Creative Control issues for artists


Lauryn Hill performs lost ones o2 London

 “Creative Control issues for artists” 

In the last segment we highlighted “What is a good deal for artists

In this segment lets look at,  do you go for the money or try to protect the integrity of your art?

It’s important for you to be able to eat, have somewhere to live, cover transport to get you to and from gigs, rehearsals and the recording studios, but it may not just be a question of money.

For many artists, creative control of their work is very important. Being able to make a record with minimal interference from the record company is crucial to some artists.

If creative control is the most important thing for you, then getting that control would mean you had a “good” deal, even if there was less money on the table as a result. Some record companies are more flexible than others on questions of creative control. If this is an important issue for you, you need to look at this before you get into a deal.

You need to ask the record label people whats their attitude to this issue. What is their track record? If you can, you should talk to other artists signed to the record company to find out their experiences. You should also ask if the record company is prepared to guarantee creative control in the recording contract. Sometimes they’ll say it but won’t put it in the contract so you can’t rely on it.

Your wish to have creative control must be balanced against putting so many restrictions on what the record company can do so that they can sell your records properly. Basically I’m saying they need to have to proper tools to exploit your record to the widest audience in some cases (most cases).

For example, a proposal comes in from an advertising company to put one of two tracks into a major new car campaign. Artist 1 has full creative control in contract and is known to be completely against having music in advertisement. Artist 2, on the other hand , has an eye to the integrity of their work but also realises that a campaign like this, if done properly, can really help them into the big time. Artist 2 says yes and the record company puts their track forward and not artist 1.

Your focus maybe getting as much commitment as possible from a record company. If so, then you’ll concentrate on getting the label to confirm a specific figure in marketing ‘Spend’ or to underwrite tour losses up to a fixed amount.

A typical problem is how to make sure that you make money from all the places where your work is used, whether that’s actual record sales or as a taster to drive the fans to buy the album, tickets to your live show or merchandise.


The continued importance of radio play in promoting a new release, A&R people are usually interested to hear tracks that they know will get radio play to promote the artist. You can bet there’s a belief amongst labels that in order to get commercial success in terms of number of sales you need to get radio exposure, preferably A or B list at Radio 1 or 2.

Make sure you are signing to a label who understands where you are coming from on these issues. Whatever the issue may be and no matter what big statements and promises the record label makes when they want you, if it’s not specifically in the contract you wont have a chance of making them keep their promises if they go back on what they said or if the person who said it in no longer with the company (Key man clause)

Read previous article “What is a good deal for artists

Island Records artist Angel discusses his creative control freedom (below)


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  1. Pingback: What Is a good record deal? | Amaru Don TV

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