The Record Company - who does what? Part 3

by Marlyn Ntsele and Russel Hlongwane

The first meeting with a record company
If you know what your expectations are, you can take the next step: set up a meeting with the record company. If the company likes your demo they will invite you for an introduction meeting. That first meeting is a “no strings attached” meeting for both parties. Nevertheless it is an exam for which most musicians fail. Often it already goes wrong with the answer to the first question: what would you like to achieve with your music? Even though the answer seems completely logical, most musicians do not what to say, simply because it seems so far away from their daily activities of study or work. The only right answer is that you want to spend all your time on music, day and night, for the rest of your life. A record company does not want amateurs, but top musicians that are obsessed by their career.


Another logical question is why you want to make the record? Most musicians are hoping to get more gigs, but that is reversed reasoning. A band needs to create a market through lots of performances. For a record company the band is only interesting once they bring an audience to make the record successful. The company can finance the product and lift a band to the next platform through their media connections. For musicians who sit in their bedroom and make house music it works the same. Also they have to get out there and proof themselves. Club Dj’s have to play their own records in the clubs, before they are interesting for record companies. A record company does not exist to develop your product; they are there to help you exploit it.

At the end of the conversation the record company representative would want to know how you look at your career. It is about giving a realistic estimation of your possibilities. A good answer for a band would be that you want to get your name established with a hit song and make return on investment. A second album will have as a goal to have several hit songs. An important question is if all band members are as motivated as you to achieve this and willing to put everything aside the coming 3 years to achieve the goals.

If the first meeting is positive, the A&R person will introduce your demo to the rest of the record company staff. Sometimes even the opinion of the cleaning lady and the receptionist get taken into account. These people, who are usual a reasonable reflection of people who buy CD’s make the final judgment of your demo. Also an A&R of a small independent company will let other people listen to your demo before making a final decision and get an idea of what the outside world thinks of your music.

The negotiations
Congratulations! You got an offer from a record company, maybe even more than one. One of the most important phases of your career starts now: negotiating the record contract. The offer that the record company gives you is usually a first proposition, even thought some slick record company staff might make you believe otherwise. It is fully accepted that you negotiate the terms and conditions in the contract. You will notice that they will scrap unreasonable propositions without complaining from the contract. Actually, if you negotiate in a professional way, they will know that you have a serious attitude towards your career.

It is tempting to do the negotiations yourself. The A&R person comes across as a sympathetic person, you have always taken care of the bands business and you read the Onexus articles, so know what you are talking about. But, when it regards your own personal business, it is sometimes difficult to do a good negotiation. It is a better idea to ask a specialist, such as an experienced manager or a specialized lawyer. These people know the music world best, know about the latest developments and able to negotiate the right terms and conditions for you. To hire a lawyer is not cheap, but it is really worth it. If you do not have money to hire a lawyer, you can even ask the record company to pay part of the costs, they will be calculated within your advance. If it concerns an artist deal, the record company usually will not have a problem with this, they also find it important that you know what you are talking about and dealing with a professional often saves them time.

Negotiations with a record company are always based on their proposition. They will give you a deal memo, which is a summary of their terms. Often you also get a full text of the contract, take time to go through this. Sometimes a company applies pressure to sign as soon as possible. Never let the company push you, if they put pressure it even gives you more reason not to trust things.

You can assume that all contracts are different and there is no such thing as a standard contract. So take time to decide on every term and ask for explanation or adaptation of the paragraphs.

To be continued......



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