Paying Artists on your Label / Compilation etc.


Hey! I wanted to make a thread about this since I haven’t found any conversations online pertaining to the current sphere of DIY/bandcamp dance music labels.

I generally have the sense that in this ‘scene’ artists aren’t “signed” to labels as much as commissioned for a release (EP, album ect). What are the ethics of paying an artist fairly for your independent label, weather it be for a whole release or paying 18 artists individually for a compilation. Basically, I want to understand the best way to compensate artists that is mutually beneficial to both the label & the artists, while still generating enough on the label side to invest into further releases, compilations, merch, events ect.

I see compilations aimed at benefiting a charity where nobody is paid, such as ; but many other comps understandably seem to be aimed simply to help expand the labels reach/audience, where I assume there has to be some sort of compensation for artists if the label is getting digital purchases. ex:

I imagine certain artists are more hard about their rate for an EP or compilation track than others, is it ethical to pay one artist on your compilation more than a less-established artist?

Anyone here have anything to say about this process from either end (artist or label head)?


Well I run a small label (Sculp Arts - solely for my own productions for now but if I did put someone on my label i’d pay them a fair %. Whereas I would get say a quarter on estimate. I hope that answers your question.


Could you elaborate? Possibly I just dont understand basic business concepts. Do you mean youd get 25% of sales and the artist would get 75%?


I don’t know so much about how small labels operate but I do know it’s common for art galleries to take 50% of a sale. that’s a bit different, of course, because of the nature/scarcity of art and the fact that galleries have a lot of overhead. music contracts are notoriously complex because of the assumption of continuous sales (and therefore compensation in perpetuity). you might want to create some sort of tiered percentage so you ensure you’re profitable in the short term, i.e. take a higher cut for the first n sales and then scale back as you see fit.


first 100 copies sold: label 90%, artist 10%
101 - 250 copies: label 75%, artist 25%
250 - 500 copies: 50/50
500+: 25/75


Thats exactly what i meant, the owner gets 20/25% whereas the artist gets 80/75%. Like I said before my label is only for my releases for the time being.


What about compilations? Anyone here have something to say who has payed a lineup of artists for 1 track each? Would that be done as a set price per track or is there a way to do that with percentage based payment?

Part of my questions come from having very little business experience, but in this newer movement where there’s more independant labels running via bandcamp ect and aren’t really doing “contracts” (I assume) / pushing for more fair compensation, theres probobly many more people writing their own rules, which is why i feel i should get the word of those who have been part of this

I guess it also could be true that the weight of the risks isnt as high these days since many begin their label long before it becomes profitable


i don’t think anyone really gets paid to have a track on a compilation (unless you are david guetta). most royalty agreements between artist and label are 50/50 split, so artists on a compilation probably receive royalties for their track (publishing and mechanical royalties too, if they are that hi-tech), but most the time comps just serve as promotion for a label that the artist may or may not have an upcoming release on. maybe DJ-Kicks or Fabric would pay certain artists for being on there, but even then i’d guess most aren’t compensated in advance


also not sure if there is such thing as an ‘ethics of paying artists’ in this universe


Yeah really depends on the label for payment… I’ve had a few songs on different comps, a few tapes and a couple VA 12"s or LPs.
The tapes we got a couple copies each, the label was probably going to be lucky to break even only through digital sales and 1+ yrs on from the release I think theyre havent come close to even doing that yet… Sort of part of the agreement form the start with some releases, can’t always expect some small labels run out of passion by a nice guy or friend who does it all after work to be racking in $$ with a totally independently promoted and released tape… Especially if they’re not in with some hype crowd. Not to say these labels don’t try, often niche markets are just small.

Had a couple of bigger comps where I had contracts signed, after my first 6 months I saw there was like $60 worth of buys and streams however the contract said I wont get paid out till it reached $100 so doubt ill ever get there haha. Interesting experience nevertheless.

Unfortunately on smaller scales its hard to pay artists but labels often hook me up with enough copies for myself and a few I can sell on to makes some money which is alright with me generally but I’ve only ever really worked with smaller, niche-y labels who often hardly make money at all, just enough to press the next batch.

Through my experiences with this, its pushed me to start my own bandcamp and sort of put out those sorts of tracks that may have been on the odd tape myself. Been an interesting experiment so far but hopefully in time the BC grows like any other social media profile and I’ll eventually have a decent library of tunes up there for people to (hopefully) buy and a little more traffic to follow.

I’ve been certainly paid by a few labels who did vinyl + digi sales of my works in the past too, some are ontop of it and great, others seem to spend extra money doing limited edition or expensive artworks and its discussed early that its unlikely money will be seen but I am welcome to sell that music direct on my own bandcamp to try scrape in some $$.

Really depends who you are working with and probably your ‘profile’ as an artist. Would be nice, to be paid for tunes like you are for commissioned remixes at times but maybe that comes later once you are ‘big’ enough, even a little advance would be a fucking thrill at this point.