Any band or artist producing music needs to be familiar with the different types of musician contract agreements. They’re essential in explaining ownership rights, avoiding copyright issues, and agreeing on payment terms. But if you don’t know about the different contracts or understand the terms, they can be complex to write.
On this page, we offer a sample musician contract and discuss why such a legal document is important within the music industry. Keep reading to download your musician contract template (free PDF and Word available) for reliable legal cover.
A musician contract is a legal document between an artist and a music agency or label. There are several different types of contracts which are discussed below. They all outline the terms of the collaboration, including information on ownership rights and payment. They are essential for outlining the expectations and obligations of both parties and avoiding potential legal disputes over the ownership, distribution, and usage of musical tracks.
The music industry is constantly evolving and musician contract forms are changing with it. With the rise of streaming platforms such as Spotify, a musician contract example from ten years ago is essentially invalid. The rise of technology provides more opportunities for artists to be heard, but makes musician contracts harder to write.
Several music contracts are signed before songs are even written. This generally starts with an agent and artist forming a record deal which explains that the musician is an independent contractor but has obligations to the label. Examples include how many tracks the artist will produce, what royalties they will receive from their work, and rights on distribution.
Other musician contracts are drafted further down the line. For example, a remix contract might be signed by a producer or a live performance contract might be signed by a concert organizer.
A musician contract agreement protects the rights of the artist and music agent and resolves potential disputes. Without a contract in place, both parties can suffer the consequences of misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations. Therefore, having a musician contract in place is a win-win scenario for both parties.
For agents in the music business, the lack of a valid musician contract could allow the artist to work with other record labels or fail to produce as many records as discussed in a verbal agreement. On the other hand, artists without a musician contract might lose ownership over their music or be denied royalties for their work.
You can find a sample musician contract template further down this page. This example includes all the key terms and conditions you need to include in a musician contract form. However, you must understand all these terms before signing it. Below are the essential terms you need to know.
Almost all contracts between artists and agents in the music business contain a clause on exclusivity. This statement restricts the number of record labels the artist can collaborate with and ensure they work only with the agent throughout the term of the contract. However, this exclusivity clause does not apply to the record label – they can sign and work with as many other artists as they wish.
When signing a music contract form, there will be a section on copyrights. Usually, the artist signs the copyrights to their material over to the record company. This includes any unreleased recordings written during the term of the contract. In rare cases, artists can have their master rights returned to them at a later date. There are also sections on the copyrights to other media, such as the album artwork and rights to use the artists’ names.
Record labels will determine the cost of recording and detail this in the contract. The label will put some money towards this recording budget, and the remaining money is given to the artists as advances. However, most of the payment to the artists is given in the form of royalties. These payments are based on the success of the record and are typically between 14% and 18% of sales.
There are different types of musician contracts. Record deals are mainly what people are referring to, but the complexity of the industry means there are several other contracts artists may enter into with producers, group members, distributors, and more.
Also called recording contracts, record deals occur when a recording artist passes the ownership of their music to a record label. The contract includes terms such as the royalties the artist receives, the duration of the deal, and the obligations of the music label regarding sub-licensing and productions. The artist generally has to produce an agreed upon quantity of records for the label during the term.
A distribution contract is a musician contract form between the artist and the istributor. Record labels usually arrange to distribute the recordings for artists they have the contracts with, but an independent artist who owns their own master recordings can contract directly with a distributor. The agreement details where the track can be distributed, any protective rights, costs of defenses, payments, or royalties.
Musicians creating music as a group rather than as individual artists should have a written project contract. This type of musician contract agreement discusses issues such as how the band income will be distributed between group members and who owns the rights to any music produced. It also details what happens if a band member quits, as well as voting rights for group decisions.
Artists can transfer the ownership of their tracks to a publisher. While record companies are only responsible for the songs they record and produce, publishing agreements establish copyrights to the melodies and lyrics. This ensures artists get paid whenever a track is played online or on the radio, including covers by other artists. It also protects against piracy.
When producers want to make a remix using a master track, they need to sign a producer contract. This can be signed by the artist or the record label, depending on who owns the master. The contract details the limits of the producer’s right to the use of the audio, the types of adaptations they can make, and payments and royalties.
Whenever an artist is performing live on stage, a contract exists between the organizers of the concerts and the artist. They include details on the gigs, such as the location, transportation, and technical requirements. Duties of both artists and event promotors are also outlined, including payments, fees, and what happens if the event gets canceled.
You can seek legal representation if you want to create a musician contract. Alternatively, follow this step-by-step process and use our musician contract template free (PFD or Word) to help you draft an agreement that abides by state laws and protects your legal rights.
The music label and artist first need to discuss whether they want to work together. Record labels will sometimes find talent and approach them directly. Alternatively, solo artists and bands can create an album or demo to send to potential labels and then discuss their options.
The terms of the music contract agreement is then discussed verbally between both parties. The agreed terms will largely depend on the experience of the artist and the size of the record company. The purpose is to find a fair compromise that benefits both the music label and the artist.
The verbal contract needs to be put into writing to become more legally enforceable Download our free musician contract form and fill in the blanks with the pre-agreed terms. Both parties then need to sign and date the contract to make it valid.
You can click the download button on this page to gain access to our sample musician contract. You can use either our musician contract PDF or Microsoft Word document. Once downloaded, simply fill in the blanks and get both parties to sign the contract. Our form templates are reviewed by licensed attorneys, so you can be confident the document is legally binding and protects your legal rights.
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Frequently Asked Questions
All musician contracts are different, depending on what specific type of agreement is being put in place. Nevertheless, here are some of the key terms that should be included in all legal contracts:
There are six main musician contract agreements to be aware of. These are record deals, distribution contracts, publisher contracts, producer and remix agreements, project contracts, live performance agreements, and entertainment contracts.
Anyone looking for a musician contract template is in the right place! You can download a sample musician contract agreement by clicking on the download links further up this page. Our musician contract (PDF and Word) is completely free to use and download and is written by licensed attorneys.