Music Law 101: How To Protect Yourself As A DIY Artist

Music Law 101: How To Protect Yourself As A DIY Artist

We asked Entertainment Lawyer Chloe Martin-Nicolle to lay out the most common mistakes artists make throughout their independent music career.

As an artist in the music industry, you don’t need to know everything about the music business in order to succeed, but it is important to arm yourself with knowledge about your basic legal rights so you can protect yourself. 

We asked Entertainment Lawyer Chloe Martin-Nicolle to lay out the most common mistakes artists make throughout their independent music career and to share her advice on social media, handshake deals, and licensing. 

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From your experience, what are some of the most common mistakes independent artists make? 

“It’s not uncommon to see new independent artists sign a contract without fully understanding what rights they are giving away. You’re better off taking some time to understand the deal by talking to someone and negotiating a deal so it works for you. Also, a lot of new artists don’t know how to make the most of all income streams, such as registering with collecting societies for both the recorded side and the publishing side and engaging a non-exclusive pitching agent to procure sync placements. That is where a good manager comes in.”

Is there anything artists should be aware of when using social media?

“Always ask the photographer or owner’s permission before reposting an image. Don’t air your dirty laundry online, it could come back to bite you!”

Many artists engage in handshake deals, or agreements on the side with other artists. What should artists watch out for during deals like this? 

“Handshake deals can be problematic as they are hard to prove if the other side decides not to honour the deal. You could miss out on royalties owed to you, forgo an assignment of rights, or the other side could claim entitlement to your income. Make sure you at least get the basic premise of the deal in an email, or even better, have a signed agreement in place.” 

3 most important things to be aware of when negotiating a record or licensing deal?

Understand the term: How long you are potentially locked into the deal for? How many options does the label have? How long do they have the rights to your music for?

Understand how royalty payments work: There is usually an element of recoupment so you won’t see a royalty straight away. Know what is and isn’t recoupable.

Understand what the label can do for you before you sign: Are they investing in marketing and publicity? What can they do outside their home territory? Is it worth assigning your rights in an age where you can do this independently?

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