Part 2

Welcome to the second segment of a four part series on the poison contained in a major label record deal and how you can level the playing field once you understand what’s really going on.

A lot of what happens in the music business occurs behind closed doors, and this series is dedicated to young performers (like you!) who want to know just what they are dealing with.

True Story

One of my clients was courted by a major label. As a condition of the deal, the label sent this request to the artist – in writing!!! “Because we intend to spend so much more money marketing and promoting your record than the cost of the recording, we would appreciate it if you would pay the production costs to record the album.”

Ok, we thought – no problem. So we went back to the label and said, “Prove it. Put whatever it is that you are going to do and whatever the amount is that you are going to spend into the artist’s agreement. After all, we just want to quantify your written statement into actual dollars and actions. You know, put your money where your mouth is, kinda thing. They 100% refused. Then, they had the gall to say something to the effect that, “We’re a major label. Of course we’re going to market and promote your record! That’s what we do! Ah, yes…

But wait…there’s more!

There are clauses in the agreement that indicate that should the label decide to promote your product, you will have to pay for it! All of it! Yes, if the label outsources the promotion, marketing and publicity to any third party, you, the artist, is responsible to pay for it completely. 100%. Right now, major labels outsource just about every promotional activity to a third party. Should the label decide to make a music video, you get a break here – you only pay half the costs! Whew!

Every major label contract is filled with terms and conditions that the artist must adhere to. But, upon closer examination, there is not one single thing that binds the label to do anything for the artist or spend one single penny on your project. Yes, the label will not commit, in writing, to spend one single penny on your career or your project. Forget about what they say, they can talk until they’re blue in the face – if it isn’t in the agreement, it ain’t happening!

This is not an indictment. This is simply their business model. I’m not angry. At least I know. But, you have your own business model, too, and all you want is a level playing field.

True story

Although rare, sometimes a label wants to “license” a recording, rather than pay for it themselves. Think of it as renting the master from the artist. The label will rent the project from the artist for a specific period of time, usually three to five years. The artist maintains ownership of the masters and simply allows the label to market, promote and distribute the product. The artist receives a small advance and a royalty based on sales.

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Part 1 by Jeffrey Weber

Welcome to the first of a four part series on the poison contained in a major label record deal and  how you can level the playing field once you understand what’s really going on.

A lot of what happens in the music business occurs behind closed doors, and this series is dedicated to young performers (like you!) who want to know just what they are dealing with.


First, a bit about me for anyone who is already skeptical. I have been producing music for over forty three years. More than 200 records during that time. Multiple Grammys. Multiple Grammy nominations. I produce large multi-day music festivals. I have a law degree. I have written four books on our industry.


What follows are my opinions, based on first hand dealings with major labels.

Ok, I’m not angry. Disappointed? Yes. Disillusioned. Yes. But once I figured out what was really happening, I stopped being angry.

Believe it or not, being signed to a major label was never meant to be a career move for any of you. No matter what you hear about the advantages of being on a major label, it’s all bogus, and the purpose of this series is for me to prove it to you.

Ok, let’s jump in to the deep end.

Let’s review some basics – a major label is owned by many people. A public company. Each of the owners, or shareholders, has a stake in the success of the label. Therefore, the job of a label, or any corporation for that matter, is to increase the value of the company to the benefit of the shareholders. The more money the label makes, the more money each shareholder makes. Increased shareholder value provides job security for those working at any corporation or record label.

Signing you to a major label is a strategy on their part. Some might say it’s a gamble. But, like all gambling, the house always wins. The label has to win. You must remember that a major label’s business is their business, not your business – if that makes any sense. A recording contract was never designed to be fair or equitable to you. It was never created with your success in mind.

That would be bad for business – their business. Should you receive a bit of success, the label would be forced to provide you with better and better terms, and once the tipping point is

achieved, the label cannot afford to lose you. Then, the label becomes your playtoy! Everything       changes.

For those unfamiliar with the industry, should a major label sign an artist, it’s usually cause for a celebration. Not anymore! While the label may shower you with praise and adulation, feeding your ego, there’s a much bigger play, at play. You, as an artist, are but a small, temporary cog in a much larger machine. Let me repeat – temporary.

Why are you being signed?

Outside of the surface reasons why a major label is signing you, did you ever pause to think why are you really being signed?

Do you really know what’s going on with your career? Maybe you believe you are on your way since you are finally being signed. Truthfully, this is not the case.

Could it be that you’re being signed because the label needs a tax write-off? Ever think of that? It happens constantly!

Perhaps, let’s say, that you are really talented and a major is bending over backwards to sign you. What if you sound and look like someone they have already signed and are heavily invested in that artist’s recordings, their videos, and their marketing and promotion. They’re all in on this artist and you come around and they know that once your record drops, attention will fall away quickly from the artist they spent a ton of money on. What better way to eliminate the competition than to sign you to the label, record your project, and simply put it on the shelf, never to be released. Wait….can that really happen??? Yup. Happens all the time!

What just happened? Well, the house wins. Here’s how it works – Number 1 – you are signed exclusively to the label. Number 2 – Exclusivity means that you are not allowed to record for another label. Number 3 – The label gave you a ton of money for your project, and you cannot hope to buy your masters back to go elsewhere. You’re stuck. The result? Your career is over…!

But, can they really do that?

Did you not see the clause in your contract that specifically states that the label is under no obligation to release your project? The label has total discretion as to when or if they will release your project. Sounds crazy – right? They know that if they don’t release your record, you can sue them and obtain a release from your contract so you can go elsewhere. So, they insert this particular clause.

They spent a fortune to make your recording in the first place, so why wouldn’t they want to release your record in the hopes it will sell and make a return on their investment. See – you’re thinking logically. Big mistake…! Major labels are gamblers, and the sure bet, in their minds, is to stay with what’s been working for them. Part of that thinking is to eliminate the competition, and that means you! It’s a business decision that happens all the time – not just in the music business, but in all businesses.

Ok, but what if the label decides to release your record. Surely, your career wouldn’t be over then, right? Not so fast…! There is nothing – absolutely nothing in a recording contract that indicates that the label is obligated to market and promote your record. What if they don’t? So, with 100,000 tracks being released every day, if your record is released but no one knows about it, isn’t the result the same?

Coming up in part 2 of the series –  True stories of nonsense , tragedy and triumph.

©2022 Jeffrey Weber, Stark Raving Group. Contact Jeff at:


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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly about Performance Critiques

I have to confess, that even after forty-three years producing music, and multiple Grammy awards, I still get a touch of anxiety when someone evaluates my music productions.

How about you? Do you get anxious when playing or singing in front of someone who will judge your performance? Some say it’s like having “butterflies” in your stomach!

I thought about it for a long time, and I realized that having a bit of anxiety is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes, at the top of our game. I asked a bunch of well-known performers about this very thing, and it turns out that they all have that small sense of dread when they are being judged.

And, of course, our industry is 100% judgmental, 100% of the time! 

So what can you do?

First, and probably most important, believe in yourself. Validation comes from within, not from the comments of others. Remember that “Belief Is Contagious!” If you believe in you, others will, too. Just watch what happens!

Believing in yourself doesn’t mean evaluating your own performances. If you do, either you’re going to think you’re amazing or you’re going to think you’re horrible and want to quit right then and there. The truth is probably somewhere in-between.

And, don’t ask your parents, whatever you do! They’re either going to tell you you’re amazing or they’re going to think you’re horrible and ask you about your Plan B.

What you really need is a neutral third party with enough experience to communicate with you effectively without making you feel miserable about yourself. Someone with experience can be a  life-saver for you. That person, who shouldn’t have a hidden agenda, should be able to tell you the truth in such a way that it lifts you up rather than drags you down.

For me, when I evaluate a performance, I am only interested in one thing – did the performer make me believe him or  her?  Was the performer authentic? Did the performer commit to the lyric in such a complete way that the listener was drawn in to the emotion of the song.

For me, performance is perfection – not technique and certainly not technology.

Remember that a critique is simply one person’s opinion. It is not the final word on anything. And, if you ask five people to evaluate your performance, you will, most likely, receive five completely different opinions!

Along the way, ask yourself who are you singing the song for. A live show? A talent contest? Your sister’s birthday? This really assists you in song selection – a crucial component in the success of your performance.

And, finally, regardless of being judged, ALWAYS sing as if it’s your last day on this planet, and your performance will cement your legacy in the minds and hearts of your family and friends. The size of the audience doesn’t matter. The size of your heart does.

(If you see me at a future WCOPA, please come up and introduce yourself. I would love to meet you!)

About Jeffrey Weber

Jeffrey Weber has been a widely-recognized music industry professional for over forty years. He has produced over 200 albums with releases on just about every major label as well as a host of independent labels. Along the way, his projects have yielded two Grammys, seven Grammy nominations, at least seventeen top ten albums, two number one albums and an assortment of other honors. He also produces large, multi-day music festivals and is an author with four books to his credit.