As an entertainment attorney who was once an indie artist myself involved in a few different artistic disciplines, I know that the bridge between law and art doesn’t always seem straightforward. There’s certainly a lot of gray area, which could lead a person to probably think that the law would be one way, when it isn’t. Through my work, I’ve frequently encountered several myths regarding music law that I hope can eventually go away! While there are much more than 4, I found that these were especially common:
1. “A poor man’s” copyright is a “poor” way to properly protect the rights to your music.
Emailing or snail-mailing yourself a copy of your music (or other creative work) is what many people refer to as a so-called “poor-man’s” copyright. Let’s get this clear once and for all: the “poor man’s copyright” has never been a part of the US copyright law, nor is it recognized by law. It’s simply not a substitute for copyright registration in any way. Your copyrights actually arise when your original creative works are placed in a fixed format, such as when you record original music, or when you write down original lyrics on paper. By taking the step of timely registering your copyrights with the government (within 3 months of publication), you gain a host of great benefits. Perhaps the best benefit of timely registration is the ability to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit for $750 - $150,000.00 + attorney fees per act of infringement via statutory damages. By putting your trust in the “poor-man’s” copyright for your music, it might literally leave you “poor.”
2. There is no “50 second,” “5 second,” “8 bar,” or “1 bar” rule to being able to legally sample music you don’t own or control the rights to.
Another common myth echoed across the indie music scene is that there is a “50 second,” “5 second,” “8 bar,” or “1 bar” rule that permits you to legally sample music you don’t own or control into your own music creations. This is a very dangerous myth that needs to go away. When you sample any portion of someone’s music without proper authorization, it gives rise to a valid cause of action for copyright violation. The owner has every right to sue you, and if they did the right thing by timely registering their copyrights, then you could get hit with a pretty severe lawsuit money-wise. If you want to obtain the rights to sample music properly, you have to clear the rights to the music composition copyright, and if you want to use the sound recording, then the sound recording copyright has to get cleared as well.
As for the concept of “fair use,” it’s a defense that is used as a shield, not a sword to copyright infringement, and it’s a pretty difficult defense to prove in court. Sampling under fair use must be for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Further, the court will also weigh the following four factors to evaluate whether there was an actual fair use: (1) Purpose & character of the use – was it for profit or non profit and educational? (2) Whether the work been published already? (3) The amount and substantiality used; and (4) The harm done to the original copyright owner.
Long story short – don’t sample without securing the rights. More often than not, music sampling by musicians is not protected by fair use, and even if it is, you still have to pay to defend your argument in court. Your best bet: create your own original music.
3. Even if you don’t plan on selling your music/mixtapes with uncleared samples, and you just distribute them online/offline for free, it’s still copyright infringement.
Your copyright (both at common law and under federal registration) gives you as the copyright owner 6 exclusive rights – a bundle of rights if you will. Those being: (1) The exclusive right to reproduce your work; (2) The exclusive right to distribute your work; (3) The exclusive right to perform your work; (4) The exclusive right to display your work; (5) the exclusive right to make derivatives of your work; (6) The exclusive right to digitally transmit your work. While some artists might not make a fuss or even bother to contact you if they see that you used an uncleared mashup/mixtape /sampled song or master recording from their music being shared by you for free, they absolutely have every right to prevent you from doing so, and to enforce their rights. Whether its shared for free physically or online, the law is that only the copyright owner has the right to reproduce, distribute, and make derivatives of their music.
4. Securing a license to record a cover song doesn’t automatically give you the right to make and distribute a music video of your cover.
A cover license give you the right to make, reproduce, and distribute a certain amount of mechanical reproductions of music (i.e. reproductions via digital, CD, vinyl, etc. –whatever is specified in the license). While this may seem odd to lay people, a cover license doesn’t give you concurrent rights to make a music video of your cover. The right to do so is an entirely separate license called a synchronization license which you need to obtain from the copyright owner. Hence, if you’re goal is to record and distribute a cover song with an accompanying music video, you’ll need a mechanical license and a synchronization license as well.
Source: Hypebot (by Mita Carriman)
Soundhalo is a brand new service for taking live concert video recordings and transforming them into mixed single song videos for immediate sale. It’s an interesting hybrid that’s currently being offered as an Android app that allows purchases during the live show. DRM-free concert files are then available for viewing on any device. Sounds like a potential winner on impulse buys if Soundhalo can pull off some formidable challenges.
Soundhalo launched in beta at a performance late last week by Alt-J. People reviewing the technology seem impressed.
Chris Welch, writing for The Verge, described the process:
“Minutes after a song’s conclusion, a production team pairs video with audio pulled directly from the soundboard. Everything’s properly mastered before the final product is uploaded to the cloud, so you won’t have to worry about dealing with a harsh audio mix.”
My understanding is that audio/video will be provided via the band and venue. Soundhalo will quickly turn the individual videos around and fans can preview the videos via their smartphones and decide to purchase them individually.
Alt-J’s songs went for around $1.50 each with the whole 16-song set being purchased for $9.00. Apparently the service automatically provides the whole set when you purchase enough individual tracks to cover the full-set price.
Nick Hide at CNET UK had some concerns about the scalability of Soundhalo:
“‘The Soundhalo production team take video and audio feeds directly from the venue,’ the startup explains, ‘and utilizing the fastest broadcast connectivity, delivers those files to the Soundhalo studio where mixing, mastering and grading take place by the expert ears and eyes of world class mastering engineers.’”
Without some kind of algorithmic solution, making each individual track quickly available seems really difficult. And the mobile app description does make it sound quick:
“Soundhalo is an evolutionary new platform that allows music lovers to buy, share and own artist endorsed live video and audio recordings as it happens. Fans can now purchase and download the actual performance as it unfolds, whether they are at the gig or on the other side of the globe.”
The focus on a mobile app is interesting given that you then download DRM-free MP4 files that can be viewed on any device. And you don’t even have to be at the show if you have the app.
Soundhalo is launching with an emphasis on being closely tied to individual shows and the possiblity of impulse buys during the show.
Beyond that it’s a live video production and digital sales platform accessible via an Android app. So that emphasis makes quick turnaround particularly important in making the whole thing work. If they can pull that off, Soundhalo potentially becomes quite powerful.
Source: Hypebot (by Clyde Smith)
A few weeks ago, YouTube released a creators guide for musicians who use YouTube—detailing best practices and techniques for musicians using the service. The 40 page guide holds much common knowledge, but a few gems of wisdom stuck out. Below are a few key points they made, that you shouldn’t miss.
Source: Music Think Tank (by Jesse Cannon)
Here is a very informative video from The Needle Drop which goes into great explanation of the basics of how to spread your music. This ten minute video can be a great reminder of some basics of what you may be missing in the promotion of your music, so take note!
For independent artists, YouTube can be one of the most powerful platforms available for promotion and exposure. Of course, it is also one of the most difficult platforms to garner any significant growth and attention.
This challenge was no different for 23 year old hip-hip artist, and Brooklyn native Rob Scott.
As his manager, it was my job to figure out how to bring his dream to fruition. Without any assistance from record labels, we began to effectively use YouTube as a platform to get Rob Scott noticed.
Within the first couple of months, it was painful to notice that his long nights in the studio would only result in his songs receiving 11 views. To make matters worst, the 11 views I am speaking about came from the friends and family that was in the studio with him.
Initially, we would post his YouTube link all over people’s Facebook pages until we realized that spamming individuals was probably not the best way to gain true fans. We then decided that garnering views organically is the best possible solution. Today, he has accumulated over 235,000 channel views and has acquired more than 1, 400 YouTube subscribers.
Some may wonder how so?
Below are 6 strategies that we used to organically build Rob Scott’s Youtube channel from desolate to highly-trafficked:
At one point, Scott would upload a video at least once a week. During one week we would upload a song with a cover art and a couple weeks later we would upload a music video for that same song.
It is important to break down your material to get the most out of it. What I mean by that is, if you have a music video that you are planning to release, put out behind the scenes footage for that video, put out the song before you put out the video, or put out a snippet before you even release the song.
Now you have three pieces of content all based around that one record.
The more things you have to release, the easier it is to follow the rule of frequency. Evidently, it is almost impossible to acquire a great amount of views if you post a video once a year.
There have been several rare cases such as the Harlem Shake video going viral without the use of “frequency”, but I would not recommend depending on pure luck.
With Rob Scott, we created a schedule and began creating on a regular basis.
Another step that Rob Scott implemented to reach his amount of views was re-doing songs that were already popular.
Trey Songs released a song entitled “Can’t Be Friends” three years ago that gained a lot of commercial attention. While the song was still at its peak, Scott decided to re-do the song over with his own words and then shoot a music video for it.
Because viewers would search for the original Trey Songs version and see Scott’s rendition, it gave him a better chance of being viewed by some of the fans of that particular record. To date, Rob Scott’s rendition has over 90,000 views on YouTube and is still growing daily.
How much does Spotify pay artists? It’s the biggest mystery in music. One independent artist claims to have received a measly $0.004 per stream. There was a rumor that Lady Gaga only earned $162 from a million streams. Even indie band Grizzly Bear chimed in to express their displeasure with the alleged slave wages of Spotify declaring that they only received $0.001 per stream. Some have even taken to restricting their music from the service altogether. Is it really that bad? are the payments that low?
In an interview with Hypebot D.A. Wallach, lead vocalist & songwriter in Chester French who works with Spotify as their “Artist in Residence.”, had this to say:
…We make money in two ways. We make money through advertising to free users, who have access to Spotify only on computer. The service is interrupted by ads, and the functionality is a lot like YouTube. There is no mobile option for free ad-supported users, either. Second, we generate revenue from selling subscriptions. In the U.S., a subscription is $120 a year. In the U.K. it is ₤120 a year, and in the E.U, it is €120 a year.
We aggregate all of this revenue from these two streams, and distribute back 70% in royalties based on a pro rata share in accordance with the popularity of a piece of music. For example, if one of your songs has been streamed 1% of the total number of streams in a month, you will get 1% of the 70% of royalties we pay out to rights holders.
According to D.A Wallach in order for anyone to calculate what artists earn from Spotify, in say a month, a few numbers are needed.
Spotify’s revenue for the month
Amount of dollars Spotify pays out to rights holders
Combined number of streams
Their number of streams
Percentage of overall streams a song accounts for
Being that Spotify is a private company, we don’t have access to their revenue figures so here’s my hypothetical scenario based on real numbers that Spotify has released to the public. According to PrivCo, in 2011 Spotify generated 244 million dollars in revenue. In 2011 Spotify released U.S figures that showed there were over 13 billion songs streamed on Spotify in that year. 13 billion songs streamed doesn’t tell us how many times those 13 billion songs were streamed respectively but we’ll use that number being that that’s all we have.
$244, 000, 000/ 12 = $20,333,333 per month (Revenue for the month)
70% of 20,333,333 = $14,233,333.1 (Amount of dollars Spotify pays out to rights holders)
13,000,000,000/ 12 = 1,083,333,333.333333 per month (combined number of monthly streams)
20 streams X 100/ 1,083,333,333.333333 = 0.00000184615% (artist’s percentage of monthly streams)
0.00000184615% X 14,233,333.1 = 0.26276867902 (artist’s royalties)
0.26276867902/ 20 = $0.01313843395 (artist’s per stream royalties)
So, if an artist on Spotify received 20 streams out of 13 billion and Spotify grossed 244 million dollars, that artist would have earned a little over a penny per stream. It’s pretty safe to assume that the 13 billion songs streamed were listened to more than once and the higher the amount of total streams, the lower the amount of per stream payout for each artist. At the same time, the higher the amount of revenue generated by Spotify, the higher the amount of per stream payout per artist. In addition, Spotify doesn’t accept music submissions directly from artists. As a result artists must submit through digital distribution companies like ONErpm, CdBaby and Tunecore.
Some of these distributors charge up to 15% of sales, from what I’ve seen, and have arranged their own rates with Spotify so what an artist can earn through them varies. For instance, from music I’ve released through CDBaby on average I see $0.004 per stream after their 15% deduction. With music I’ve released through a relatively new company called ONErpm, I receive $0.007 per stream after their 15% deduction. Artists signed to a label may have arrangements that are far less favorable. Aside from the digital distribution and label fees that are deducted from your per stream payout, a 10.2% publishing fee is deducted as well. What happens to that money? Well, I’ll save that for another post.
Source: Music Think Tank (by SF)
Networking is the best way to get ahead in “the biz.” It isn’t all about sending your music to Pitchfork and blogs to hope it gets some airplay in the corners of the internet. It’s about talking to the people who matter most in your town to help each other out and to build a core fan base you can build from in the coming months.
The whole purpose of networking is to establish relationships with people who can mutually benefit by helping you out. Or, you helping them out. When you start talking to bands, bloggers, press, or super-fans in your town, the goal is to build a positive relationship with all of them so that you can help them get things like stories for the blogs/papers, more fans out to their shows, or free swag (for the fans). The only way to help your local scene grow is by being a part of it, not just expecting people to drop what they’re doing and flock to your new creative endeavor.
The first, and probably best, way to get more exposure locally is to talk to people at other bands’ shows.
Talk to the bands who are playing and congratulate them on the great job they did. Introduce yourself and ask if you can buy them a beer after the show. Just hang out. This isn’t about pushing your own shit, it’s about talking to other HUMAN BEINGS about the thing you love so much: music. Talk local music, albums, new artists, and life in general.
The goal here is to make your presence known and get to know other local bands on a personal level, not just from a distance. Knowing bands personally will open up many doors down the road.
There’s never a huge press presence at local shows unless there’s a festival going on. Nashville (the city I live in) has local music festivals a few times a year and all of the newspapers and local music magazines make a point to show up to take some photos and see who’s big at the moment.
Try to go to these festivals to at least say hey to the guys/gals that write for the magazines you’d like to get a spot in. Again, don’t pressure them when you first meet them. This stage is all about just saying hello and letting your presence be known.
The internet has done wonders for reaching out to people in a virtual world, but face-to-face communication is still the strongest way to get to know people. Make it a point to meet new people every time you’re at an event. The more people you know, the bigger your network becomes. As mentioned before, this isn’t about advertising yourself to everyone you meet. The goal is to simply meet people and as time goes on with your relationships, your own life will eventually come up.
Networking positively means talking to other people about THEMSELVES. People love to talk about their own lives, so help facilitate it and learn to be a good listener. You never know who you’ll meet!
It was towards the end of a long, cold, 2 month tour around Europe promoting my new album, just about to head to Portugal to finish off and enjoy a bit of sun. I got an email from a fan in Switzerland saying something like “Hey, check out this video, it’s pretty cool but the best part is the music ;-)”
I clicked the link and it lead me to a video on Eurosport/Yahoo Europe. The video was by Red Bull and was of a guy called Daniel Bodin doing an amazing 220ft jump on a snowmobile, from an Olympic ski ramp. The music behind it was my song “What Am I?” from my second album “The Rooftop Recordings.”
I was very flattered that they had used my music and so posted the video on all my social media sites etc. Then I found the same video on Youtube, which had already garnered an impressive 250,000 views and noticed people in the comments asking who the song was by.
Why didn’t they know who the song was by? Well because Red Bull hadn’t mentioned me in the credits, nor in the Youtube description box. I called my publisher and he knew nothing about them using the music and assured me they had not asked for permission.
That’s when it dawned on me…. Red Bull had stolen my music!!!
I had to do something about this. The video was getting thousands of views a day, had already been up a week and I needed to get some kind of promotion from all this. So I sent a mail to everyone my mailing list asking them for a favor, explaining what had happened. I asked them to go to the YouTube video and leave comments with my name and the name of the song, so at least someone who was interested in the music could find me and/or my albums.
Well they really came through for me and throughout that day around 25 comments appeared on the video thread, some very angry that Red Bull hadn’t given me credit nor paid anything. This seemed to work as Red Bull promptly put a link to my album on iTunes and my name in the video description.
This certainly helped things along as that song shot up to being my most played song on Spotify the day after and downloads from iTunes went up a lot too. BUT, just imagine how much promotion I lost from the beginning! Eurosport.. Yahoo… 250,000 YT views! Yes, Red Bull had really screwed me over good and proper.
My publisher is still in talks with IODA/Orchard about what, if any, legal action to take. They also put in a claim for the YouTube video to be monetised on our behalf… I’m still waiting to see what happens.
You can see the YouTube video here. Feel free to leave comments for Red Bull! ;-)
So what are the lessons to be learned from this little story?
1. Don’t be complacent. It’s easy to think “Aaah that won’t happen to me” and not bother copyrighting your music. Well it could happen to you and it could be a huge multinational company like Red Bull. Get your music copyrighted so you stand a flying chance of doing something about it if it does happen to you… these people have no scruples.
2. Build a loyal fan base and communicate with them. Gone are the days of the aloof rock star. Your fans are your best friends and the more you communicate with them the more they will be inclined to communicate with you. In this case this fan alerted me to something pretty damn important. Reply to their comments and questions of Facebook/Twitter etc, talk to them after shows, take time to be human and forget all that “hard to reach” rock star rubbish.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask your fans for help. This follows on from point 2 in that, once you have a good relationship with your fans then they will be more inclined to help out. Mine attacked Red Bull’s video thread and got me some well needed attention which resulted in downloads, Spotify plays and general attention for my music.
Source: Music Think Tank (by David Philips)
First and foremost, communication with your fans must come from you, the artist, in your voice. Not your manager, label, or intern. People aren’t interested in hearing generic updates from your label or agent. They want to get to know your personality, hear about your experiences. Essentially, fans want to feel like they’re on the journey of your career along with you.
Now, can updates sometimes come from your manager/label/intern? Yes, but sparingly, and it should be made clear when the updates are not coming directly from you. For example, on Facebook and Twitter, any updates coming from your management/label could be tagged with “- Team Example Artist”. Nobody else should try to “sound” like you if they’re updating your social media profiles on your behalf.
Consistency is key when it comes to engaging with your fans. You can’t post an update on Facebook one day, then disappear for several weeks to come back and find that a bunch of fans responded with questions that you never answered. People will likely stop paying attention if you don’t have a consistent presence. There are tons of distractions out there, so to truly break through the clutter, you have to be consistent. Take some time every day to check your social media profiles, respond to fans, ask questions, and start conversations.
And finally, when it comes to fan engagement, you have to sustain it over the long term. Don’t expect immediate results. It might take months of being consistent to start seeing more quality interactions with your fans, which in turn could lead to new fans, more people at your shows, and increased sales.
There are literally thousands of distractions out there for people. But if you show up every day ready to engage with your fans in some way; answering a few emails, responding on Twitter, asking questions on Facebook, and you sustain that over months, then years, you will no doubt develop a solid fan base to give yourself the best opportunity to build a sustainable career.
One extremely important thing to keep in mind when it comes to fan engagement: never leave a fan hanging. If they email you, email back. If they leave a comment on Facebook, respond, or at least “Like” it. If they reply or ask a question on Twitter, respond back. A short answer or a quick thank you can go a long way in making that fan feel special, like they’re an active part of your world.
As an artist, it really has become part of the job description to interact with your fans. And since fans now have access to an unlimited amount of music, if you leave them hanging, chances are, they can easily find an artist that won’t.
Source: Hypebot (by Dave Cool)
A lot of promo people we talk to say artists and managers often don’t know what professionals do to promote single releases. So we asked for help from some real professionals.
Then we made up an indie band with an established following and a few previous releases. We made up £5,000 ($7,650 USSD) to spend. Then we wrote this rough guide - enjoy!
* Commission single artwork, even if it’s for download only. Designer £300
* Commission artist photos. Photographer £500
TIP: “Commission nice/weird/cool COLOUR band photos, the brighter the better” David Laurie SiC Records
Start social media engagement. Digital Promotions £500 - £1,000
NOTE: Social media work continues from here up to and after release date.
* Engage PR £500 - £1,500
* Release advance copies/links to share to monthly press, for review, eg Q, Mojo, Clash, Uncut. Start with sending out a simple press release announcing the single and put the single into context, eg from an album or a stand-alone track? Will there be associated shows? PR
TIP: There are very few print outlets for singles, a couple of dozen really. It’s ALL about online for singles. David Laurie, SiC Records
NOTE: Press work continues from this point up to and after release date
TIP: “The press release needs to be straightforward and attention-grabbing “artist releases great new song/album” just isn’t enough. What’s your story? What’s special about you/the song/album and why?” Gillian, Million PR and Naked Press.
* Engage Agent 10% of gross
* Engage Radio & Video Plugger £500-£1,500
NOTE: “I would separate Radio & TV costs. Radio Promotions £1000-2000 and TV Plugger £500-1000 per release. They might be able to get it for less, but this is much more realistic of the going rates.” Prudence, Rocket PR
* Commission the official music video, the aim is to create a stand-out, remarkable video. Producer/director £2,000
TIP: “The video must be one that compels you to hit SHARE at the end, that is the idea. Not the new Bammers video but the video where the guy turns into a monkey and eats the aeroplane” David Laurie, SiC Records
TIP: “Commission the video now so it can be ready to service at least 6 weeks before release” Prudence, Rocket PR
TIP: “All video people take longer than they say to deliver, so I give at least 2 weeks ahead of my deadline as the actual deadline” David Laurie, SiC Records
* Create a lyric or packshot video, the point is have this video on the band’s YouTube channel when radio play begins ahead of release date, capturing early views and interest. Producer/director or Digital Promotions £0 - £200