a football stadium, and to grow to where we are in a football stadium is always a big leap,” he said, acknowledging that this will eventually mean traditional radio support and the larger budgets than the partnership with companies can provide. But “patience is an underrated part of the conversation,” he said. “How do you evolve naturally? »
With ADA, Juneman said, an artist can often enjoy the freedom to operate independently while still being able to take advantage of the resources offered by Warner Music Group‘s broader ecosystem. “The independent mentality of testing and trying something new is in our blood,” she said.
In a way, the access to data that artists and managers can get through streaming services has made the need for labels less immediate. Not that they aren’t important or that they don’t play a key and often vital role, but it may behoove artists to take their time building a fan base on their own before signing on. This can allow for better terms, give them the ability to fight for ownership of their recordings, or even sign distribution or artist service deals depending on their needs. That said, there’s also the seductive appeal of the big lead — and Bryant pointed out that it’s often not how much money an artist can get, but how they spend it, really is what matters most.
“Coming from the hip-hop world, I see a lot of artists taking huge advances and spending them on a channel. It drives me crazy,” Bryant said. “The trick is to be more creative with our money. I’m looking at this as a bank. But there are ways to be fiscally responsible with other people’s money. She referred to a year-round focus on a merchandising operation as something that overlooked by many artists, but which can be both financially profitable and a significant investment in a career, making this big step less necessary. “Artists think about merchandising when they go on tour,” she said. said “But people wear clothes every day.”
Financial flexibility and access to data for artists is an important part of what is driving the change in agreements. “There has to be more than one common ground for the partnership,” Crandall said. “It’s starting to become more conversational, which is exciting.” Bryant agreed, saying what she values most about a potential deal is equity and ownership. “I think long term,” she said. “I’d rather get the royalty money back for years to come… Getting a huge bag right now isn’t a forever thing.”
But there are plenty of reasons artists sign deals, from impatience trying to capitalize on viral moments to a desire to put the business of their career in someone else’s hands. And then there are those who don’t think at all about the contents of an artist contract. “People get caught up in this influence: ‘I want to be on the same label as Dua Lipa or Roddy Rich. People say that and they sign deals based on that,” Bryant said. “This company is sexy and attractive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you just have to be smart about it.