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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Synch Deal Points"

Placing music in film, TV and commercials is big business and it’s open to artists of all levels of fame. A few points to make sure are considered before signing a synch license agreement are: 1. Try to get some kind of fee or consideration. 2. Make sure it’s clear how the music will be used in the program. 3. Make sure it’s a non-exclusive “license” (not a transfer of copyright). 4. If the song is a co-write/co-production, make sure that one person can sign for all. 5. Ensure that the song title, name of the performer and name of the writer(s) are properly credited in the program. 6. Try to get a copy of the cue sheet so you can make sure that BMI, ASCAP or SESAC are aware of the usage so they can collect back-end performance income. Ben McLane Esq Benmclane.com

Monday, February 23, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Copyright Changes Coming?"

With the advent of new media, there is pressure for the Copyright Office to update certain laws that affect songwriters, record labels and music publishers. The 4 key areas currently under review for potential reform in the United States are the following: 1. Higher digital performance royalties for publishers (as right now the record label’s share is 10-12 times more). 2. Create one stop shop global music rights organizations that would administer performance, mechanical and digital rights all in one place for easy licensing (as opposed to having many different organizations handle each individual right). 3. Pay record labels and recording artists for airplay on AM/FM radio (as right now only songwriters get paid). 4. Recognize a copyright in pre-1972 sound recordings so that royalties can be paid for those (as right now only post-1972 recordings have federal copyright protection so Sirius/XM and Pandora do not have to pay SoundExchange royalties for those). Note that Congress has no obligation to change the existing laws, and if any changes are forthcoming they might take years and be watered down. It’s all about politics and who has the most influence. Stay tuned. Ben McLane Esq Benmclane.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Synch License Key Points"

If an artist’s music is placed in a TV show, film, or advertisement, that is called a “Synch License” (i.e., the music is played in synchronization with a visual image). Contract terms vary depending on the artist, song and program, but the following key points should always be addressed: 1. Fee. Anything is better than 0. 2. Scope of use. Be specific on how the music will be used. 3. Non-exclusive license. Make sure the usage is not an exclusive license. 4. Credit. Make sure the name of the song, performer, songwriter, publisher and performance rights society (i.e., BMI, ASCAP or SESAC) are clarified so that back-end performance income once the spot airs can be properly tracked/paid. 5. Cue sheet. Make sure that the producer of the content sends a cue sheet to the applicable performance rights society so it can track the play and pay the songwriters. 6. Permission. Make sure all the performers on the master and songwriters of the song are OK with the usage, and that the person signing the deal has authority to speak for all. Ben McLane Esq Benmclane.com