Sunday, June 21, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Music and Money in China"

American made entertainment content (i.e., music, movies, TV) has really never had a foothold in China - which has a vast consumer population - due to censorship, piracy, distance and culture. However, via the dominant Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba (whose business model is sort of an amalgam of Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Ebay and Google) doing potential business with majors such as Sony, UNI and Warners, US content may now have a legitimate pipeline to a billion+ people. Let's hope that such arrangements can be made soon in places like China and India which have such a large number of potential fans to be turned on to US entertainers, which will lead to more business and money for the US economy and the US media business. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Freedom to Remix?"

Last year there was a brouhaha in the US Department of Commerce when it raised the issue of the creation of a compulsory license for derivative works, including remixes, mash-ups and sampling. Essentially, this would mean that anyone could do a remix of a famous song without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner. A similar concept already exists under Copyright Law which allows for a compulsory mechanical license to re-record (i.e., "cover") a song, so long as the cover maintains the fundamental character of the original work. However, a remix can substantially change a song, so most copyright owners want to maintain the right to approve as otherwise it could dilute the artist's and his/her music's brand. For most artists, approval over the use and change of their works is a big deal, and licensing is normally subject to a negotiation on such things as scope of the change, how will it be exploited, fees, royalties, a piece of the copyright in the derivative work, etc. Some artists like The Eagles and Lou Reed historically never approve any uses of their works. Others are fine with it. It's important to note that for some works there is already a Creative Commons right attached which does allow for anyone to remix, mash-up or sample a song. It remains to be seen if this issue will rear its head again in the halls of congress anytime soon as it was under review in committee - things move slowly in Washington. Stay tuned. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Friday, May 15, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - Live Video Violations?

This year live streaming apps are the hot topic. For a musical performer, this allows a show to be broadcasted and viewed worldwide for free via a smartphone, so long as the viewer follows the performer on Twitter. It is a great way to promote an artist and gain new fans, but there are some potential legal pitfalls. The focus of this article will be on the Meerkat app which steams in real time (i.e., there is no ability to archive). The 2 main issues are: (1) rights clearances, and (2) privacy. (1) A broadcaster is technically supposed to have licenses from BMI, ASCAP and SESAC to legally stream live music performances. Of course, most artists would not have that/those in place. (2) As for privacy, a live stream could capture persons that do not give consent to be broadcast or have no knowledge of the broadcast. Again, most artists would not have signed consent forms before a show. Since its a new technology and damages are speculative, it remains to be seen if there are going to be any lawsuits that help set parameters for how to legally use the app without running afoul of the law or people's rights. At a minimum, an artist may want to be up front with an audience and let them know they are being broadcast via a live streaming app (either mention from the stage or post a sign). Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips – "Big Data>Hit Predictor>Deal"

Record companies these days are analyzing what is known as “Big Data” to predict which new artists are bubbling up and might become superstars. Big Data is information generated by digital platforms like Spotify plays, Twitter mentions, Facebook likes, YouTube views, etc., that helps labels pinpoint what songs can be hits by what fans are reacting to. Patterns in the data are looked for and tracked, which makes for a safer bet when a label wants to work with a new artist (then just relying on a gut reaction). This is how the new music business looks, and developing artists are wise to heed the warning that they need to utilize social media if they want to get on the radar of a record company or other media partner. Ben McLane Esq Benmclane.com

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "360 Record Deal"

In today's record business the "360 Record Deal" is becoming a common arrangement - especially with a new artist - since the label will probably feel that its only worth the effort to spend marketing and promotion dollars to launch an act if they can share in revenues above and beyond simply record sales (e.g., merchandising, publishing, touring). Some of the key areas that need to be considered in a 360 deal negotiation are as follows: 1. Ownership of masters (work for hire vs. license) 2. Term of deal (how many options) 3. Territory (worldwide vs. certain countries) 4. Royalties (records, licensing, streaming, mechanicals) 5. Recording Budgets (advances vs. funds) 6. Marketing/Promotion (radio, video, tour support) 7. Creative Control (approvals) 8. Record label ancillary participation (“360” rights) 9. Out clauses (early termination - guaranteed release, distribution, key man) 10. Side agreements (producers, musicians) Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - Leaving Member

When a band signs an exclusive multi-album record deal it's important to know that the members are typically signing as a group as well as individually. This means that if a member quits, is fired, or the band breaks up during the term of the deal, then the label will still have the first right to put out solo records and side projects of the individual members for the remainder of the term of the group deal. This issue recently came to light with Zyan Malik leaving the popular band One Direction. Malik is signed to Syco (via Sony) both as a group member and individually by way of a "Leaving Member Clause" in the deal. Hence, the label has the option to pick up Malik's contract as a solo artist, and probably for a lower future royalty and fees since the original terms were contingent on him being part of a 5 member group. Based on the success of One Direction and since Malik is a good singer with a fan base, almost certainly the label will want to release his solo product instead of letting him go with no strings. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Avoid Infringements"

In the wake of the recent Marvin Gaye/Blurred Lines court decision, many songwriters are concerned about possibly getting sued for similarities in their works with others. In reality, copyright lawsuits are actually rare and hard/expensive to win, and are all based on the test of "substantial similarity". However, if a writer is going to borrow or be inspired by an existing work without a license, try and stay clean of any potential issues by keeping the following guidelines in mind: (1) make sure any sample is very short (like a few seconds or notes); (2) make sure the sample is obscure and/or distorted; (3) try to find a sample that is covered by a creative commons license (permission already granted); (4) try and use a public domain work (e.g., anything more than 70 years old is normally fair use). Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com