Multiple Rights Deals Changing How Record Labels Make Money

Multiple Rights Deals Changing How Record Labels Make Money

360deals_Al Branch Credit Jennifer Altman1
Al Branch, of Hip Hop Since 1978, sees labels transitioning into full-service entertainment companies. (Source: Jennifer Altman)

A burgeoning business model is changing the way record labels do business and forcing musicians to transition from artist to brand — quickly. As album sales hit record lows and revenue plunges, the recording industry has sought a new means to account for lagging profits — “360” deals.

In a “360” — or multiple rights deal — artists still receive an advance against future royalties, but labels now receive a cut of almost every revenue-generating venture the artist inks including merchandise, touring, and endorsement deals.

“I think [the industry] realized that artists were being more successful outside of record sales,” says Al Branch, general manager at Hip Hop Since 1978, an artist management firm which represents hip hop megastars including Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, and popular newcomer, Drake. As record sales began to decline mid-decade, dropping 20% per year over the past seven, according to Nielsen Soundscan, the industry that was raking in money hand over fist from CD sales in the ’90s was sent reeling.

While these deals can be negotiated by both parties, a label’s cut in an artist’s revenue stream in a 360 deal can reach up to 50%, with the median stake ranging from 15%-25%, says Gary Stiffelman, an entertainment attorney who has represented Michael Jackson, Usher, and Eminem.

It’s a far cry from the standard recording contract where an act would receive a cash advance — to produce the albums — against future royalties on an album and labels only made money from album sales and licenses.  Branch estimates about 75% of the new artists signed to major labels in the last 4 years are in some form of a 360 deal.

Of the four top labels, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, EMI, and Warner Music Group–which in total account for 75% of the music market —Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman told a Web 2.0 Summit audience last year that his label now requires all new artists to sign the deals. He also said about one third of their signed artists were under the contracts.

But with record companies having a greater stake in an artist’s overall career — even beyond music — who stands to win with this new business models? Some argue the deal will lessen the industry’s pressure to turn an instant profit giving artists more time to develop.