One of the most recent types of record contracts to emerge is known as a 360 record deal. Over the past decade or so, these types of contracts have become more and more common, and it’s not likely that this trend will end anytime soon. And if your band is presented with one of these contracts, you should know exactly what this type of deal is before you sign. While these contracts can work to your advantage, they also carry a different type of risk than other contracts. Here, we’ll look at exactly what these agreements are so you will know what to look out for before you sign.
First things first – what exactly is a 360 record contract? With traditional record contracts, artists are typically fronted money from the label to record an album, and then the record company takes a percentage of record sales after the album is released (in addition to recouping the advance). The record company usually was not involved with any other aspect of the band’s career, including touring and merchandise revenue.
In a 360 deal, however, the record company has a hand in most or all aspects of the band, including the aforementioned touring and merchandise revenue. In return for this, the record company is responsible for spending more time building the “brand” of the artist, and will theoretically invest more money toward covering touring, merchandise and other expenses.
The good news for bands in a 360 deal is that they have less money to invest up front. Often touring costs will be taken care of, and sometimes the booking will even be done for the band, depending on the contract.
The obvious upside is that the band doesn’t have to pay for a booking agent out of its own money, and it doesn’t have to worry about how to come up with the funds to buy the merchandise they will take with them to sell at shows.
The downside of this is the fact that the record company has more control over the artist –financially and, often, artistically. Additionally, the more money a record company invests in the band, the more money they have to recoup.
We’ve all heard horror stories about bands that get an advance from a record label to make an album, and then go into major debt when the album doesn’t meet sales expectations. 360 deals make this even more likely because of the higher amount of money originally invested by the label.
Should You Sign a 360 Deal?
As frustrating as it is, the answer is the same as the answer for whether you should sign any music industry contract: It depends. Labels have had great success using 360 deals to make young artists enormously successful (Paramore is a commonly cited example), and the current trend is to sign already successful artists to these types of deals. Jay Z’s recent deal with Live Nation is a good example of this.
All too often, however, the contracts give the advantage to the label, and unfortunately that puts bands that don’t succeed within a certain timeframe (determined by the label) in a position to not only not make money, but also to go into great debt to the label.
The best advice is to know exactly what the 360 deal presented to you means, and understand the risk it presents to you as an artist – this may mean hiring an entertainment lawyer to look over the contract with you. It’s hard for a young artist to turn down any recording contract offered by a label, particularly if it’s a major label, but sometimes that can be the best thing for a long-lasting career.