Record Labels and Artists. 360 Deals – Yes or No?

Well, to me the term 360, just seems like the perfect way of describing a cycle that seems to be never ending in the music business – it’s symbolic of a circle, where one needs the other, needs the other and so on.

I don’t think the artist really has a 100% fair deal, don’t know if he / she ever has had one, since recording contracts came into existence. But then again, perhaps it’s not about that. To be fair, it is a business; it is an industry. This is a hard truth I’ve genuinely come to realise and accept, over time.
It’s not purely about creating for creativity’s sake. It’s about evolution. And evolution of the music industry in todays world, almost demands that you build yourself up as a brand. And many artists do this, without really caring about the music as deeply, intensely and emotionally as others, because they realise it is – a business. One that gets them their 15 seconds.

We choose, if as artists, we want to remain pure and true to ourselves, to our gift of music, or if we want to be commercial sellouts (not judging here), which also includes being gimmicky and doing certain things to get attention (eg. dress retardedly or not dressing at all etc etc etc). Thereby, getting more eyeballs, therefore more money.

Somewhere along the way, with things expanding beyond the licensing and distribution of recordings, a level of (for lack of a better word) absurdity has creeped in, around something so pure and simple. To me, this is the real tragedy.
Where did the ‘music’ go in all of this? Weren’t we here for the ‘music’ to begin with? Haven’t the greats from Mozart to Lennon, proved to us that music is meant to be eternal and not just something that grabs your attention for a second? Must there always be collaborations to make average songs become big hits? Must there always be a charade? Must every concert focus more on dancers, acrobats, costumes, lighting and visuals over the music? Don’t get me wrong – who doesn’t love a great show that stimulates all the senses? I love it all and genuinely respect & appreciate all the work and effort it takes, to create such a grand production. But that’s just it. It’s lost the term musical concert and turned into a production, an event.

Perhaps it’s just a case of evolution – a fast paced world with ever shorter attention spans. Things getting bigger and louder to accommodate a world where everyone has access to everything at a click and so everyone is screaming for attention.
That said. Everyone has got to make money and everyone has got to earn a living. Labels and artists. There’s be no labels without artists. And artists cannot really get themselves the kind of reach and sales they need internationally, without a label behind them.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to choice right? So the question to me eventually is – pros and cons aside, what kind of artist do you want to be? Do you want to be a starving/struggling/independent artist or one that’s willing to join the circus? Cuz let’s not kid ourselves and live in an ideal Utopic world. Or the one of the yesteryear’s. This is todays emerging, developing, real and really superficial world. And if you are willing to take that plunge; like anything in life, you have to deal with the advantages and disadvantages. You have to compromise – like you do in every relationship.

Remember – it’s your choice. As an adult. You choose to sign or not. To compromise – either on the music or the lifestyle. But the choice is yours. One you are responsible for, one you have to deal with for the rest of your life so think long and hard.

If you chose to pursue music professionally, go ahead and negotiate the best that you possibly can to get a deal that suits you. But remember it’s a business, so be ready to accept that it’ll work out a bit more in the labels favour, over yours – at least initially. It sucks, but from a business point of view, I can understand it.
And as an artist, if any label offered me a 360 deal – I’d take it (with a kickass lawyer by my side – one I’d pay for with my ‘personal expenses’ from my ‘advance’. Ha.)
Written by me, Ramona Arena, for an assignment in the Music Business Class, via Berklee Online. Also, would just like to say I speak in general terms, there are always exceptions and successful artists making beautiful music for the love of it.