The only thing I’m signing is the dole 13/08/2007
This weeks blog is influenced by the late, great, hated and loved Tony Wilson. We’ll come to him at the end…
As some of you may or may not know; Tony Wilson didn’t like contracts. All his agreements with his artists were verbal, an agreed 50/50 split that was confirmed by a handshake. This did lead to a few of Wilson’s critics (and there were a fair few) dubbing him as a ‘bad businessman’, and in theory it can be argued that they are correct. Tony Wilson was partially responsible for some of the most influential artists the UK has ever produced (Happy Mondays, Joy Division, New Order) but was never the multi-millionaire that he potentially could have been with those artists under his belt. Is that a bad thing though? Wilson had a very romanticised view of music (as I believe I do), he believed in trust and honesty (as I believe I do), not contracts and boundaries (this is where we differ).
I adore music. It is my passion, my career, my interest, my hobby. Those who know me best would confirm this and also say that I’m an inherently optimistic person. I see the best in people and believe that genuinely good, honest folk exist in this world. Regardless of this, I’d still sign a contract with the pope.
The word ‘contract’ often sends shivers down artists’ spines, they see it as a restricting document that once you’ve signed you’ll probably never see the best part of your soul again. This is because contracts like that have existed in the past due to the plain and simple fact that there are some right nasty people in the music industry. As in all industries there are people out there that will try and screw you over and that’s why you should never sign a contract without reading it first and if possible, getting someone who has experience in that field of law to have a gander at it for you (that’s whats AIM (http://www.musicindie.com/) is for).
A contract should protect both the artist and the person offering the contract in question (lets use a record label as an example here, but it could refer to anything). It should outline:
o What is expected of the artist
o What the label intends to do for the artist
o A time scale
o The labels commission
o Recoupablilty terms (if applicable)
o Termination clauses
o And a whole host of other things that aren’t necessary but are often there
Watch out for weasely terms like ‘packaging deductions’. Top industry lawyer Ann Harrison hates them, and she know’s here stuff.
Like I mention previously, industry bodies like AIM are there to offer industry law advice to its members, as is Sentric Music, so make sure you get whatever you’re about to sign checked over before you do. But remember, contracts are a way of life and a good contract will genuinely protect you. When done properly they are good things, so don’t be scared of them.
Right then, Tony Wilson.
Tony’s death is genuinely a big loss for the UK’s, if not the world’s, music industry. He’s been described as many things; a genius, a maverick, a visionary, a prat, an arrogant fool etc and I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that he had been all them things at some point life. One of my favourite things I ever read about him is that he claimed to have only been proved wrong twice in his whole life. Twice?! I’d love to know what he was proved wrong about…
I was lucky enough to meet Tony Wilson on 2 separate fleeting occasions during the music conference In The City that he was a partner in. I’m not going to say he left an impression on me because we barely said a few sentences to one another, but I do have respect for him and what he did so it is nice to have them memories.
He may not have done things in the obvious manner, but obvious is boring isn’t it?
R.I.P Mr Wilson
What I’m reading this week: High Voltage (http://www.highvoltage.org.uk/index2.asp)
This weeks free track: The hottest thing on the Topman unsigned stage at Leeds festival; Carlis Star with their track ‘Weak Invincible’