Why you should avoid free music business contracts

To musicians, music is all about creativity, expression and the enjoyment of the audience- for many it’s also a livelihood. In order to protect that income and the rights to their music, most musicians have to sign contracts with labels; said contracts establish the terms in which rights are assigned or licensed, assure royalties for their work and protect them from piracy.


There are a huge number of new music companies out there, and many of those companies are going to need contracts. This has resulted in a large online market for music contracts, including a number of free contracts intended to allow new music ventures on a budget to exploit the copyright of musicians. Whilst this may sound great at first, there are important reasons why these free contracts are a bad idea.

A recording contract is a complex document, covering a lot of points, including the duration of the contract, the number of albums and singles covered (down to the specific length of the songs), the percentage of any profit that the label and the musician receive, the specific territory in which the contract applies and a host of other details. In many of these free contracts, these details may be pre-filled and not correspond to an acceptable standard, the files may not be editable (preventing modification of the contract for a specific artist’s needs) and many of the contracts may not actually hold up in court.

Depending on the territory an artist is from, local laws may differ and details of the contracts will have to be specifically tailored to the requirements of the area it’s designed for. Without a lawyer experienced in this sort of contract, a free recording contract may not protect an artist in the location they need it to.

Various other details (such the percentage of profits the artist should received) may vary overtime, as standards in the industry change depending on changes in supply and demand, piracy and new formats. These details are often not explained in free contracts, making it difficult or even impossible for a person who is not well versed in music law to decipher and tailor to their needs.

Any label who wants to form a contract with an artist will have innumerable details which will require consideration and inclusion. These include advance payments to the artist, spending of profits on promotion and other costs such as packaging of albums and equipment for the artist. Details for auditing a label’s accounts, ‘acceptance and delivery’ clauses which specify the format and quality of the music the label expects to receive and arranging first refusal for the label on future albums or licensing for the use of tracks in other media.

Given the number of variables and bases that need to be covered on licensing contracts, and how important such a document can be to the fortunes of both artist and label, buying a high-quality, editable contract (such as one from href=”https://musiclawcontracts.com/”>Music Law Contracts) or writing one up from scratch in conjunction with an experienced lawyer may be far wiser than editing a free one to your needs.

Image Credit: Wilm Ihlenfeld