Three Things to Know Before Signing a Music Contract

Our NYC and Miami Entertainment Law Firm advises and represents clients in all legal matters related to music, sports, television/film, visual and literary works, modeling, online matters, and intellectual property.

Being offered a music contract by a major label is a very exciting prospect for most musicians. To protect your future career and profits, you should closely examine all content before signing a contract. Having an entertainment lawyer review the documents can also help ensure you receive the best possible deal for your music.

In previous posts, our entertainment lawyers in Miami have already provided tips on the most common music contracts, such as the 360 Deal. Now that you’re familiar with the most common music contracts, discover the three things you must know before signing:

  1. There are two separate copyrights in every piece of recorded music: the composer copyright and the sound recording copyright (master recording).

Each copyright has its separate revenue stream and license. One can produce much greater revenue than the other copyright. The major revenue streams for the “master” copyright are use in advertisements, movies and record/ringtone, etc. sales. The highest yielding revenue streams for a composer copyright are radio play (performance license), mechanical royalties (also known as mechanical license) and use in advertisements. Having this knowledge can better assist you in negotiating points within your contract.

  1. The Copyright Act allows that ownership is created when you write/record sounds and lyrics in a “tangible medium,” such as in a digital file or on a piece of paper.

Therefore, the composer copyright is created when you write or draft lyrics, words and/or notes. The sound recording copyright is created when the sounds are “fixed” in a recording medium like a tape, computer file, etc. The copyright owner is the author; you wrote the song, so you own the song. With the copyright, the composition or recording becomes intellectual property that you can rent (with a license) or sell.

  1. A copyright property can only be transferred in writing.

In order for an author to transfer his or her copyright in either a composition or a sound recording, there must be a document, or the transfer never occurred. Always insist on deals in writing in the music business.

Chase Lawyers is a boutique entertainment law firm that advises and represents clients in legal matters related to music, sports, television/film, visual and literary works, modeling, online matters and intellectual property. If you are planning a music career and have questions about 360 Deals, contact our Miami entertainment lawyers today to ensure your path to stardom is a smooth one!

Barry Chase

Barry Chase, Esq., Senior Partner at ChaseLawyers®, is a distinguished figure in the realm of sports and entertainment law, offering Harvard-level representation that is both cost-sensitive and exceptional. An honors graduate of Yale College (Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Law School, Chase's illustrious career commenced at a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm, now known as Wilmer Hale. Here, he honed his expertise in Communications and First Amendment law, representing media titans such as CBS, the Times-Mirror Company, and Time, Inc. in pivotal Federal Communications Commission (FCC) matters.

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