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Contract Language Explained: “In all media now known or hereafter devised”

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Categories: Business, Digital Distribution, Law, Music, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

music-791631_640It’s possible that you have seen or heard of the contract phrase “in all media now known or hereafter devised” or some similar variation.

In music contracts, this language is usually used to define in what media your music can be used.  This phrase allows a company that has the rights to your music to use the music in the formats currently used at the time the contract is signed, as well as any new formats that are invented in the future (and may or may not be known at the time of signing).

For example, pretend that this is 1995, the most popular music format is still CDs, and MP3s had not hit the scene yet.  If you signed a deal at that time that said the company had rights to your music “in all media now known or hereafter devised,” then that company also had the rights to start reproducing and distributing your music in MP3 format once that medium started being used circa 1998.

If you are signing a deal now with that language, the company can probably use your music on vinyl, cassette, CD, MP3/other digital file formats, and whatever they think of next.  So when they start implanting microchips with music, you can bet your music will probably be on that too.

Got questions on your contract?  Schedule a consultation now to get answers!

 

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or mattersThis article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user and Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. is not acting as your attorney or providing you with legal advice.   The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on,act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

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January Music Business and Legal Round-Up

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Categories: Articles, Business, Copyright, Digital Distribution, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , ,

cowgirl, lasso, roundup

Image via freeimages.com

I’m trying something new where I do round up at the end of the month of some interesting stories or issues that have occurred during that month in the music industry. Please let me know if you like this new feature believe in the comments below.

First, you’ll want to check out my articles for January:

In other news:

The reports are in from 2015, and the industry numbers are actually up thanks to streaming, although digital sales have dropped. Some artists, like Adele, have proven they don’t need streaming to sell records.

Although streaming has upped some numbers, the artists aren’t getting paid. Spotify was hit with two class-action lawsuits for failure to properly pay royalties. They have now just instituted a new system for tracking and paying royalties. Some accusations claim that Spotify has not properly licensed much of the music that it plays and further that Spotify apparently doesn’t know who to pay. While there are issues that sometimes arise in the industry where finding the proper rights owner can be difficult to find, the majority of rights owners are easily able to be located and paid by those who take a few minutes to look for them.

Spotify has enough money to fight these lawsuits and they’ll probably be some sort of settlement along the way, however Spotify should’ve put a system in place in the very beginning to ensure streamlined and proper payment. This seems like the beginning of a lot of legal hassle for Spotify, but if truly not paying legitimate royalty recipients, it’s a legal hassle that they deserve.

And here are some predictions for 2016.  Let’s see if they come true…

 

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Everything You Need to Know About Using Album Artwork

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Categories: Articles, Business, Copyright, Music, Music Industry, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Image via freeimages.com

Artists seem to have a lot of confusion as to what artwork can and cannot be used on album covers and also who owns album artwork. In this article, I will cover the most common sources of album artwork and how that artwork is owned.

For the sake of convenience, I will refer to both artwork and photographs as the “work” or “works,” as the principles discussed herein apply to both.

1.  You created the work.

In this case you would likely create a piece of art and or take a photograph that you use on the album cover.  Absent any unusual circumstances, you should own and have the rights to use artwork you created or photographs you took.  If you are part of a band, it gets a little more complicated because one must note which member of the band created the work and what the agreement is within the band as to how the work will be owned.  A particular band member may retain ownership of the work as an individual and license the rights to the work to the band, or may assign ownership of the work to the band so that the band owns the rights.  If more than one member of the band created the work, they may be able to sign a simple Artwork Ownership Agreement, but again, it still needs to be determined whether those members will retain ownership of the work or assign ownership to the bands as an entity.  A band owning the work created by a single member or multiple members may be determined on a case-by-case basis or it might be based on a band agreement.

2.  Someone else created the work for you.

Usually this scenario plays out in one of two ways: either someone is hired by you or your band to create artwork for your album, or you hire a photographer to take photos of you or your band and then use the photograph(s) on the album.

Paying for something does not equate to ownership of it under copyright law. You may own a physical copy of the work – a photo print, a painting, a CD – but that does not automatically give you ownership rights in the copyright of the work itself.  If you have hired and paid an artist or photographer to create a visual image for your album cover, that artist or photographer will still own the copyright in the work unless that creator has assigned the copyright ownership of the work to you or your band.   The assignment of copyright will often include a higher fee and/or a payment of future royalties in exchange for the creator giving up his or her intellectual property rights.

If there was no transfer of copyright and the artist or photographer retains ownership of the work, you would need to get a license from the creator to use the work for your album cover, as well as for promotional and other uses associated with the album.  Again, this usually will involve a fee and/or possibly a royalty payment. Keep in mind that if the creator retains ownership, (s)he will be able to use or license the work for other purposes besides your album cover.  An example of this would be the creator giving a magazine permission to use a photograph of your band that the creator photographed.

Whether working with a photographer or artist, you should get the terms of the agreement in writing.  If the creator has given you a contract to sign, it would be wise to have a good music lawyer make sure the proper rights for uses related to album covers are granted in the language.   If not, these rights will need to be added.  If the creator retains copyright ownership, your lawyer may also be able to limit other uses granted by the creator. If the creator does not give you a contract, you should have your lawyer draft a contract so that the terms that are spelled out clearly.

3.  You got the work from the Internet or another source.

If you purchased a stock photo on the Internet, you will need to check the license provisions that come with that photo. Some photos do not allow for commercial uses, while others do allow for commercial uses, and yet others allow for commercial uses but with higher fees required.  You will have to choose a photo that allows for the rights that you will need for using the photo on your album cover and associated promotional uses. Using a photo that you like from the Internet without getting permission to use it is copyright infringement, even if you credit the source.

If there is a work that you like on the Internet that is not from a stock photo website or that you find offline, you will need to find out the identity of the owner of the work and contact that person to get a license for permission to use that work on your album cover.  Transfer of copyright ownership is probably a long shot in this scenario, but some creators might be willing to transfer ownership for the right price.

Again, consult with a good music attorney to make sure you are getting the rights you need for your specific situation.

Do you have questions that you’d like to get answered in an upcoming “Ask a Music Lawyer” article? Please send topic requests to askamusiclawyer@gmail.com. Please note that specific case advice cannot be given, and if you have questions pertaining to an issue you are personally experiencing, you should seek a consultation with a music attorney.

This post was originally published on Sonicbids.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

 

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Do You Need a Music Publisher?

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Categories: Articles, Business, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Some musicians have music publishing deals, some musicians have their own publishing companies, and some have both. For many independent musicians, owning their own publishing companies often means nothing more than just having name for publishing matters rather than a fully functioning entity. Musicians often ask me the difference between handling their publishing themselves and what a music publisher will do for them.

1. Manage your catalog

A publisher will handle all copyright registrations, filings with performing rights organizations and mechanical rights collection societies, and other more procedural aspects of owning intellectual property. A publisher will also receive any license requests to use your music and handle the contracts associated with these uses, negotiating the best price they can, which makes sense because they get to take a cut of the proceeds. A publisher will also fight against any unwarranted uses of your music, including suing for infringement if necessary. Again, this is because the publisher usually has a stake in the copyright ownership and income generated from your compositions. A publisher will also have relationships with foreign companies and can enter into agreements so that your music can be promoted and administered in those countries, thus creating more opportunities for you and expanding your fanbase.

2. Promote your catalog

A good publisher that believes in you and stands to profit from your music will find ways to promote it and help you (and them) make more money. This will usually include pitching your music for use in TV and film, pitching your music to other artists in order to get those artists to record your compositions, arranging for sheet music or other reprints of your music for sale, and any other opportunities to promote your compositions and get them recorded.

3. Pair you with co-writers

Some writers mostly write alone, some only write with others, and some may write alone and with others. Sometimes, writing with other people can help a songwriter break into a new genre or get new creative juices flowing when the two writers can vibe on each other’s energy. A publisher will help to facilitate these relationships, as the more great songs its writer writes, the more everyone stands to benefit. Also, if you are a promising writer who has a deal but are still building your resume, your publisher may be able to pair you up with more seasoned writers to help advance your career.

4. Collect income

From a logistical standpoint, this is one of the most important functions of the publisher because an experienced publisher understands all the different revenue streams in the business, how to collect these revenues, and how and what you should be paid. A publisher can also pursue monies you should be receiving but haven’t, and audit your label or other companies with which you’ve collaborated to make sure you are getting paid correctly. In addition, if you are to pay any co-writers or other collaborators, your publisher can take care of this for you so that you don’t have to worry about understanding the complexities of the royalty streams and who gets paid what, as well as dealing with the minutiae of the task, leaving you more time to focus on creating great music.

 

In my opinion, the functions of the publisher can be grouped into two very important areas: promoting your music and taking care of the business end (registrations, contracts, and royalty collection and payment). Both of these aspects are helpful to you and allow you to focus your time on creating music instead of promoting or bookkeeping. A publisher’s relationships and connections can be key to moving your career forward, and any reputable publisher will have administrative systems already established so that the business side runs smoothly. However,most music publishing deals require you to give up all or a portion of your copyright ownership, and all publishing deals will require a percentage of your publishing income as payment for their services. For independent songwriters without a publishing deal or who want to retain full ownership of their compositions, the next best option is to hire a great music lawyer to handle the business part of the equation, but the promotional aspects will still be up to the songwriter. Only you can decide whether these trade-offs are right for your career, or if retaining full ownership and spending more of your time on business work makes you more comfortable.

 

This post was originally published on Sonicbids.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. This article does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

 

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How to Get Legal Help if You Can’t Afford a Music Attorney

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Categories: Business, Law, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hopefully you’ve read my most recent article where I explained how to choose the right attorney for you. Even though you now know what qualities to look for in an attorney, you may still wonder whether hiring one is possible if you are on a tight budget. As I discussed last time, don’t try to handle the matter yourself, and having a non-music or non-entertainment lawyer handle your matter is less than ideal because only a lawyer experienced in music and entertainment will know the specific nuances that pertain to your situation. While the best solution is still to hire an experienced music attorney to handle your situation, here are three less costly options for independent musicians to get their legal needs met.

1. Ask the lawyer you want to work with if there’s any flexibility on payment policies

After finding out the lawyer’s customary rate, you can ask if he or she can do the work on a flat-fee basis, has discounted rates for independent musicians, or has a payment plan where you can pay the fee in installments.

You can also ask if the attorney would be willing to work on a percentage basis, but know that many attorneys will only work on percentage for high net worth clients. Don’t expect the attorney to work for free or try to sell him or her on the premise that the attorney will somehow make a lot of money once you’re famous. The music industry is a speculative business, and a new client without a proven track record will often not produce a return on a lawyer’s investment of time and skill.

If your matter involves a lawsuit (most often for copyright infringement or breach of contract), you can ask the attorney if he or she works on a “contingency,” meaning that the attorney doesn’t get paid unless he or she wins your case. There are some lawyers who still work on contingency, but most don’t. Keep in mind that even if an attorney does work on contingency, you will most likely still have to pay court filing costs, which can be expensive on their own.

2. Use a reputable online legal resource

Usually, I advise non-lawyers to proceed with extreme caution when downloading or using templates from the internet because these templates are often poor quality and usually not designed for independent musicians. Plus, drafting changes to template agreements without proper legal training can often lead to unforeseen consequences that could be detrimental to your income, copyright ownership, and career.

Here is the exception: in my dealings with many independent musicians, I saw that many musicians needed but didn’t have access to resources to meet their legal needs due to cost or other prohibitions preventing them from hiring an attorney. Therefore, I started Indie Artist Resource (currently only available for California residents) to offer template contracts, intellectual property registration services, and legal consultations all specifically designed to address the unique needs of independent musicians.

Despite the varying quality of most online templates, I’m confident in recommending the templates and services from Indie Artist Resource, as I have personally developed all of the templates with the needs of independent musicians in mind, and I oversee all operations of the business, including handling the consultations. While the nature of template agreements means that a template isn’t tailored to each individual user’s specific needs, some protection is better than no protection – and I’d rather see a musician using a well-drafted template than proceeding without any agreement in place.

3. Contact a legal clinic for the arts

There are some nonprofit organizations that offer free or low-cost legal services to musicians. You can research online whether your state has such an organization and contact the organization to see if what they offer meets your legal needs. Some of the lawyers at these organizations are very competent attorneys who service high-level clients and enjoy volunteering their time to help independent musicians. Of course, others are newly licensed and may or may not be reputable. I cannot comment on the caliber of service you will be getting because it depends on which state you are in, the quality of the organization, and the attorney handling your case. However, if you want to work with someone on an ongoing basis throughout your matter and you can’t afford regular attorney’s fees, then this might be a good option for you to investigate.

 

Erin M. Jacobson is a practicing music attorney, experienced deal negotiator, and seasoned advisor of intellectual property rights. Her clients range from Grammy and Emmy Award winners to independent artists, record labels, music publishers, and production companies. Ms. Jacobson also owns and oversees all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection offering template contracts, consultations, and other services designed to meet the unique needs of independent musicians.

This post first appeared on Sonicbids.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. This article does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

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How Much Do Artists Really Earn Online?

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Categories: Business, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ever wonder how much artists really earn from those millions of streams on Spotify?  Ever wonder how much you as an independent artist need to sell or stream in order to make a living off of your music?  Wonder no more:

IIB_Musicians_2015_final

This lovely graphic and data is from Information is Beautiful.  For more information on the numbers, visit the findings.

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How to Choose a Music Attorney Who’s Perfect for You

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Categories: Articles, Business, Law, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

Before choosing an attorney, you first want to determine whether you actually need a lawyer. The basic rule of thumb is that if you’re presented with a contract, or alternatively, if you feel your contractual or intellectual property rights have been violated, you need a lawyer. Once you’ve determined which services you would like that lawyer to provide, you’ll want to consider several factors to determine whether a particular lawyer is the right fit for your career, especially if this is your first time working with a lawyer.

Your attorney is your representative, and thus, an extension of you for business purposes. You want to choose someone you enjoy working with, is qualified for the services you need, has a rate you can afford, and who will reflect the right image to achieve your goals. Here are eight of the most important considerations when choosing an attorney.

1. Practice area

Is your lawyer a music lawyer, or is it your brother’s friend’s cousin who’s a real estate/personal injury/construction attorney and is willing to look over the contract for free? While this cousin’s generosity is appreciated, you need to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and hire an attorney experienced with music contracts. The entertainment industry has very specific contract terminology and industry practices that only pertain to the entertainment industry. This field is so nuanced that even music contracts and film contracts differ enough that some artists have different attorneys for their music and film deals. An attorney who does not focus on music and entertainment contracts will not be familiar with these industry-specific terms and will miss crucial points that separate a good deal from a bad one. This could cost you to lose copyright ownership and/or a lot of money in royalties in addition to other undesirable consequences.

2. Your needs as an artist

Different types of lawyers perform different services. Some lawyers are “transactional” lawyers that draft, review, and negotiate contracts, as well as advise you on career decisions. Having a lawyer handle your contracts is important because even though some contracts may seem fairly simple, contract language is actually very complex and can contain consequences unforeseen to the untrained reader (or drafter). Lawyers endure many stressful years of schooling and training to interpret this language and understand how it affects you. In practice, you may need an attorney to review or draft only one contract for you or you may need him or her to be an ongoing member of your team for all career developments and opportunities, as well as to work with your manager or agent if you have one. Many artist lawyers can also help you set up any business entities you decide to form.

Other lawyers are “litigators,” which means they handle lawsuits by either suing others on your behalf and arguing your case or by defending you from someone suing you. This is the type of lawyer you would hire when someone has violated your contractual or intellectual property rights. A lawyer who understands these types of lawsuits can assess whether you have a valid claim, if you have the proper proof needed to win your case, and represent you through a settlement and/or trial. Note that the ability to bring lawsuits is often regulated by a “statute of limitations,” meaning you’ll often only have a certain amount of time to file the suit. This amount of time varies depending on the type of lawsuit and sometimes by state, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer promptly.

Still yet, there are other attorneys who “shop” artists, which means that they submit your music to record labels and sometimes other music companies to try to get you a deal. Note that many attorneys do not shop, so it is wise to check the attorney’s website or ask the attorney for his or her shopping policy before requesting that the attorney shop you. Be careful here: some “shopping” attorneys will send out anyone’s music for a fee. Music companies know who these attorneys are often don’t take them or their submissions seriously because the company executives know these submissions are not based on the attorney’s genuine endorsement of the music.

3. Personality

Aside from skill, personality is the other most important aspect in choosing the right lawyer for you. You want to make sure:

  • You actually like this person
  • He or she communicates with you in a way you understand
  • He or she understands and keeps your career goals in mind
  • You feel that you can trust him or her
  • You feel he or she has your best interests at heart
  • You feel comfortable letting him or her handle your important business matters

4. Reputation

Just like you hopefully maintain a good reputation in the industry, you want your attorney to have one as well. You can do an online search for an attorney you’re considering to see if his or her website is appealing and professional. You can also find out if he or she has any articles published or does speaking engagements to get a feel for his or her expertise.

More importantly, you want to know whether your potential attorney is honest. You can’t always find this out upfront, but you can ask around to your colleagues to see if anyone has worked with that person and what their experience has been. Also, you can search the attorney’s name on the State Bar website for the state in which the attorney is licensed to see if any disciplinary action has been taken against him or her. Further, an online search may also yield some information in the form of articles or news stories if the attorney has been involved in any unsavory activities.

5. Negotiation style

When you envision your attorney, what do you see? There are many different negotiation and business styles and it’s important to consider which style fits your preferred attorney profile and your business image as an artist.

Some styles include:

  • Screamers: These attorneys scream at everyone to get the job done and intimidate people to get their way. Some are effective, and some are just plain annoying, actually hindering the progress of deals due to their unpleasantness.
  • Bulldogs: Similar to the Screamers, Bulldogs are tough, fierce, and stubborn. They may not scream, but they can be just as difficult.
  • Partiers: These are the ones you see partying on the tour bus with the band. Many music attorneys are actually frustrated musicians, so the Partiers fulfill their unmet dreams of fame by living vicariously through their clients. Partiers may still be great attorneys during the day, but it’s a personal preference whether you want your attorney partying alongside you after the show.
  • Friends: Many attorneys become friends with their clients. This may include hanging together outside of work, but it just may extend to asking, “How’s the family?” when on a business call. It can be up to you how much you want to discuss your personal life outside of work, but it can make for a more enjoyable business experience.
  • Paper-pushers: These are the ones who stay in the office pining over comma placement. If you’re not looking to socialize and just want someone to stick to drafting, this might be your pick.
  • Combination: Realistically, most attorneys are a combination of some of the above. Some attorneys might be nice until they have a reason to scream. Some may spend most of the time at the office but accept your invitation to the afterparty at next week’s show.

Again, it really is about how well you work with the person and what you want in your relationship with him or her. However, style is an important point because having an attorney with the wrong style may end up breaking deals instead of making them on your behalf.

6. Similar clients

You might consider an attorney who already has clients in a similar style and genre to your music.This isn’t essential, but it is a good starting point for an artist who does not currently know any attorneys and wants to do some research on who to further pursue. In addition, an attorney with similar clients may also have already established connections and relationships with other artists or companies you’d like to work with, which can work to your advantage.

7. Price

Attorneys have different billing rates that are usually based on their experience and number of years in practice. Some attorneys only bill hourly and/or require retainers (upfront payments of estimated fees), while some will also charge a flat fee or take a percentage of your income or a deal. Ask the attorney for his or her rates and fee structure. Take serious consideration of what the attorney quotes you and whether you can afford it. Attorney services can be expensive, but it’s important that you pay your attorney for his or her work as he or she has invested time and skill in completing tasks on your behalf, even if that task is answering questions over the telephone. Legal advice is not free; your attorney is providing you a service based on many years of training, knowledge, and experience.

8. Location

Attorneys are licensed by state, so you want to be cognizant of whether the attorney is licensed in your home state, as licensing restrictions may prevent an out-of-state attorney from completing tasks on your behalf or may require the involvement of another attorney licensed in your state, which can mean added fees for you.

While a lot of correspondence with your attorney can often be done over telephone and email, you may also want to make sure the attorney’s office is in a convenient location if you have to travel to his or her office.

Now that you’re aware of what to look for in an attorney, you might wonder where to find one. Next time, I will discuss how to find potential attorneys as well as options for musicians who need legal services but are not quite ready to add an attorney to their teams.

This post first appeared on Sonicbids.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. This article does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

Erin M. Jacobson is a practicing music attorney, experienced deal negotiator, and seasoned advisor of intellectual property rights. Her clients range from Grammy and Emmy Award winners to independent artists, record labels, music publishers, and production companies. Ms. Jacobson also owns and oversees all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection offering template contracts, consultations, and other services designed to meet the unique needs of independent musicians.

 

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Interview with Michael Eames of PEN Music Group

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Categories: Business, Music, Music Industry, Music Industry Interviews, Music Publishing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m happy that the first post of 2014 is an interview with Michael Eames, President of PEN Music Group.

Michael Eames, President of PEN Music Group

Michael Eames, President of PEN Music Group

Founded in 1994, PEN is a full-service independent music publishing company with a worldwide presence who is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2014.  PEN offers efficiency and personal attention as a boutique company.  With PEN’s A-list music contacts in film, TV and advertising, and a success rate that continues to grow (with 100+ placements each year), it is an effective alternative to the large multinational publishing companies.  PEN has formed strategic partnerships with several record labels to leverage collective strengths and has joint ventures with other respected companies.  PEN’s songs have also been recorded by artists including The Black Eyed Peas, Celine Dion, the cast of GLEE, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, kd lang, Santana, Christina Aguilera, Corinne Bailey Rae, Faith Hill, Paulina Rubio, Macy Gray, Kenny Rogers and Luther Vandross, among countless others.

 

1.  Describe a typical day at the office.

I am not sure there is a truly “typical” day which is why I like being a publisher.  But generally for me the office day starts at 8:00 am after I drop my son off at middle school.  Then the day for me will typically involve all of the following in no particular order:
– responding to emails from Europe or overseas that came in overnight
– seeking approvals from clients for requests for use of their music that we receive
– tackling some sort of software programming with our state-of-the-art copyright and royalty system called CORE so that I can continue to try to make our administrative processes as efficient as possible
– pitching our music to any needs or searches that we get (and we can sometimes get as many as 5 a day)
– seeking out new clients and business opportunities via either online research or reaching out to lawyers and business managers about their clients that may be looking for deals
– responding to inquiries from existing clients who have questions or needs
– meeting either individually or as a group with our staff so that we can keep focused on all the items that need to be done, both on the administrative side and the creative side.

 

2.  What is your favorite part of your job?

 

Even though we have been placing music in film/TV/ads for our entire 20 year existence (since 1994), nothing beats the email that we receive when someone says they want to license something and need a quote, etc.  You then feel all the effort is worthwhile and you can’t wait to let the client know that a use may happen.  And since things sometimes fall out in the mix, the ultimate satisfaction is tuning into TV and hearing our music and or in a film in a theater, etc.  There’s a sense of pride in knowing that that use would not have happened without our efforts and it’s a great feeling.

 

3.  What are some projects that you are currently working on that you can discuss?  

 

Since 2014 is PEN Music Group’s 20th anniversary, a lot of the projects these days are internal projects that we are doing to acknowledge and capitalize on the anniversary.  For example, in late January 2014 we are going to launch Phase 1 of our new website that we have been working on for a year.  There will be a few phases after this initial rollout, but we’re looking forward to getting this out there.  We are also always planning and refining our CORE software that handles all our copyright and royalties so that we can handle as much volume as possible with as little human interaction as possible.  This Spring we are also launching our web-based pitching system which completely integrates with CORE.  This will enable us to only have to enter certain data on a song once and then all that data gets pushed out to our pitching system so that as long as we have access to a browser on a laptop or mobile device, we will be able to search our catalogue of music and create pitches that we can send to music users who are in need of music for their projects and then we can track who streams what, who downloaded what, and generally see how the outside world is interacting with the music that we assemble and pitch.

 

4.  What do you think are the most important issues facing songwriters and publishers at this time?
I think the overall topic that we must address is the constant fight to devalue music.  And that fight is both with external forces as well as internal ones.  Let me explain.  First, it is clear we are moving towards a streaming-based world.  And fast.  Right now the streaming rates are crap, especially given that there seems to be more and more evidence that streaming is displacing sales that have historically given us our mechanical royalties.  We must work together as content owners as well as with the digital services to structure rates that are fair and that allow digital services to flourish.  I fear it is going to get a bit worse before it gets better, but I think ultimately this is going to be a lucrative world but it’s one in which music must be properly compensated for.  On the internal side, especially in the world of synchronization, there is a constant erosion of fees.  And this is partly due to some artists and publishers continuing to allow their music to be used for lesser and lesser fees for the increased broad media rights that producers need these days.  This is a tough one – because if you say no, there are probably 10 other companies right behind you who will allow their music to be used and you want the use to happen as opposed to not happen.  But sometimes you just have to take a stand and explain how your music is worth more than what is being offered and you can’t allow it to be used except for a fair price.  Every time you allow your music to be used for free or practically free, another content producer goes off thinking for their next project that they don’t need a big music budget because they can always get music for free or next to free.  This is a losing battle and if we are to maintain (or maybe even increase!) the value of music, we must think carefully now about what our individual and collective actions are doing to the perception of music’s value.

 

5.  Everyone is now on the “placement” train, where they think the only viable way to make money is to get placements in TV and film.  Do you agree with this?  

 

Generally speaking I do agree with this.  But I think it depends on what kind of artist and songwriter you are.  Albums aren’t selling what they used to so everyone is looking at synch to make up the difference (see previous answer directly above).  And the synch world can still be a lucrative area, especially in ads and trailers where the fees are still higher generally than uses in TV and film projects.  TV uses are also in many ways the only “radio” that many artists receive these days given the corporate dominance in mainstream radio programming.  A successful TV show using your music can mean 10 million+ people hearing your song in one night.  That kind of exposure can’t be beat, especially if it’s a placement where you can actually hear the song as opposed to it just being background in a bar for example under dialogue where no one will hear it.  But successful touring artists can still make a lot of money off their music and never get a placement.  I talk to the indie artists about the concept of the “superfan” – strive to find, develop and maintain a direct artist-fan relationship with 1,000 people who love what you do so much that through the year they will spend $100 on you (whether that be in CD sales or digital downloads, tickets to a show, merchandise, etc.).  If you can do that, that’s $100,000 a year and you are successful at music and you’ve been able to do that with just 1,000 people and no placements.  It can be done.  And then there are some artists that are just synch-focused and they work hard and make a good living.  It can be done a number of different ways, but either way it takes commitment and a dedicated work ethic.

 

6.  What other avenues are still profitable for publishers and writers?

 

Other than the placement world, I think everyone is looking to YouTube to be a new frontier of sorts in generating income.  And you can generate a lot of income on YouTube but it takes a LOT of views to have a decent financial impact.  We are in a visual world now – any artist who wants a fighting chance should plan on making videos of their songs – whether they are gimmicky videos that go viral or not.  It’s all about getting the exposure.  But once you can get it (however you do it and it can be done outside of the major label paradigm), it’s how you use it and manage it that will determine your financial success.  As mentioned before, successful touring artists sell records still and that generates mechanical income.  It all feeds upon itself – the trick is figuring out where an artist or songwriter will first connect and then you take that and run with it.

 

7.  What types of deals are mostly being offered now among the independent publishers?

 

I think generally speaking the deals fall into 1 of 3 types: 1) the placement/licensing deal; 2) the admin deal; and 3) the co-publishing deal.  Regarding the placement/licensing deal, as the name implies this deal’s main focus is synch.  The publisher generally doesn’t get involved in any aspect of the writer/artist other than synch.  This can be a way for a publisher and artist to develop an initial working relationship to scope each other out.  But one word of caution to the artist is non-exclusive deals that get offered that involve re-titling the songs.  This is increasingly being frowned upon for a variety of reasons, so consider deals of this nature that are offered very carefully.  Then there’s the admin deal.  In this scenario, the writer/artist owns everything 100% still and the publisher takes on the administrative and hopefully creative responsibility to make things happen for the artist.  The more things that happen, the more income is earned for both parties.  Then lastly there’s the co-pub deal.  In these deals the publisher and the writer/artist split the publishing 50/50 and this deal generally involves some sort of upfront financial payment or investment in the writer/artist.  This is the highest level of commitment and as long as you feel you have the right partner who believes in what you are doing, this deal structure can work out well.  It all depends on what you as the writer/artist feels comfortable with.  Meet lots of publishers and go with who you feel “gets you” and who is offering what you feel is a fair deal.

 

8.  What is an independent publishing company looking for when considering signing a new artist?

 

Speaking for us as PEN Music Group, we are looking for great music in genres that we don’t have much of.  We don’t like to take on too many artists of the same genre where they will be cannibalizing each other in the opportunities we bring to them.  But it has to be music that we all connect and react to.  This is sometimes hard to put into words – it’s just a gut feeling.  But you know it’s good when you hear it.  Then we want to spend the time getting others to hear the music since we feel they will like it.  We are also looking for writer/artists who know how much hard work is involved in this career and don’t expect that if we take them on we will do all the work for them.  No one will ever work as hard for what they do as they should.  And if we see someone who is smart and organized and business savvy on top of being creatively unique, then we know we have something.

 

9.  Is there any criteria an artist/writer needs to have to even be considered for a deal?

 

Existing income and activity is always nice, but in the end it comes down to the music.  It has to be great music.  If we don’t react to it, then we won’t fight for it.  It’s all about commitment.  If they have committed to doing the best music possible and that shows, then we will want to get involved whether there is any existing income or not.  Because at that point we believe we can generate the income.

 

Thanks to Michael for this very informative interview.   Learn more about PEN Music Group here.

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5 Music Companies That Will Disappear Within 5 Years

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Categories: Business, Digital Distribution, Music Industry, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Paul Reskinoff predicts that Pandora, one major label, Spotify, Live Nation, and MySpace will all be just a memory within the next five years.  Why?  According to Reskinoff, Pandora does not have a sustainable business model and its founder Tim Westergren has been liquidating his available shares.  The major label model continues to crumble in the digital age; Spotify and Live Nation have been continually losing money, and MySpace has lost its relevance.  Keep a watch on these companies to see if Reskinoff’s predictions become realities.

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Interview with Carl Caprioglio of The Oglio Entertainment Group, Inc.

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Categories: Business, Crowd Funding, Management, Music, Music Industry, Music Industry Interviews, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today’s interview is with Carl Caprioglio of The Oglio Entertainment Group, Inc., a great independent record label that is a lot more than just a record label.

Oglio 20th Anniversary LogoNow in its 20th year, Oglio achieved worldwide recognition as a successful niche marketer of entertainment products. Oglio releases have received acclaim and significant sales success including a Billboard Top 50 hit benefiting the Make A Wish Foundation, and projects with Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Cyndi Lauper, Robby Krieger (Doors), Ray Manzarek (Doors), Nerf Herder, Parry Gripp, Kool Keith, Ultramagnetic MCs, Rob Schneider, Jackie Martling (Howard Stern Show), Andy Dick, Craig Gass, and George Lopez. Oglio’s growth has been significant enough to earn a position on Inc. Magazine’s 1998 listing of the 500 fastest growing companies in America. In 2013, Oglio extended into the management space with the launch of “Manage It Comedy” – a service designed to help the working comic manage their business. Manage It Comedy helps comedians release their merchandise to market, build a web presence and use social media to market themselves.

1.     Describe a typical day at the office.

One of the great things about being in the entertainment business is that there is not typical day. That said, I do have a bit of a routine that starts with attacking my email in box and checking all the regular social media sites for my artists’ activities. Once I have a handle on the mayhem that has ensued since the last time I checked those places, I write up my daily priorities on one of my office white boards and get to work. My office is in Torrance, a bit of a drive from the media centers of Los Angeles, so I try to set up a lunch meeting or two each week. My workday ends with more email and project development from home after dinner.

2.     What is your favorite part of your job?

To quote the great Hannibal Smith from the A-Team – “I love it when a plan comes together.” Whether it is a record that goes from concept to release or a licensing deal or a new direction for my business, the most satisfying part of my job is that feeling of that success when it comes to fruition. It really isn’t tied to money (although that helps) but it is more about that great rush of satisfaction.

3.     What are some projects that you are currently working on that you can discuss?  

On the record side we have two new releases – one from the metal bash-up band Beatallica that combines the sounds of Metallica and The Beatles and the other from comedian Craig Gass of Howard Stern Show fame. They are wildly different projects but both are personal favorites.

Recently my attention has been moving toward artist management. Over the years a few of the artists on my label have asked me about managing them, but I liked the label side and didn’t pursue it at the time. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the interaction with the artists and bringing that interaction to another level seems like a natural move. I can provide the bigger picture help they need and still handle the label side if needed. It seems like a logical move and I use much of the same skillset that have developed over the last 20 years in business.

4.     What do you think are the most important issues facing labels and artists at this time?

Top of the list has to be the idea that music should be free and that both artists and labels can make up the income by selling t-shirts or touring. As a label owner and a friend to artists, I’ve had many discussions about how “fans” find a justification for stealing music. Despite the perception that labels and artists were caught off guard, we could see this train coming, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do much about it. For me I simply underestimated people’s willingness to steal and the ease of which they justify their actions.

5.     What do you think is the most profitable area of the music industry for independent artists today?

For your typical independent artist, I’m going to go with the new broad definition of “merch.” Merch (short for “merchandise”) now encompasses music, t-shirts, hats, hoodies, iPhone cases, tote bags, jewelry, USB drives and anything else you can put on your merch table or sell on your website. At one time the music part of the merch table was controlled by the labels but now that control is back with the artist in most cases. My favorite merch items are USB drives in fun shapes that artists can load up with not only their music but also videos, art and even a recording of the show from that very night. One of my artists, MC Lars, sells a small metal USB robot loaded with the music, videos and art from his album “This Gigantic Robot Kills” and it is a best seller for him on the road.

6.     What other avenues are still profitable for artists?

I see PledgeMusic and Kickstarter as great avenues for artists with a fan base that can be mobilized. I have seen PledgeMusic and Kickstarter album campaigns that have raised substantially more than the actual recording costs. The extra revenue goes right into the pockets of the artists and the artists then have the ability to sell their music for 100% profit from the release date forward. This is a very powerful tool available to artists that have a following.

7.     What types of deals are mostly being offered now among the independent labels?

In 1999, Oglio started offering “profit split” deals to artists that brought us recordings ready to be released. At the time it was a very unusual proposal but we felt that the partnership feel made for a more positive and collaborative working relationship. We treated our artists like business associates and we set our plans based on our mutual goals. Those deals worked well for both sides and Oglio was able to work with some legendary artists that would not have normally been interested in an independent label. I see those joint venture deals becoming more and more popular as artists have more control and labels look for ways to mitigate the risk involved in recording costs.

8.     What is an independent label looking for when considering signing a new artist?  Is there any criteria an artist needs to have to even be considered for a deal?

At Oglio it starts with the music. We have to feel strongly about the music itself and also its commercial potential. Every artist feels that their music is fantastic but the point where we often disagree is what we can offer as a label and still make a profit on the project. If the artist doesn’t have a fan base, touring history and traction, it just might be too soon for a label to get involved. We often turn down artists with the suggestion to self release and play live shows while they gain the momentum we would need to get involved.

Thanks so much to Carl for some very insightful comments.  To learn more about Oglio, visit www.oglio.com.

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