Saturday, August 15, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Consumer Data = $$$"

Universal has formed The Global Music Data Alliance (GMDA) which will analyze billions of piece of digital consumer data to hopefully provide new revenue streams to labels and artists. Essentially, GMDA will inspect behavioral patterns of listeners/buyers (e.g., what songs a Democratic voter listens to) to find patterns that can be used for target marketing. This should allow artists to monetize their fan bases more effectively, and allow advertisers to better figure out where to put their ad dollars/which artists to tie in with. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Employee vs. Independent Contractor"

In the entertainment business there are a lot different employment situations: part-time, full-time, consultancies, internships, working remotely, etc. One of the most common arrangements is for someone to be an independent contractor. However, there are legal ramifications to this status, and often neither party really knows exactly if the worker is considered an independent contractor or a true employee with benefits. Although there is no exact definition of an "independent contractor", the California Department of Industrial Relations provides 12 factors that a court would consider if there was ever a dispute: 1. The most significant factor to be considered is whether the person to whom service is rendered (the employer or principal) has control or the right to control the worker both as to the work done and the manner and means in which it is performed. 2. Whether the person performing services is engaged in an occupation or business distinct from that of the principal. 3. Whether or not the work is a part of the regular business of the principal or alleged employer. 4. Whether the principal or the worker supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place for the person doing the work. 5. The alleged employee’s investment in the equipment or materials required by his or her task or his or her employment of helpers. 6. Whether the service rendered requires a special skill. 7. The kind of occupation, with reference to whether, in the locality, the work is usually done under the direction of the principal or by a specialist without supervision. 8. The alleged employee’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on his or her managerial skill. 9. The length of time for which the services are to be performed. 10. The degree of permanence of the working relationship. 11. The method of payment, whether by time or by the job. 12. Whether or not the parties believe they are creating an employer-employee relationship may have some bearing on the question, but is not determinative since this is a question of law based on objective tests. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Joint Work"

If a song is written by 2 or more people with the intent to merge their respective parts (i.e., words and music) to create a brand new copyright – that is considered a “joint work”. Even though each part contributed is separate, once merged each writer co-owns the entire work. In other words, the lyric writer would then co-own the music portion, and vice versa. Under the Copyright Act, for a “first use mechanical license” (i.e., first release recording/cover) all the writers must sign off. However, for all other types of non-exclusive licenses (e.g., synchs), either writer can license the song on behalf of all co-authors, so long as all the writers are properly credited and paid for their shares. If a writer/artist does not want to create a joint work – he/she needs to make sure to have a written agreement with the producer, arranger and musicians that such third parties’ creative contributions are “works made for hire”, so they cannot claim they are a co-writer. Ben McLane Esq Benmclane.com

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Become A YouTube Star"

Musical artists would be well advised to follow the lead of the dorky YouTube duo "Smosh" (i.e., 2 bozos with a webcam) who have built an empire of 7.4 billion combined views and become very rich in the process (grossed 10 million in 2013 according to Forbes). Here are a few tips of how they did it: 1. Make a video performing a popular song (their first successful video was a goofy cover of the "Pokemon" theme); 2. Post new content often (over 10 years they have uploaded over 3,000 videos); 3. Target and create content for a specific audience/demographic (in their case teens is the market they connect with); 4. Diversify the brand (they have a YouTube Channel, a website, a blog, an app, a videogame, they release records, they have their own merchandise line, they filmed their own theatrical movie for digital release, they created an original web series - they even have Spanish language versions of their content); 5. Encourage fans to create their own original Smosh related content/take-offs and upload them to YouTube to expand the brand; and 6. Partner with a larger media entity to help push and fund more content and create more advertising revenue (e.g., YouTube, Maker, Machina, Awesomeness TV, etc.). Advertisers pay big bucks to be affiliated with a brand that has lots of views online. A recent Variety survey polled teens ages 13-18 about the Top 10 most popular stars in digital media. The top 5 were YouTube Stars and Smosh were #1 (Katy Perry was #9). Clearly becoming a viral sensation on YouTube is serious business these days and a great way to launch a real career. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com

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