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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Label/Publisher Royalty Split"

Historically, royalty splits from record sales between the record label that recorded and released the record and the music publisher that provided the song embodied on the record have greatly favored the label. For downloads and physical record sales - after the distributor deducts its share - the publisher receives about 13% of the revenue (mechanical royalty), while the label is paid the rest. This trend continues with streaming. According to Spotify, it pays 21% to publishers, while the label is paid the rest. Hence, labels on average seem to make between 4-5 times as much as publishers from sales and streaming. Because of this, there is a lot of chatter about trying to make the splits more favorable to publishers/songwriters since records do not sell as much anymore and streaming does not pay as much (yet). It will be interesting to see if any changes occur down the line. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "YouTube Is King"

Industry sources indicate that YouTube is growing faster than all other music streaming platforms combined. Although you may hear a lot about Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, Rdio, etc. in the world of streaming - YouTube in still the primary destination of choice for free music consumption. According to new data from Nielsen Music, video music streaming sites like YouTube (and to a lesser extent Vevo) are growing 60.6 percent faster than all on-demand audio streaming services combined, paid or free. Streaming is the fastest-growing way people are getting their music today. On the other hand, digital and physical sales are down. The trick will be to find a way to make streaming more lucrative to the content creators. Let's hope the growing volume will translate, and clearly an artist with new music should have a video on YouTube, etc. for the exposure and byproduct possibilities. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com