by Jeffrey & Todd Brabec

Since videos can in many cases be as important to a performer's career as audio recordings, this entire area is of benchmark importance to both the performer and the record company. Additionally, since the sums of money that can be expended in the planning and production of audiovisual performances are enormous and the chance for recoupment of expenditures a very speculative proposition, the provisions relating to the making of videos represent one of the most contentious areas in any recording agreement negotiation.

In most contracts, the record company not only will have the option to decide how many videos it will produce on a particular artist but will also have the final decision as to how much money will be spent.

During the negotiations and depending on one's bargaining power, however, a number of inroads can usually be made that will guarantee at least certain commitments from the record company.

For example, a minimum amount of money may be guaranteed to be expended on each video produced (e.g., the record company will allocate a production budget of not less than $75,000), and a minimum number of videos produced for every album the artist records. There may be additional commitments for single releases, such as the record company guaranteeing a video for each single that is released or a guarantee of further videos if a single reaches the Top 25.

As for the choice of concept, script, story board, the composition being recorded, choreography, director, producer, production personnel, and other creative and business aspects of the video, control over these items depends once again on the track record and bargaining power of the recording artist.

If there is little bargaining power, the record company will normally exercise total control over all of these aspects, usually after consultation with the recording artist.

If the performer is somewhat successful, the creative aspects will be many times handled on a mutual approval basis, whereby both the record company and the artist have to agree on the concept, planning, and production of the video, with the record company usually having the final decision in the event of a dispute or disagreement.

And if the artist is an extremely successful superstar, most if not all of the creative and business issues will be within the hands of the performer, with possibly some consultation or limited approval rights held by the record company, especially with respect to actual costs exceeding budgeted amounts.

For example, in a superstar's contract, the concept, planning, story line, script, shooting dates, and location are determined by the writer/artist. The selection of the composition being used in the video, however, will almost always be a mutual decision between the record company and the recording artist.

Additionally, in a superstar contract there will always be a minimum amount of money guaranteed for each video — a minimum that, in most respects, is usually in excess of the entire advance and recording budgets for most performers. For example, it is not unusual for "deemed approval" per-composition video budgets for superstars to be in the $400,000 to $750,000 range.

© 2003 Todd Brabec, Jeff Brabec
For more information, check out the ASCAP Web site at, or the book Music Money and Success, The Insider's Guide to Making Money in the Music Industry (Music Sales). Also, check out