Monday, April 26, 2010

Music Business/Law Tips - "Publisher"

Publishing companies have many benefits to songwriters. A publishing company/deal can be: (1) a bank to support a songwriter, and (2) a way to get the songwriters songs “covered” by recoding artists or placed in film/tv/commercials which generates income and credits for the songwriter. Publishing deals can also have drawbacks:
(1) the songwriter has to split the income and the copyrights with the publisher (usually forever), and (2) normally the deal is for several years so the writer can only write for the that one publishing company during the term and if the publisher is lazy or short staffed the songs might languish and the songwriter will starve.

Ben McLane Esq

Monday, April 19, 2010

Music Business/Law Tips - "360 Deal"

A 360 deal is either a “rights grab” by the label to make sure they profit from an artist if the artist blows up, or is an incentive for the label to actually put more effort into marketing and promoting the artist. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and the concept is so new there are not yet many known examples for the artist to hang their hat on as a guideline. In any event, unless the artist has a lot of leverage going into the deal, they will probably not have any choice but to enter into this type of agreement in the current music business. If so, at least hold the label’s feet to the fire in the contract by requiring them to pay advances for the extra rights they participate in (i.e., touring, merchandise, publishing), and to commit to spending money to market and promote those rights so that the money pie gets bigger and everyone wins.

Ben McLane Esq

Monday, April 12, 2010

Music Business/Law Tips - "Reversion"

Most record deals are set up so that the label owns the sound recording copyrights (i.e., masters) forever. This business was built on catalogs - Capitol and RCA would probably not be around today if they did not own the masters to the Beatles and Elvis. Hence, labels do not part with masters easily. However, it’s possible to get a reversion of the masters at some point, but the artist would have to ask the label for this concession to be built into the contract. Normally, a reversion might kick in if: (1) the label fails to commercially release the masters, or (2) a certain amount of time goes by (e.g., 10 years) where the label had time to squeeze all the profits out of the masters (which normally have a life cycle of no more than 5 years unless it’s a big hit). There is also some language built into the Copyright Act that copyrights can revert after 35 years, but that involves some hoops to jump through and no one wants to wait until they are an old fart to get their property back so try to built it into the deal as discussed above.

Ben McLane Esq

Monday, April 5, 2010

Music Business/Law Tips - "Trademark"

If an artist is serious about a long-term career and branding their name so that they can make money off of it – and also to keep others from ripping them off – it is advisable to trademark the name at the earliest possible stage to lock it down so that the artist exclusively owns it worldwide. The key is using the name in commerce (i.e., for profit) by playing shows, selling CDs, and selling T-shirts under that name before someone else does. Make it official by going to and applying online. It’s worth the time and money to avoid name disputes/hassles down the line.

Ben McLane Esq