Red flags all artists should look out for before signing a deal

For many musicians, being approached by a manager, A&R rep, or agent after a show may seem like a dream-come-true.

While developments in social media and digital music distribution are empowering today’s artists to advance their careers without relying on these sorts of parties, they can still undeniably bring benefits to the table with their network and expertise. This holds especially true for artists who prefer to focus on the music and entrust the business in someone else’s hands. However, even if this is you, it’s important to arm yourself with some degree of business smarts so that you don’t fall into an unfavorable, or even predatory, business deal.

Leah Waldo from Berklee Online’s Take Note identifies six red flags artists should watch for before signing a deal – below, we highlight three that we think are particularly key.

1. They’re rushing you to sign

Are you being pressured to sign a deal quickly so that you can “hit the ground running” or “take advantage of the time of year?” If so, beware – these people are most likely rushing you to sign so that you can’t take the time to pause and contemplate whether the deal is truly fair. Because some deals can have a sizeable impact on your career, they naturally require a solid amount of homework; you should be doing research, asking questions, and consulting your network. Managers, A&R reps, and agents should be understanding of this, and if they’re not, chances are they’re instilling a false sense of urgency to have you sign something that’s less than optimal.

2. They don’t have anything for you to sign

Though being rushed to sign something is certainly bad, not having anything to sign is perhaps even more concerning. Contracts are a must as they outline the terms and expectations upon which both you and the other party will be operating. Not to mention that if it comes down to it, a contract is the only way for you to protect yourself legally. If anyone approaches you with a verbal agreement and no writing that backs it up, consider that a massive red flag.

3. They haven’t listened to your music or seen you perform

No matter how powerful word of mouth is, a serious manager, agent, or A&R rep will always do their research about you and your work before approaching you with a deal. After all, how can they make a financial investment in you or find the right placements and opportunities if they haven’t even heard your music? You should be looking into anyone who approaches you, and you should expect no less from them if you plan to develop a mutually beneficial partnership. If you feel like they’re not invested in your music and your career, definitely think twice about signing that deal.

Do you have any red flags that you look out for in contracts and other agreements? Let us know in the comments below, and check out Take Note’s article for a complete list of red flags you should watch out for.

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September 10, 2019

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.