Recording studio contracts are legally binding agreements between record labels and musicians that govern the ownership and distribution of products from recording studios. They address many concerns and issues that commonly occur between the production and sale of recorded music products. If the contracting parties encounter disagreements during the duration of the recording agreement, they can resolve their conflicts by referring to the contract.

What is a Recording Studio Contract?

A recording studio contract is a valid legal agreement that a record label signs with a recording artist to assert its ownership of the master rights of a product, as well as its licensing rights when marketing the record. It also serves to specify the percentage of royalties that will be paid to a musician, music group, or songwriter. A recording studio contract is also referred to as a music recording contract, record deal, record label contract, recording contract, artist contract, or band contract.

Importance of a Recording Studio Contract

Whether you are a seasoned recording artist, fledgling musician, or a record label, a recording studio contract ensures that the only noise your partnership will make is music. Such a contract outlines the terms and conditions of the production and distribution of the record. It also assures the record label that the artist or songwriter will meet specified performance and conduct standards while producing and releasing an album. In addition, it gives the artist or songwriter a certain level of autonomy in the creative process and ensures that the record label will cover the costs incurred in the production and promotion of the album.

A solo or group recording artist uses a recording studio contract to give exclusive rights to its music to a record label. In exchange, the recording company uses the contract to gain exclusive rights to record, license, promote, and sell the artist's music.

As a recording artist, you can state your expectations in the recording contract, such as terms of payment and the type of exposure and resources you desire. If you are running a record label, you can write down your obligations to your artists, assure them that their expectations will be met, and ensure there will be no disagreements about your cut of their earnings.

What Should Be Included in a Recording Studio Contract?

Recording studio contracts can vary significantly, but they typically contain the following information:

  • Name and contact information of recording company
  • Name and contact information of artist or each artist in a group
  • Production details, such as address of the studio, dates of recording sessions, control over the selection of songs, and control over the title of the album
  • Recording details, such as length of the album, number of tracks, release date, re-recording date, and notification of record rejection
  • Exclusive agreement clause, which binds the artist to the record label and prohibits the artist from signing a record deal with another company throughout the duration of the contract
  • Recording and promotional costs
  • Royalty distribution
  • Promotional appearances, including appearance fees and maximum number of appearances
  • Termination provisions for dealing with non-performance by either party

Can a Recording Contract Be Broken?

Similar to other types of contracts, a recording studio contract can be broken if one of the parties fails to fulfill the obligations stated in the contract. For instance, the artist or group may fail to complete the album within the agreed timeframe or the record label is unable to release the album on time.

Getting a Record Deal

Having a chance to produce music in a recording studio is a fantastic opportunity for an artist or band, especially a fledgling one. While it is satisfying for musicians to write songs, perform on stage, and impress an audience, it is all somewhat fleeting until they have something recorded for distribution. Recording music can be a tricky business because it requires an artist to deal with a record label, producer, and recording studio. However, having a recording studio contract can make the process of producing, releasing, and promoting an album more efficient and pleasant for all parties involved. 

Don't be intimidated by signing or negotiating the terms of a recording studio contract. If you need help drafting or reviewing such a contract, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.