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Hundreds of agents book musicians for all kinds of events. They are business people looking to make a dollar. Not all, but many agents are parasites. Be careful about signing exclusive booking contracts that may prevent you from working in all or particular venues. If an agent keeps you working, it is worth signing with him or her, but don't take it for granted that you will always be working. Independence is an asset in the entertainment business. A loyal manager is an asset, if they have lots of experience and good connections. But, they can be a liability, if they are not in contact with the right people.

Be aware:

  • Some venues state in their contract that you may not appear within a certain radius of their venue in a 30-60-90-120-day time frame. If you perform in their region, they may cancel your contract.
  • Some singers have a rider attached to their contract that no other singer can appear on the same show with them.

Recording contracts have been the downfall of many musicians. Have a lawyer review all contracts before signing them. If you are offered a substantial advance for recording, you will pay that money back before you get $1 in royalties. Before you get paid, all expenses for making your recording will be taken out of the profit from sales.

Know who gets the publishing rights to your original music - you, the musician, who records your music, the producer or the recording company. On first recordings, the recording artist or record company may want the publishing. You get 100% writer's fee, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to publisher's royalties. Always, negotiate to keep most, if not all of your publishing.

Join BMI, ASCAP in the United States or the publishing collection agency in your country. Keeping track of record sales is tricky business. The Harry Fox Agency is a good company for sales and performance tracking.

To increase sales, buy your own records at cost and sell them on gigs and to friends and fans for double or triple the distribution price.

Here’s some advice from entertainment attorney Elva Mason.

Thomas Jefferson said music "furnishes a delightful recreation for hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts us through life."

I consider it a privilege and honor to work with the most talented individuals that I have the great fortune to work with, regardless of whether they are just embarking on their music careers or have been in the business for decades. The advice that I always give my clients and others in the business is to never forget that it is a business first and foremost, and like any other business there are negatives and positives.

A quote that I see often is: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- Hunter S Thompson

While that may be true on some levels, there are things that you can do to protect yourself and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Know the business. Learn everything that you can about your craft. A surgeon does not step into an operating room or a lawyer into a courtroom without learning their craft. Musicians should do the same. Remember, no man is an island. Select a competent manager, lawyer and agent.

Music is the gift that keeps on giving, but just because it's a gift does not mean that you have to give it away. Protect your music, and as Charlie Parker said, "Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that crap and just play." ~ Elva A. Mason, Esquire So, You Want To Be A Singer? by Joan Cartwright

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