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Music Distribution Contracts: What Artists Need to Know

Title: Music Distribution Contracts: What Artists Need to Know

Category: Music Business and Legal Matters


As an artist, your ultimate goal is to have your music heard by as many people as possible. In today’s digital age, music distribution has become easier and more accessible than ever before. With numerous platforms available, getting your music out to the world has never been easier. However, it’s important to be aware of the legalities surrounding music distribution to protect your rights and ensure a fair deal. In this article, we will discuss some important aspects of music distribution contracts that artists need to know.

Understanding the Basics:

A music distribution contract is a legally binding agreement between an artist or a band and a distributor. It outlines the terms and conditions under which the distributor will distribute the artist’s music to various platforms, such as streaming services, online retailers, and physical stores. The contract also stipulates the rights and obligations of both parties involved.

Key Considerations:

1. Ownership of the Music: Make sure you retain ownership of your music and only grant the distributor the rights necessary for distribution. Avoid signing contracts that require you to give full ownership or control of your music to the distributor.

2. Exclusivity vs. Non-Exclusivity: Decide whether you want to grant the distributor exclusive or non-exclusive rights. Exclusive distribution means you can only release and distribute your music through that particular distributor, while non-exclusive distribution allows you to work with multiple distributors simultaneously.

3. Distribution Fees: Pay attention to the distribution fees outlined in the contract. Some distributors charge upfront fees, while others take a percentage of your earnings. Ensure the fee structure is fair and transparent.

4. Termination and Duration: Understand the termination clause in the contract. It’s essential to have the option to terminate the agreement if the distributor fails to meet their obligations. Additionally, clarify the duration of the contract to avoid being locked into a long-term commitment.

5. Reporting and Payment: The contract should specify how often the distributor will provide sales reports and how payments will be made. Ensure that transparent reporting and timely payments are part of the agreement.

Seek Legal Advice:

Given the complex nature of music distribution contracts, it’s always a good idea to seek legal advice before signing any agreement. A music attorney can review the contract terms, make necessary revisions, or even suggest alternate options that better suit your interests.

Alternative Distribution Options:

Apart from traditional distributors, consider exploring independent distribution platforms that allow you to retain more control over your music. Platforms like TuneCore, CD Baby, and DistroKid offer artists the opportunity to distribute their music independently while retaining a higher percentage of their earnings.


Music distribution contracts are a crucial aspect of an artist’s career, and understanding their intricacies is paramount. By paying attention to the ownership of your music, the type of distribution rights granted, the distribution fees, termination clauses, and reporting/payment procedures, you can protect your interests and ensure a fair agreement. Always seek legal advice to have an expert review any contract before signing. If you prefer more control, explore alternative distribution platforms that offer independent options. With the right knowledge and precautions, you can navigate the world of music distribution contracts and focus on what you do best – creating and sharing your music with the world.

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