by Jeffrey and Todd Brabec
Virtually all contracts provide for a specified outside date by which the initial album must be delivered to the record company. For example, if an artist agreement commences on January 1, the contract may provide that commencement of recording will start no later than March 1 and that completion of the album be satisfied not later than July 1.

Other agreements may not refer to a commencement of recording date but only refer to a guaranteed completion and delivery date for each album. For example, a delivery provision may provide that the initial album be delivered within 90 to 180 days after the recording agreement is signed and that each option album be delivered within 90 to 180 days after commencement of each option period of the term.

Some agreements compute delivery dates for option albums from the delivery or release of the previous album (e.g., each subsequent album being delivered no earlier than 9 months nor later than 18 months after delivery of the prior album or no earlier than 6 months nor later than 12 months after the U.S. release of the prior album).

When an artist changes record labels, restrictions in that artist's contract with the old label may restrict the timing of album releases by the new label. For example, the new record company may not be able to release a newly recorded album until a specified number of months after the old record company has released (or, per contract, should have released) the last album recorded under its agreement with the artist.

These restrictive clauses can also be tied to the delivery of an album (e.g., the artist agreeing not to have an album released by the new record company until 6 months after the delivery of the last product commitment album to the old record company).

Delivery of the Final Master Recording

In cases where the recording artist is responsible for all aspects of the recording project or in instances where the artist is being furnished by a production company that is acting as producer of the album, the record company will normally require that the producer/artist furnish the record company with all consents and clearances necessary for the release of the completed album and its cover and liner notes.

It will also require correct writer and publisher information on all compositions recorded, timely submission of all musicians union contracts and W-4s, clearance of any sampled recordings or musical compositions, and mechanical licenses for compositions that are not written by the artist or controlled by a company owned or controlled by the artist or producer.

Most record companies will, once the album is completed, require that the artist or producer deliver two fully mixed edited and unequalized tapes or DATs of the master recording.

In many contracts, the record company will have a specified number of days from its receipt of the master of the album to approve or disapprove of the completed recording. For example, a sample acceptance clause may state that if the record company does not notify the artist/producer that a particular album is unacceptable within 20 days of receipt, that album shall be deemed to have been accepted.

Considering the amount of time, effort, and money involved with the recording of an album, the issue of "what is or is not acceptable" is of paramount importance not only to the record company but to the artist as well. After all, the record company may have a substantial money commitment on the line and will therefore demand as much perfection as possible in the final master recording, in terms of both technical competence and creative expression.

The artist, on the other hand, will try to limit the record company's approval rights to the technical acceptability of the album (a domain of engineers and experts involved in the "sound" aspects of recording) and not to the artistic expression or creative direction taken by the performer on a particular recording.

© 2004 Jeff Brabec, Todd Brabec

This article is based on information contained in the new, revised paperback edition of the book "Music, Money, And Success: The Insider's Guide To Making Money In The Music Industry" written by Jeffrey Brabec and Todd Brabec (Published by Schirmer Trade Books/Music Sales).

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