Most stories in the entertainment industry feature two main characters— the aspiring star driven to make it big and the exec with a generous offering to help them reach that goal. Take a more in-depth look, and you’ll see that there’s more to the tale than meets the eye. Let these deals below show you to be cautious of what you sign and never to negotiate a contract alone.
It was anything but smooth sailing for the members of the R&B girl group TLC. Most famously known for their hit song “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls,” the artists may have signed one of the worst deals in history.
Their contract with LaFace Records gave them only 56 cents per album sold, which had to be split three ways. This equated to around $200,000 for every million albums sold before taxes. On top of that, TLC was delayed royalty payments and had to file for bankruptcy, despite having grossed millions.
Pop singer Jojo shows why 12-year olds shouldn’t sign a contract. She was the youngest star to have a No. 1 single on the Hot 100 chart and was set to make it big. But at that young age, she agreed to a seven-album deal with Blackground Records. Despite recording hit after hit, the label refused to release her second album or free her from her contract, putting her career in limbo. After a tumultuous 7-year legal battle with the label, she was officially released.
3. Saturday Night Live
Some of the biggest comedians have come from Saturday Night Live. Back in 1999, NBC took measures to keep these stars in their hands. Anyone who joined the show for the 1999-2000 season had to sign a contract that could leave them with the network for up to 12 years— six on SNL and another six on one of their sitcoms. While it drew criticism from talent agents and managers, eager comedians found it hard to resist the popular show.
4. American Idol Contestants
The singing competition show American Idol has produced hit music artists from Kelly Clarkson to Carrie Underwood. But contestants have been outspoken about the contracts they must sign with 19 Entertainment in order to participate. Once signed, the production company is given 100% control over merchandising, touring, sponsorship, and movie deals. Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips even sought to void his agreement with 19 Entertainment, saying the contract was “oppressive.”
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