Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Music Business/Law Tips - "Delivery" (Part 2)

The better - but more rare - standard for an artist is known as delivering technically satisfactory recordings. Under this standard, as long as a recording is done using the proper sonic equipment, the company does not have the same leeway to reject the tracks. This standard is usually reserved for midrange and superstar artists.

Along with the standards set forth above, labels generally add other delivery requirements to the contract. Some of the most common are the following: (a) tracks must be recorded during the term of the contract, (b) songs must be new (not previously recorded by the artist), (c) tracks are studio recordings, (d) material does not infringe upon someone else's copyright, (e) songs must have a minimum length (normally at least two minutes), (e) recordings feature only the artist's performance, and (f) recordings are not completely instrumental.

The delivery portion of the recording contract might seem insignificant on its face, but the way it is phrased can become quite important. Therefore, an artist should seek to have the technically satisfactory language added to the contract if at all possible.

Ben McLane Esq

Monday, July 12, 2010

Music Business/Law Tips - "Delivery" (Part 1)

Whether an artist signs a recording contract with a major or minor record company, the label will have some say over what type of material will eventually be released by the artist. Hence, there exists what is known as a delivery requirement in recording agreements.

As the concept is known in the music industry, delivery means that the record company has to accept the recordings which are brought to them by the artist as adhering to the terms of the record deal. The contract will specify what standard the record company will use to test how acceptable the recordings are. It is important that the artist be aware of what standard they are agreeing to.

The most common standard is that the artist must deliver commercially satisfactory recordings. In essence, this means the company will only accept recordings which it believes are hit records. Such language is what a newer artist or an artist without much bargaining power can expect. This ambiguous standard can cause many problems, including: (a) the label suspending the contract period until acceptable tracks are delivered, (b) putting the artist deeper in debt to the label because additional recordings cost more money, and (c) allowing the label to terminate the deal under the argument that the artist was late in delivery and thus breached the contract.

[part 2 next week]

Ben McLane Esq

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Music Business/Law Tips - "Copyright"

If you are a musician or songwriter, the copyright law affects your craft, so it is important to have a basic understanding of it.

The term "copyright" really means that the creator has the right to copy. If an artist writes an original song, that artist is the owner of the copyright. As it pertains to artists in general, the copyright law basically grants the creator the right to (1) reproduce (e.g., make copies), (2) distribute (e.g., sell copies) and
(3) perform (e.g., play the song live).

Once the song is in a tangible form (i.e., written), the artist should take steps to protect the work. In essence, an artist needs to prove the date of creation. Actually, under the present copyright law, a work is copyrighted once it is written or recorded. However, it is best to have proof of creation. The best method is to obtain a registration form from - and register the copyright with - the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. To request the free registration form, the mailing address is: Register of Copyrights, Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20559 (forms are also online). The fee is $45.00 per song. Another less sound technique is known as the "poor man's copyright", which consists of the artist simply enclosing a copy of the song in an envelope and sending it to the artist certified mail. The envelope should not be opened or it will spoil the purpose of securing the date.

It is also important to put the proper copyright notice on songs and recordings that are presented to the public, such as a demo. The copyright notice for songs and sound recordings must include three elements: the symbol © (for lyric sheet or sheet music) or (p) (for tapes, records, CDs), the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner.

A song can be a valuable commodity. It is imperative that any artist who wishes to be taken seriously - and not be ripped-off - do the things described above as a form of protection.