A friend of ours, who prefers not to be named, attended the Cape May Singer/Songwriter Conference in New Jersey last week-end. He summarized some very interesting pointers discussed by industry professionals at the meeting and sent them our way.
Yesterday’s post was about how bands could manage their promotional efforts through Publicity and Press. Today will be about how they should Protect their Music when engaging in publishing and licensing deals.
Protecting your music
The differences between a publisher and a licenser are this:
- A licenser just sells for you, basically throws everything at everyone and sees what sticks. Usually doesn’t negotiate high (low-balling as part of the seeing what sticks) and CAN be a good way to break into the scene, but overall is less connected to you and your art, and you would probably not make a living off it. I believe the split is in the area of 70/30 (you get the 70). Licensed music sales are a one-time paid fee to use your art and are not affected by the success of the film they appear in.
- A publisher is part of the ownership and is solidly vested in seeing it succeed. The usual split on royalties is 50/50, but the negotiated price is usually much higher than the licensed sale. Publishers are also more detailed in contracts, so if your music ends up in an indie film that becomes a 300mil blockbuster, you would benefit from the success by the way of sales-volume royalties; it would be built into a publisher’s contract with the film-makers.
A note on Supervisors
Many musicians and singer/songwriters choose to license their art for use in film and TV. The folks inside the TV/film studio who choose and propose the sounds/music for scenes are “supervisors“. Supervisors are also, and more importantly responsible for all legal issues pertaining to the music. They have to worry about the bassist who quit the band 3 years ago, that claims he contributed to the song in the movie. For this reason alone, they tend to stick with mid-level (no start-ups) libraries and publishers with solid reputations, who can deliver ‘clean’ material to them with no legal tie-ups.
What you should think about protecting
For the artist, this means that these publishers will expect you to “have your sh*t together” (discussed in the publicity & press section), by owning the copyrights, not only of the original music, but to the masters. Apparently, the music you wrote and it’s copyright belong to you, but the master recordings are the creation of the studio, and everyone in that studio who contributed to that project. You MUST protect yourself, get an entertainment lawyer and have contracts drawn that give you exclusive ownership of the masters. No studio should have an issue with that, and some of the less reputable ones might fight you on signing such a contract (they will want their piece of the pie), but they really have no justification for expecting such. Protect yourself.
During your studio time you should as the engineer to create the following:
- Master recordings (complete mastered songs)
- All vocal tracks with just vocals and FX.
- All instrumental tracks without FX added.
Publishers will be more likely to sign you on if you have those, and if there are any contributions to the songwriting, just make sure your entertainment lawyer draws up a 50/50 (or other ratio) contract for dual copywright ownership. No supervisor or publisher will want to touch your art without full ownership details (it’s ok to have dual or more people as contributors, so long as it’s all contracted).
A note on contractual exclusiveness
There are exclusivity and non-exclusivity contracts you can sign with publishers. Exclusivity will get you a better relationship and more visibility with your publisher, and he/she will in turn promote you more to the supervisors than if you are non-exclusive to him/her. Non-exclusive contracts can also be valuable, but generally they are less rewarding. Exclusive contracts are much harder to get, simply because the publishers are careful about who they get behind. Your art has to be top notch, and you have to have a consistent relationship with them.
In summary, there really aren’t right and wrong ways to approach the publishing models, but what’s necessary to get started is solid songwriting, a full catalog (50-100 songs), positive and consistent relationships with publishers, licensers, and writers, critics, sound techs, and obviously – other musicians. The best way to do most of it is to attend conferences and meet these people. They offer mentoring, advice, critiques, seminars, and generally are very helpful and approachable.