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Tag Archives: music publishing

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Erin M. Jacobson elected to the California Copyright Conference Board of Directors

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Categories: Copyright, Music Industry, Press, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am pleased to announce that I have been elected to the Board of Directors of the California Copyright Conference.

The California Copyright Conference is a longstanding organization of music industry professionals focusing on copyright and other industry issues.  I am honored to have been chosen by my colleagues for this position.

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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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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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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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How to Protect Your Music and Avoid Legal Pitfalls

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Categories: Business, Copyright, Infringement, Law, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Record Labels, Royalties, Trademark, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed for My Music Masterclass about how musicians can protect their music, avoid some common legal pitfalls, and more.  The video is available for a temporary stream or permanent download HERE.

My Music Masterclass is a fantastic website where users can view exclusive masterclass sessions with the top touring musicians and industry professionals.  (Registration required and there is a small fee for the streams and downloads.)

You can view a preview of the full video below.  This video is packed with a lot of information and I hope it helps artists to further understand and take control of their careers.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me so I can help you to protect your music and grow your career.

Stream or download the full video here!

This preview video is also available on YouTube – please like, comment, and share it!  (Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.)

The information contained in this video and any linked resource is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice by Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. or My Music Masterclass. The content is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. This video is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you should not act or rely on any information in this video without seeking the advice of an attorney.   YOUR USE OF THIS INFORMATION IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. YOU ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY AND RISK OF LOSS RESULTING FROM THE USE OF THIS INFORMATION. ERIN M. JACOBSON, ESQ. AND/OR MY MUSIC MASTERCLASS WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER RELATING TO THE USE OF THIS INFORMATION.

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Gershwin Heirs Sue Warner Music

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Categories: Legal Disputes, Music Industry, Record Labels, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , ,

In breaking news today, George Gershwin’s heirs are suing Warner Music for $15 million.  According to the article, the Gershwin estate conducted an audit of Warner in 2007 and found fault with Warner’s licensing and registration practices in regards to the Gershwin catalog.  The full article gives an example from the suit complaint as to how various commissions were taken off the top by foreign agents.

These types of issues come up often.  A good attorney will know to build certain precautions into the contract language to limit many of these commissions and make sure you have adequate audit rights.  Audits are expensive, but they can often be worth it by revealing accounting discrepancies and getting artists the money they are due.

If you are considering signing a contract involving payments and royalties, make sure you have a music or entertainment attorney review it carefully and keep tabs on the companies!  Contact me if you need assistance with a matter like this.

 

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