Mean record label boss in his office, showcasing power dynamics in the music industry.

Breaking the Chains: Unveiling the Dark Secrets of 360 Deals in the Music Industry

The music industry has long been plagued by controversial business practices, and one particularly contentious practice is the notorious “360 deal.” These all-encompassing contracts have sparked widespread concern among artists, prompting discussions about issues such as creative control, financial implications, and overall autonomy. Shedding light on this topic, a thought-provoking video featuring Bro Khonsu as a guest on Hip Hop News Uncensored provided valuable insights into the pitfalls and cautionary aspects associated with 360 deals.

Table of Contents

Origin and Purpose of 360 Deals

A photograph of Jim Zumwalt and Kent Marcus. Jim Zumwalt is on the left side of the image, while Kent Marcus is on the right.
The 360 deal, as we know it today, was first created by Jim Zumwalt (left), Kent Marcus (right), Jim's partner Orville, and Jeff Hanson. They wrote the deal and submitted it to Atlantic. This first-ever new artist 360° deal was pushed forward despite resentment from some parties, and it took six months of back and forth before it was finalized​. The 360 deal was first invented in 2004. The first artist ever signed with a 360 deal was the band Paramore.

360 deals emerged as a response to the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, with record labels seeking ways to adapt and maximize their profits. These deals were specifically designed to monetize various aspects of an artist's career beyond just music sales. Bro Khonsu sheds light on the origin and purpose of 360 deals, stating, “They created the 360 deal out of merchandising…to make the most money without investing in the artists.”

Traditionally, record labels primarily generated revenue through album sales. However, as the music industry evolved, income streams diversified, encompassing areas like merchandise, live performances, endorsements, and collaborations. 360 deals were introduced as a means for labels to capitalize on these additional revenue streams, allowing them to secure a more comprehensive share of an artist's earnings.

By taking a percentage from not only music sales but also various other sources of income, record labels aimed to maximize their profits while minimizing their investment in artists. This shift in strategy allowed labels to extract more value from an artist's entire career rather than relying solely on album sales. However, as we delve deeper into the ramifications of such deals, it becomes evident that artists may bear a heavy price in terms of creative control and financial transparency.

Loss of Creative Control and Autonomy

A photograph of dancehall artist Kranium.
The latest artist to express dissatisfaction with the 360 deal is the dancehall artist Kranium. He recently announced his departure from Atlantic Records, where he had been signed to a 360 deal since 2015. Kranium was the only artist signed to a major label at that time. While he had many great moments, including receiving silver, gold, and platinum plaques for his work, he also described having some terrible experiences while being signed to a US major label as a dancehall artist from Jamaica. However, he thanked his team at Atlantic and everyone who supported him during his journey, noting the significant achievements they accomplished together.

One of the most significant concerns surrounding 360 deals is the potential loss of creative control and autonomy for artists. When artists sign these comprehensive agreements, they often find themselves relinquishing a considerable degree of freedom in their artistic endeavors. Bro Khonsu aptly captures this sentiment, stating, “Signing a 360 deal…means surrendering artistic freedom and creative control…they dictate your production choices and collaborations.”

Under a 360 deal, record labels have the authority to influence an artist's creative decisions, including the selection of production teams, collaborators, and even the direction of their music. This level of control can stifle an artist's artistic expression, hindering their ability to explore new sounds, experiment with different genres, or collaborate with artists of their choosing.

Moreover, the label's involvement in an artist's creative process can lead to conflicts of interest. Label executives may prioritize commercial success over artistic integrity, pressuring artists to conform to mainstream trends rather than staying true to their unique artistic vision. As a result, artists may find themselves compromising their creative authenticity in order to meet the label's expectations and commercial demands.

The loss of creative control not only affects an artist's ability to express themselves authentically but also hampers their artistic growth and evolution. It can restrict their artistic exploration and limit their potential to push boundaries, innovate, and connect with their audience on a deeper level.

In an industry that thrives on artistic diversity and individuality, the erosion of creative control and autonomy can be a significant detriment to an artist's career and personal fulfillment.

Financial Implications and Lack of Transparency

In addition to the loss of creative control, 360 deals come with complex financial arrangements that can significantly impact artists. These arrangements often lack transparency, making it challenging for artists to fully understand and track their earnings. Bro Khonsu underscores this issue, stating, “The 360 deal model involves a complex financial arrangement…challenging for artists to fully understand and track their earnings.”

Under a 360 deal, artists typically receive an advance from the record label, which is then recouped through various deductions from their earnings. These deductions can include expenses related to , , touring, and other investments made by the label on behalf of the artist. However, the lack of transparency in these arrangements often leaves artists unsure about the specifics of these deductions and how they impact their overall earnings.

This lack of transparency can lead to disputes between artists and labels, as artists may find it difficult to verify the accuracy of financial statements provided by the label. Without a clear breakdown of earnings and expenses, artists may struggle to understand how much they are actually earning and how much is being deducted before they receive any profits.

Furthermore, the complex financial nature of 360 deals can leave artists financially vulnerable. Artists may face significant expenses and debt burdens, especially if they are unable to generate substantial income beyond the advances provided by the label. This financial pressure can impede an artist's ability to invest in their own career, stifling their growth and limiting their financial stability.

The lack of transparency and detailed accounting practices associated with 360 deals raise concerns about the fair distribution of profits and the potential for artists to be exploited financially. As a result, artists are increasingly seeking alternative paths to success that allow for greater transparency and a more equitable distribution of earnings. Independent alternatives have emerged as viable options for artists, providing them with greater control over their financial affairs and a clearer understanding of their earnings.

Example: Wiz Khalifa Resolves Lawsuit Against Former Manager and Label in 360 Deal Dispute

In a highly publicized legal battle, Wiz Khalifa, the renowned rapper, and Benjy Grinberg, the founder of Rostrum Records, have reached a settlement agreement, bringing an end to their lawsuits. The dispute arose from a 360 deal that Wiz Khalifa signed with Rostrum Records as a teenager, alleging that Grinberg and the label had profited extensively from his professional endeavors for over a decade. The lawsuit also accused them of engaging in self-dealing transactions, violating the established rules.

The legal conflict began when Wiz Khalifa filed a lawsuit against Benjy Grinberg and Rostrum Records, seeking to terminate the 360 deal in May 2016. The rapper claimed that the label and his former manager had benefited from nearly every aspect of his career without providing adequate compensation. In response, Rostrum Records countersued for $2 million, citing unpaid royalties and earnings².

However, recent developments indicate that both parties have decided to settle their differences amicably. According to a statement provided to Billboard, all disputes have been resolved. The terms of the settlement and the specific details surrounding the resolution remain confidential.

This resolution marks the conclusion of a complex legal battle between Wiz Khalifa and Rostrum Records, putting an end to their public feud. The outcome serves as a reminder of the challenges artists can face when dealing with the intricate nature of 360 deals and the need for careful consideration and negotiation to protect their interests.

Independent Alternatives and Empowerment

Amidst the challenges posed by 360 deals, the rise of independent music has opened up new avenues for artists, offering them viable alternatives to traditional record label deals. This shift empowers artists to retain creative control and keep a more significant share of their earnings. Bro Khonsu affirms this, stating, “The rise of independent music has provided artists with viable alternatives…artists can retain creative control and keep a more significant share of their earnings.”

Independent music allows artists to take charge of their careers by bypassing the traditional label structure. With the advent of digital platforms and social media, artists can now directly connect with their audience, build a loyal fan base, and release music on their own terms. This newfound freedom enables artists to maintain creative control, experiment with their sound, and fully express their artistic vision without external pressures or compromises.

Moreover, independent artists have the opportunity to retain a larger portion of their earnings. By cutting out the middleman, artists can keep a more substantial share of revenue generated from music sales, merchandise, live performances, and other income streams. They have the flexibility to set their own pricing, negotiate favorable distribution deals, and explore innovative revenue streams beyond traditional album sales.

Additionally, independent artists have the freedom to forge their own paths and develop unique strategies for success. They can establish their own labels, distribution networks, and marketing campaigns tailored to their specific audience and artistic goals. This level of autonomy allows artists to shape their own careers, connect directly with fans, and build sustainable, long-term success.

The rise of independent music has not only democratized the industry but has also paved the way for artists to forge their own destinies. While the challenges of navigating the music landscape independently should not be underestimated, the empowerment and potential for artistic growth that independent alternatives provide are undeniable. By embracing these alternatives, artists can cultivate their artistry on their own terms, maintain control over their creative output, and establish a stronger connection with their audience.


Who invented the 360 deal and when?

The 360 deal, as we know it today, was first created by Jim Zumwalt, Kent Marcus, Jim's partner Orville, and Jeff Hanson. They wrote the deal and submitted it to Atlantic Records. The first-ever new artist 360° deal was pushed forward despite resentment from some parties, and it took six months of back and forth before it was finalized.

Which artist was the first to sign a 360 deal?

The first artist ever signed with a 360 deal was the rock band Paramore​​. Their signing in 2004 marked a significant milestone in the implementation of this comprehensive agreement between artists and record labels.

What is a 360 deal in the music industry?

A 360 deal, also known as an all-rights deal, is a comprehensive contract between an artist and a record label where the label receives a percentage of the artist's earnings from various revenue streams beyond music sales, such as merchandise, live performances, endorsements, and more.

Why do record labels offer 360 deals?

Record labels offer 360 deals as a way to maximize their profits and recoup their investments. By participating in various aspects of an artist's career, labels aim to secure a larger share of the artist's earnings from multiple revenue streams.

What are the drawbacks of signing a 360 deal?

Signing a 360 deal often entails the loss of creative control and autonomy for artists. They may have to adhere to the label's decisions regarding production, collaborations, and artistic direction. Additionally, the complex financial arrangements and lack of transparency in these deals can make it challenging for artists to track their earnings and understand the deductions made by the label.

Are there alternatives to signing a 360 deal?

Yes, there are alternative paths for artists to explore. Independent music has gained prominence, allowing artists to maintain creative control, retain a larger share of their earnings, and independently release and promote their music. Artists can also consider licensing agreements, distribution deals, or building their own independent labels.

Can artists break a 360 deal contract?

Breaking a 360 deal contract can be challenging and may have legal and financial implications. Artists should consult with their legal representatives to understand the specific conditions, termination clauses, and potential consequences of ending the contract prematurely.

How can artists protect themselves when considering a 360 deal?

Artists should educate themselves about the music industry, seek legal representation, and carefully review the terms and conditions of any contract before signing. It is crucial to fully understand the implications, potential benefits, and drawbacks of a 360 deal, and consider alternative paths that may align better with their artistic goals and financial interests.


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The drawbacks and concerns associated with 360 deals in the music industry are worth careful consideration. Throughout this article, we have explored the origin and purpose of these deals, the loss of creative control and autonomy, the complex financial arrangements and lack of transparency, and the rise of independent alternatives. It is crucial for artists to be cautious when considering signing 360 deals and to explore independent paths to success.

The detrimental impact of 360 deals on artists' creative freedom and control cannot be overlooked. Surrendering artistic autonomy can hinder an artist's growth, limit their artistic expression, and compromise their authenticity. Furthermore, the complex financial arrangements and lack of transparency make it difficult for artists to fully understand and track their earnings, potentially leading to disputes and financial hardships.

However, the rise of independent music has provided artists with viable alternatives. Independent artists have the opportunity to retain creative control, keep a more significant share of their earnings, and shape their own careers. By embracing independence, artists can thrive and maintain control over their artistry and earnings.

In the words of Bro Khonsu, “While record labels may offer initial financial support and industry connections, artists can thrive independently and maintain control over their artistry and earnings.” This quote encapsulates the essence of the message: artists should carefully evaluate the potential drawbacks of 360 deals and seriously consider the empowerment and autonomy that comes with embracing independent alternatives.

As the music industry continues to evolve, it is imperative that artists prioritize their artistic vision, financial well-being, and long-term success. By being cautious and informed about the potential pitfalls of 360 deals, artists can forge their own paths, connect directly with their audience, and cultivate sustainable careers on their own terms.