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Songwriter/Artist Development Deals

By Todd Brabec, ASCAP Executive VP of Membership and Jeff Brabec

One of the ways that unsigned writer-performers can help with their recording career is to sign a development deal with a music publisher. A common approach that is used is for the publisher to guarantee the financing of a set number of master quality studio recordings (and sometimes even a video) so that record companies will be able to hear the writer-performer at his or her best and, if a recording artist agreement is secured, the publisher will receive royalty points on albums and singles released under the deal. For example, the publisher might guarantee $15,000 to $30,000 to record master quality demos and if a recording artist agreement is secured, the publisher might receive a production or executive producer royalty of 1% to 3% for its efforts.

Other times, publishers might even finance an entire album of the writer’s performances and try to sell or license the album to either an independent or major record label. The value of this approach, even though it is more expensive, is that the publisher is providing the record company with a finished product ready to be released.

One of the variations in this area is to provide for an equipment fund so that the writer-performer can purchase new musical instruments, amplifiers and other accessories. This may be handled either on the basis of an extra advance to the writer who will make the decision as to what is needed (for example, “an additional advance of $5,000 to $10,000 to the songwriter within 30 days after the signing of the agreement which shall be used for the purchase of musical equipment, the choice of which shall be in the songwriter’s sole discretion”), a fund which will be spent with the mutual approval of the publisher and the songwriter (for example, “an advance of $5,000. which shall be payable by publisher for the purchase of equipment mutually agreed to by both the songwriter and the publisher”) or a fund which can be accessed by the writer submitting invoices from the retailers (e.g., Guitar Center) detailing the amount of each item purchased with the publisher paying the retailer directly.

© 2007 Todd Brabec, Jeff Brabec
For more information, check out the book Music, Money and Success: The Insider's Guide To Making Money In The Music Business (Schirmer Trade Books/Music Sales/502 pages) available for sale at, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Music Sales Group and