Here's a handy guide to some of the terms that may crop up when it come to signing those all important contracts.
Development Deal A deal between an artist and a big publisher where they will assist in building the profile of the act to a wider audience and record companies. They might help find a promotion or plugging agency or fund things like buying equipment and touring. By creating more of a buzz, they'll up an artist's bargaining power so the final record deal might give you more control of your career or more favourable terms when it comes to dividing up the money.
Exclusivity (of Publishing Contract) A clause in your contract which states that you can't write songs for anyone else without their express permission. The only exception to this rule is if you were able to be commissioned to write a film score or a theme for a TV show, then the companies that create these productions will want the rights to the music you make for the project. For that reason it's worth asking for a clause to be added to your contract that would allow you to do this kind of work without breaching the exclusivity rights of the publisher.
Minimum Commitment This is the amount of music you deliver in each contract period.
Royalty Tracking A process where publishers make sure musicians have been paid everything they are due. You don't need a publisher to be able to query payments with the collection societies but you may need some help keeping track of usage. If you can't spot potential errors, then you can't query them. That goes double if your songs are being used heavily abroad. A collection society will simply pass on the money collected on your behalf abroad.
Sub Publisher A smaller publisher who has an agreement with a company abroad who checks that the money matches the likely usage of a song and chase it up. This company is a 'sub publisher'.
Synchronisation This is a clause in a recording contract which states that the record company, not the artist, will get all the royalties when their song is 'synchronised' to be used in a music video, film or TV show. It would not be in an artist's best interest to sign a contract of this nature, as they would want the royalties from 'synchronised' plays of their songs.
The Term (of Publishing Contract) This is the length of time you are committed to working with your publisher. It's probably divided into a series of contract periods. At the end of each of these, the publisher will have the option to end the contract or not. For a singer-songwriter the term is normally between four and six albums. A writer, however, will typically be in contract for four to eight compositions. If the publisher takes one of the options to end your contract they'll still own the rights to anything you've written during the time you've been with them. Until, that is, the retention or rights period ends. Say you're dropped after your 'difficult' second album. When you're still in this retention period but released from your contract, you'll be able to seek a publisher for new material that will end up on your third album. But the original publisher will still own the rights to the songs on your first two albums.
Territory (of Publishing Contract) This refers to the area that the contract relates to. A publisher will normally ask for this area to be the World - so wherever you run, you'll still be tied to them. However, some artists have separate deals covering Europe, America and Japan specifically. Your chances of negotiating the territory stated in the contract will depend on how successful you are. If you are a real catch you might be in a position to bargain.
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