Saturday, December 18, 2010

360 Deals: Deal or No Deal?

Recently I was asked my opinion on 360 Deals and I think this is a great topic to touch on since 360 Deals (or Multiple Rights deals) are very common now, but still largely misunderstood. In a nutshell, I think a 360 Deal is not necessarily a bad deal for a new artist or unsigned artist, but doesn’t make sense for a well established artist (i.e. Kanye West, Beyonce, etc).

Major artists who are already well established have a much easier time booking shows or tours, securing merchandising/advertisement; selling units/digital singles/ring tones, etc. They are already well branded and their name alone is enough to drive interest and secure product placement along with radio spins, packed venues, media attention, etc. An unknown artist would struggle to match the marketing, branding, and promotional budget and power of a major label going a completely independent route.

Let’s assume that an unsigned artist has a legitimately hot album and even HONESTLY has their city behind them (shows are packed, units are selling, merchandise is selling, the artist is getting club/radio spins) and is ready to make the push to a national level. What connections does the artist really have outside of their own city or region to get them booked for shows AND consistently pack venues? How will the artist get from once city to the next? How are you going to get product placement in each city’s stores? Any artist can secure a distribution deal with a multitude of different companies, but beware that a lot of these companies are going to charge anywhere between $1500-2500 per city. On that same note, do your homework on any distribution company before you sing a deal with them. At the very minimum find out what other artists they have done distribution for and check the numbers on those artists. You’re going to need a budget and publicity (i.e. radio interviews, in-store appearances, etc).

What connections does the artist have to get them print magazine publicity and promotion? What will it take to get banner space on 10 high-traffic Hip-Hop websites? Do some research on your own and you’ll find that a very large number of nationally circulated magazines are owned by the same parent company – yet ad space in each of the magazines is handled individually, and accordingly, charge their own rates. Just pick 3 magazines (XXL, The Source, and Vibe) and call their office to ask about rates for ad space. You are REALLY going to need a budget now. Just those three alone are going to hurt your budget hard and we’re only talking about a one-time run of ads in all three. Multiply that by a three-month campaign. Now factor in smaller publications like Ozone. We haven’t even touched on the cost for banner space on say or or

What connections does the artist have to get them radio spins in other cities? College Radio and Community Radio stations are easy, but those #1 and #2 stations in major markets is going to require a lot more to make it happen. You can complain about Clear Channel and Radio One all you want, but you can’t ignore the fact that you will need them if you want to play on the same field as the majors. I’m not talking about a handful of mixshow spins; I’m talking about heavy rotation. This is going to require serious connections and like it or not (legal or not), there is a very good chance it will require some budget.

What about music videos? What about movie placement, video game placement, TV placement? What about sponsors and endorsements? Any artist can network and accomplish quite a bit on their own if they have any networking skills and business sense, but can an unsigned artist accomplish ALL of that without a major label behind them? Very rarely does that happen successfully and even more rarely will an unsigned artist accomplish all of that with any longevity. Beware of self-proclaimed “Twitter Superstars” that try to convince everyone they are doing it big on their own. 90% of them don’t even have a passport and at least 60% of them have never done shows in more than 6 states.

This leads me to two things to add that are crucial. Never take advice from anyone that hasn’t accomplished or experienced what you are trying to do. You will get opinions from everyone – literally, but advice has to come from a source that actually knows. I’ve done two traditional label deals and wish I would have done those differently. Advances are nice and feel like real accomplishments, but that advance money gets chewed up fast and royalties (publishing) is a whole other topic. Get an entertainment lawyer of your own. Rather you are going to try it on your own or sign with a major (360 Deal or not), get your own lawyer.

The advantages a major label can offer are impossible to ignore. I know it is fashionable to bash on the majors and independent is the most commonly advised path, but you better weigh the pros and cons of indie versus major for yourself and by all means, do your own research. You may find that a 360 Deal is not the Devil so many want to say it is.

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