Music Business Expert FAQs

Why do some artists claim bankruptcy after they have hit records?

  • Record deals on major labels are not what they seem. In many cases the more records the artist sells the more money he can owe their label. A gold record can mean bankruptcy for some. See pages 78-140 for why.

Why can't you trust the charts in Billboard?

  • As odd as it might seem prior to 1991 record companies and record stores were on what was tantamount to the ‘honor system’ when it came to reporting to Billboard. The Billboard charts these days are based on a rather complex computer system called Soundscan which measures the sales at the point of purchase via a supermarket-like scanner. However most record stores in the world do not carry this system. So even today the charts are something of a guestimate. Plus there are ways to beat Soundscan. See page 125 for more on this.

What's the most common way that producers scam money from artists' budgets?

What's the most common way that record companies scam money from the artist?

  • It’s the false promise that the artist will likely ever see royalties. They know full well that a royalty check is a rarity, but they will not announce this when negotiated. Page 175 shows the real deal dollar numbers for what an artist can expect to make with a major label.

How long till an artist sees their money?

  • From major record royalties, about two years, if ever (see above). Publishing can be as little as six months after the record is released. See page 146 for exact amounts and why it takes so long.

How many records does an artist have to sell to break even on a major label deal?

  • (See: ‘Royalty Calculator’) or see pages 74-79.

Is copyright protection a myth?

  • True copyright protection, under the law, is almost always only available to the rich. Disagree if you want. I’m sure you can find a case or two to dispute this opinion, but as a general rule, unless you have the cash to burn on lawyers and a trial, what I say is true. For details of those who tried to sue major stars and how you can protect yourself see page 187.

Can an artist really trust their lawyer to negotiate a major label deal?

  • Sure he can trust him, as long as he can promise him more business than the major label being negotiated with. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Page 6 tells you why the lawyer an artist is paying may not have the artist’s best interest at heart.

Can you trust the liner notes on CDs?

  • Sometimes. But in many cases credit for work on an album is given as a favor. Songwriting bylines are often bought outright. Producing credit is a bit nebulous as well. Often the engineer or assistant to the producer is the real ‘man behind the curtain’. See page 296 for how to crack this system and get credit on an album even if you didn’t work on it.

What's the deal with using samples? How much should they cost?

  • About 50% of the publishing of the song, if the sample’s use in the new recording is ‘significant.’ But the person whose sample you’re using often is the one who decides what is ‘significant.’ To see how some artists and producers avoid paying anything for samples go to page 203-204.

Can you protect an arrangement of a song?

  • No. There is a longer more complex answer to this question that legal eagles love to theorize on, but in practicality it leads to the same conclusion. No, an arranger cannot protect a song’s beats, grooves or cool licks in 99.9 cases out of 100. The details are on pages 25 & 169.

What's the best way to go for a new artist; Major or Indie?

  • Hands down– Indie. But not for everyone. To find out if you qualify see page 109.

What exactly is a record company as opposed to a production company?

  • A production company only develops the artist. The record company has the ability to get records to a store. A major label is, in essence, a production company and a record company combined. Page 62-63 instructs you what to look out for when going into business with a small production company.