8 Things Every Artist Should Know Before Signing a Deal

Experts weigh in with essential advice for anyone interested in the music industry.

signing a deal
P&P Original


signing a deal

It's easier than ever before for unsigned, independent artists to share their music, whether that's directly on to platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube or via digital distribution services like Tunecore or Stem. A label deal, however, is still the dream for many artists, and they still have much to offer, from money and promotion to infrastructure and experience. But is signing a deal always the right move? We talked to three experts from inside and outside the label system to find out what all artists should know before signing a deal.

Tunji Balogun, SVP of A&R at RCA Records. He has signed and worked with artists like Bryson Tiller, SZA, Khalid, Wizkid, Goldlink and H.E.R.​ at RCA.

Carron Mitchell, entertainment attorney at Nixon Peabody LLP in Los Angeles, CA. She currently handles matters for a number of recording artists including, Childish Gambino, Vince Staples, Brent Faiyaz, Sonder, A Tribe Called Quest, Ari Lennox, Pell, and EarthGang. 

Tunde Balogun, Head of Mgmt, LVRN. LoveRenaissance is a creative collective and management company behind artists like Raury, D.R.A.M., and 6LACK. Their latest move was a label partnership with Interscope.

“I think it’s important, especially in hip-hop and R&B, that artists have that team around them before turning to a label because everything in hip-hop has to be nurtured and curated a certain way and big labels really don’t know how to do that on a lower level. It’s really important for people like us [LVRN] and other companies that are coming up to nurture and develop artists, because I think it helps out in the long run.”—Tunde Balogun

“I would say what’s most important is having a solid team around you before going into a major label situation. That’s something that artists should be focused on from the outset of their careers. Before you even think about doing any sort of a deal, surround yourself with people who understand your vision and can help you tell your story and believe in the project as much as you do. That’s anything from management to the right lawyer, attorney, legal team, to an agent and just having allies in the industry that you trust. Have a set goal and a plan and a vision that you’re bringing to a bigger platform. You want to set the tone for your story. You don’t want the label to do that for you. ”—Tunji Balogun



“The first thing an artist should think about before signing a record deal is whether they need and are ready for one. When approached by a label or distributor, whether major or indie, it is important for an artist to ask themselves, ‘What can they do for me that I can’t currently do for myself?’ and ‘Do they need me more than I need them?’ A record deal should help take an artist’s career to the next level. There is no point in giving up control of your intellectual property rights if you’re just going to be in the same position you were in before you signed the deal. Depending on where an artist is in their career, it may not be the best time; it may be best to seek a deal after they’ve seen some success releasing music independently and can negotiate with greater leverage.”—Carron Mitchell

“Whether to sign is relative to your situation. I still think the labels do a good job of taking stuff globally. They are good because they infuse you with some cash up front but I think it’s only best to do it if you feel like it’s going to propel your career. I don’t think you should be doing a deal just to do a deal."—Tunde Balogun​

Understand your deal.

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"Once you sign a deal everyone pays attention to you and your mannerisms. Are you on time? Do you do this? Do you do that? Label people, management, they take direction or follow the artist's lead when it comes to how hard to work. If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, people tend to fall back and you’ll slowly see people not working on your behalf. Nobody is going to work harder than you."—Tunde Balogun

Get to know the people you will actually work with.


Hire a music attorney.

Carron Mitchell

Work with people you like.

Bryson Tiller at Real 92.3's The Real Show

“LoveRenaissance already existed with Justice, Junior, and Carlos before Sean and myself came together with them and started to put the company together, and that was around 2011. Then we started to develop Raury. Then we put out Raury maybe three years later. Patience is key. Don’t rush, find the right team and execute.”—Tunde Balogun



"All the money that you receive and take is an advance to get your royalties. A lot of people want to spend, spend, spend but you have to make that money back. Always keep in mind that the money has to come from somewhere. In actuality, you’re pretty much spending your own money."—Tunde Balogun