Overview of Contracts Seminar

Heads up! Georgia Lawyers for the Arts is hosting a seminar on overview of contracts for artists on Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 7:30pm-8:30pm at their building: King Plow Arts Center, Suite J-101, 887 W. Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318.

This is a free class, so if you’re a little confused on how to understand an entertainment contract, this is the perfect opportunity to gain some knowledge. The Georgia Lawyers for the Arts is a non profit organization created in 1975 that has provided legal assistance, free of charge, to musicians, songwriters, photographers, sculptors, dancers, filmmakers, painters, actors and artists from many other disciplines who would not otherwise be able to afford legal representation and counseling respecting their rights and interests in their works.

Collaborating on Film

If you are interested in placing your music with television or film projects, GMIA (Georgia Music Industry Association) is sponsoring what should be a very interesting seminar: “Collaboration Between Musicians and Independent Filmmakers.” It’s coming up tomorrow night, Tuesday, March 19, 7:00pm, at SAE Institute. Free to GMIA members and first time guests. Just $10 to everyone else. Hope to see you there!

http://www.gmia.org/up-coming-events/

An Interview with SoundExchange

I’ve mentioned this organization before, but it’s worth repeating.  If you have music that is being played over the internet, or you are interested in pod casting music over the internet, you need to know about SoundExchange. They are the entity authorized by congress to collect royalties for internet streaming and make payments to recording artists and owners of the master recordings.

Gino Robair of Mix Magazine conducted an interview with Michael Huppe, president of SoundExchange, and asked the questions that you are probably wondering about yourself. The entire interview is here.

In addition, if you’re curious as to how much is paid, you can check out the rates on the SoundExchange site.

NSAI: Ones To Watch

Congratulations to songwriters Tom Bohn, Bill Robbins, and Tony Annunziata on being recognized as “Ones To Watch” as part of the Nashville Songwriters Association’s E.A.R.S. (Evaluation, Awards & Recognition System) program!  The NSAI has many opportunities for writers to improve their craft and it’s great to see these talented Atlanta writers getting their due peer recognition.

 

Predicting Effect

A few weeks back I read an article on the sudden disappearance of much of the ice in Greenland.  I wondered what could be the cause. I’m sure there are teams of scientists investigating this right now.  The nice thing about investigating a cause is that the effect is known. With good research, a cause can probably be accurately determined.  It is much more difficult to predict the effect of a cause unless it has happened before.

With every new musical release we create a ’cause.’  We don’t really know what the effect will be.  Record labels use focus groups to grapple with this problem.  They will get a representative group or groups of people together and let them listen to the music that is up for release.  The companies running these sessions have prepared questionnaires and guidelines that help determine what demographic the record company should aim for in marketing the music.  These kinds of groups are valuable in that they help reduce the marketing costs involved in promoting a recording, and help target a potential fanbase for the artist.

Until now, that kind of research has been prohibitively expensive for the independent artist.

Sure, there are places you can get your music reviewed by a professional critic, and for the people who frequent those blogs or online magazines, this can be a source of validation.  But that is a professional reviewer, not the average unbiased listener.

There are social outlets and contests you can join to have your song rated highly.  This usually involves contacting your network of friends and requesting that they vote repeatedly for your song.  The only ones benefitting in the end from this is the hosting website, who gets all of those extra eyeballs for their advertising purposes.

One of my clients recently sent me a review of one of his songs that cost him around $40. It was a comprehensive report that was broken down by sex (male/female) and also into three age groups (16-24, 25-34, 35-44)  weighted toward the younger demographic.

It began with an overall market potential for a single overall market, in this case ‘rock.’  Following that was the ‘track rating’ and ‘passion rating.’  Then for comparison, three songs by established artists with similar ratings were listed along with a ‘play’ button to audition the tracks.

The ratings were then illustrated by pie and stack charts, showing the breakdown of the sample group by age and gender, and a 1-10 scale of how well the track was liked which was distributed by the number of people who voted that way.  It also showed a scatter graph of how the track would fare against 1,000 other tracks in that genre of music.

Next it did a breakdown of the language used in the reviews of the track, listing the most talked about elements of the track and a sound cloud with the most often used words shown in the largest fonts.

After that, selected individual reviews (over 40 of them) were listed, identified only by the age group of the reviewer. These ranged from very knowledgeable and articulate opinions to ‘not the style of music I normally listen to, but…’

What an awesome tool!  In his case, I believe he got the picture that the ‘rock’ track he presented was perceived as more of a ‘country’ track by this sampling of the public as of this date, and that his target demo was age 35-44 with a surprisingly strong following by the younger demo as well. This sure beats just going with your gut, taking years to understand who is going to be affected by your music.

So there is now an affordable tool for anyone who is serious about releasing their music to the public, building a fan base, and being closer to the target with their marketing.  I almost forgot.. the name of this company is SoundOut.  Be sure to check out what they have to offer.  I think it’s a real deal.

 

The New Retitle Publishing Approach

A friend and cowriter of mine recently sent me a link to a site that was interested in pitching our song for film and television.  All well and good.  But this proposition had a twist:

  • They would give our song a new title
  • They would have ownership rights to the retitled version
  • We would keep all rights to our original title

In every other respect, this was a standard publishing contract.

Why would a company do that?

The publishing industry has changed dramatically in the digital era. The two largest sources of income for published songs are broadcast performance royalties (radio, television) and film and television licenses (synchronization fees).  It’s practically impossible to crack this field as an individual.  Given the wide range of musical material needed for film cues, you have to have a large library of music in all styles in order to compete.  So in addition to the usual large traditional exclusive publishing  companies going after this business, there are also companies that employ member crowdsourcing (TAXI) and still others that troll searchable sound sites like Soundclick to quickly build up a catalog of material by working out retitle deals with the owners of the music.

In our case, I thought it was a win-win for everybody.  Our song had been written for a specific movie use and was not selected.  We had nowhere else to pitch it, so it sat dormant for a year.  The way this deal was structured left us free to continue to pitch our original title any way we wished, AND we had the benefit of the alternate title being actively pitched by a publishing company with film contacts.

As I did more research, I discovered that there are some drawbacks.

Because the content is identical, and only the ‘wrapper’ changes, it means in effect that the retitle publishing company does not have exclusive rights to the song.  As a matter of fact, we could find another retitle publisher and work out a similar deal, giving us our original and two retitled versions pitched by two different companies.  This can create confusion and ownership questions when the film company receives the same song with two different titles from two different companies at two different licensing rates.

Another area of concern is automatic song identification.  ASCAP and BMI have both employed ‘fingerprinting’ services that can identify a title by its sonic characteristics, reducing  the need for broadcast station playlists and streamlining the logging process.  This is extensively used for song identification with streaming internet radio.  If you have your original version recorded and released for airplay at the same time your retitled version becomes popular from inclusion in a film, who gets the airplay royalties?

Also, consider the possibility of future interest from a traditional exclusive publisher.  They would not be interested in signing a song that already exists in the marketplace under a different title.

Lastly, why retitle the song when there is the option of placing it with a company that does in effect the same thing (pitch the title to film and television) but they don’t retitle the song and there is no long term contract (musicsupervisor.com).

So it’s a mixed bag.  Retitling makes sense if:

  • Your song has not been previously released
  • You are not actively pitching the song
  • You don’t have the option of placing it with an exclusive publisher
  • You don’t have the option of placing it with a licensing company that doesn’t retitle
  • You sign it to only one non-exclusive retitle publisher
  • You are comfortable with the fact that the retitled version, if successfully placed, will be the version of the song that will be recognized and identified, not the original

If you do decide to pursue a retitle publishing deal, remember that this IS a  publishing contract.  As with any publishing deal, you’ll want to make sure you agree on the money splits, that there is some kind of reversion term where you get the song back after a period of time if no placement is secured, and that the publisher is someone you feel comfortable about staying in contact with since you have, in effect, entered into a partnership agreement.

Research links:

http://pumpaudio.com/
http://halfnotemusic.net/
http://www.musicsupervisor.com/got-music/#how_it_works
http://www.filmmusicmag.com/?p=3574
http://pmamusic.com/pma/?p=222

Access THIS…

Before there were recordings, there was live performance and sheet music.  In order to hear your favorite piece of music, you had to either show up at a public concert where it was being played, or learn how to play the notes.

When radio broadcasts became available, you could listen for hours until you heard your favorite song being played.

In the days of records, you could purchase a recording and play it in your home any time you liked.

When the cassette recorder came out, you could personally tape record your favorite individual songs either from your records, your friends’ records, or off the radio, and play them on your home stereo, your car player or battery powered portable player.  Freedom at last!

CD’s became just a high tech version of the LP until the CD recorder came out.  Then it became a high tech version of the cassette recorder.

And now the internet turned our favorite song into 1’s and 0’s that we could share with our friends in a data stream, wherever they may live.

Concurrent with that is the history of audio data storage.  LPs were 1/8” thick and 12”x12” square.  Cassettes were smaller but thicker.  CD’s in jewel cases are about ¼” thick and about 5.25” square. MP3 files have no physical dimension, but they take up digital storage space as measured in megabytes – about 1MB per minute of music.

Who wants to devote an entire room to a collection of 1,000 LPs, cassettes or CDs?  Maybe you can devote an entire hard drive to your music collection, but you wouldn’t have access to it while you’re at work.  Maybe you can put some of it on your MP3 player, but you wouldn’t have it all.  That’s where the cloud comes in.

The cloud is nothing more than a huge cluster of computers to which you are granted access.

And so our model of recorded music is shifting from ownership to access. We, the media consumer, want everything all the time, because it’s now possible.  The control of access is where the money is. You pay Comcast every month for access to hundreds of channels that you don’t watch because that’s the only way they sell it to you. You pay Netflix every month for access to thousands of movies that you don’t watch because it’s cheaper than one night at the local movie theater.  By the same token, every now and then you stumble on something cool while channel surfing and become a fan, or you’ll read a movie synopsis presented by the Netflix “Because you liked this..” algorithm and decide to watch it instantly.

In our field, the big three access models are Pandora, Grooveshark, and Spotify.  Each allows you to join for free, provided you don’t mind the ads.

Pandora is built on the old radio station idea, where you build a channel based on the style of your favorite artist.  You’ll hear the artist about one in every ten songs, but you’ll hear a variety of music and musicians that have similar styles.

Grooveshark is a personal playlist engine.  You do the work of finding the songs and create your own playlists.  The site will present you with suggestions of similar artists.

Spotify incorporates both ideas.  You can listen as your own custom radio channel, build your own playlists, use playlists generated by other users, or any combination thereof.  In addition, by default it shares what you are playing to your Facebook or other social network friends so that they can see what you’re listening to. If you don’t want to share, you can set your session to be private.  Also, you can use music found on your desktop or mobile device in your playlists and access it anywhere.

None of these applications take up much room on your desktop or your mobile phone.  The music you stream comes from the worldwide cluster of computers in the cloud, not your personal and limited storage.  You are free to stumble upon as much new and interesting music as you like, provided that it is available on the service – which is why I write this.

If you’re not represented on a streaming service, it’s time to think about it.  Each service is interested in both signed and unsigned artists.  You may have to go through a middle man ‘aggregator’ like CD Baby or Tunecore.  You probably won’t make much money.  But you will be represented, people will have a chance to discover you, and you can make some money.

The requirements for each service can be found in the following links:

Pandora  |  Grooveshark  |  Spotify

Moby In The Morning – New CD

I’m sorry that there was a newsletter omission about a new CD album release.  Radio personality (and newly elected Country Music Hall of Fame DJ legend) Moby in The Morning released a new gospel CD last December: God’s Golden Gift of Grace. The album was tracked, mixed and produced here with the help of Tommy Dodd on steel guitar. There are some pretty unique arrangements of traditional gospel songs here, and if you’re a Moby fan, you’ll definitely want to get it.