What’s A Record Deal Worth?

record deal contract

When it comes to the whole debate about the value of record deals and Indie vs Major – everybody has an opinion. I can rant and rave about where I stand on this topic, but I think AllHipHop.com founder, Chuck Creekmur has discussed it in more eloquent manner than what I would have ranted.

I may still discuss it in the future; because it’s a topic that has many sides to it, but also because it’s a topic that most aspiring artists need more insight on.

Briefly, let me just say, artists need to stop focusing so much on “getting a deal” and focus that energy on “achieving a goal”. One does not always equal the other.

Anyhow, here’s Chuck’s great writeup:

It is pretty common knowledge that it is high time that the recording industry re-evaluate its practices and business M.O.

This is a direct result of the digital era, however I have an archaic response to the resurgence of the new indie and internet movement.

Record labels need to make the record deal worth something again.

Right now, with all eyes on the artist, the artistry, the sales and the business, the labels are going to need to raise the bar instead of lowering it. In recent history, record deals have been given out like cheap candy on Halloween night. The dude co-signed by the DJ gets a deal. The bum best friend of the multi-platinum rapper gets a deal. The trash rapper that does a few thousand out-of-the-trunk can get a record deal. There’s a clearance sale on record deals, it seems and the industry “got it for cheap.”

These unqualified people are getting signed for all the wrong reasons and very little of it is based on talent or ability. Can we agree that that is most important aspect of an album? I mean, most of these folks don’t even have an interesting story to sell to the people or media. I’m sorry, but even getting shot isn’t enough anymore. The “deal” has been devalued so badly that your average artist boasts about being indie, not even fully grasping he gravity of that. (That’s another topic, but indie is short for independent.) The point is, nobody really cares about getting signed to a deal anymore…they have options.

Don’t confuse this as an anti-indie statement or even a pro-major labels commentary. I firmly believe that we only recently fundamentally got off track, but it seems like Pandora’s Box is completely broken open. Artists as recently as 50 Cent, Young Jeezy and wise older artists like Master P grasped the notion of crafting a full-circle look at their art way before they hopped in bed with the labels. Then, other artists already signed to majors took meticulous care of their likeness and their art, which often extended well beyond their music. That care doesn’t exist anymore, from the artist or the labels. Artist development, A&Ring and other once-essentials are now fundamentally dead.

That can change for the betterment of the business and the future stars of music, if the deal is harder to attain. Getting signed must be a rite of passage of sorts, where only the best of the best emerge victorious.

With the barriers to entry gone, and access readily available, I’m not suggesting that the music game shut down the doors to anybody. In fact, this idea would open up doors to the talents all over the nation and the world that have the goods, but don’t have the inroads. There are more ways for an artist to create energy around themselves and you don’t have to sit in front of the Def Jam building to get somebody’s attention. So, I’m talking about the artists in Detroit, Delaware, Baltimore and Chicago getting in. I’m talking about the MC’s in Rotterdam and South Africa. The labels have to understand, this is what is out there. The artists have to be ready to answer the door when opportunity knocks.

Essentially, what I am suggesting is that – for the fans’ sake – artists must assume control of their own destiny and when they have gone through that industry trial by fire, everybody is a winner.

If the deal is just given out, even the “nobody” doesn’t respect it. The goal: creating the next generation of superstars and salvaging a business that enables potential greats to fulfill their destiny.


Artists: Labels will be labels. Create value in what you do and what you are. Have a total package as an artist and, more importantly, as a commodity. Know the digital landscape in detail, but don’t completely abandon traditional forms of promotion and marketing that work. Have a team.

Labels: We’ve seen what happens when artists are JUST signed. Nobody wins, because many of these immensely talented individuals sit on a shelf, only to get released years after their buzz is the highest. Others do get release dates, but suffer from wackness or simply from neglect. From a business point of view, there will always be an urge to sign the next hot thing on the spot, but treat the artist like a flower and help them blossom. There aren’t many Michael’s, Mariah’s and Madonna’s out there, but there are many reoccurring lessons to be learned from these artists.

Chuck Creekmur is the founder of AllHipHop.com, a cultural critic, public speaker and has been independent for several years. Sometimes, he can be found at www.twitter.com/chuckcreekmur.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this topic and on Chuck’s editorial. Let me know what you think and if you have any suggested solutions of your own.

[Source: AllHipHop.com]

45 thoughts on “What’s A Record Deal Worth?

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  3. Willard

    Great writeup by Mr. Creekmur. Your phrase in the introduction, “Briefly, let me just say, artists need to stop focusing so much on “getting a deal” and focus that energy on “achieving a goal”. One does not always equal the other.”, is the perfect summary of this topic.

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  5. Terence Connor

    Chuck is right on the money. “The goal: creating the next generation of superstars and salvaging a business that enables potential greats to fulfill their destiny.” That says it all right there. Talent has been undervalued and we need to reverse that mistake.

  6. Reg

    Good article!!! I think if labels want to survive, they have to hire better A&Rs who are brave enough to sign & develop real talent.

    Right now, all these A&Rs are just playing it safe and signing gimmick acts that are only buzzworthy at the moment.

    We need less Stanky Leg, I Love College & You’re A Jerk. We need to bring musicality back to the music business.

    Until we do that, we are supporting a singles-driven market that hurts the survival of the business, more than helps it.

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  14. Bullet aka Mr.Robotic

    This was an Awesome Read! I agree with this whole-heartedly. I think the wrong people are getting deals BUT at the same time it isn’t just there fault. I have always had this theory, in order for a record to buzz it has to be made and after it is made someone has to support it for more people to support it and to have that artist attain a buzz in order for a label to even think about signing the person. I think Djs and others have done damage also.Clear Channel also! But i love what Chuck said about how labels devalued the deal. I so believe that if they were to bring artist development back etc we could have more superstars! Our Superstars we have now dont even care about the music anymore in my opinion! only person really is Kanye! you can tell he loves the music. But Also i think Managers and just other people are making the artist do TOOOOO much! An artist is suppose to create the art. now a days the artist has to promote/develop fanbase/book your own shows/financially invest/and then still find time to make dope music. and it seems like its never enough and if you see someone else getting a deal and all of that is getting taking care of why wouldn’t you want a deal? but thats my opinion awesome read again!

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  17. FreshNerd

    Definitely one of my favorite topics and a great read! It will be great to see where everything lands once the majors get things sorted out on their end (if it matters). The question I have that hasn’t been addressed as of yet is, where does the producer fit in as far as the new playing field is concerned? Now that we’re in a single driven world, how much weight does the old model of the point based system hold? Hmmmm…

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  21. Moe Arora

    @Reg – I agree with your point that the industry may be hurting itself more than helping itself by making a singles-driven market.

    In the age of social media, entertainment and news items have such short life spans, however it seems like most labels are simply placing buckets everywhere to catch leaking water, rather than patching up the roof. They’re creating temporary solutions, which may end up creating a bigger problem in the end.

    @Bullet – True, there’s definitely more to manage nowadays and the artist has to be more involved – much more involved. The artist-audience relationship has shifted from a one way speech to a two-way dialogue.

    A lot of these social media tools were created to make it easier for an artist to manage their relationship with their audience, however just the amount of how many there are has made it much more difficult.

    It’s difficult for indies, but I truly believe with the right team of people and strong organization, it is possible to use them to your advantage and not have them become overwhelming.

    @FreshNerd – That’s a great question! I think I’m going to pose this question to a few producers and see what they have to say. Thanks for the suggestion!

  22. FaMe

    He’s basically saying bring back artist development and stop looking for the quick buck. One of the things he failed to mention was the idea that people still don’t buy records. So no matter if the artist is Mariah Carey or Unladylike, the most they’ll do is platinum. At the end of the day, labels still won’t make their money back so they just decide to invest less in the artists, which leads to low sales anyways. It’s a lose lose. It’s actually the fans’ fault.

    Buy Albums. See better artists.

  23. Moe Arora

    @FreshNerd – I”m not sure if you’re responding to the article or to my closing statement, however the only mention of indie in the entire post is when the LA Times journalist said Drake had independently placed “Best I Ever Had” on iTunes – which is true.

    If it’s in reference to my closing statement, my point wasn’t for indie artists to do exactly as he did – my point is that artists should use this as an example and remember to focus on their own vision and their own goals as supposed to just accepting any deal that comes their way.

    Too many unsigned artists have the false impression that getting a record deal is some form of magical solution that will catapult them into riches and fame, when the reality is that traditional record deals heavily favor the label, rather than the artist.

    In Drake’s situation, his team used his leverage to ensure that the deal heavily favored Drake, rather than the label. That’s my point – that artists need to remember to look at the bigger picture and not just accept what labels attempt to dictate as “standard”.

    Hope this helps clarify.

    This comment was originally posted on makingthemogul.com | The Blog About Moe Arora And His Journey In the Music Business

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