You may have heard about how the music industry is evil due to an exploitative type of agreement called the 360 deal, but what is it, really? And is there a way to sign one without getting totally screwed?
Also known as a multiple rights deal, the agreement stipulates that the label will offer financial assistance and various forms of support to the artist, encompassing upfront monetary advances and aid in marketing, promotion, touring, and other aspects.
In reciprocation, the artist commits to giving the company a huge chunk of revenue sources, typically spanning digital and online streaming, live performances, merchandise sales, endorsement deals, and songwriting royalties.
Record labels introduced the 360 deal in response to the shifting landscape of the music industry. With the decline of traditional revenue streams, particularly album sales, labels sought alternative ways to sustain profitability.
The first new artist 360 deal was conceived by Jeff Hanson, head of Silent Majority Group, in collaboration with attorneys Jim Zumwalt and Kent Marcus, and Jim's partner Orville. This groundbreaking deal was submitted to Atlantic Records for the rock band Paramore.
Despite strong resistance from both the label and the band, Hanson fought vehemently to make it happen. According to him, his efforts were vindicated by Paramore's subsequent success.
The 360 deal emerged as a strategic solution, allowing labels to diversify their income by extending their involvement beyond albums to encompass various revenue streams tied to an artist's career.
Unfortunately, these deals are "that bad", in the sense that it's like a high risk = high reward investment. As an artist, it's a tricky move that could do your career well in the long run, but will likely do more harm. But here are the pros before we dive into the cons:
Labels argue that 360 deals encourage them to invest more in an artist's overall career, as they stand to gain from various revenue streams.
Paramore's success story underlines how such investments can pay off in the long run. But most artists don't reach that success.
Diversification of Income:
For artists, a 360 deal can provide stability by diversifying income sources. If album sales are slow, revenue from concerts or merchandise can help compensate, ensuring a more stable income.
Labels may argue that the broader involvement in an artist's career allows for better artist development, enabling them to create a lasting brand.
Artist development is a huge key, so this can really be a big pro, but being the best artist in the world isn't that great if you get a huge chunk of financial reward snatched.
Loss of Control:
One of the most simple but devastating parts of this deal is that artists might find it difficult to maintain creative control over all aspects of their career, as labels exert influence over various income streams. The struggle faced by artists like Kesha exemplifies the potential loss of control.
While labels argue for increased investment, some artists feel the financial burden is unfairly shouldered by them. Again, being the best music act in the world isn't that great if you get a huge chunk of financial reward snatched.
360 deals often come with long contract terms, locking artists into relationships that might not be beneficial in the long run. They can pretty much own all or most aspects of your work for years, making it impossible for you to break free.
TLC: Despite achieving immense success, TLC filed for bankruptcy due to a 360 deal, highlighting the potential financial challenges artists may face.
JoJo: JoJo's legal battle with her former label showcases the difficulties artists can encounter when trying to break free from restrictive contracts, similar to a 360 deal, impacting their ability to release new music.
Kesha: 360 deals aren't just coming from labels. Kesha's highly publicized legal battle with her producer, Dr. Luke, brings attention to issues of control and exploitation within the industry, serving as a cautionary tale for artists entering shady deals.
Traditional Record Deals
In a traditional record deal, the label earns money primarily from album sales. Artists may have more creative control but may miss out on revenue from other sources, as seen in the contrast with the diversified income of 360 deals.
Artists retain more control in distribution deals, but they are responsible for financing and managing all aspects of their career. This model is distinct from 360 deals, where the label takes a more comprehensive role in an artist's career.
Unlike 360 deals, where labels extend involvement to various income streams, production deals center around financing an artist's recording and production costs. This allows labels to contribute to the creative process without entangling in multiple revenue streams.
Profit Split Deal
Profit split deals emphasize collaboration, with artists and labels sharing profits from various sources. This promotes a more balanced partnership compared to the broader involvement of labels in 360 deals.
DIY (Do It Yourself) Models
With the rise of digital platforms, some artists opt for a DIY approach, retaining full control but taking on the challenges of self-promotion and distribution. The DIY model presents a different set of challenges compared to the support and resources provided by 360 deals.
In the end, the 360 is pretty much an objectively bad idea that you could get lucky with as an artist. If you are desperate enough or believe in your ability to become a mega-success, you will be tempted if a reputable company offers you this.
It's easy to see why people fall for it while most don't reap enough rewards, so I don't mean to tease anyone who is considering it. Just know that if you are an independent type of creative, it will likely drain you of your happiness and money.
Related Post: How To Submit Music To Labels Effectively
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