Record labels are still ripping off artists…and getting away with it

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from an A&R person at a global dance music label. It was a pretty standard email along the lines of “hey we like your song, would you be interested in licensing it to us?” which I’ve received before and usually they amount to nothing. This often happens when A&R’s use those online tools we all know and love that show when a song is picking up traction in Spotify playlists in particular. Anyway I replied saying that I’m always open to collaborations as I wanted to see what they had to offer and I always like to do my best for my artists which sometimes means upstreaming the song to another label.

11 days later I finally get a reply (which in itself was a warning sign as who takes 11 days to reply to an email) and this is what it said…

Advance: $2,000 USD
Options: 3 Options
Territory: World
Term: Perpetuity
Royalty Rate: 17%

So to break this down, they are basically offering a $2k advance and then just 17% of royalties ongoing FOREVER. Meaning they keep a juicy 83% of royalties for themselves. FOREVER.

To make matters worse they didn’t say how or why they would promote the song or even if they would at all. Nothing on how they would help develop the artist going forward either. It would seem that the fact they are a globally known dance label that’s been around for over 15 years is enough to have crappy deals like this snapped up by unsuspecting artists.

The sad thing is that artists are accepting these terrible deals, they are blinded by the fact that a well known label wants to sign them, then they get buyers remorse once they see that the label doesn’t offer support. I see it every day.

And then I usually get an email from the artist a few months later saying they regret the deal and once they signed with the label they couldn’t even get their emails returned, never mind any promo.

The best advice I can give to artists is to ask what they will get in exchange for giving up such a big chunk of their royalties. How will the label promote the song? Will it be a priority for them? How will they invest in you as an artist? Don’t assume that just because you’re signed to an established label that you will have a hit. I see thousands of releases on these labels bomb every week. It seems their new business model is to sign as many songs as they can offering terrible terms and then just throw them on streaming platforms to see what happens. There’s pretty much zero risk for the label as they’re keeping the majority of the royalties forever so they’ll make their money back at some point.

I really feel that these labels are the modern day pirates, taking artists for everything they have and giving nothing in return.

An armada of pirates

One thing I’ve always been proud of at my label Humble Angel Records and Humble Angel Dance is that we offer a fair 50/50 royalty share to all artists and we invest in every release we put out. We offer everything from playlist marketing to full radio campaigns, press and more. We have an open submission policy too, you don’t need an “in” to send unreleased music over for consideration, just head over here and click submit.

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