Contract: (n) an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.

Two hours after I wrote my very first song, I was already thinking I needed a contract.

I had visions of Grammy Awards, fame and thousands of record sales to reinforce my sheer joy of being a musician and simply composing songs.

Nothing happened after my first song, but along about my fifth or sixth tune, opportunities did float my way.

What I learned very quickly, in my Midwest innocence, was that life and death lie in the wording of a contract. Someone saying they want to “sign your song” or “promote your music” does not mean your song is actually signed or that your music will be promoted. Sometimes it’s just means they’re securing that song, in case they want to use it, making sure nobody else can get it.

On occasion, it’s a deal where they plan to use the song but want to give you the lowest possible percentage of remuneration.

But one word always came to the forefront: exclusive.

What that meant was they wanted me to sign a contract saying I would not work with anybody else, while they determined how much they really wanted to work with me.

I grew up quickly.

Even today, when I hear someone utter the phrase, “Well, we need to draft a contract,” I immediately know there’s something they don’t want to say to me—that they want to hide in a contract, in a very small point size and a near-unreadable font.

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