To sign or not to sign a deal, that is the question that many artists have in today’s music industry. If you are an independent artist looking to sign a contract with a music publishing company or a record company you need to understand the differences between the two deals. Promoting your music is something very important and these two are the main sources to do this. Which one is the best option for you as an artist?
A record deal is an agreement between a recording artist and a record label. The artist makes a record for the label to sell and promote, and the record label will give the artist every possible tool to create this. The record label is involved in the recording, production, pressing, distribution, marketing, merchandising of your songs. Labels actually act as “banks” in a sense that artists receive an advance and then they would have to recoup it with sales. With this advance, the artist can make a record that the record label would be able to promote. That’s why record deals typically cover performing artists and not songwriters.
A music publishing deal is an agreement between artists and publishing companies. The company can claim your work, in exchange for promoting it. Publishing companies control several aspects of your work such as performing acts rights, mechanical rights, and synchronization. In addition, publishers can also be pro-active in that they can build links with music directors, other performers, and try to convince these people to play or perform the artist’s songs.
If you are a songwriter, signing for a music publishing company/publisher would be better for you. In addition, due to certain licenses and because of the benefits of performing arts rights organizations, publishing deals will be more beneficial for songwriters. A publishing contract is a legal contract between a publisher and a writer, so it is basically about promoting the song itself (record labels are about the promotion of sound recordings). However, a publisher is not involved in the recording of music. If you sign with a publisher or publishing company, no one is promising to give you money to record your music and no one is going to release it for you.
I’ve met a lot of artists and bands that are starting their careers as freelancers and, something that I heard a lot is their desire to sign with a major or indie label. However, most of these artists already have music out in Spotify and other streaming services. Actually, some of them even have albums already recorded so, why exactly do you what to sign with a label if you are trying to promote the music that is already recorded? A music publishing deal could also be an option for you. Publishing companies understand the value of publishing. They know how to price your work and can demand a price for your music that you may struggle to achieve on your own.
What you need to know is that record labels and music publishing companies have a huge financial advantage. They both can help you as an artist to reach your expectations. They’ll be able to spend a lot of money promoting your record, which is exactly what you want. A record label may be able to offer you a large advance and invest a lot in recording, touring, video shoots and other opportunities for you. And as I mentioned before, a publishing company may be able to build links with music directors and other performers for you. It would try to convince these people to play or perform your songs. Both are great opportunities, they just have different approaches.