Read the article here.
Read the article here.
I appeared on TAXI TV yesterday discussing YouTube payments, royalty free music, cover records, and more!
Here’s the replay of the show:
Thanks to Michael Laskow of TAXI Music for having me on the show!
By: Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.
This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.
When a song has millions of streams on Spotify and views on YouTube, most people think “Wow, that artist must be making a ton of money!” It’s easy to make that assumption when music superstars are seen on television wearing designer clothing and leaving the hottest nightclubs in town, only to drive away in their Bentley to charter a private plane to their yacht.
What most people don’t realize is that the above is 1) often an image, 2) accessible to only a small number of music creators within the music business, and 3) there are songwriters who wrote those hit songs and the music publishers that represent those songwriters who are earning a mere $10 per 1 million Pandora streams.
Here’s how the structure works. A songwriter writes a composition, which is usually owned or co-owned by a music publisher, a company that handles the management, exploitation and royalty collection for that composition. The music publisher and songwriter split the income from that composition. The main royalties paid for a composition are mechanical royalties for the reproduction of that composition on CDs and via digital means on iTunes and streaming services, and performance royalties paid when a composition is performed in public. Synchronization fees come into play when a composition is used in television or film, but that is a negotiated contract fee separate from a royalty.
While performance royalties have recently been in dispute, this article focuses on mechanical royalties. Mechanical rates are set by the United States government, specifically by a panel of judges called the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). The CRB determines the royalty rates paid to songwriters and music publishers for every sale of a composition via CD or digital service like iTunes, as well as every time that composition is streamed on services like Spotify, Pandora, etc. The current mechanical rates are 9.1¢ for a sale (split by the music publisher and the songwriter), and streaming mechanicals are fractions of a cent per play.
This month, the CRB has opened hearings to set new mechanical royalty rates, which will be in effect from 2018 through 2022. The CRB will hear testimony from both music creators and music users and will make its decision in December 2017.
While this trial may not be hot news for anyone outside of the music industry, it will determine the amount of money music creators can earn for the next five years.
The music users’ side includes representatives from digital giants like Google, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon and Apple. These companies are lobbying to further decrease the royalties paid to music creators. For example, Apple wants to pay a flat fee of 9.1¢ per every 100 streams on Apple Music. Companies like Google, Amazon and Apple make billions of dollars per year, and Spotify and Pandora are not profitable but have billions invested in them, yet not one of these companies is willing to allocate more money towards the people that create the music on which they have built their businesses. It is also worth noting that not only have these companies built their business models on music but also are using music to promote their services, such as Amazon using free music streaming to sell Prime subscriptions.
The National Music Publisher’s Association (NMPA) and Nashville Songwriter’s Association (NSAI) are representing music publishers and songwriters at the CRB hearings. “[Tech companies are] creating new ways to distribute music [and] they are also fighting in this trial to pay as little to songwriters for the songs that drive their businesses,” wrote David Israelite, president and CEO of NMPA in a letter to songwriters. “[A] rate structure that allows global tech companies to build their empires on the backs of songwriters, without providing those songwriters with fair compensation, is unsustainable.”
The NMPA has issued an open letter to the digital giant companies, urging them to work with songwriters and music publishers instead of fighting against them. The letter is accompanied by a petition, which has already received over 7,800 signatures.
As I have previously written, the music industry will continue to wither without fair compensation to its creators and those that represent them. Creators of music are not all rich superstars. They are regular people with amazing talents to create music that impacts lives around the world. They are people with families and mortgages and bills to pay. They may not work a 9-5 office job, but that doesn’t make them different than the average American, who earns money from a job, and why shouldn’t songwriters and their representatives earn as well?
*This article does not constitute legal advice.
Erin M. Jacobson is a music attorney whose clients include Grammy and Emmy Award winners, legacy clients and catalogs, songwriters, music publishers, record labels, and independent artists and companies. She is based in Los Angeles where she handles a wide variety of music agreements and negotiations, in addition to owning and overseeing all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection.
All music starts with a composition, which is one of the reasons why I love the area of music publishing. Despite the low streaming rates, there is still a lot of activity and money to be made on the publishing side of music. Whether you are a writer signing with a music publisher, or you self-publish your own music, here are the some typical music publishing contracts:
A Songwriter Agreement usually involves a writer transferring 100% of the copyrights to the song(s) in your catalogue and/or written during the term to a music publisher and a 50/50 income split between the publisher and the writer. While these were some of the most common agreements 60 years ago and are still used today, they aren’t entered into as often because many writers value owning their content more in today’s music market.
A Co-Publishing Agreement is very common today and involves a writer transferring 50% of the copyrights to the song(s) to the music publishers and an income split of 75/25 where 75% goes to the writer and 25% goes to the publisher.
An Administration Agreement is also very popular today and involves no copyright transfer—the publisher administers (handles licenses, tracks royalties, etc.) without owning copyright. This agreement includes a 90/10 income split where 90% goes to the writer and 10% goes to the publisher as a fee for doing the administration.
A Songwriter Split Agreement is something that always needs to be completed when co-writing songs with others. It is essential to minimize disputes between co-writers, but is also usually required by publishing companies, whether you are your own publisher, administer for co-writers or other unrelated writers, or are signed as a writer to a music publishing company. A Songwriter Split Agreement can be custom drafted, or one can use a template from Indie Artist Resource.
Many “placement houses” or “pitching companies” that have traditionally just focused on pitching music for placement in TV and film are now getting into the publishing game. The copyright transfer and income splits tend to vary on these deals, and I have seen a lot of them called “Co-Publishing Agreements” that really do not follow the traditional co-publishing model. These can get tricky because of term variations as well as retitling and other practices.
Music publishing is one of the most complicated areas of the music business and as you may have gleaned from this article, the associated agreements and principles can get extremely complicated. Any artists/writers should have an experienced music attorney draft their music publishing agreements agreements for them if they are administering their own publishing or publishing for others. An experienced music attorney is also invaluable to review and negotiate any publishing agreements or licenses presented writers, as an experienced music attorney knows what the terms and custom and practice should be, as well as has the training to catch problems or unfair clauses that writers may miss.
I regularly draft, review, and negotiate all of these types of agreements, so please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can handle one or more of these agreements on your behalf.
If you are interested in starting your own music publishing company and administering your own publishing or publishing for other writers, download Erin’s video on Protecting and Profiting from Your Original Music where she explains:
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.
The Department of Justice has recently come to a decision regarding the review of the 1941 consent decrees that regulate the license fees and operations of ASCAP and BMI. Because ASCAP and BMI are non-profit organizations, they are subject to government-regulated consent decrees, meaning the government regulates ASCAP and BMI’s license fees and regulates how they operate in order to prevent monopolization and encourage competition. When ASCAP and BMI cannot settle on a equivalent fees, the dispute is taken to a rate court where the fee is settled. There have been massive lobbying efforts on the part of the music industry to reform these consent decrees and update them to the needs of writers and publishers in the Internet age.
A review of these decrees opened in 2014 in order to modernize the decrees so that they were more applicable to the ever-changing and evolving music industry – an industry where music is vastly consumed through Internet and streaming services. The goal of the modernization was to bring royalty rates up to fair market value and for the ability of music publishers to remove digital licensing from blanket licensing in order to earn more money from online music and digital streams. Much to the music community’s dismay, no changes were made to the consent decrees and the DOJ has also declared the implementation of full work licensing, also known as 100% licensing, which will end the current practice of fractional licensing that has occurred in the industry for decades.
Under the practice of 100% licensing, any person with a percentage of ownership of the work has the right to license 100% of the work, not just the percent owned. Even a 1% owner of a composition can now license 100% of the work without consent from the other co-owners, and is responsible to account to the other co-owners for their share of the payment. This creates problems because it enables music users to shop for the lowest price between owners and will make it harder for music owners to get paid due to frequent lack of communication between co-owners. It also disrupts the effective system of fractional licensing, a system that has helped insure that owners receive equal income shares and rights.
The other aspect of the DOJ’s decision removes the option for music publishers and composition owners to do direct deals with digital and other service providers, while still allowing PROs to collect other aspects of performance income. Now, music publishers have to choose to be “all-in” or “all-out” with the PROs, allowing PROs to collect all performance royalties on their behalf or none. This will wreak havoc by further complicating the licenses needed by music users, complicated the tracking of performances from these users, and disrupting the income flow that would otherwise be collected by the PRO’s.
The DOJ’s decision will cause drastic decreases in the income streams for music creators. It not only affects the PRO’s themselves but also the thousands of music publishers, writers, companies, and foreign performance societies that hold business with these societies and rely on these rates. Not only does the ruling further cripple the already narrowing income streams for music creators, but it also inhibits the industry from growing and progressing within the digital age, and prevents streaming from becoming a financially viable method of music consumption.
So what can you do? As a music consumer, you can #valuemusic and pay for any music you listen to. If you own an establishment that uses music, make sure you are paying what licenses you can so the music owners and creators are fairly compensated. Everyone can go to standwithsongwriters.org and write to your congressional representative as well as sign up to get updates on this issue and how to stay involved in supporting this much needed reform in valuing music.
I became a music attorney because I am passionate about protecting and advocating for the rights of my clients — the creators and owners of musical works. Contact me to protect your rights.
In case you didn’t read the whole article I just posted and you’d rather watch me explain it to you – here are the videos!
Part 1: Songwriter Split Agreements
Part 2: Producer Agreements
Part 3: Band Agreements
On November 7, 2015, I spoke at the TAXI Music Road Rally on music library contracts.
I began the session by explaining the most important and common deal points in music library contracts, and then discussed specific contract clauses and wrapped up by answering questions from the audience.
Many songwriters and composers came up to me after the session to tell me how helpful the session was for them. I am so grateful I was able to be of service to them!
Here are a couple photos from the event: