1. Always consult an entertainment attorney prior to signing anything. When you sign something, it will generally bind you to the terms of the contract, whether you understand them or not.
2. Always obtain a license to use a “sample,” i.e., anything used in a recording that isn’t yours and is somebody else’s. Failure to clear a “sample” can cause more liability on a potential hit to the sample’s owners than the hit makes.
3. If you’re a songwriter, make sure to sign up as a writer with a performing right society and index your songs. In America, they are: A.S.C.A.P., B.M.I., and S.E.S.A.C.
4. Always file your federal and state income taxes, and consult with a tax professional to ensure you are in compliance with all state, city and federal tax laws.
5. Always register your copyright in a work with the U.S. Copyright Office because failure to register a copyright will prevent the recovery of certain damages for infringement, including attorneys’ fees.
6. Always do a trademark search prior to selecting a company or entertainment name, and have a qualified attorney do so.
7. If you’re in a band or a group, make sure to have a signed band agreement that details the members’ rights and responsibilities.
8. If you have a manager, make sure you have a signed agreement with them.
9. If you are a performer or producer of a recording, always make sure you register with SoundExchange and the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies to ensure you receive all the royalties you are entitled to.
10. If you are working on a recording with a producer or a performer that isn’t you, then you need an agreement with that person to clarify ownership of the recording.