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Music & Entertainment

Understanding the Music Business


Lesson time 14:25 min

Major labels can be major headaches, or worse. Here's some of what's Joel's learned about navigating the logistics of a recording career.

Teaches Electronic Music Production
6 hours of instructions, 23 video lessons, and a downloadable course workbook.
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You learn by experience. I became business savvy because I learned very early on of how people get exploited with arts in general, and then more specifically, in music. How major labels make money. Because I'm thinking in a Utopian society or somewhere IN some parallel universe you think that an artist that created something would get paid the most for it. And then when you look at some of the books, some of these figures didn't line up. And it's like wait, you're only getting that out of this because, oh, it's because we gave you this advance and you have to pay it off. So I slowly learned that. And then I would always approach things a little cautiously when it came down to signing pieces of paper and working with whom and why and that kind of thing. So, I was always wary of that to some degree. You hear about groups like TLC going fucking bankrupt. Like how does that happen? So I think that's what's kind of put this like climate of fear across everybody trying to enter into a major record label deal or something like that. So, of course, and to my surprise, I signed with an individual who shall not be named and I got fucked, huge, like on everything and double dipped and all that stuff. And I had to get fucked before I learned that I got fucked. But I'm eternally grateful that happened very early on in my career. That I made a bad decision that I've grown now not to make worse [? decisions ?] and from that point on, it's like OK, well, you know what? I'm going to start learning entry level things like music law and publishing and how it all works. I'm going to start learning little bits of that so that I have a better understanding of the deals that I'm entering into. But that's, if you're fortunate enough to get into that world, it gets really interesting and kind of fun once you have control over it. It's like having a nightmare and having, versus having a lucid dream. Whereas like I would say like a nightmare, you can't control. You're just kind of like this passive entity in this, just taking everything. Whereas if you're having a lucid dream and all this weird, dark shit's going on, you can get an understanding of the situation you're in and then make it work for you. Major labels are kind of like, they're teetering on the edge right now. A lot of them have coalesced into bigger ventures with more debt. But the last 360 deal was actually signed about five years ago. And 360 meaning all encompassing. Like I'm going to buy you as an act. I'm gonna own your publishing, your merch, ancillaries and all this stuff around it. And we're going to give you one big thing and we're going to keep you on for like five, 10 years, whatever a term is. They vary. But they're generally a really long fucking time. The majors are kind of struggling to keep up with this, all this flash-in-the-pan movement. The only thing that's wo...

Make better music

Before he was deadmau5, all Joel Zimmerman wanted for Christmas was old toasters to take apart. Now, you can watch him take his music apart. In his first-ever online class, Joel teaches you how he approaches melodies, mixing and mastering to make unique sounds you can't find in a cookie cutter sample pack. You'll not only get his lessons, you'll learn how to create your own music without spending money on million dollar gear.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This was a great masterclass! I learned a lot from it! best class I have taken!

This class taught me so much in so many different fields. Deadmau5 really went through a lot of important topics in great detail, and I never expected to learn so much about stage presence and music production! :)

I started making music in the christmas of 2016 when i first got ableton and have been intrigued by it ever since.I have tried making music for a while but it just never came to me at age 13. I would always say "oh ill just wait till im 18 or 20" buy deadmau5 has been such an amazing roll model and teacher for me. From the bottom of my heart thank you

I have learned many useful techniques and tips for improving my music and finding my own style


Matt H.

Hey other aspiring EDM producers, it's important to remember that Deadmau5 actually enjoys what he does lol. Keep up the passion, keep up the fun.


This Master Class helped me appreciate the value of my current and previous experience, knowledge, skillsets as they relate to music, sound design and the recording process in general, I will use what I learned here to continue.


CD Baby, Tunercore, etc have been available before this masterclass n they r very affordable. What does he mean at 10:35 "until u can afford to work with a digital aggregation system that will farm your music out"??? Anybody please help with this one

David G.

Good high level info. I was hoping Joel would go more into how to copyright songs and register them with ASCAP or BMI (or even if one needs to anymore).


Joel touches on "Recoverable" only briefly. Let's say you sign a $1M contract. In most cases, that money is "recoverable", meaning every cent of that first million has to come back to the label (through album sales, streaming royalties, licensing, merch, etc.). That $1M goes towards production costs (studio/equipment rental, equipment purchases, sound engineer, producing, mixing, mastering, promotion, tour support...and on and on), NOT IN YOUR POCKET!

Bogdan I.

Truly amazing! These last series are like gold mine! "If he can't answer you in one sentence, you need to fire him on the spot"

Rich S.

This is a very, very good lesson. I formed an LLC specifically to avoid being taken advantage of. Many creative types are more vicious than labels in my experience. Never, ever base a business agreement on a handshake, always, always write up and sign a contract.

Kenneth S.

This is an invaluable lesson! Lots to review about the real-side of the music business, and what pitfalls to pay attention to. Plenty of artists just hand-over their careers and royalties without knowing what's going on, so it helps to have very direct guidance on navigating the business of the music business. Thanks Joel, most appreciated!!!!!


Thank you Deadmau5, you've inspired me to really mentally experiment with the idea of starting my own label/analogous! I've had many experiences in the past that if I didn't take advantage of with respect to this objective they'd really seem a waste. Really taking a lot of away from all that you're teaching here, thank you!

Brian A.

I think that's bad advice about titles; it probably works for him because it suits his character which his fans obviously welcomed. I actually think "Shit Cunt" would sell a lot more than he thinks, maybe even more than "Right This Second" lol. Otherwise, good insights about the business and industry. Would've appreciated some more detail on actually getting started selling.