Aug 1, 2023 2 min read

Digital Dollar Guide: Deals Guide

CMU created The Deals Guide for the UK's Music Managers Forum to help explain the different kinds of label and distribution deals available to artists.

Report published: October 2017
Client: Music Managers Forum

Part of the Dissecting The Digital Dollar series of reports and guides produced by CMU for the UK Music Managers Forum, The Deals Guide explains how the different kinds of label and distribution deals typically available to artists work.

In The Deals Guide we look at what different deals offer, the legal implications of different types of deals, and the benefits - or drawbacks - that a particular deal may offer.

The Deals Guide reviews in detail the support and services a label, distributor, or artist/label services company might provide an artist, and what the business partner might want in return. 

Overview of The Deals Guide

Artists have traditionally worked with record labels on their recorded music. The label provides investment, distribution, marketing and other support to allow the artist to record and release new recordings, and to more generally grow their fanbase and wider artist business. 

In return the label usually seeks exclusive involvement in the artist’s recorded music until a set number of tracks or albums have been released, as well as control - and possibly ownership - of the recording rights in any music recorded during the deal. The label then monetises the recordings and shares any income with the artist. 

Therefore a traditional record deal sets out what investment and support the label will provide; how many recordings the artist must deliver; who owns and controls the rights in those recordings; and how any future income will be shared between the artist and the label.

However, over the last fifteen years it has become more common for artists to self-release their recordings via their own labels, often in partnership with their management team. When they do this, they will hire the services of a distributor - or an artist or label services company - to provide some of the support that would traditionally come from a record label. 

This approach gives the artist more control over their recording rights and release campaigns, and usually means they get to keep a bigger share of any subsequent income. However, it also means the artist and their management team have to do more of the work. 

The Deals Guide outlines the considerations and decisions an artist needs to make when choosing what kind of deal to do around their recorded music, and identifies ten distinct options artists can choose from. These range from working with a DIY distributor through to signing a conventional record deal with a major label - and takes a look at the opportunities and benefits of each of the ten broad types of deal.

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