By: Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.
This article was previously published on Synchtank.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring people all over the world to adjust to new daily practices for public health and safety. The pause on live events and productions has caused uncertainty and worry among many in the music community. There is still business to do, but it will require a more creative approach.
Here is a list of ways for music creators and companies to continue doing business and earning money during this uncertain time.
For Music Creators:
1. Make time for registrations. If you haven’t registered for royalty collection services, like performance rights organizations, mechanical societies, Sound Exchange, etc., you are likely missing out on royalties owed to you if your music is being used in ways that trigger these royalties (streaming, performances in audiovisual works, etc.). If you are registered with these companies, but haven’t registered your individual songs, then you are still likely missing out on royalties. Similarly, if you know your registrations are incorrect, then – you guessed it – you are likely missing out on royalties. Quarantine or not, pandemic or not, people are still streaming music, and music is still being performed on TV and online, which means music is generating royalties. When income in other areas has decreased, royalty income can be of great help. Now is the time to get caught up and get royalty income flowing in. If you need assistance with preparing these registrations, hire an experienced music industry professional to prepare and submit them.
2. Protect Yourself. If you haven’t registered your works for copyright, now is a good time to complete your applications to reap the benefits copyright registration provides. If you’ve been meaning to get contracts together with your collaborators to protect your work, now is a good time for that too. Again, if you need assistance with protecting your work in these ways, hire an experienced music attorney to handle these matters.
3. Get creative! You’ve likely got more time on your hands right now – use some of it to create new music! You might start writing for your next album, or maybe for libraries or placements. If you are worried about the current state of the world, channel that worry into your music as a healthy outlet for your stress. If you want to make a positive difference, write songs to uplift others in this uncertain time.
4. Collaborate (virtually). The beauty of technology means you can still collaborate with others during social isolation. Before computers, some songwriters would snail mail cassette tapes to each other to work on songs together over long distances. Now, you can send mp3, ProTools, or other files to each other via email or file transfer websites (or keep them in a shared cloud drive) to work with collaborators you already know. You can also use video chat programs such as Zoom or FaceTime to collaborate in real time. If you don’t have anyone to collaborate with, you can find people by using gig sites such as Airgigs.com.
5. Get social (from a distance)! Many consumers are spending more time on social media, YouTube, and apps like TikTok. Take some of your newly created works and post them to social platforms so that people staying at home have new music to enjoy. Maybe one of your songs about hope will resonate with people everywhere and gain you new fans. If you are a performing artist, you could also do live virtual performances for or virtual video chats with your fans. Fans would love the opportunity to connect with their favorite artists in a way they cannot under normal circumstances.
6. Check for aid. If you are really in dire straits, some organizations have put together funds to help the music community in this time of need. Here is a list of many national and state-based funds in the United States. Here’s a list for anyone affected in Canada, and the PRS Foundation in the UK also has a fund. Many companies, like Sony Music, also have established their own assistance funds for the music community.
For Music Companies:
As mentioned above, this is a good time to catch up on registrations, paperwork, or anything you’ve been putting off that will help bring in additional money. Not only will companies help themselves by doing this, but will also help their employees and their families, and their songwriters, composers, artists, and their families. Some companies, at least in the United States, may also be eligible for government assistance or deferment of payroll taxes, and should check with their financial advisors for options.
Keep business going as much as possible.
- Do business virtually as much as possible. Set up employees to work from home if work-from-home practices have not already been established.
- For publishers that usually set up co-writing sessions for writers, don’t stop the sessions, set up virtual co-writing sessions for them instead.
- For companies needing cuts, keep sending songs to producers and artists to record at a future time.
- Set up online showcases for songwriters and artists (I’ve already been invited to a few of these virtual showcases by established music companies).
- For licensing companies or publishers who seek out placements, keep sending music to music supervisors, as it is likely that supervisors may still be looking for music to use for productions currently on hold, and can thereby make their choices and complete the licensing paperwork in advance.
- Licensing companies and publishers can also keep building catalogue by signing new writers and composers. Not only will this practice make for a more robust catalogue for placements once films and show resume production, but it will also boost morale and provide hope to music creators during this period.
- Companies can also focus on projects that may not require in-person productions, for example, many game developers may be working from home so new games will need music. Maybe there are new online shows or virtual shows that need music.
- Get creative with who might need music in a virtual world and how to get it to them.
For everyone, follow the CDC guidelines and keep yourself and those around you safe by staying home except for essentials, practicing social distancing when you do have to go out, and washing your hands well and often. You need to stay healthy to continue business. Also, focus on hope. Although we don’t know exactly when, this will pass and the music industry will survive.
Stay safe and be well.
This article does not constitute legal (or medical) advice. Any advertisement is general in nature and not directed toward any particular person.