1. Don’t Sign A Contract Until Your Lawyer Looks It Over.
This is the biggest lesson that any musician should leave Straight Outta Compton with if they don’t know this already. Ice Cube’s character in the movie knew what was up, and refused to sign any paperwork as an artist without having a chance for his lawyer to look it over first. If you’re a musician, you should do the same.
If there’s only one music biz lesson to take from Straight Outta Compton, the importance of having a lawyer review your contracts before you sign is most crucial. The cost to hire one to get you out of the contract after you sign will be way more expensive and in many instances impossible to break you out of with litigation lasting for years.
2, Expensive Clothes, Champagne & Lobster Meals From Your Label Might Be On Your Dime.
Many royalty clauses for record deals tend to have catch-all phrases that enable record labels to deduct just about anything the label spends on musicians as an advance. I’ve had plenty of musician clients shocked to learn that deductions from their royalties were being taken from meals and other entertainment with their label as “meeting” costs when they assumed they were being treated on the label’s tab. The same goes for travel and lodging accommodations which might be provided from a record label.
Again, not saying a label that does this is necessarily “wrong” or “evil” for doing so, but as the old metaphor goes, just remember that there is rarely such a thing as a free lunch. If your label is giving you first class air, 5 star accommodations and regular meals with lots of zeros at the end of the tab, you may want to speak with your lawyer and label to ensure coach travel, airbnb or other budget friendly lodging options, and less baller-fied meals if you’re the one ultimately absorbing the costs.
3. Have A Band Agreement–Esp. One That Considers A Band Member Leaving.
The main storyline in Straight Outta Compton detailed how NWA came together as a band, then dismantled with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre leaving the band to launch solo careers and their own labels.
If you’re in a band now, you should absolutely have a written band agreement in place, drafted by a music attorney for transparency amongst you and your bandmates.
For starters, the band agreement should make clear who is a band member and who is not. Many bands sometimes have musicians who only join the band as a “sideman” for occasional recording sessions, paid as a work for hire, or temporarily on tour or for live performances. Not surprisingly, this can create blurred lines regarding who exactly is an official band member. With the rise of music “collectives” over the past few years, it can get even more confusing as to who is in a particular band, who’s not, or even more basic – if there even is a band to begin with.
4. Songwriter & Producers: Make Sure You Get Your Songwriting Credits.
Some of my colleagues may or may not agree with me on this, but in today’s music business I personally and strongly believe that songwriting/publishing is the most crucial and lucrative source of income for musicians, as record sales have steadily declined over the years.
There’s more immediate glitz and glamour involved with being a recording artist, but there’s more longevity and earning potential if your songwriter. Business-wise, musicians should probably strive to be both.
In Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube’s character grows increasingly agitated and concerned about his lack of earnings in NWA. In one particular scene he was given the run-around about why he hadn’t been getting paid properly for his work with the group and he basically claimed that he was tired of the excuses because he knew he wrote many of the songs and was entitled to good earnings.
5. Know Your First Amendment Rights As An Artist.
One of the most exciting parts of Straight Outta Compton detailed NWA’s release of the track “F*ck Tha Police,” and the controversy it sparked across America as a radical public commentary on police brutality. In the movie, NWA was met with fans who supported their bravery for the outspoken song release, but the song was also met with a warning letter from the FBI about the track. NWA instantly became national crusaders for First Amendment rights as a result and gained unprecedented support when the group decided to publicly share the FBI letter.
Freedom of expression is an amazing liberty afforded by the US, and NWA clearly won the freedom of speech battle with the release of “F*k Tha Police”–however, it is important for musicians to note that the first Amendment does have limitations against it.
info courtesy of http://www.okayplayer.com