music and entertainment law Mclane and Wong - Entertainment Law

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Whether an artist signs a recording contract with a major or minor record company, the label will have some say over what type of material will eventually be released by the artist. Hence, there exists what is known as a delivery requirement in recording agreements.

As the concept is known in the music industry, delivery means that the record company has to accept the recordings which are brought to them by the artist as adhering to the terms of the record deal. The contract will specify what standard the record company will use to test how acceptable the recordings are. It is important that the artist be aware of what standard they are agreeing to.

The most common standard is that the artist must deliver commercially satisfactory recordings. In essence, this means the company will only accept recordings which it believes are hit records. Such language is what a newer artist or an artist without much bargaining power can expect. This ambiguous standard can cause many problems, including: (a) the label suspending the contract period until acceptable tracks are delivered, (b) putting the artist deeper in debt to the label because additional recordings cost more money, and (c) allowing the label to terminate the deal under the argument that the artist was late in delivery and thus breached the contract.

The better - but more rare - standard for an artist is known as delivering technically satisfactory recordings. Under this standard, as long as a recording is done using the proper sonic equipment, the company does not have the same leeway to reject the tracks. This standard is usually reserved for midrange and superstar artists.

Along with the standards set forth above, labels generally add other delivery requirements to the contract. Some of the most common are the following: (a) tracks must be recorded during the term of the contract, (b) songs must be new (not previously recorded by the artist), (c) tracks are studio recordings, (d) material does not infringe upon someone else's copyright, (e) songs must have a minimum length (normally at least two minutes), (e) recordings feature only the artist's performance, and (f) recordings are not completely instrumental.

The delivery portion of the recording contract might seem insignificant on its face, but the way it is phrased can become quite important. Therefore, an artist should seek to have the technically satisfactory language added to the contract if at all possible.

Copyright 1998, Ben McLane
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