Should You Sign a 360 Deal?

After years of precipitously declining record sales, things may be turning around for the music business. In the week ending December 30, 2012, consumers bought 55.74 million digital songs – over 8 million more songs than the previous high period (December 30, 2008). Vinyl sales are also exploding, up almost 750% since 2008. The surviving major labels offer sophisticated marketing and distribution across multiple platforms. In the face of slimmer profits and an industry in transformation, the major labels now often insist on so-called “360 deals” to capitalize on all the artist’s income streams - not just record sales - including merchandizing, endorsement deals, performance revenues and even ringtones.

Before you commit to share virtually all of your future income through a 360 deal with a major label, get legal counsel. A properly negotiated 360 deal may be a win-win for both parties, but a poorly negotiated one can be devastating, with the artist signing away important revenue earning rights that will be difficult and costly to regain later.

Mark A Baker Law is versed in helping artists meet the challenges of the new music industry so they can achieve their artistic - and financial - goals. Mark A Baker Law represents all major participants in the music business, including recording artists, songwriters, independent record labels, music publishers, producers and concert promoters.

With high-quality in-home digital recording, crowd-funding and Internet marketing and distribution, you may find you no longer need (or want) a traditional record company. You want control over your own career, but this introduces legal and business challenges, many of which were formerly assumed by the record companies (i.e. marketing and distribution, protecting intellectual property in the cyber-world and monetizing the new digital products, and collecting the revenue). Independent record companies often fill the void between the self-distributed artist and the major labels. They may offer a more generous royalty rate and contractual concessions, but they typically lack the vast distribution and marketing channels of the majors.

Do I Need to Work With a Lawyer? Some points to consider:

  • Starting a record label? This requires dealing with a range of legal and business issues. You’ll likely require a new business entity, as well as trademark registration and basic contract forms. You’ll also have to negotiate recording contracts, licensing deals, producer contracts, publishing deals and secure the necessary permissions to use artwork, photographs, trademarks or logos to be included on sleeve notes, posters, or on your web site.
  • You’ve got a band together. Great, but have you settled on the ownership of the band name? Have you trademarked the name? Are your songs copyrighted? What kind of formal agreement has been made regarding band members’ participation in performance fees and other revenue streams?
  • Addressing your individual needs, in many cases, Mark A. Baker Law can create a flat-fee package to keep you protected, including forming the most favorable business entity (whether partnership, limited partnership, corporation or LLC), preparing inter-band agreements, copyrighting your songs, trademarking your band name and more.

Among the clients Mark A. Baker Law represents are:

  • Artists in commercial negotiations involving recording, production and distribution deals
  • Artist in publishing agreements
  • Artists in contracts with motion picture and television production companies for music used in films and TV
  • Independent record labels, including basic agreements

Representative services include:

  • Preparation and negotiation of various music industry agreements, including personal and business management agreements, booking agent agreements, artist recording agreements, master recording purchase agreements, distribution agreements, music publishing and administration agreements, songwriting and collaboration agreements, co-publishing agreements publishing administration agreements, work-for-hire agreements, mechanical licensing agreements, merchandising agreements, product placement and endorsement agreements, music-in-film agreements, model release and location release (music videos)
  • Trademark and copyright registration
  • Music rights clearance and licensing, music synchronization licenses and master use licenses (film/TV)
  • Song registration with performing rights societies
  • Protection, enforcement, management and exploitation of musical composition and sound recording rights in all media
  • Counseling songwriters, producers, labels, publishers, managers, agents, singers, musicians and dancers
  • Business entity formation and governance (corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies)
  • Side artist agreements, catalog acquisitions, copyright protection, concert agreements and Internet-related issues that include music streaming and downloading.
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