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Key Clauses in Management Agreements Part 2: Commissions

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Categories: Articles, Business, Law, Management, Music, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

erin m jacobson, erin jacobson, management commissions, management agreement, contract, music attorney, music lawyer, los angelesIn a recent article I explained the term of a management agreement, and in this article I’ll discuss management commissions; arguably the other most important clause of a management agreement.

The commission is the amount of money the artist will pay the manager under the contract. This is usually done as a percentage of the artist’s gross income. Standard percentages are usually 15-20%, with 15% being more common than 20%.  I have seen the percentages range from 10-25%, but with both extremes requiring special circumstances. Some more creative deals featuring other percentages have also crossed my desk, but again, these deals require other career aspects or services not typically included in management deals.

Aside from the percentage, it is important to know if the commission is being taken on gross or net income, and what gross or net income actually includes. Management agreements in the music industry typically have a list of exclusions on gross income that are specific to aspects of an artist’s career in the music business. This is different than management agreements in other areas of entertainment and in my experience, not all attorneys (even music attorneys) know what to exclude. It is also important to note when, if any, the manager is able to share in other income aside from the main commission.

It is also common for managers to take a commission after the term of the agreement has ended – and I’ll cover that in the next article on management agreements.

Contact me now to draft or review your management agreement.

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New Video: How Much Do Artists Earn from Spotify?

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Categories: Royalties, Streaming, Videos, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I talk about the numbers.

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Is It Ever Worth It to Give Up Copyright Ownership of Your Songs? A Music Lawyer Explains.

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Categories: Articles, Business, Copyright, Legal Issues, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ESQ-givingupownershipRetaining ownership of the copyrights may be one of the most important decisions in an artist or writer’s music career. The person who owns the copyrights is the one with the control over how those works are used and also the one entitled to the money earned from those uses.  However, sometimes holding on too tightly to copyright ownership may prevent an artist or writer from taking advantage of opportunities to grow his or her career. The age-old adage that sometimes you have to give a little to get a little is true, but one needs to look at the opportunity cost and decide if giving something in a specific situation is worth what will potentially be gained.

Here are a few instances when giving up copyright ownership may be permissible.

1.  When it will make you a lot of money.

I’m not suggesting one should sell out just for a hefty paycheck, as sometimes dollar signs can’t substitute for artistic integrity.  I’ve also seen a lot of deals (especially in music library situations) where an artist or writer is being offered just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in exchange for full or partial copyright ownership of a song that is really valuable to the artist or writer’s catalogue and career.  In this instance, such a small amount of money may not be worth the control and potential revenues lost later if the song does well in the marketplace.

On the other hand, I have some clients that write consistently and don’t care about giving up ownership as long these songs will churn out money, especially for placements.  They feel they can always write another song and are more concerned with making their music earn money for them over crafting songs to define their careers.

2.  When it will give you opportunities you wouldn’t get otherwise.

This is a situation where working with a certain company, or in many cases a certain producer, will be able to propel an artist’s career forward and help that artist achieve notoriety that wouldn’t be achieved otherwise.  As mentioned, a typical example of this is working with a big producer who is considered to be a hit-maker in the industry.  Often these producers don’t even co-write on the compositions, but granting them a percentage of songwriting ownership is mandatory for being able to work with them. After all, one could retain 100% of a song that most people will never hear, or one could give up 20% and have the song hit top ten, make a lot of money, garner name recognition, and bring the artist more opportunities than the artist would have gotten otherwise. In this case, it seems like a small trade-off and can be used as a means to an end – one might have to give up some ownership in the beginning of a career, but that could lead to a level of status in the industry where one can retain ownership and call the shots on future projects.

3.  When it is in line with your goals.

A new artist seeking a label deal, especially a major label deal, will not own their masters.  An up-and-coming writer wanting a publishing deal will have to give up all or part of songwriter ownership.  This is what comes with the territory of growing one’s career via the traditional industry structures.  It also makes sense from a business standpoint because a label or a publisher is not going to invest time and money into an artist or writer without getting something in return , and part of their return on investment is ownership of intellectual property.

However, if an artist has a vision of making a living off of music in a completely DIY structure, or that the freedom of complete control is more important than working with others more established in the industry, then sharing ownership might not be the right choice.

Longevity and sustainability in the music business, especially in its current state, comes with catalogue ownership.   Giving up ownership comes with some loss of control, but that loss of control may lead to notoriety and other opportunities putting one in a position of control higher than would have ever been achieved otherwise.

Whether to give up copyright ownership is a big decision, and it is one that should be discussed with the artist’s advisors. The choice right for one artist may not be right for another.  The decision will come down to what is right for each artist’s career.

If you need help deciding whether to give up copyright ownership in a deal you’ve been offered, book a consultation now.

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.

This article was previously published on Sonicbids.com.

 

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Key Clauses in Management Agreements Part 1: Term

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Categories: Articles, Management, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Management Agreement Term Length The Music Industry Lawyer Attorney Erin M JacobsonThe artist-manager relationship is one of the most important relationships in an artist’s career. The manager has to “get” the artist and the artist’s artistic vision, but also needs to have the knowledge on how to translate that vision into something that will generate mass appeal and profits. The manager also has to have the business acumen and connections to generate opportunities for the artist so that his or her career can grow. An artist needs to be able to trust the manager, feeling that not only is the manager knowledgeable, connected, and in tune with the artist’s essence, but also that the manager is at all times acting in the artist’s best interests instead of serving the manager’s own needs.

Management agreements have several important aspects that need attention and often, negotiation.

The first of these aspects is the term of the management agreement. I explained what a contract term generally means here, and for purposes of this article the “term” will refer to the length of the relationship. Traditionally, management agreements have a term between three and five years. Managers typically would want four or five years because, as they often argue, it takes a long time to create the momentum needed for an artist to really start seeing success. From a manager’s perspective, this can be true and also gives the manager the opportunity to still be representing that artist when success comes; that way the manager can receive a full commission rate at the artist’s higher income level instead of earning a percentage of the low (or no) revenues artists usually earn at the start of their careers.

On the other side of this, artists usually want to sign with a manager for the shortest amount of time possible, which allows the artist to get out of the deal faster if the manager is not delivering on promises or things just aren’t working out. There is almost nothing worse for an artist than being stuck in a bad deal that hinders the artist’s career by blocking potential opportunities while the artist waits for the deal to end.

These days I have been seeing even shorter terms on management deals, often one or two year initial terms with at least one option period attached. Both parties really need at least a year to get enough momentum going to start seeing some increased success, but it seems the management deal is following the trend of all deals in the music business by shortening terms to try to reduce risk.

What people tend to forget when thinking about the length of an artist-manager relationship is that terms can always be renewed. If the contract term length is on the shorter side, the parties can always renew the agreement at the end of the term if they still desire to work together. The parties don’t have to part ways just because a piece of paper set a time limit at some point in the past. On the other hand, if the parties feel it is time to move on, they have the freedom to do that knowing they gave it a fair chance during the time period they originally allotted.

Part 2 of this series will cover management commissions.

Contact Erin now to draft, review, or negotiate your management agreement.

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New Interview on The GenY Success Show

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Categories: Interview, Music, Music Industry Interviews, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M Jacobson music attorney lawyer authority expert networking

I recently did an interview on the The Gen Y Success Show and this has been one of my favorite interviews!  It’s a little different than some of my interviews because it’s not about the music business — this interview is about my path in becoming a music attorney, my love of music (and a few examples of my favorite bands and concerts),  my tips on how to network effectively, and more!

“…[Erin Jacobson] established herself as an authority, not only as a lawyer, but within the music industry itself.”  ~ Jason D. Bay, host of the GenY Success Show

Listen here:  The Gen Y Success Show (Online / iTunes)

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February Music Business and Legal Roundup

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

cowgirl, lasso, roundup

Image via freeimages.com

 

It’s February and there’s definitely been some legal activity in the music business this month.

First, check out my most recent articles if you haven’t already:

In other news:

And here are my favorite Grammy moments:

  • Bonnie Raitt’s cool and calm confidence as she walked out the Grammy stage and proceeded to own the stage during “The Thrill is Gone.”
  • Demi Lovato’s awesome performance of “Hello” in honor of Lionel Richie.

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A little press from USC

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Categories: Business, Speaking, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin Jacobson music attorney music lawyer los angeles randy jackson american idol

USC Music Career Night Panel: Left to Right: Guitarist Brady Cohan, music lawyer Erin Jacobson, producer and moderator Randy Jackson, flutist Gina Luciani, and agent Kevin Korn. (Photo/Tiffany Yu)

 

As previously posted, I participated in a panel at USC’s Thornton School of Music.  Thornton has done an article about the event, which you can read by clicking here.

Also, here is one of my Tweetable quotes from the night:

“If you’re networking just to get something, you’re doing it wrong.” 

Erin Jacobson music lawyer music attorney networking

 

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How Do You Prove That Someone Stole Your Song?

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Categories: Articles, Copyright, Infringement, Law, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

copyrightAllrightsreserved620

Image via hivesociety.com

A lot of musicians email me claiming they have great cases for copyright infringement. Copyright infringement does happen, but there are more people who think they have a case than those who actually do. (Please note that I am not a litigator and the below explanation is only a general overview of the basic principles in a copyright infringement suit. Actual cases may include nuances not discussed in this article.)

In order to sue for copyright infringement, you must have your work’s copyright registered with the United States Copyright Office. You can register your works yourself (the online registration fee is about $35), but I recommend an attorney like me or a service like Indie Artist Resource to file the registration for you, as some of the questions and principles covered in the application can be confusing.

Keep in mind that under copyright law, two similar works can be created independently of each other without infringement. For example, two independent musicians on opposite sides of the country could create original and copyrightable songs that sound very similar to each other, without knowing each other or ever hearing each other’s music. After all, there are only so many notes and chords that can be played.

However, if you do feel someone has actually infringed your music, you will have to prove that you have a valid copyright and your work was sufficiently original to warrant the validity of that copyright. Next, you will have to show that the alleged infringer copied your work. The analysis for infringement involves examining these three areas:

1. Direct copying
Here, you would have to show that the accused infringer directly copied the first work when creating his subsequent work. There is often no way to show direct copying, so the courts will instead look at the next two areas described below.

2. Access
When direct copying cannot be proven, courts will often infer that copying occurred if it is shown that the accused infringer had access to the allegedly infringed composition. This can be proven by showing that someone had direct access to your work, such as if you gave a copy of the song directly to the alleged infringer, or gave it to someone who had access to that person, like a producer or label executive.

Access can also be shown if the prior work is widely disseminated, such as a famous hit played on the radio and well known by the public. Here’s an example of how access was surprisingly proven in a real case: In Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd.,[1] George Harrison’s song “My Sweet Lord” was deemed to infringe on the song “He’s So Fine” recorded by The Chiffons in 1962.[2] The court didn’t require actual proof that Harrison had heard “He’s So Fine” before; it relied on the fact that “He’s So Fine” had the top position on the Billboard charts in the U.S. for five weeks and hit No. 12 in England in 1963[3] – coincidentally at the same time The Beatles were becoming famous.[4]

The court concluded that Harrison unconsciously plagiarized “He’s So Fine” when he composed “My Sweet Lord” because “his subconscious knew [the musical combination of notes] had worked in a song his conscious mind did not remember.”[5] The court went on to further conclude that it did not believe Harrison deliberately copied the song,[6] but ruled against him anyway because access to “He’s So Fine” was assumed due to its fame and the two songs had enough similarities to satisfy the court.[7]

Therefore, if you have written a song, but it is not well known by others and you have not given it to someone where you can show a direct connection to the person who supposedly copied your song, you don’t have a case. It’s not enough to write and record a song that only a small number of people have heard, and then try to file a lawsuit when something shows up on the radio that you think sounds similar, when in reality you have no proof to show the other person even knew of your song.

3. Substantial similarity
The third analysis looks at the similarities, if any, between the two songs. If the degree of access to the first song is high, the amount of proof required to show similarity between the two songs will be lower than if there was not easy access to the first song.

Here, a court will look objectively at which parts of the first song were allegedly copied, such as the melody, lyrics, etc. A court will also look at the subjective opinion of lay listeners, which is basically whether the average person would think the two songs sounded the same or similar enough when listening to them both.

This point in the analysis is where many people argue that it is supposedly acceptable to copy three notes of an existing composition or sample three seconds or less of an existing recording without infringing copyright. In fact, there are no such rules allowing this practice. Infringement is infringement.

If you have looked at the facts and can truly show that someone has either directly copied your song or has had access to your song, and their song is very similar to yours, then you will need to contact an entertainment/copyright litigator to discuss the potential merits of your case. Keep in mind that these lawyers do expect to get paid for their services, although there are a few who may be willing to take important cases on a contingency. Check with the lawyer on his or her practices.

Footnotes:
[1] Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd., 420 F. Supp. 177 (1976).
[2] Id.
[3] Id. at 179.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 180.
[6] Id. at 181.
[7] Id.

This post was originally published at 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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Musicians: If You Haven’t Registered With These 4 Services, You’re Missing Out on Your Money

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Categories: Music Industry, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There are several potential musician income streams that you’ll unfortunately never see if you don’t set yourself up to collect them. More established musicians have the same responsibility, but often have representatives taking care of these procedures for them, whereas independent musicians have to oversee royalty collection themselves. This means that many independent musicians are losing out on money they could otherwise be collecting because they either fail to register their songs properly, or they haven’t registered at all with the appropriate agencies that collect and pay out these royalties.

Are you properly registered with these four services? If not, you’re probably missing out on money you deserve!

Note: This article only focuses on royalty streams within the United States. It does not discuss international royalty streams.

1. Performing rights organizations

Performing rights organizations (PROs) collect performance royalties, which are royalties paid when musical compositions (not sound recordings) are played on terrestrial radio, digital radio, streamed online, heard on television, played in a live performance, or played in a public place like a bar or restaurant. If you aren’t registered properly or at all with a PRO, you won’t be getting paid for any of these uses of your music.

The three performance rights organizations in the United States are ASCAPBMI, and SESAC. ASCAP and BMI allow any songwriter to join, whereas SESAC requires a songwriter to be invited to join.

Songwriters need to register in three ways for a complete registration: as a writer, as a publisher, and for the individual compositions. Before elaborating on the necessities of registration, it’s important to note that performance royalties owed for a particular person’s contribution to a composition are split 50/50 between the writer and the publisher, known as the “writer’s share” and the “publisher’s share” respectively.

  • Writer: Every songwriter needs to register as a writer with a PRO in order to get paid the “writer’s share” of performance royalties, which is paid directly to the writer from the PRO. Writers can only register with one PRO at a time (not all three), although if you aren’t happy with your chosen PRO, there’s usually an opportunity to change your affiliation at a later date.
  • Publisher: If you aren’t signed with a music publisher, then you’re actually your own publisher, and you need to also register as such with the same performance rights organization to which you are registered as a writer in order to get paid the “publisher’s share” of performance royalties, which is paid by the PRO to the publisher of the composition. If you’re a songwriter who’s already signed with a publisher, you may not need to register as a publisher depending on your type of publishing deal.
  • Individual compositions: You have to register each individual composition that you write with your PRO. If you don’t register your compositions, your PRO will not pay performance royalties on those compositions because those compositions won’t be in the PRO’s database, and the PRO won’t know who’s supposed to be paid for those compositions.

2. SoundExchange

When it comes to copyrights and the practice of the music business, sound recordings are treated separately from musical compositions. In the United States, there’s currently only a performance royalty for sound recordings for digital performances, which are for uses like satellite radio and internet streaming. Registering for SoundExchange is free and will make sure you are receiving royalties when your recordings are streamed or otherwise digitally performed. As with compositions, it’s imperative that you register your individual sound recordings so that the recordings and the payment designee can both be recognized.

3. Harry Fox Agency

The Harry Fox Agency collects mechanical royalties, which are the royalties paid from the owner of the sound recording to the owner of the composition for the privilege of reproducing the composition onto the master recording. For physical CD sales and digital downloads, this is a statutory rate (i.e., set by the government) and is currently set at 9.1 cents for compositions lasting five minutes or less. There are also mechanical royalties paid for various online interactive streaming and subscription service uses (think Spotify) as well as mechanicals for ringtones, and the rates for these uses depend on the type of use.

If you’re a self-released artist who doesn’t write with anyone else, you’ll essentially be paying sales and download mechanical royalties to yourself, but it’s still important to register with Harry Fox to collect the other mechanical payments. If you have a relationship with a label or anyone else releasing your music (including co-writers where a song you contributed to as a writer appears on other artists’ albums), registration is important to collect all mechanical payments. If you don’t register and you aren’t diligent about collecting your mechanical royalties yourself, you’ll be missing out on income that could add up over time.

4. YouTube

The YouTube revenue system is slightly complicated, but it basically comes down to monetizing your videos by allowing YouTube to show ads before your video starts, and then you share in the revenue generated from those ads. The more views you get, the more the ad is seen, and the more money you make. For most people, the amount earned here might be minimal, but like finding change in the couch cushions, every little bit helps.

 

If you need assistance with signing up for these services, contact a music lawyer or use a service like Indie Artist Resource. Signing up for these services is the basic start to getting your music career set up correctly. Don’t lose easy money — it could pay back big time down the road.

 

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.

 

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.

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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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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