Music Industry Series. The Contract For A Recording Artist (I).

Escrito por Jesús M.

  1. El objetivo de este breve texto que he preparado es servir como introducción a la figura del contrato de grabación de artistas musicales en Inglés.
  2. Está escrito en el Inglés más sencillo posible dentro de la materia tratada, técnica y profesional legal.
  3. Contiene importantes expresiones básicas utilizadas con mucha frecuencia en el sector legal contractual y musical.
  4. Es de utilidad para acercarse al Inglés técnico empleado en el sector musical y legal, así como para familiarizarse con el contenido de una de las figuras contractuales básicas dentro de la industria.
  5. Can you dig it!


Every aspiring or amateur musician's dream is to end up making records for a big recording company, with their own band or launching a solo career. The way things work in 2017 are not very different if compared to the basics of the industry on networking fifteen or twenty years ago, which means that the linking bond between the artist and the record company is likely to be a friend, a lawyer, agent, A&R, another artist or namely any other possible player in the industry. One of the most important pieces of advice you will ever get as an aspiring artist remains still invariable: get professional legal assistance, the sooner the better, to avoid getting lost in the legalese jungle lurking out there.

Standard Agreement

  • The standard agreement is the legal document binding the artist and the record company, by means of which the artist agrees to put his recording services at the disposal of the company, for the purpose of recording music that will eventually become records.
  • 'Records' is to be interpreted in a wide sense, as the term includes any possible format where the artist's recorded music might be appearing, be it physical or electronic (digital online platforms, streaming).

  • The artist shall attend the places indicated by the company (recording studios, etc.) in the designated dates, to record their music. The outcome of the recording needs to be accepted by the company as 'satisfactory, both in commercial and technical terms'.
  • The company will determine under the terms in the contract which artist's recordings 'make the cut' and are suitable for their selection. However, it is possible (and common practice nowadays depending on the artist's negotiating position before the company) that the artists make the selection of recordings themselves, subject to the company's approval.
  • The company usually agrees on providing financial coverage for all the costs in the recording process, which include fees, artist advances, and expenses related to other professionals involved in the recording activity, i.e. engineers, arrangers, other musicians, producers, as well as studio and equipment expenses and/or mixing and editing costs. A usual covenant under a standard recording contract renders all of the aforementioned recoupable expenses, thus to be returned to the company against the artist's royalties advances.


The duration for a standard recording agreement spans through the necessary period of time to release a closed number of recordings to the market (plus a minimum period of time since the acceptance of the recordings, normally 9 months).


The arrival of digital era and the Internet made these general clauses modifiable, as the average consumer would rather get a selection of individual tracks instead of a whole album. Thus, the company usually includes the possibility of extending the contract duration for new material to be recorded and released.


If the artists do not meet the contract's terms regarding duration and recording works produced within, the company retains the right to postpone the obligation, 'pausing the clock', until the artist records the agreed number of works and they are finally released. (Despite the contractual agreed clauses, the American Courts have historically granted relief to the artists, disregarding what otherwise would have been deemed a breach of contract.


It is a widely extended customary practice to include an exclusivity clause in the recording contract, with the same duration as that of the contract itself.


The purpose of this exclusivity being included in the binding document is to prevent the artist to record for a different company while the contract is enforceable in terms of its duration. If exclusivity was not a contract requirement, the artist could release recorded works from different companies, which would result in consumer and industry confusion.


Although the contract states a particular exclusivity regimen, it admits being waived in exceptional cases, such as artist participation in other artists recordings for other companies, which is the case of the sidemen (recording artists who do not appear in the record credits or album covers or leaflets).


Exclusivity may encounter another exception in an artist's participation on a film soundtrack recording. The distributor of the soundtrack album will offer certain conditions to the recording company whose artist is taking part in the soundtrack. Depending on the actual conditions, the company may regard them as an opportunity to increase their artist's exposure  and promotion.

Bands&Group Artists

A plural number of artists may be included as a band or group of performers in the same contract, all of them acting as one party.


The company will not only acquire the exclusive right to use and promote all the recordings made by all the artists altogether, but that of retaining the band's recording services and using their name during the contract time extension as well.


Should there be a split among the group members, the contract usually contains a clause to cover such eventuality: the leaving members need to be filled in, replaced by other/s at the company's request or as a result of a negotiating process with the remaining band members. The company may set out a clause by which the exiting former member may continue a solo career under the company, especially if they were important members in the band (e.g. the frontmant, a particular vocalist or instrument player).


The contract might also include a clause stating the possibility of joining artists from different record companies to make a record for the company. This type of joint-venture is quite common in the music industry. Think of the superband 'Audioslave', formed by the band Soundgarden (with a record deal to Interscope) and Rage Against The Machine (with their contract signed to Epic Records).

- Presta especial atención a los términos y expresiones en negrita.

- Todo en el '69English Music Industry English Course (ME2)

- Sección de Propiedad Intelectual, Industrial y Copyright en el '69English Legal English Course (LC) y el '69English Legal & Business English Course (LBC).


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