Breaking Down Copyrights In Music

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. Justin is an entertainment and media attorney for The Jacobson Firm, P.C. in New York City. He also runs Label 55 and teaches music business at the Institute of Audio Research.]

 

We have previously explored the reasons to register a copyright and the procedures to effectuate it. In this article, we will explore copyright law as it specifically relates to the music industry to ensure the proper exploitation and monetization of an artist’s finished song.

For a work to be copyrightable, it must be original and fixed in a tangible form, such as a sound recording fixed on a CD, MP3 or other digital sound recording file format such as a WAV file. Some examples of copyrightable material that are common in a musician’s career are the actual song recordings, the lyrics and underlying musical composition, music videos or other audio-visual works, photographs, logos or other visual materials and any biography, website or other unique textual information the artist creates.

In particular, copyrights as they apply to music are unique in that every track has two copyrights. One of these is a copyright in the song, i.e. the musical composition, which consists of the lyrics and underlying music (beat, instrumental). The other is a copyright in the sound recording or “master recording” itself. The “C” in the circle (©) is the appropriate notice for the lyrics and underlying musical composition, which are protected by the “Performing Art” Copyright. The appropriate notice is a “P” in a circle (℗) for the actual sound recording, which is protected by the “Sound Recording” Copyright. This indication originates from the International Phonogram Convention and refers to a “Phonogram”, which is used when referring to any sort of audio master.

The same party or several parties may own rights in each of these distinct copyrights for the same music. For example, “All Along The Watchtower” was originally written and composed by Bob Dylan. It has been subsequently performed and “covered” by several artists, including Jimi Hendrix. In this situation, the copyright in the underlying musical composition (the lyrics and musical arrangement) is owned by Bob Dylan (or his Publishing Company); while, the copyright in a particular sound recording is owned by Jimi Hendrix (or his Record Label).

This situation most commonly arises where a singer is merely involved in and has rights in the sound recording copyright of a song by being the actual featured vocalists on a track; while, the other parties who wrote the track own rights to the underlying musical composition.

Each copyright confers each owner with several exclusive rights. These include the exclusive rights to reproduce the work, including the mechanical reproduction of a musical composition in CDs, downloads and vinyl as well as to authorize third-parties to do the same. It also includes the exclusive right to distribute the work (Spotify, Pandora, YouTube), to prepare derivative works based on the original work (sequels, spin-offs), to publicly perform the work (concerts) and to publicly display the work.

Therefore, a copyright generally provides the owner with the exclusive right to publicly distribute copies of their work by sale, rental, or lease and to publicly perform or display the work, such as selling copies of a CD or publicly performing a musical composition at a restaurant or nightclub.

In the music business, the songwriter and composer typically assign their copyright in the underlying musical composition to a publishing company in exchange for receiving songwriting royalties. The income is generally split in half, even though the publisher collects all of the money (except for small performing rights). Fifty percent (50%) of the income goes to the publisher, and the other fifty percent (50%) of the income is split between the composer, the lyricist, the arranger, the translator, etc. The fifty percent (50%) that goes to the “publisher” is typically referred to as the one hundred percent (100%) “Publisher’s share” and the fifty percent (50%) belonging to the songwriters, arrangers, lyricists, etc. is typically referred to as the one hundred percent (100%) “Songwriter’s share.” For a more in-depth look at publishing monies, check my prior article on this topic.

Additionally, the copyright in the sound recording is generally assigned to a record label in exchange for receiving royalties for the sale and licensing of the sound recording. The sound recording copyright may be owned by the label and may be considered a “work for hire.” Included in this assignment may be a mechanical license, which authorizes the label to mechanically reproduce the underlying musical composition on phonograms or other sound carriers such as downloads.

In order to make records, downloads, tapes, and CDs, the record label requires a mechanical license from the music publisher. Until the first initial public release of the musical composition, the songwriter and publisher have complete control over issuing licenses. However, after this first release, anyone else can create their version of the song (a “cover” track) by paying statutory fees and obtaining a compulsory mechanical license.

A “compulsory license” is one that cannot be refused by the songwriter (or publisher), i.e., it does not require the songwriter’s permission for you to record his song. In the United States, The Harry Fox Agency is the foremost mechanical rights agency. It was created by the National Music Publishers Association to administer and issue these compulsory licenses and to collect the mechanical royalty license fees and distribute them to the appropriate parties. Additionally, when there are more than one owner of a particular copyright, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, each co-owner can license the full copyright to a third-party subject to an accounting to their co-author and paying over their share of the royalties.

As is evident, the music business and the rights associated with the works distributed are part of a complex system that has been developed over time and shifts with the changing landscapes and with the advent of new technologies. Therefore, it is essential for a creator to protect their rights in their completed work so they can properly license and monetize it.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney and/or an accountant specializing in the field should be consulted.

Wednesday Video Diversion: December 7, 2016

Happy Wednesday, people! It’s getting late in the afternoon and we’re back here once again to provide an awesome line-up of TuneCore Artist music videos to distract and divert you from whatever meaningful tasks you had planned on completing:


Focus the Truth, “Basquiat (feat. Oswin Benjamin)”


Vanessa Zamora, “Nada Se Perido”


Lydia Cole, “Dream”


The Brothers Comatose, “Black Light Moon”


Epic Rap Battles of History, “Wonder Woman vs. Stevie Wonder”


Ab-Soul, “Huey Knew”


EAGLEWOW, “I Got Two Women”


Deal Casino, “Human Cannonball”


Young Dee, “Good Time (feat. Serene)”


Lil Mouse, “My Life a Movie”

Engagement: Myspace’s Real Legacy for Indie Bands

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.] I came of age in the world of independent music at a time when the key to launching a new band was a successful Myspace page. A diverse array of artists from Fall Out Boy to The Arctic Monkeys to Lily Allen owe a tremendous debt to their days creeping into millions upon millions of fan’s “Top 8”. In what was most likely unintentional defiance of the traditional business model for breaking a band, Myspace allowed artists direct access to promoters to book shows, connect with fans and other artists and create a viral spike all without the help of a label, publicist or radio campaign.

The biggest aspect of Myspace’s legacy, at least in terms of music, is likely that “viral potential” and “direct-to-fan” connection it created. Today, we have major streaming sites and social media to hold bands down in this manner even if Myspace has largely shifted their music focus to editorial.

Perhaps the biggest thing that new artists can learn from these Myspace success stories is that it takes time, effort and commitment to make the most of these services and parlay them into a financially viable career in music. There is much, much more to creating a ‘viral’ hit and amassing hundreds of thousands of streams than just putting up a catchy song and asking people to share it.

Here are five things that today’s independent artists can learn from the “Myspace Bands” of the mid aughts.

1. Use Your Page to Build A Brand

While pop-punk and other ‘local music’ wasn’t started on Myspace, it did become exorbitantly more popular because of it. People became “Myspace celebrities” and millions of ’emo swoop’ haircuts flooded the site as a direct result of kids trying to be like the bands they loved.

Your band does not need an emo swoop.

What your band does need is a definitive approach to the vibe of your online presence. In fact, many savvy new bands and managers are forgoing a presence on all social media sites to focus solely on Instagram. The reason for this is twofold:

  • (a) the ability to really create a distinct visual, and
  • (b) to take advantage of the opportunity for reaching a new audience via direct interaction and proper tagging (both hashtagging and geo-targeting).

2. Sell Without ‘Selling’

Not to sound all “business-y”, but Myspace was great due to the fact it created a viable direct-to-consumer situation for bands.

Is your band playing in a new city for the first time? Go through people commenting on similar band’s pages and reach out directly. If you do it right, you’ll be playing in front of some fans that are familiar with your music instead of an empty room. You can still do that today, but the key is to keep that casual approach that Myspace bands were built on.

“Hey I saw you were a big fan of Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates is one of my favorite records of all time!” is a better first impression on a fan than “Hello, I play in Band X. We are playing in Aurora, Illinois tomorrow. Buy tickets now!”. Myspace taught us the key is to make people realize they want to be at your show, not just making them aware you’re in town.

3. Engage! Engage! Engage!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re an unknown band (or even a mid-sized one), talk to your fans. If you don’t another band will. It helps to reach out to new fans as well, but if you’re uncomfortable doing so at least reply to those that care enough about your work to reach out to you on Facebook or shoot a Tweet or Instagram comment your way.

4. Promote Your Promoters

Something bands and their teams often forget is that press and radio are two way streets. Yes, they are happy to promote your music, but they also have bills to pay and their own fanbase to grow.

I’m not saying you have to post every blog about your band to EVERY social media site but at least shoot them a tweet or retweet thanking them for writing the post. Same goes for radio play and YouTube, Apple or Spotify playlisting. This is something a lot of Myspace bands did great at and that’s why so many writers and radio DJ’s have been so loyal to them throughout the years.

5.Consistency Is Key

Myspace band accounts seemed to always have that green “Online Now” text flashing on their profile. This is because they understood that the more time they spent interacting with fans and building their network on the site the more it would translate to better attendance at their shows and more records and merch sold.

Don’t just sporadically post a Facebook status that you’ve got new music coming and then disappear for a few months. You don’t have to spend all of your time maintaining your band’s online profiles, but definitely make it a point to be active on it for a little bit each day.


You’re trying to grow a loyal fanbase. The best way to do so is to get fans onboard early and let them feel a sense of ownership towards your band. If you can’t afford to drop everything and tour 200 days a year, then social media is your best way to do so.

Just ask Tom.

Buying Social Media Followers – Should You Do It?

[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. Hugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]  

These days, musicians aren’t just selling their art, they are selling themselves. Fans don’t just want to hear songs every so often and go see your live show, they want to feel a real connection with the musicians they love so much, and that’s all thanks to social media. The advent of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and a myriad of others has been both a blessing a curse for the world at large, especially artists. It helps forge powerful, lasting, valuable relationships with fans all around the world that previously weren’t possible, but it is also a new demand placed on those working hard to stay afloat.

As is the case with almost anything related to your career as a musician, just getting started and off the ground when it comes to social media can be one of the toughest things about the entire endeavor. It’s so easy to look at both musicians and social celebrities with hundreds of thousands of followers and more interactions than they can handle and wonder, “How did they get there? What am I doing wrong?” Well, I can’t help everybody with that second question, but I have a suggestion for the former.

It might be controversial, but I often suggest to those acts just getting started, both in their careers and online, to purchase some social media followers. Yes, that’s right—you should pay money to have people follow you on the various social platforms where you should have a presence, but don’t tell anyone you did (and certainly don’t tell anybody I said to do it).

The idea of purchasing followers, likes, views, and everything else on social media is nothing new, but it is one that has always been despised by many. It is maligned with negative connotations, but it can also be extremely helpful when it comes to kicking things off on social channels, which is very important to you as somebody trying to get the masses to fall in love with who you are and what you create.

When explaining why I believe purchasing social media followers is a good thing, I always use the analogy of a party.

Nobody wants to go to a party until there are plenty of people there and it’s in full force, right? But if that’s the case, how is one supposed to get a party started? The same can be said for your Twitter or Instagram page. Why would anybody want to click the follow button on an account with 25 followers, even if the content seems to be great upon first glance?

Feel free to invite all of your friends and pre-existing fans to join you in these places, and then do a quick Google search to see about upping those numbers. You don’t need many, and in fact, why purchasing, you should do so intelligently. If you are an artist with only a few songs out and yet you have 50,000 followers on Twitter—we’ve all seen these people—nobody is going to believe you, and your efforts will end up backfiring, making you look like a fool in the process.

Think before you buy.

Will 500 followers make you look appear to be on your way? 1,000? Maybe start with one and eventually spend your way to that second figure? There are many different ways to go about this, but you need to be aware that people are going to quickly glance at your follower counts and judge you instinctively based on them.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all an exercise in vanity, and I’d say you’re right, but only partially. Having a respectable follower count on popular platforms shows that some people have invested in you, if even in some small way (and even if they aren’t real, but that’s just between you and I). It tells those that might be potentially interested in booking you to play a venue, a festival, or even to sign to a label that there are people out there that are interested, and that there might actually be something to the artist in front of them.

Buying social media followers, as well as likes on various posts you may upload to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and so on, is something you should consider, and that I’d suggest, but it doesn’t have to be a necessity for everybody. If you want to go the traditional route, feel free, but keep in mind that even the biggest and most successful artists partake in this strategy. Pop stars, rock bands, and rappers all up their counts from time to time with fake followers, just as they do with real ones. You won’t be buying in the same bulk as them, but don’t feel like this is just a no-man’s game.

This tactic shouldn’t cost you much, as all of these services come pretty cheap, which probably won’t surprise you when you take a look at some of the options that pop up on Google (they’re fairly sketchy looking). Think about what I’ve said as you set up or begin to invest time and effort into your social channels, and decide if this is the way you want to go, but don’t worry or think too hard—it is just social media, after all.

New Music Friday: December 2, 2016

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

Follow THE NEW – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!

ihf
Departure
IHF

Electronic, Dance

lindsey-stirling
Spotify Singles
Lindsey Stirling

Pop, Dance

ryan-caraveo
Maybe They Were Wrong
Ryan Caraveo

Hip Hop/Rap

summer-high
I Need You Here
A Summer High

Pop, Rock

for
Oblivion (feat. Rya Park)
FØRD

Electronic, Dance

freedom-fry
Linger
Freedom Fry

Alternative, Folk

deal-casino
Human Cannonball EP
Deal Casino

Rock, Alternative

gaslight-disco
Glowing Cities On the Horizon
Gaslight Disco

Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

the-holdup
Leaves In The Pool
The Holdup

Reggae, R&B/Soul

curtiss-king-oh-gosh-leotus
Jubilee Year
Curtiss King & Oh Gosh Leotus

Hip Hop/Rap, R&B/Soul

deep-end
Deep End
Deep End

Alternative, Rock

the-rebel-roads
First To Know
The Rebel Roads

Country

November Industry Wrap-Up

By Hugh McIntyre

The end of 2016 is close enough to touch, but we’re not there quite yet. November was a big month for music, if not the business, and a number of the most popular movers and shakers in the game made waves with new projects, changed history, and tried to push the boundaries of where their art had been before.

  • The Chainsmokers and Halsey are now immortalized in charting history thanks to their shockingly-popular hit “Closer;”
  • With a new string of mixtapes on the way, it is starting to seem as if Hamilton will never go away—not that you’d want it to;
  • Beyoncé, the country music star? If she has her way, she’ll be on top of every genre.

The Chainsmokers now have the fourth longest-running number one hit of all time

After what felt like forever, The Chainsmokers finally slipped a single spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, vacating the number one spot the EDM duo had owned for months. The pairing’s hit song “Closer,” which features the vocals of up-and-coming pop singer Halsey, ruled the all-encompassing singles tally for an incredible 12 consecutive weeks, which puts the track into the history books alongside some of the greatest tunes that have ever been released.

The surprising reign enjoyed by The Chainsmokers and Halsey goes to show that despite reports, EDM is far from dead, and in fact in many ways, it has become the new “pop.” For months on end, “Closer” was the most-played song on the radio, the most streamed track, and the best-selling song in the country, proving that the masses have accepted this relatively new genre just as they have so many others in the past.

As production software becomes cheaper and easier to use, there are more remixers and dance producers than ever before, but clearly there is a market for this kind of material, and it is now entering a new era where it can compete with the biggest of all time.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is extending the Hamilton brand into a series of mixtapes

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is clearly a proponent of the idea that if something is working, keep running with it until people are tired of it. The man behind the hottest show to come to Broadway in years began rolling out the first tracks from the Hamilton mixtape that he revealed as in the works earlier this year, and already people are freaking out. The album-length project doesn’t yet have a release date, though it’s due at some point before the end of the year, but it already looks like it will be one of the biggest, and certainly the most highly-anticipated, pieces of music of all of 2016.

Miranda caused a frenzy online when he tweeted a photo featuring the tracklist for the Hamilton mixtape, complete with what artists had taken up vocal duties on all of the reworked songs. The group of names that the theatrical prodigy was able to put together is incredible, and it reads more like the lineup of which artists are set to perform at the Grammys or who has been hired to headline Coachella than a mixtape. Kelly Clarkson, Sia, Chance The Rapper, The Roots, Usher, Alicia Keys, and over a dozen others have all lent their talents to the CD, which is now even more hotly tipped than ever before (if that’s at all possible).

Around the same time, the playwright also revealed that this upcoming album was just the first mixtape, and that he was planning on turning Hamilton into not one, but a series of mixtapes. The actual cast recording of the show, which has already been certified double platinum and is still hanging on in the top ten on the Billboard 200, features 46 tracks, so it’s not difficult to understand how Miranda could continue to roll out mixtape after mixtape, keeping the brand fresh and alive for years to come.

Hamilton was creative enough as it is, but Miranda’s plan to morph it into mixtapes is a fantastic idea, not just in a creative sense, but when it comes to business as well. He’s turned one successful project into several, which is something that other musicians should take to heart.

If audiences love a song or an album, why not keep serving it to them in different ways to see how far it can stretch?

Beyoncé runs the (country) world—or at least she wants to

Beyoncé, or as many know her, Queen Bey, has already conquered the worlds of R&B and pop, but someone as ambitious as she is always looking for new challenges and new ways to come out on top.

When the singer launched her second surprise visual album earlier this year, fans were excited and shocked to hear a bit of twang on the new CD. Lemonade featured a country song entitled “Daddy Lessons,” which saw Bey going in a new direction with her music. Fans and critics applauded the effort, and it has been noted as a standout track from the album alongside singles like “Formation” and “Sorry.”

Now, with Lemonade slowly working its way down the charts, Beyoncé has launched a full-scale promotional campaign to make her mark in the country music world with “Daddy Lessons,” but surprisingly, it isn’t going as smoothly as the star is used to. Just days before the CMAs (Country Music Association Awards), it was announced that Bey would join forces with the Dixie Chicks to perform “Lessons,” which excited both country fans and the Beyhive. The aftermath of her stellar showing was mixed, with many complementing the excellent performance, while others commented that she seemed out of place at the CMAs, which are focused solely on country.

Not long after her time on stage, a live version of “Lessons” made its way onto Spotify, becoming the first track off of Lemonade to be made available to the public outside of either Tidal or iTunes. Up until late November, the only way the public could hear the superstar’s new collection was to buy it in full or sign up for Tidal, a streaming service co-owned by Bey, her husband Jay Z, and a few dozen other musicians. Her acquiescence shows that while she might be one of the biggest stars in the world, even Beyoncé needs to be on Spotify, where millions around the world access their music.

Reinventing yourself as an artist is difficult, especially when it comes to switching genres, though it’s not impossible. Bey was smart enough to go country in her own way, and not simply copy what the chart-toppers in the genre do. “Daddy Lessons” may have more guitar than the world is used to hearing from her, but she was able to discover what she could bring to the table that other superstars weren’t, which is a Louisiana vibe and a charisma and voice no other artist can match.

Transitioning from one style to another is possible, but it needs to be done intelligently and correctly if it’s to work out.