The 360 deal wasn’t wrong, it was oriented incorrectly

If you’re a creator, or work with creators, you might be familiar with something called the “360 deal.” 

These largely-maligned deals became a thing in the mid aughts, right as record royalties started taking a nosedive and everybody was scrambling to keep the money train rolling. They were supposedly pioneered by Paramore’s manager Jeff Hansen, who signed them to Atlantic this way (over the objections of both the band and the label, somehow).

The idea behind the 360 deal was that to justify the kind of advances and promotional budgets required to sign and break an artist (which ran in the millions), the company doing the deal needed to get a piece of *everything* an artist could possibly make money from: record royalties, publishing, touring, likeness, merch, etc – hence “360”.

The record companies who did deals like this were saying the tours were making money because of the record marketing, so of course they should get a piece of that. When the touring companies (ok, just Live Nation) heard about this, they started saying the records were selling because of the tours, and did a few 360 deals with the kind of artists who could still fill stadiums (Madonna, Jay-Z).

They weren’t wrong, but ultimately, it’s a land grab – not much different, say, than pushing a 20 year old artist to sign a 20 album deal. It isn’t likely to work out – for either party – but the artist only has one career, and the company doing the deal can sign as many as their finances allow, needing only one out of dozens to be successful. 

Everything is connected – but the center is the creator, and it is from them that all deals should originate. Not one deal, to a single entity in perpetuity, who will then sell it on as they see fit, as in the 360 deals of old – but all the deals, for “all media now known and yet to be devised,” as the contracts so often put it. Happily there are many excellent labels, publishers, merch and touring companies that will do business with creators who want to maintain control of their financial and artistic destinies.

The creator is the 360 deal – they are the soil from which everything grows. The sooner they realize they can own the land, rent it out themselves, and see the lion’s share of the profits, the better off they – and the entire creative ecosystem – will be.

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