Starting a record label is a great way to promote your sound, attract like-minded artists and build an eco-system around the music you love – but first and foremost, they are businesses. Therefore, it is important you treat your label as such from the off to avoid disputes and complications later down the line.
From a legal standpoint, there are a few things we would consider essential to any new record label and would strongly recommend are arranged before you launch:
Selecting a Suitable Legal Structure
Determining the legal structure for your record label is a foundational decision with implications for liability, taxation, and operational dynamics. However, this is something we see regularly overlooked by new labels. We often see friends club together to form record labels without a thought as to how assets and liabilities will be legally held between them or decisions made.
The most common legal structures we see new record labels take are as follows:
At Briffa we can assist with drawing up record label partnership agreements. We also have company and corporate law colleagues at other firms who we can refer you to should you need advice on setting up a limited company.
Trade Marking Your Label’s Name and Logo
Safeguarding your label’s identity is pivotal to establishing your label’s brand identity and preclude unauthorised usage of it from the same or similar brands.
You can register both your label’s brand name and logo(s) as trade marks. We recommend you prioritise registering your record label’s name before you begin trading to scope out if there are any potentially similar pre-existing mark holders out there. Be aware that pre-existing mark holders can oppose and potentially block your trade mark application. If you have already begun trading, they can bring trade mark infringement proceedings against you.
When applying for a trade mark, record labels should apply across a selection of trade mark classes, covering their core music services plus any ancillary goods or services they are likely to offer, such as branded merchandise.
Trade mark as soon as possible, ideally before you launch, to avoid investing significant costs in developing your brand identity only to find you are unable to use it as an existing similar mark holder has prior rights.
Precedent Freelancer Agreement
Record labels frequently engage freelancers such as producers, engineers, graphic designers, photographers and videographers to provide services to them. To avoid misunderstandings and disputes, you should have and use a precedent freelancer agreement with the freelancer’s you engage. This should set out:
We can draft a precedent freelancer agreement for your label which you can repurpose with each and every freelancer you enlist.
Precedent Record Deal
A meticulously composed record deal constitutes the bedrock of your relationships with artists. This contract outlines terms governing the provision of music to your label and the corresponding compensation. Music law and rights are complex and so it is critical you have this to ensure the label is entitled to what you intend it to be entitled to.
Key facets of a record deal comprise:
We strongly advise you do not attempt to draft this yourself nor use pre-existing examples or draft agreements you have found on the internet. In our experience, these are rarely suitable to your specific needs and tend to include quirks that aren’t appropriate in your circumstances or even your jurisdiction.
Enlisting the expertise a music lawyer to draft your precedent record deal should be your absolute priority given the precedent will form the backbone of your business. We can draft industry standard precedent record deals that align with your labels ethos and practices.
Get in touch if you would like to discuss your record label with one of our music lawyers.
We’ll start with a no obligation chat where we’ll get to know you and understand your current challenges.
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