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I think I understand that you are asking about getting signed to a record label and if you have to pay to be signed or if they take money from your earnings. Normally you do not have to pay to be signed. Have an attorney look at any contract or agreement BEFORE you sign it. You should have an attorney working for you so that you don't sign a bad deal.
You are in New York. There are lots of good entertainment lawyers in NY. You can find a lawyer in the directory here on AVVO. Or, if you can't afford to pay an attorney, go to NY Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. Good luck in your career!
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Our office regularly handles entertainment clients...
In the music industry it is common to have recouping charges... For example, if they pay fees to cover a video, some or all of those fees may be charged to money earned by you ... This all depends on your contract ... Make sure you hire a good entertainment attorney to help you through this !
Generally, the major labels, and even most indies, need to think you will be a success before they sign you. Most labels will advance cost and then recoup them from your royalties, meaning you do not get anything until the royalties exceed the costs. For new artists that means you will probably need some supplemental source of income until you get known or have a significant hit that generates enough royalties. A label signing you to such a deal is betting that you are going to have a hit that generates revenues which exceed the costs they advance. Likely you will need an agent to promote you as being such an artist and the better the reputation of the agent more likely the label will make the bet and sign you. Good Luck, it's a tough business for all but the cream of the crop at the top.
I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
Two words: Talent and dedication. These days, however, most new artists cannot get traditional record deals with major record labels---the major labels have drastically cut back budgetary support for new artists----it is essentially non-existent with a tiny number of exceptions. You have to show the label that you have a loyal fan base before they will even think about signing you.
That is why in today's market, most artists work with smaller, independent labels. Often, the artist is responsible for paying the costs of producing his music, artwork for the album, and promotion. In some cases, the more successful record labels (such as the record label for which I serve as general counsel) will pay for production of the music, a limited amount of promotion, distribution of the music on digital download sites (Beatport, I Tunes, Amazon, Juno etc.), production of simple music videos, etc. But in today's world of indie labels (and even in the world of big labels) it is up to the artist to develop a fan base, get them to come to shows, and show that he can sell some records. And most of the revenues will not come from record sales/downloads---in today's world the revenues come from live shows, touring, merchandise, licensing, film placements and merchandising. The responsibility now falls heavily on the artist to assemble a team of loyal supporters, create and produce his own music, and promote himself and his music. Labels (big and small) are only interested in artists with an established fan base----which means you have to hustle!!. I tell the many artists who I represent and who record with our label that they need to constantly promote themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and they need to get out and perform in as many venues as possible---even dump venues can help you build your following. And you need a dedicated, well constructed web-site so your fans can find you. And you need a You Tube Artist page where you post videos of you performing (and please perform lots of covers---that is how you get attention). All of this is really up to the artist--not the label. Those of us associated with labels can show you the way---but in today's world it is up to you as the artist to make it happen.