Last time on The Ten Laws of Indie Success…
…We covered The Law of Indie Success #7 Build A Strong Team. We paid close attention to Kanye West’s vision when constructing the DONDA creative team by select highly experienced team members and his ability to lead and motivate the team.
This week we see why Lil Wayne should have analysed all aspects of his deal with Cash Money Records a little more closely.
Smart artists use lawyers. They don’t look at them as unnecessary; they view them as a relevant part of every plan seeing them as security to protect them and their company from legal charges, from breaking the law (even unknowingly), from signing bad contracts and any unexpected situations which may arise. You should also use a lawyer for all of your legal matters. Keep in mind that ignorance of the law is not a good excuse for breaking it.
Once in the position, be it recording, performing, or the copyright around your own or the use of someone else’s work an agreement should be presented. Agreements are meant to be negotiated and after years of hard work, the day will eventually come when contracts will presented to you. Never sign anything that you don’t understand or that you feel rushed or pressured to sign. Bear in mind that most contracts are template agreements that are always drafted in favour of the other party and are used as a starting point for negotiations. Most companies (record labels, production companies, etc.) will expect you to read, dissect, and seek legal advice for contracts. You will only get what you negotiate.
Do you know where to get a reputable lawyer?
It is possible to get legal advice to assess your position at any stage in your career. Many times we find ourselves in a situation that becomes much bigger than we first envision. However, at any stage it is possible to gain legal advice to assess your position. In 1991 Lil Wayne joined Cash Money Records at age 9. In 1995, Lil Wayne was signed to the label, and by 1997, Lil Wayne and fellow Rapper BG formed the group Hot Boys with Juvenile a Rapper who had achieved success locally before joining Cash Money Records. They soon released their debut album entitled, ‘Get It How U Live!’ bringing them to the attention of Universal Record executives. In 1998, Cash Money signed a $30 million pressing and distribution deal with a $3 million advance from Universal Records, giving Cash Money Records 85% of its royalties, 50% of its publishing revenue, and ownership of all masters retaining 100% ownership of their work.
Having an independent person there to advise you on the best course of action in any situation will reassure you that you are making the right decisions. Legal situations generally arise when money is changing hands or looks set to be generated by one or both parties. If you feel uncertain about anything at any time, even after the event, seek legal advice.
Have you identified areas in which you may need legal advice?
Fast forward almost twenty years and the Cash Money Records’ most prolific artist is eleven studio albums, one remix LP, two EPs, nineteen mixtapes, one-hundred ninety-two singles, thirteen promotional singles and one-hundred thirty-six music videos deep. So why would he want out? Lil Wayne has been outspoken about his dissatisfaction with Birdman and Cash Money Records, calling himself a “prisoner” when the label refused to release his new album Tha Carter V. Negotiations between the two parties fell apart with Lil Wayne expressing a desire to be free from Cash Money Records, arguing that the label violated his contract by withholding his album’s release. He also reportedly planned to sue Birdman for $8 million of a $10 million advance payment for his album Tha Carter V and an array of misappropriations being cited totalling $51 million, including withholding financial documents, and non-payment for signing Drake to their joint Young Money Entertainment label.
The lawsuit has since been dropped, but a still frustrated Lil Wayne unleashed a tirade of ranting tweets and went on to release the ‘Free Weezy’ album on Tidal, a streaming service owned by Jay Z. The release was to satisfy the demands of fans eagerly awaiting the release if Tha Carter V album, however Cash Money Record’s responded by filing a lawsuit claiming that Tidal was illegally using Wayne’s songs, songs which they have exclusive rights to.
Are you analysing all legal aspects of your deals?
There is no doubt that understanding your legal position will go a long way to helping you get the most out of a deal. When looking at a deal it is advisable that each clause is analysed to give you a much clearer picture of why a music company needs to attain certain rights from you. This will allow you to be fully aware of your rights throughout the contract period. Very rarely does a complete contract need to be revised. By highlighting the areas for concern you will then be in the best position to negotiate specific clauses to ensure that you are protected for all eventualities.
Lil Wayne has received ten BET Awards, four Grammys, and an American Music Award. In the United States alone he has sold over 15 million albums, with over 37 million digital copies. In 2005 Lil Wayne founded Young Money Entertainment which has shaped the careers of Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Tyga to name a few.
Do you want to know more about protecting your career? Book a 30 minute consultation to discuss areas you should be seeking legal advice on. Find out how to…
· Choose a reputable lawyer
· Identify areas where you may need legal advice
· Analyse all aspects of a deal
Are you aware of the legal aspects of being an artist? Click here for a 30 minute consultation now!
Next time on The Ten Laws of Indie Success… The Law of Indie Success #9 Keep Financial Records