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Suzanne Lainson

Good advice, particularly about the contract. I don't like them, and always prefer a handshake deal, but I have found from personal experience that when you don't have anything in writing, people can later disagree on what your original agreement was. You don't even need to call it a contract. Just say that you want to write everything down to make sure you both understand what the plans are.

Another reason to have everything written down is so that if other people get involved later on, you can show them how the original agreement was set up. For example, this helps if one person later acquires a manager. If there is nothing on paper, the manager can say, "I don't know anything about this, so it doesn't apply to me."


This is good advice that too many people ignore. It can also be extremely valuable later on if you have the chance to sell a song or if someone else wants to record it, and your friend is now AWOL. Including permission in the initial agreement can keep you from losing out on an opportunity down the road. They're not signing away their rights or credit or share of the profits, just giving permission for the song to be used. Labels won't touch it otherwise for fear of being sued..

Eye Vee

Contracts/agreements are definitely very important, but I don't think drawing one up before collaborating with another artist is a good idea. Music is a creative process & although it's foolish to ignore the business aspect, it should not negatively affect the art. If (insert your favorite band name here) drew up a contract before ever jamming together they would have never made classic albums. Be careful about presenting a contract like this too soon - the other party may be turned off & no longer want to work with you.

If it's a work for hire agreement (session playing, recording sessions, mastering, etc.) then of course a contract should be drawn up first, but IMO one is not needed before collaborating with another artist. Art should happen organically & not be restricted by the terms of an unnecessary contract.

You do make a lot of great points here though & like you said - music is our business, but it's also still our art.


Words can not express the extreme truth in this blog post...Burning bridges is a big, giant no-no even if you don't enjoy working together, you're going to. Learn to like it and find a way to meet in the middle.

You never know who might call you someday!

A contract IS needed before collabing with someone in the particular manner this was written. You're protecting your contribution to the creative process and making sure you don't get screwed in some way (there's more than just not getting paid)

Always be prepared and have a contract ready to go for any situation in this industry. Protect yourself. ;)


I agree with Eye Vee. The advice sounds good in theory, and there are certainly plenty of sheisters out there. But I would sacrifice everything, including profits, in the quest to create the best songs possible. Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin" took him years to complete. Patience is a seriously rewarding virtue in the music business.

The idea that deadlines can be put on writing a melody, hook, lyrics or whatever is completely unrealistic. Many of the best songs written and collaborated on were not written in one day. Sometimes they were done piecemeal, little by little over time. Brian Wilson, for instance, often collaborated with other lyricists over long periods of time. At the same time, a Lennon and McCartney might knock out a hit song in 5 minutes. But to know ahead of time how much time and attention a song will or will not need is impossible and self defeating -- especially when the goal should always be the pursuit of excellence. If the idea isn't mutually agreed to be good enough to pursue within a certain time frame, then perhaps that could be put into writing to avoid wasting too much time on a road to nowhere.

But still, music has always been a labor of love, first and foremost. That's why so few people can do it well. Most are too impatient, hate rehearsing, are too interested in partying, groupies, or whatever. The serious music geeks have always been the masters of this field. Don't let whiskey bottles in photo shoots fool you. Jagger and Richards were trying to split atoms, quantifying the essence of poor black American musical roots. It didn't just "happen."

Contracts will help in certain situations, but contracts will not make magic happen. I can't help thinking that this is just another advice column designed to feed hope to people who may or may not have what it takes to be successful- with or without contracts... There is a lot of this kind of "promotional advice" on the internet nowadays. Whatever keeps the kids spending money at the Guitar Center and CD Baby, I suppose...

Let's not forget that what most people consider to be the best music ever made was made pre-internet without industry bibles for success. It's a point definitely worth mentioning.

Suzanne Lainson

I think getting hung up on contracts before you work with someone is a real problem. That's why I don't like them. But as I have said, I have found out that when I try to work out some sort of payment agreement after the fact, it gets messy. Therefore, I think that it can be helpful to jot something down really early on. This doesn't have to be a contract at all. You can just say, "Hey, if this ever amounts to anything, we'll split the money this way." Or, if you have each put money into a project, you can keep a record of it and then make sure everyone is reimbursed accordingly if money comes in. In that case, it's just like going out to eat and agreeing in advance that everyone pays for their own meal.

Danny Dee

Excellent points that everyone in the music space should use as a best practice...

in the indie world, this is far too mechanical to be practical (re: upfront contracts)

Suzanne Lainson

Stop and think about it. If you are invited to a party and are told it's BYOB, would you be upset to be told beforehand that the party doesn't include free drinks?

If you are invited to a collaboration and someone says, "We're going to jam" or "We going to collaborate on this project and this is what will happen if we get something that's good," would you be upset?

Contracts imply lawyers, and that's why people get wary. But just explaining in an invitation what you have in mind shouldn't be all that threatening or stifling if done right.

Or you can even say, "We're going to jam, but nothing we produce leaves this room, so we don't need an agreement."

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