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Looking for a record deal?

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Jun 14, 2018

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Here's a letter from Steve Iorio to a friend of his in Germany who was looking for a record deal. Some of it is geared towards the German scene but good info nonetheless. Steve is in the band The Vagrants, is a pro muso, has been signed himself and has lectured in this area:

I want to make sure you understand one word in English. "Recoup" or "Recoupable". This is very, very important. The record company spends money, but it is YOUR money. This is basically a loan. When CD's sell, they get paid first. So if the record company spends 7,500 euros on "Marketing", then you will have to pay it back from any sales, and they get their money first. I think the word in German is, wieder einbringen.

Firstly:

To be honest, and in my experience the only thing a contract will give you is piece of paper to hold in court. NOBODY goes to court unless it concerns a LOT of money. Otherwise people just break contracts and don't live up to them. So do as much research as you can do into the company first. If the artists are doing well, are happy with the company (do not be shy, email some of the bands on their label), and all is well you will feel better. Also, labels often have the bands on their label playing together.

Question: Do you like the other bands on their label?

1-Try to be really "small" in your contracts. Make sure it is JUST for Germany to begin with. If they do well, then give them any other countries that they have already had a success with. Don't give them Spain if they don't have any people there working, have no bands that have succeeded there. If they are not willing to spend money to promote you there you won't sell there. Make sure the contract is for not more than 2 or possibly 3 years at most. If they have succeeded in 2 years I am sure you would be happy to continue with them!!! If not, you want your rights back.

2- Publishing is where all the money is. Keep your publishing rights!!! Sign up with GEMA, you get your money, and nobody else does. IF... if they want the publishing rights make sure that you get some money up front. At least 10,000 Euros up front (recoupable of course) as an advance on profits. I say this because all record/publishing companies will take care of the artists that they have to get money back from. So, if they have given another band a lot of money up front for publishing, and you zero, then a big movie wants a song in the film, whose song do you think they will give them? They will give the deal to the band that has to "Recoup" money.

3- Find out if the 7,500 Euros is "recoupable". If it is recoupable, that is fine, but WHERE are they spending YOUR money. You have the right to know, and give the "OK" to where they are spending your money. Many times with will be the record company spending money on their own employees. Seriously, they call the time their own people in their office spend on "Marketing" and expense. So really you have to pay for their people to call radio stations, magazines, etc.. It is OK to do this, but ask what they will spend it on, and get IN WRITING that you have to OK all the marketing spending that is recoupable. IF... and I doubt it... if the money is not recoupable, then they can spend their record company money on anything they want. It is not your money, and it is not recoupable.

Also, is the 7,500 euros going to sending out CD's? I got our record company (2nd CD) to commit to sending out 250 cds to radio, TV, magazines etc.. But our FIRST CD I did that myself. It is hard to find out where to send them, who to address them to, and postage, envelopes, and the printing of a one page letter costs money, but you will make money back on that kind of advertising. If they are NOT going to do it for you, you should offer to do it yourself, but they should give you 300 CD's for free. The reason is that the printing, paper, postage, time on phones, and the research will be a big boost for the records label's CD sales and their profile. It is a lot of work for you to do, but worth it. You just need to account for where they went.

4- Getting you on to 295 different websites is easy!!! There are great sites that let you do it yourself. CD Baby is the best one that I know, but I know Reverb Nation and others that do it too. I can do that for you. If you are up on a site with no advertising and no real promotion you will probably not sell much, unless you do a lot of promotions yourself, OR they have a "marketing plan", that will help you sell on line.

ASK what their plan is!

5- Find out who the "Booking Partner" is. Do they book crappy venues? Shit bands? Only Jazz? Do they have other bands that they book? Festival connections. To be realistic, ANY booking help is good help, but just make sure you know what you are getting into. A major problem I had with our "Booking Partner" was that they wanted EXCLUSIVITY, which meant even if I book a gig, they get commission. Don't sign that unless there is a minimum number of gigs, money, etc.. because they can book crappy gigs, and take money for all the good gigs you book.

Making 1,50 euros on a CD that they sell in normal.

It is nice to get 300 CD's to sell at 6.50. You sell them at gigs.

The 50/50 split is good on digital, but you can 75 for you 25% for them IF you go thru CD Baby and some other companies. But then you have do the promotion. Only sign for 2 years!!!

A video is a MUST!!! See if they will help with costs.

Physical radio (not digital) is the hardest thing to do well, and the BEST way to get noticed. Ask them what their plan is. You can do the digital thing yourself.

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