Obtaining a record deal was nearly considered a necessity in recent years, as it was considered the “Gold Standard” to making it big in the industry. Artists used to sell or give away their demos in hope of a record label manager would stumble upon them and be impressed with their work. While this does sound strenuous and much more challenging than uploading a song to Soundcloud or any other streaming service, this ease simply didn’t exist at the time.

Nowadays, signing a record deal or contract with a label is nearly entirely optional, as it isn’t required for advertising anymore and has the potential to scam the artist and take advantage of them. There are a handful of pros and cons when examining the glorious opportunity of signing a record deal under the proper conditions.

On one hand, contracts can place the advertising and managing responsibilities entirely in the hands of the label’s employees, allowing the artist to focus on their music’s creation and performances. However, this can put too much power in the hands of the label, forcing the artist to make certain decisions that are out of their control by contract.

The label also receives a certain profit from each release, performance, and other means of income. In some instances, such as rapper Meg Thee Stallion’s, speaking out against her label can force the label’s hand to prevent her from releasing music should they choose to enforce that aspect of her contract. There are dozens of pros and cons that can be examined when looking at a contract technically and weighing every potential cost, but there are only a few absolute necessities when considering a record deal.

Regardless of these aspects of signing such a contract, all potential signees need to read the contracts thoroughly. The stacks of papers will often advertise the benefits to the artist with the potentially destructive aftereffects being left in fine print, as they hope the artist will sign without noticing legally binding costs they’re unaware of. Many of these deals are known as “360 Deals”.

These deals trade financial support for marketing, touring, collaborations, and every other aspect of the artist’s career for a share of their profits, which can range by contract. Rapper Lupe Fiasco has advocated against these deals for the latter half of his career, as it’s how he lost out on much of his creative power and profits, with his former label publicly refusing to release albums from him for years on end.

In the end, it is fully up to the artist and if they believe they can continue in their career with a record label’s support. Artists such as Chance The Rapper have made it into the big leagues of the music industry, staking their name on staying independent. If an artist believes they could use help the offering label, and the contract seems very open and clear without any deception, the artist should sign and create a positive relationship with the label that can go a long way. Regardless of which direction an artist takes with their career and who they surround themselves with, it’s important for them to rise by any means necessary.