Contracts are Cool
I confess, I personally feel the words ‘contract’ and ‘cool’ seem contradictory. Throughout my career in music, I have been involved in many contracts. I’ve always thought of it as the boring part, the part I could never really understand. The part I need a lawyer for (which is true!) After some time spent on reflection, I have realised that contracts actually are very cool (and rather important!) Here are some reasons why:
We are constantly making agreemnets with people, whether it be family, friends or collegues. When it comes to the workplace, good communication with potential clients, partners, labels etc., is so important. Oral agreements can have a completely different meaning between whatever party is involved. For example: If my client agrees to pay me as soon as possible, I may think that means within the day, but my client may not transfer a payment for a week. Different people = different expectations. When a contract is in written form, expectations are made a lot more clear and are understood by both parties. This is ultimately what you want to have in a creative working relationship, as it is so easy to discuss a matter (or make an oral agreement) and interpret it in different ways. Having a written, signed agreement is the way both parties can move forward on clear terms (Vitez, 2016).
I think it’s so true that musicians often focus on the creative side of making music, writing songs, working with other musicians — and they often forget of the important of written contracts until it’s too late. I wonder how many “non-professional” bands even have an agreement that clearly states what happens if money happens!? Who get’s what percentage of what song? Is is split evenly or was there a main songwriter who owns the rights and therefore recieves the cash? There are contracts for everything within the music industry! Labels, deals, remixing, session musicians, band members, gigs, managers, songwriters writes, production, song structures (the list goes on…). A simple google search will prove that. And although it might seem daunting at first, if you start right (with a written agreement) it will save a lot of potential confusion and loss of rights and/or money down the line (iMusicianDigital, 2013).
Although the idea of hiring a lawyer may cramp your creative style, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer look through a written contract before making a decision about it. It’s usually obvious when a lawyer should get involed — basically if you are unsure about something within a contract (or if you’re the little guy signing with a big guy), get a lawyer. I’ve had small contracts which I’ve written within bands regarding songwriting rights. Very simple and straight forward agreements. I wouldn’t pay a lawyer for that (they are usually pretty expensive!) (HOME, 2014).
I’m definitely not a law person. I still don’t love the word contracts. I have made a lot of mistakes with contracts, but I’ve made even more mistakes not having them. So I think it’s fair to say, contracts are cool.
HOME. (2014, August 18). Your account. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://musicindustryinsideout.com.au/courses/understanding-contracts-music-law/
How to manage music festival organizing business. (2016, January 15). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from Business, http://www.camdenhavenmusicfestival.org.au/how-to-manage-music-festival-organizing-business/
Vitez, O. (2016). What is the importance of contracts to a business?. Small Business Chron. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-contracts-business-906.html
iMusicianDigital. (2013, August 30). The most important contracts in the music industry. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from Blog, https://www.imusiciandigital.com/en/blog/the-most-important-contracts-in-the-music-industry/
posted. (2016). Avoid signing contracts now « e-ratestrategies.com. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.e-ratestrategies.com/avoid-signing-contracts-now