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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Spotify Breaking Acts"

Spotify is the world's largest subscription service. Most people use its "freemium" model where they do not have to pay to listen. The good part about this is that Spotify has become a platform for new artists to be discovered, and on occasion Spotify will help promote and launch a new artist. Recently, Spotify helped break Hozier 's "Take Me To Church" and Major Lazer's "Lean On" into the Top 10 via its "Today's Top Hits" Playlist, adding the songs to its artist development platform called "Spotlight", and targeted banner placements in "browse" sections of the Site. By putting the focus on these tracks and exposing them to millions of potential listeners, this caused more repeated "listens", and listeners started to share the tracks and add them to their own personal playlists - where ultimately the songs became viral hits. Sounds like the new radio to me. Let's hope there is room for indies as well as major label backed artists to participate. Ben McLane Esq

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Web Infringement"

With the simplicity of posting music and video online, one may think it is easier to prove copyright infringement, but according to recent court rulings this is not necessarily the case. Under basic Copyright Law, in order to prove copyright infringement, one must show: (1) that the claimant truly owns the copyright (i.e., song or video), and (2) that the infringer "copied" the copyright without permission. The second prong has two elements: (i) the copy must be substantially similar to the original, and (ii) the infringer had to have access to the copyright being infringed. The "access" element is very strictly interpreted when it comes to posting a song on the Internet for example. Courts have held that availability of the copyright on the Internet by itself is insufficient to prove access. In other words, just because something is online does not mean that the defendant saw it there and copied it. The plaintiff will have to show that there is "widespread dissemination" of the copyright being infringed. This can be demonstrated by lots of downloads and website traffic. The more traffic, the greater the likelihood that the defendant actually saw or heard the infringed work. For example, in a recent case involving Angry Birds video game infringement, since the Angry Birds app has been downloaded 1 billion times and has 40 million active users, that was enough to show widespread dissemination. Clearly most content online is not that popular, so be wary about bringing a copyright action until it is easy to prove. Ben McLane Esq