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Craig’s List - Five Artist Contract Lines Explained

Whooo-hooo! You got a record contract! And to celebrate, here are five translations of key contract lines—thanks to having, uh, “borrowed” a lawyer’s secret decoder ring.

 

by Craig Anderton

 

1. “Subsequent to completion of the Recording, Company may assign its existing rights and obligations hereunder without the consent of Artist.” This is actually for your benefit - after all, didn’t you always want your music featured in a laxative commercial? Or a KKK recruitment video? Or the music bed behind the cable access TV spot for Honest Frankie’s Quality Used Yugo dealership in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ? Exciting exposure opportunities await you when a record company president is highly motivated to pay off his gambling debts! Especially in New Jersey.

 

2. “In perpetuity and throughout the entire universe.” A bunch of lawyers were stinking drunk one night. “How about ‘throughout the world?’” “Nah, let’s do ‘throughout the solar system.’” [much laughter] “The galaxy!” [hearty guffaws] “The ENTIRE EFFING UNIVERSE!!” The lawyers all dissolved in gales of laughter and wrote “universe” into a contract as a lark—and the term stuck. (Although to be fair, some believe lawyers are spawned from the evil ice planet Blarf, so “universe” might actually be relevant.)

 

3. “Right of inspection of books with prior written notice of no less than seven (7) days.” Even accountants who move slower than Jabba the Hut can sub the funny money books for the real ones in less than seven days. And if you do inspect the books, expect to be locked in a small cubicle with a man who keeps referring to himself as “Thee Avenger,” has a really big teardop tattoo, and plays absent-mindedly with a knife he calls “my Precious.” Yessiree—you’re “livin’ the dream!”

 

4. “The recitals contained at the beginning of this agreement are incorporated herein by this reference.” No one has any idea what this means. No one ever has. No one ever will. In a brilliant move—given that lawyers bill by the hour—this line is inserted specifically so lawyers can argue about it for hours and hours. And hours. Even days and weeks, if needed. Ka-ching!

 

5. “Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing: Company and Artist agree to perform their obligations under this Agreement, in every respect and at all times, in good faith.” Although contracts are allegedly nonfiction documents, a hallowed legal tradition is that every contract include at least one line that’s totally bogus. This replaces the clause used in older contracts, which was “Company and artist shall slay dragons, turn lead into gold, and cast magikal spells in the company of elves and fairies.” Spoiler alert: That didn’t happen either.

 

______________________________________________ 

 

Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

 

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DavidEllis  |  July 31, 2017 at 1:25 pm
Thanks for the translations!
The gist of the classic record contract seems to be "The costs of producing, recording, packaging, and promotion including giveaways and events all come out of the artist's share."
So there's no real need to cook the books unless there's a rare hit involved.
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