Greetings and welcome good readers to RULES TO THE GAME by Keith “1st Prophet” Kennedy found here at the EMG Blog. This space is dedicated to those who want to play the game and win but are unsure as to how. It is also a forum for those that have beaten the game and won and want to give back and explain what worked and sometimes more importantly, what didn’t work so that others can learn from their mistakes. Conversely, this space is not a welcome place for trolls, know-it-alls, or those that would rather spew negatives than to present positives that help build on one’s dreams and goals.
In short, this is a no shade zone because we only want you, good reader, to shine.
I, by no means know everything but I will share what I do know as a 20 year entertainment industry veteran that has been a part of building such careers as B.o.B, T-Pain, Rick Ross, David Banner and countless others. I am an expert in the fields of music marketing, sponsorships, event planning and I am cunning linguist. What I don’t know, I will share with fellow experts from their field to spread their wealth of knowledge to you.
The point is to help you help yourself with the only true power, knowledge. Use it or don’t, the choice is yours but either way, thanks for stopping by and reading!
RULES TO THE GAME – Contracts
“It’s cool to cop, but more important are lawyer fees.” – Jay-Z
Contracts are a great way for both parties to come to an understanding and print them to the page so there can be no misunderstandings. More importantly, once you sign the contract and it’s properly ratified to show that you are of sound mind, are of age, and understand the terms you are signing, you are legally beholden upon the terms of the deal -- for better or worse.
That is why you always, always, always have an independent third party that solely represents YOUR interests and reads over the contract for you. Do not be afraid or ashamed to continue asking questions until you understand point by point what the contract truly means. Remember, they work for you. Never take the lawyer that is suggested by the label or the other parties. After all, that didn’t work out so well for Tupac as his lawyer David Kenner represented both the prolific artist and the label Death Row at the same time in opposing contract talks.
Also, think about a few steps into the future, does this contract grow with you or will you be restricted? When will you get to renegotiate? What are you required to do? Are you able to record with or how you want or do you have to get approval first and from whom? When do you see your next check? What is subtracted from your sales check? And on and on…
As Jay-Z once said, “it’s cool to cop, but more important are lawyer fees.” I also have another favorite quote this time from the Godfather, “it’s easier to steal with briefcase than it is with a gun.” Both are very true about lawyers, but a good one will charge you up front so you won’t have to pay more for trying to correct a huge error in the long run. You’re going to pay regardless, which one would you rather do?
The short version is this, Kesha feels she was abused mentally and sexually and drugged by Dr. Luke before, during and after her meteoric rise with songs they co-labbed on like “Timber,” “Tik Tok,” and “We R Who We R.” After her rehab for an eating disorder Kesha claims that Dr. Luke created, she sued to get out of her contract of 6 remaining albums. Dr. Luke asserts that he never touched her and refutes any and all abuse claims and points to a 2011 deposition where Kesha herself denied that there were any advances by Dr. Luke. Musically, she is frozen by the suits because she is not allowed to record anywhere or with anyone without the blessing of Dr. Luke. Plus, Sony says they are not technically in a contract with her, rather they are partnered with Dr. Luke’s imprint of whom, Kesha is a rostered talent. And if an artist can’t record, they can’t perform, so they can’t eat.
It’s even worse with pop stars where a shelf life is only so long before you are forgotten about as the next wave of talent crashes in. So, what’s a playa to do? First, understand that just because you are offered an opportunity to be a star if you sign, you need to have an extremely clear understanding of what they trade-offs will be. Contracts by definition, define the give and take nature of the agreeing parties involved. Next, never sign a contract when there is an emotional component involved. When you are emotional, it clouds your judgement. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back before you sign to make sure it is truly what you want. Sleep on it and make a clear decision in the morning.
Finally, have a professional from the pertaining field comb through the paperwork and break it down for you one last time. Don’t have a real estate lawyer hook up looking at a music contract. Contracts can be a bit intimidating, but if you follow these Rules to the Game, you only increase your chances of winning!