Copyrights and Music Makers

the_birches.jpgI was hoping to start looking into new Ableton Live betas, but they seem to have broken their nice tradition to release something each summer. I should write more about Live, in general. Meanwhile, here’s a series about music and money — it’s good to see where we all are heading. I would expect any musician at some point would like to be compensated for some of their work, not that releasing free music is nice, anyway.

This just posted article is a good summary of the oddnesses with the performance fees here in USA concerning radio versus net streaming. Basically, radio performances will not generate any royalties to the performer, only to the composer. The concept is that radio play is PR for the artists. Most of us would argue that those times are over by now with the advent of Internet.

It’s indeed time this is changing. In the electronic music world, it’s not that common to have separate composers and performers, usually it’s the same person or band. Anyway, I think the more clear trend is that the labels will have less and less to operate with concerning the royalties from performances. Another reason why big labels are in big trouble, as their business models were based on selling plastic platters and trying to sneak in with contract issues related to publishing rights.

What could you do just now? Well, to start with, if you create music, join any of the royalty companies, BMI and ASCAP are the big companies here in USA, and each country in Europe has their own specific royalty groups. There are some rules, but usually it’s something like that the person or band should have N songs available for public consumption. And remember, MySpace entries should also count.

The reason I recommend this is that these big royalty companies are the ones that will take care of all the lobbying, politics, administration and so on. It’s easier to let them handle it, than you get specialized in royalty legal issues, that might even differ from country to country.

It’s hard to know how much you could earn, but in some European countries radio play could generate more money than you expected.

I’m a member of BMI, as long time ago I liked their online registration system, but ASCAP is also good and they also have online registration now, Frank Zappa belonged to ASCAP, for example. Usually it does not cost anything to belong to these groups, but it could take some effort to justify that you are a performer with published material. You also need to show your social security number, tax id, and similar things.

After this you need to be very diligent and register any of your compositions on the service. Just now, at least with BMI, it asks for basic info such as title, artist, and additional info about the released product, length of time, and so on. Usually it takes me about 3-5 minutes to fill in the needed information.

As a result your song will also get a so called ISWC song identification id that are sometimes used with download services, and might play an even bigger role with future net-driven royalties and so on. Note, this is different from the ISRC id which is a track-based ID system, and usually the ISRC number ranges are provided to record labels, but anyone who has a label should get access to your private range.

One Comment:

  1. I don’t blame the NAB for fighting to keep this exemption. It is a gift. Their argument that radio sells records is a double edged sword. Many other media help to sell records also, should they be exempt? Radio earns about $17 billion in ad revenues from playing music. Recorded music sales are about $12 billion. Who is getting the better deal?

    Check out the Ad-Supported Music Central blog:
    http://ad-supported-music.blogspot.com/

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