Sunday, June 19, 2016

Music Business/Law Tips - Streaming Only Landmark

Last week the album "Coloring Book" by the indie artist Chance the Rapper become the first album ever to chart on Billboard entirely from streams. The album was not made for sale on iTunes for download or in CD format for retail stores (with apparently no plans to do so). It was posted online as a "streaming exclusive" on Apple Music's streaming service and compiled enough streams in 1 week to equate to 39,000 equivalent album unit sales (1500 steams = 1 album sale according to Billboard). This was good enough to debut in the Top 10 of the Billboard Album Top 200 Album Chart. After a 2 week exclusive streaming window via Apple, it will also be available on other streaming services like Spotify. Note Kanye West's latest album from a few months back "Life of Pablo" charted at #1 on Billboard almost entirely from streams - but it was also available for sale on West's website (not at iTunes or other stores) - so due to its limited availability it was publicized as a streaming only release even though technically it was not. This seems like it will be a continuing trend - especially for indie releases. The question is - how does an artist make money off streams? Right now, streaming seems more like a promotional device to build a fan base who will pay for show tickets, merchandise, and lead to synch licenses, etc. - all which do pay. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Music Business/Law Tips - "Buy A Beat"

A big business for up and coming producers is to create and sell a musical "beat" to an artist or label who can then add lyrics or a rap on top or remix it. There are a few ways this can go down: 1. Buy Out: For a fee, the producer sells his rights (work for hire). This means he/she may not even get a credit. Unless the check is large, it's always better to stay on as a credited writer/producer and get back-end royalties from sales/streams/licensing since you never know what track is going to blow up. 2. License: The producer retains his rights, but lets a third party artist use the beat in a new song (usually exclusively for a period). There may be an up-front fee involved, but always a back-end royalty and credit. There is normally a written agreement when someone buys/sells a beat. The producer needs to cover fees, credits (as a producer/writer) and royalties. The Artist or buyer needs to make sure he/she can use the beat without restriction in all media, the beat should be original (no samples/infringements) and has not already been given to anyone else. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Music Business/Law Tips - "Playlist Promotion (Playola?)"

Playlists on the major streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have become an important new form of "charts", as this is where fans and music supervisors are starting to gravitate to discover music as well as where traditional radio stations are looking for which songs are popular enough to add. As such, record labels now actively try to get their newly released singles to appear on such playlists. This is known in the industry as "playlist promotion". Essentially, the old-school "legal" promotional methods that were once (and still are) used by labels to get songs added to radio have now carried over to this new medium. Therefore, it appears that if a label or artist can afford to pay a middlemen digital marketing firm (similar to indie radio promoter) who will - via their relationships with curators of the various playlists - influence song placements and chart positions on the playlists, then the true indie artists will again be squeezed out of the mass exposure picture just as they always were before and will have to rely on grassroots to break. ("Meet the new boss/same as the old boss." [lyric by P. Townshend]) Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Music Business/Law Tips - "7 Year Statute"

Recently, Rita Ora filed a lawsuit against her label Roc Nation to get out of her record deal based on the so called "7 Year Statute". In California, this Labor Code stipulates a court cannot enforce a personal service contract after seven calendar years from when the deal began. Ora signed the contract in 2008. Her underlying gripe is that she claims the label has neglected and failed to properly promote her. Of course, Roc Nation disputes this and argues they have spent millions on branding her. The problem with invoking this statute is that there a lack of solid case precedents in music. Although Olivia Newton-John successfully sued MCA Records for violating the law in the late Seventies, thereafter the recording industry lobbied the California legislature to establish rules allowing labels to sue artists for "lost profits" if they didn't fulfill album commitments or other components of their contract, so such a claim can backfire. As such, most record industry disputes involving the "seven-year rule" have ended in a settlement or a renegotiated deal. Well have to stay tuned to see what happens. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Music Business/Law Tips - Gear Endorsement Deals

With the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Convention quickly approaching, many musicians either already have - or will obtain - instrument and other musical gear endorsement deals, and will hanging out there either performing for or networking with the equipment suppliers that will be showing off their wares to buyers and the industry. Normally, a musician would need to have some level of notoriety or fan base either from releasing records, touring, and/or having an online presence to secure an endorsement deal (but not always). The terms of such a deal can vary, but unless the musician is already a superstar, the basic deals points are the following: (1) Give the musician free product(s) or product(s) at cost (money only if a big name); (2) Musician must promote the product by using the gear at shows or on recordings/videos, and post images online using the gear; (3) Normally a term of a year/ few years where the musician can only formally endorse that particular product. It's always best to endorse product that one already likes and will be proud to be affiliated with. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Friday, January 1, 2016

Music Business/Law Tips - "Graphic Artist Agreement"

If a singer/band is going to hire a graphic artist to create an album cover or a logo for it, keep in mind that under copyright laws designers normally retain the rights to what they create, unless the singer/band has something in writing with the designer to the contrary. It is advisable that the designer sign a short work for hire agreement whereby in exchange for a fee (or other consideration), the designer transfers ownership of all rights, title and interest in the logo or artwork to the singer/band. Without this, the singer/band may not have the freedom to use the artwork as it wishes without restrictions (on merchandise, etc.), and/or will owe the designer additional fees or royalties down the road. Another option is to obtain a broad rights license from the designer, but that is never as good as ownership. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Album Sales Calculations"

With the actual sales of digital download albums and physical CD albums going down all the time, for charting purposes in Billboard Magazine (i.e., what album makes the Top 40, Top 10, #1), Billboard and the record industry had to come up with some new calculation methods to cover the way people consume music now. 2 of the biggest new methods are: 1. Streaming Equivalent Album ("SEA"): 1500 streams on Spotify, etc. = 1 album sale; 2. Track Equivalent Album ("TEA"): 10 individual downloads of songs from an album via iTunes, etc. = 1 album sale. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com