Sunday, November 19, 2017

Music Business/Law Tips - Being Your Own Music Publisher

If you are a songwriter, in order to be able to be paid all the monies you are entitled from performances of your works, it is very important to set up a "publishing" entity since you are your own publisher (at least until you do a publishing deal with a third party which may or may not ever occur). The 3 basic steps do so are as follows: 1. Choose a name. Make sure it is unique/not common. Many folks opt to incorporate their own name (e.g., John Smith Music Publishing). 2. Join a Performance Rights Society (i.e., PRO) like BMI, ASCAP or SESAC as that body will collect and pay you for your performances on radio, TV and online. Then make sure all the works are registered with the PRO so they can track and collect. Note you will also need join the PRO as a "songwriter" as well. You can register online or via regular mail. 3. Register your works with the Copyright Office for legal protection and proof of creation. You can register online or via regular mail. Ben McLane Esq

Monday, October 2, 2017

Music Business/Law Tips - "Register And Get Paid!"

If you are releasing music independently (where you own and/or control the master and/or are a contributing songwriter), you need to make sure you file/join the following to ensure proper payment on that content: 1. Join SoundExchange for digital performance royalties on the master both as a label and performer []. Note related to this is Neighboring Rights income which may apply to some of your masters that are being broadcast or performed outside of the US. You can collect Neighboring Rights income by joining and being repped by an administrator that does that like Kobalt or Wixen (they have divisions just for Neighboring Rights income collection). 2. Get ISRC codes for any master released (including for remixed versions) for digital royalties as income streams attach to each version (same also for each video master). 3. Form a YouTube Channel for uploading and monetization of any videos embodying the masters (and make sure you elect to monetize the videos and any user generated videos that contain your content). 4. Register all the songs you write or co-write that you release with BMI, ASCAP or SESAC (and join one of the PRO’s if you have not). 5. Register all the masters/songs with the US Copyright Office. 6. Join Harry Fox so you can get paid for your share of any mechanical royalties on the songs you write or co-write (I believe they will collect worldwide via their overseas partners and on video mechanical income as well). 7. If you are currently with an aggregator like the Orchard, Tunecore or CD Baby if you do not want to have direct accounts for yourself you can elect to have them collect some/all of the above (and you need them to get up on the Apple, Amazon and Spotify platforms anyway), but of course there is usually some sort of middleman fee or deduction on top of what the source deducts. Make sure at a minimum your aggregator has you up on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify (but preferably up on all digital storefronts and streaming companies). Ben McLane Esq

Monday, August 14, 2017

Music Business/Law Tips - "Sampling Issues"

With all the new low cost digital devices/technology, sampling music has become more prevalent (and harder to detect). However, producers/users have to realize that unauthorized sampling - even of small sound bites - is generally considered copyright infringement. One can try to argue fair use or minor use as a defense, but why even take the chance (and with music recognition software like that found on YouTube eventually the sample will probably be discovered). It's always best to approach the owner of the original sound recording and/or the underlying composition (as applicable) and send a written request asking permission, or work out a "split" agreement whereby everyone involved with the new work that incorporates the sample can get paid (or instead use pre-cleared samples or search for Creative Commons licenses). If the project is low budget or indie, maybe the user can get a free or low dollar "festival use license" with a contingency that if the song takes off he/she can pay a more standard sample fee later. Ben McLane Esq

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Music Business/Law Tips - "Making Money From Videos"

Artists these days can make money off the videos that they upload to YouTube. The money is called "ad revenue" ("AdRev"), and its generated by inserting or allowing ads in or attached to videos. The main types of ads one can get paid for are set forth below to see the differences: 1. "Bumper Ads" (short ads of a few seconds that cannot be skipped); 2. "Sponsored Cards" (ads that offer products for sale that appear in the video); 3. "Display Ads" (ads that pop up to the right of video); 4. "Skippable Ads" (ads that play for a few seconds before they can be skipped); 5. "Overlay Ads" (banners that pop up under the video); and 6. "Non-Skippable Ads" (a 30 second ad that one must sit through to watch the video). In order to participate in YouTube AdRev, first an artist must join YouTube's "Partner Program", and then create an "AdSense" account to monetize the ads (but one has the option of opting out of some/all types of ads or just for certain videos). Normally, an artist will want to allow all types of ads to maximize profits (unless he/she has strong feelings about being associate with a product, for instance). The ads are generally placed randomly via an algorithm where YouTube is trying to target market based on an artist's and the artist's videos metrics/data. Since its hard for new artists to make money off record sales these days, AdRev is a good stream of income (and any video can be monetized - not just the ones that have millions of views - but as the views increase so does the AdRev). Ben McLane Esq

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Music Business/Law Tips - "YouTube cover song issues"

These days with the prevalence and ease of using video sites such as YouTube, Facebook, etc., many new artists make "cover" videos of popular songs to gain an audience, and numerous fans create "user generated" videos of famous songs for fun. However, without the proper permission this can be considered copyright infringement, which could lead to some punitive actions. The reason for this is that when one uses someone else's song in a video, that is technically what is called a "synchronization" use (i.e., "sync"), and that legally requires a license from the publisher/writer of the song (as opposed to a straight audio cover version where it's much easier to get a mechanical license from the Harry Fox Agency). Of course, most new artists and fans are not aware of this and often get hit with either a takedown or cease and desist notice. Getting a few of these can actually bar the future use of YouTube for a period of time (YouTube jail). However, sometimes the cover flies under the radar and/or no one makes an issue of it, and more commonly these days the publisher/writer makes a claim to the song rights via YouTube's "Content Management System" which allows the owner of the song to share in the advertising revenues generated by the cover video (but the artist or fan doing the cover will not be able to participate in that ad rev). A solution to avoid problems is to go to a site such as which has worked out pre-clearances to allow someone to make a cover video and not violate any rights (or to go direct to the owner of the song but they are often too busy to reply). Since there is value to having cover videos up for discovery purposes which can help build a career or earn income in other areas, it would be best to try and get advance clearance before posting a cover video online. Ben McLane Esq

Monday, March 6, 2017

Music Business/Law Tips - "Endorsement Deal Structures"

Talent compensation models when an artist enters into an endorsement deal (i.e., the artist promotes a product by appearing in an advertisement using and/or complementing the product) can be structured in a variety of ways, but 3 of the most common are as follows: (1) Flat Fee (the brand pays the artist a fixed fee to promote the product for a period of time); (2) Flat Fee + Bonus (similar to #1, but if the ad generates a spike in brand revenue that meets a certain threshold then additional fees are paid to artist); and (3) Equity Share (instead of a fee, or for a much reduced fee, the artist can share in a healthy percentage of the net revenues generated from the product sales and/or sometimes even an ownership stake in the company). Of course these types of deals tend to be geared towards a more famous artist, but endorsements (and similarly sponsorships) can exist at all levels, so these examples can be used as a guideline in negotiations. Ben McLane Esq

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Music Business Law Tips - "Major vs. Indie Record Deals"

In my years of doing deals I have discovered there are pros and cons of an artist signing with a major label versus with an independent label. Of course each artist situation is different and the factors can be negotiable case by case, but below are some of the major general differences to keep in mind: "Pro Major": (1) Bigger advance, (2) Greater promotion to mass media, (3) Perception that artist is a star; "Con Major": (1) Deal terms are longer, (2) Label takes/participates in more rights (i.e., 360 deal), (3) Artist can be a small fish in the system; "Pro Indie": (1) More chance of being a priority act, (2) Higher royalty split, (3) Can keep more rights (e.g., master license); "Con Indie": (1) Smaller advance, (2) Less promotional support, (3) Can be inconsistent due to less resources and staff Ben McLane Esq