This article uncovers what Zambian artists need to know before signing a record deal.
First and foremost before signing a record deal or any other contract, Zambian artists need to make sure they understand EVERY SINGLE THING on the contract they are signing.
There are many record labels out there that are willing to take advantage of Zambian young artists or those they know will not read over the whole agreement. The excitement and happiness of becoming the next Slapdee, Macky 2 or Yo Maps might cloud young artist‟s brain and get
turned into a „yes‟ man

Most Zambian artists are signed under duress; the pressure of getting to blow or quest to be a star. It doesn‟t matter what you were told, the contract could mean something totally different. Young Zambian artists getting taken advantage of is a pretty common situation that happens in the entertainment industry, this only comes to light when an artiste wants or has left the label because they feel that the conditions are not okay.
Here is what you need to look out for:

  1. Contracts with an initial term lasting more than one year.
  2. Get a release commitment.
  3. Make sure your royalty rate is reasonable.
  4. Hidden royalty deductions

So you‟re an artist about to sign a deal. It‟s exciting, and no doubt the label, manager or producer on the other side is in a rush to get it done. You feel pressured to sign without properly checking it out – they seem trustworthy, it‟s easier to assume everything will be okay and hope for the best, right?

Surprisingly, it is common to see artists damage their careers by blindly entering into
agreements. If you‟re serious about your music, here are four simple legal tips to help you toward safeguarding your creative capital and future earnings;


Being an artist can be hard graft. “Safer” careers can mean a comparatively comfortable and more predictable lifestyle. Instead, your decision to pursue a creative path most often means sacrifice, set-backs and uncertainty – along with huge creative rewards, fun, freedom and passion for what you do.

After going through the inevitable early days of hard graft and small pay, offers for commercial contracts can look like welcome relief in the shape of quick money and bigger exposure. Don‟t forget this deal is likely to be a long-term relationship, so don‟t rush into it. Take your time to understand the terms.

This may seem obvious, but artists often choose to enter into a contract purely because the other party has assured them that it is “standard” and “very fair.” More often than not there are terms that are more favorable to the other party and may not protect the artist appropriately. You‟re entitled to fully understand what you‟re agreeing to so you can make an informed decision.

If you seek expert advice, make sure you use an appropriate source. Don‟t get legal advice from your neighbor, an accountant or even a lawyer that doesn‟t practice in entertainment. Music law is a very specialized field, it‟s in your best interests to make sure your advisor knows the area well and appreciates the big and small fishhooks to look out for


Entertainment lawyers can also help you negotiate or offer suggestions for what else should be in the contract before you sign. Preferably, they could get you a better deal or could save you from a terrible mistake. They will be your safety guard and make sure everything on your contract is correct and to your liking.

Another importance of using an entertainment lawyer is that they usually have connections in the entertainment industry and could find you a better deal than the one you are about to sign.

Entertainment lawyers usually charge a timely fee or a percentage of the money value of your deal Endeavor to make sure to find out any additional costs and if there is a retainer before settling down with your music attorney. The cost will also depend if you need them for a particular use or for the long term.

What do entertainment attorneys do in a typical day?

Lawyers within the practice field of entertainment law break their typical day down to events much like those below:

  • They draft and negotiate development and production contracts with writing, directing, acting and recording talent.
  • Entertainment lawyers facilitate and negotiate distribution deals for entertainment projects.
  • They work on financing agreements for sponsorships, bank loans, co-production investments, grants, and other types of investments.
  • They prepare form agreements for clients, such as appearance releases, location releases, and license agreements.
  • Entertainment attorneys review contracts and other legal documents to analyze rights issues or other business and/or legal questions.


Finally, a good agreement should involve a fair exchange of obligations to the benefit of both parties. Be warned, you need to make sure the other party is clearly outlining what they are going to deliver by signing you on. If the other party doesn‟t meet their obligations, the agreement should include an option for the artist to get out of the contract.

A classic example of this going badly is a record deal where the artist has assigned the copyright on their masters over to a record company in exchange for the financing of an album, EP or single. In this scenario, an artist no longer owns the music. The record company may then choose not to release the album. Instead, it stays in the vault and never reaches its audience.

Needless to say it‟s a devastating outcome for the artist. To cover your bases, a release commitment needs to be added in to the contract before signing.


part 2 of this article will look on the things an artiste needs to consider before signing a record deal.

Credits: Sub Ratio

I am a passionate blogger and music analyst. A promoter and an enthusiast for learning new things. Follow me on my social media accounts and share the love. Contact me on +260978535904

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