Why Indy
Free Resources
indy university
Start for free

What Is an A&R Agreement? A Comprehensive Guide

May 28, 2023
(updated: May 23, 2023)
Max 5 min read

A&R is an abbreviation for Artists and Repertoire. Simply put, this is the division of a record label or publishing firm that is in charge of music discovery, as well as an artist's or band's creative and commercial growth. An A&R executive is authorized to propose an agreement, which is usually in the form of a "deal memo"—a brief, informal agreement that creates a contractual connection between the recording artist and the record label.

The conditions of the distribution and recording process are defined in an A&R agreement. It will also give contractual guarantees to the record business on the artist's conduct and performance from the start of the recording process through the release of the album. Here at Indy, we aim to help freelancers in every industry. In this article, we'll explain what an A&R agreement is and its importance in the music industry.

Understanding the A&R Role in the Music Business

As mentioned, A&R is an abbreviation for Artists and Repertoire. So, what exactly is A&R in music? A&R is the department of a record company that has traditionally been in charge of scouting talent and discovering performers to sign to the label.

In addition to supervising the recording process and artist development, as well as aiding with marketing and promotion, A&R serves as a liaison between the artist and the record label. They collaborate closely with the artist to strike a balance between the artist's aesthetic vision and increasing sales for the record label. A&R is crucial for a record company (as well as for performers), as it refines the sound of independent label music and then helps to connect the target audience with that music.

An A&R representative is responsible for being involved from start to finish—from finding talent and signing, through to music development, marketing, and promotion. Specific roles include bringing talent to a record label, organizing recording sessions, and working as a liaison between artists, producers, and other creatives.

What Is the Purpose of an A&R Agreement?

There are several key components of an A&R agreement; these include:

Identification of parties involved. This section includes the artist's information, record label's details, and the A&R representative's details.

Scope of the agreement. This section involves the agreement terms, including:

  • Exclusivity – This section details exclusivity requirements of an artist with a record label. A&R agreements normally require the musician to sign solely with the label. This implies they cannot record for another label without authorization, nor can they terminate the contract if they are dissatisfied.
  • Geographical coverage – This section details the geographical coverage of the artist, for example global or split-territory. Major labels will often sign the musician to a global agreement. Split-territory partnerships are less probable with large record labels, but independents may be more prepared to agree to one.
  • Term – This applies to the contract's duration. It is determined by referring to an initial set time, for example 12 months, followed by further option periods, allowing record companies to extend the contract if they so choose.

Responsibilities and obligations of the artist and record label. Establish any responsibilities and obligations required of the artist and record company, such as requiring the artist to provide a specific number of tracks of releasable quality, or a specific number of albums required within the arrangement.

Compensation structure. This section concerns:

  • Artist royalties – Artists are paid royalties depending on record sales. This section clearly details any royalties the artist is eligible for, and any deductions (such as recording costs, advances, video costs, and other deductions) made by the record label.
  • Advances – These are payments made to the artist in preparation of future royalties. Advances are paid when the artist signs with the label and again when additional options are exercised.
  • Recoupment – Recoupment is a process through which the label first recovers the advance from any artist royalty revenue. Any language indicating that an advance is repayable should be removed with care. This would have the effect of converting it into a personal debt, for which you may be held accountable at any moment.

Rights and ownership of recording, publishing, and intellectual property. In this section, establish who owns the rights of the recorded songs or albums. Most exclusive recording contracts require the artist to grant the record label copyright in the sound recordings. This is a transfer of ownership for the whole duration of the copyright. In the case of sound recordings, this will be 50 years after their initial release under copyright law. 

Why is it important to have a well-drafted agreement?

A well-drafted A&R agreement protects the interests of all parties involved. It establishes a business relationship between an artist and record label, ensuring that all parties are in agreement regarding responsibilities, copyright, compensation, and contract terms.

A well-drafted A&R agreement also reduces the likelihood of litigation by providing enforceable rights and remedies in the event of breach.

Most Important Points of an A&R Agreement

An A&R agreement is a legally binding document. Therefore, discussing negotiations beforehand is crucial. Contract negotiation entails far more than just obtaining an agreement. Contract negotiation is a chance to increase the financial value of the relationship.

As the musicians' point of contact at the label during contract talks, the artist and repertoire representative works to negotiate the arrangement between the label and the musicians. Artists present their issues to the label via the A&R rep. It's then the responsibility of A&R to negotiate terms with the record label to establish an agreement between both parties.

Legal representation during these negotiations is also important. A legal representative can assist in negotiations, advising both the artist and record label on key terms, and ensuring both parties are in agreement and understand all aspects of the A&R agreement before signing.

When drafting an A&R agreement, make sure to be specific and clear with the contract terms. The artist and record label must be able to clearly understand requirements, payment terms, and any clauses included. Use concise language to address each key component, have a consistent structure, and highlight any key information (such as copyright and compensation).

Potential clauses that may be included in an A&R agreement

The A&R agreement may include specific conditions or provisions. Potential clauses that may be included are:

  1. Exclusivity and non-compete clauses. A non-compete clause restricts an artist from working for a rival record company after the agreement ends. An exclusivity clause prohibits an artist from working for any other record company while signed.
  2. Recording commitment and album delivery requirements. Although it is not often the aim of the record label to release masters themselves, it is critical to have a provision in place to ensure that someone does, or the artist's work may never see the light of day. The agreement must include a clause requiring the label to secure releases for tracks recorded, or to enter into an arrangement with an existing record company under which they must release at least one album.
  3. Marketing and promotion obligations. In order to boost the visibility of a release, the artist will need to do some domestic and international promotion. Make sure to include any marketing obligations and specific amounts, such as radio promotions, press talks, or music videos.
  4. Sample clearances and publishing rights. This type of clause is intended to specify the precise rights provided by the songwriter to the publisher. A publishing agreement will typically require a songwriter to assign copyright ownership in work produced during the term of the agreement, as well as ownership in work produced prior to the existence of the agreement, provided that work is not already subject to an existing publishing agreement.

Legal Implications and Best Practices

If any of the above clauses are breached, legal implications will arise for either the artists, record label, or both. Agreement breaches can lead to the record label or artist being sued and/or termination of the contract.

That's why it's important to establish terms before the agreement is signed to ensure both parties are fully aware of any clauses and requirements within the contract.

When a band is signed to a label, the company normally reserves the right to cancel the contract if a major member of the band decides to depart. The label may also try to secure a clause allowing them to sign any departing member as a solo artist—and if the group breaks up before releasing a record, but after spending their advance, they'll almost certainly be sued for breach of contract and the return of the funds. 

Some best practices relating to A&R agreements include:

  • Always seek the opinion of an expert music lawyer before signing an A&R agreement. This can help ensure you understand all of the clauses and key components of the agreement. A legal professional can also advise you on negotiating terms and requirements.
  • Read through the agreement carefully; make sure you understand all of the terms and the legal implications involved.
  • As an artist, make sure you understand how and when you will be compensated. You should ideally be granted a financial advance in lieu of future royalties. Additionally, keep in mind that the recordings will be owned by them, not you. You must determine whether they want you to record only for them before signing the contract, especially if it includes an exclusivity clause.

How Indy Can Help 

Indy offers several tools to help with the day-to-day running of your business. Our Calendar tool allows you to easily schedule meetings, track time, and see your deadlines. It also syncs with your Google Calendar, so you can keep up to date with everything!

Here are some other ways Indy can help:

  • With our Tasks tool, you can keep track of all of your business tasks, set reminders, and link them to your Indy calendar. Keeping a record of your tasks and goals has never been easier. 
  • Our free Proposal tool can create and send a proposal in minutes. You can access your saved templates through your dashboard and create proposals for prospective clients—just simply fill in the information and send directly from Indy. Additionally, we offer a variety of proposal templates ready for any project.

With Indy, you can manage all of your business tasks, create contracts and proposals, and safely store important files all in one place! Sign up today and try for yourself.


An A&R executive is authorized to propose an agreement. This legally binding agreement clearly defines the responsibilities and obligations of the artist and record label, clauses, rights of ownership, and compensation—including royalties for both parties. A well-drafted A&R agreement protects the interests of all parties involved. It established a business relationship between an artist and record label, ensuring that all parties are in agreement.

Ensure that the contract foresees instances in which the parties may be able to cancel the agreement. There should be safeguards in place if the label goes bankrupt, fails to release the song, or either party breaches the contract. If the label goes bankrupt, the artist should be entitled to cancel the contract and reclaim their recording rights. Need assistance writing your A&R agreement to make sure it covers all of the essentials? You can check out our guide on the best contract management software by industry.

Get started today!

Get the tools to manage your entire freelance business, free online courses to accelerate your growth, and join a community of freelancers just like you.
Mail icon
Join our
affiliate program
Get 90% commission for Indy Pro sign-ups via your affiliate link!
Want more freelance tips?
Crush freelance struggles with weekly tips delivered to your inbox.