Music artist holding mic

An Artist development deal: Is it the Best Idea for You?

A successful music career is a goal that can be reached in two ways, either independently or through a record label.
Young artists are always looking to get noticed, but some lack the fundamental skills it takes to be successful.

Independent artists seek development through experience and self-growth, but for you, the artist who wants to attract a record label, it might be easier to rely on a larger body to help you up to your quality game.
This is where an artist development deal comes into play, and to fully understand how it helps you… let’s take a look at what it actually means.

What is an Artist Development Deal?

An artist development deal is the first deal initiated by a record label.

It takes place when the label is interested in helping you develop before they commit to you with a record deal.
The label will promise to develop your skills and public profile and in return, you pay them a certain percentage of royalties through the long term (or any other rights mentioned).

An artist development deal can go a long way for an artist, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right idea for you.
Some artists like to take on the beginning of their careers learning about the music business, building a fanbase, and growing their skills individually, before they reach out to a label.

Contract deal


  • Some would say an artist development deal is a win-win situation. You gain experience working with a label, you develop significant skills while they back you up financially.
  • An artist development deal should aim to take your career to the next level, as in helping you reach opportunities you couldn’t reach for yourself.
    That begins with earning industry trust by building relationships as well as helping you develop your brand, image, skills, etc.


  • If you are good at self-managing and ready to take on the music business, you might want to give up an artist development deal, as it might not be as beneficial to you as you might think.
  • An artist development deal means you split the generated revenue, and at the start of your career, that money can be really handy for investing in your craft and other projects instead of a deal that couldn’t be as useful.
  • Product Development has become more relevant, which means that in the eyes of labels… today there’s more significance to the sales of CDs and streams, and not bringing the artist up to that point.
  • These types of deals are very helpful for the artist, but the label often takes control of your rights. The deals often give a significant cut to the label on revenues, involve horrible royalty payouts, and a lot of times include a right of first refusal clause that makes the commitment as significant as a record deal, without all the perks.

Are Artist Development Deals still relevant?

Nowadays, it is more of an obligation on you to build a sound that is ready to be distributed, as well as an image that is ready to grow within the industry.

The sad truth is, labels don’t care about your talent, they don’t have the time to hear that you might be “the next big thing”.
They want to know if investing in you is going to be worth the time and effort, to get the results they’re after.

Record labels are mostly interested in your social skills-growing a loyal fanbase, building industry relationships, etc, and unfortunately, talent is a small piece of the puzzle. They don’t care enough about the talent, because they know that won’t promise them generated income.

Therefore, they are looking for artists who are already showing their value, so artist development has become less relevant.

Artist recording

Where do you get from here?

If you declined to sign an artist development deal because you either thought it won’t be as much helpful or you would sign your soul to a record label, don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. it’s definitely not the end of your career.

In an interview with ArtistsHouseMusic, Owen Husney-an American music manager and record executive talked about artist development, and he said:

“When you sign a deal with a record label, they will loan you money to work on your album, and then you incrementally pay that back to them through your record royalties until someday you are free of debt and paid back the whole fee. But the fact is, they still own your creative work (album, singles), so singing this kind of a deal doesn’t really get you anywhere you couldn’t reach for yourself.”

Also, he gave advice to upcoming artists which I highly agree on:

“Do as much of your creative development early and get honest about your songs. Try to surround yourself with people who can pull you up, better musicians, and people to help you move forward and develop. You have multiple resources out there to get started with, go and get your music heard”.

Artists should aim to grow alone and reach out to a label once they’ve built enough of their community, and one thing is for sure, it’s never wrong to try new and different things.

The best route you could take is developing yourself at the beginning of your career, then taking outside help after you have gained important knowledge about your music skills and personal brand’s development.
So go out there and start making moves, you never know what opportunity is around the corner!

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