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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Digital Frontier"

Mass media has gone primarily digital which means new opportunities for artists, songwriters, producers and performers to make money. One of the biggest factors is that in faraway lands with huge populations like China, India, Russia and Mexico, cellphones have proliferated so almost everyone in the world one day will be able access music and discover talent which should lead to new income on multiple levels, where before that was not the case (i.e., streaming, downloading, licensing, internet radio, etc.). Another cause is Internet sites like YouTube which can create viral exposure worldwide for almost no cost. Of course talent needs to make sure they are in a position to collect by joining organizations in advance like BMI/ASCAP/SESAC and Sound Exchange. Ben McLane Esq

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - Chart Changes

From 2015 onward, Billboard has changed their tally system as to the types of data that will be included in deciphering what records deserve to be on the Top 200 Album Chart. At least for the last 15 years or so, the Album Chart just included actual sales that could be verified by Sound Scan (i.e., bar code reads). Now, streaming (e.g., Spotify) and other digital metric data will also be included in the calculations. In particular, 1500 song streams will now equate to one album sale, and 10 digital single track tales will now equate to one album sale. It is anticipated that this modern system may skew the Chart toward new and younger acts like Ariana Grande who have a very active online audience. Ben McLane Esq

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Nightclub Performance Royalties"

For years when an artist or DJ performed his/her original songs in a nightclub/bar it was probably never logged as a “play” by the performance rights organizations such as BMI, ASCAP or SESAC (“PRO”), and thus no credit or royalties were earned since there was no accurate tracking system covering that space (like there is for radio and TV). That has now changed. There is a new product called “KUVO” (by Pioneer) that tracks each song played in a club via cloud-based/streaming technology. The data that KUCO collects can then be shared with the respective PRO. Since last year alone it is estimated that over $160 million was lost due to poor tracking methods in clubs, so this new technology is a ray of hope for songwriters to always get paid for their work. Of course, writers have to make their PRO aware of all their songs so that they are in the database to be matched/credited. Ben McLane Esq

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Music Libraries"

Having your songs in a music library can lead to placements in film, TV, advertisement and other media. Music libraries normally contain tons of music, either full songs (vocal and/or instrumental) and shorter “cues”. The library will need the ability to license both the master and the publishing for the titles it works. The library will license a piece of music to a user for a fee (which varies based on the license type). These days library music is organized digitally online by themes/streaming to make it easy for searching by a potential client (e.g., a music supervisor for a TV show or film) that wants to quickly listen to a piece to see if it fits the purpose. Cues are tagged with meta-data to narrow down searches. Common meta-data tags are: mood, sounds like, beats per minute, genre, instrumental, etc. The issues to consider when placing music into a library are: non-exclusive vs. exclusive, term, how many songs, income split, etc.). Ben McLane Esq.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Music Business/Law Tips - "Start Up"

When starting up a new entertainment business (i.e., label, publishing company, management company, band), there are a few basic business matters that should be handled: 1. Form an LLC so there is a separate business shield and tax ID # (to avoid personal liability). 2. Register the business name/brand as a trademark. This protects the business against infringers. 3. Obtain insurance. Both general liability and workers comp policies if you have employees and deal with the public. Of course there are other matters to attend to, but this is a good start to have a professional set-up. Ben McLane Esq