Amid the changing economics of the music industry, all parties are venturing away from standard contracts, experimenting with new ideas and fresh approaches.
Marshmello, a dance-music DJ spinning at clubs and festivals around the world this summer, expects to generate $20 million in touring revenue in 2017. So at the moment, he isn't interested in signing a major-label record contract. Instead, he's in talks with a handful of majors in hopes of putting out a single with each one.
"It's the Wild West today, because artists can do more on their own," says marshmello's attorney Joshua Binder, a partner at Davis Shapiro, whose other clients include Kendrick Lamar and Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith's Top Dawg Entertainment roster. "He doesn't have a record company trying to take credit for his success, [which allows him to say], 'Let's try dating before we get married.' "
With streaming spurring the music industry's growth to a gallop, labels and artists are venturing into new territory as they shake hands on more deals per month than some have seen in years. Terms range from now-standard 360 contracts and joint ventures to new types of licensing arrangements. Capitol Music Group this week is relaunching hip-hop's storied Priority Records as a way to bring on acts more quickly using wide-ranging deal options and services, from promotion to marketing. Warner Music Group (WMG) launched U.K. imprint Artists to Watch in March to snag streaming-first hits earlier, after rebooting Giant Records as a singles label in Spotify's home country, Sweden. Licensing deals, which give artists or their indie labels copyright ownership and at least half of the streaming royalties, are also surging with younger acts: RCA is pushing R&B singer-songwriter SZA's album Ctrl after temporarily licensing it from TDE in a deal that TDE co-president Terrence "Punch" Henderson called "unheard of."