Wednesday Video Diversion: February 22, 2017

DID YOU KNOW that 50 long years ago this week Pink Floyd was working on their debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, at Abbey Road Studios during the same time that the Beatles were wrapping up recording Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band in the same studio? Pretty sweet, if we say so ourselves. But we’re not here just to hook you up with weird random music history. We’re here to hook you up with sweet TuneCore Artist music videos! What else have you got going on during a Wednesday afternoon in February?

 

John 5 and the Creatures, “Now Fear This”

Julie Frost, “Rhythm & Blues”

Anchorlot, “Phoenix”

Ki:Theory, “Stand By Me”

Poppy, “I’m Poppy”

Jor’dan Armstrong, “So Much Luv/Count It”

JMSN, “Power”

JoJo Siwa, “Boomerang”

Rebel SoulJahz, “Ms Beautiful”

Hopsin, “All Your Fault”

A Musician’s Basic Guide to Trademark Law

[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.]

 

Continuing from our prior installment where we discussed copyright law and how it relates to the music industry, we should now briefly explore how trademark law is related to the music business.

As they say on Madison Avenue, “it’s all about the name;” and, trademark law provides protection for a particular name for a specific good or service.

Trademark registration grants the owner of a mark the exclusive right to utilize the brand in commerce to differentiate the goods or services provided by that individual or business from those provided by another. A service mark is a mark used in connection with providing a particular service (i.e. live performance services, talent management services). Trademark protection can apply to a particular word, phrase, slogan, logo, design, smell, sound or a combination of these, which are used in relation to specific goods. The general principle behind trademark law is that the mark acts as an identifier to the public of the source of a good or service. It is actually a consumer protection law based on the origin of goods and services.

There are two distinct trademark systems for acquiring rights in a name. There is a “first-to-file” system, which exists in countries such as China and France. This system provides protection to the first entity to file for a registration for a particular name for the good or service listed in the registration. Conversely, the United States follows a “first-to-use” system. This system provides trademark protection to the first entity to file an application and who actually utilizes the mark in commerce for the listed goods or services.

In order to protect a name, a federal or state trademark application should be filed with the appropriate state department or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“U.S.P.T.O.”). In America, an application can be filed for a mark that is currently in use (an “actual use” application) or for one that the owner intends to use (an “intent-to-use” application). An intent-to-use application is filed prior to the actual use of the mark in commerce in an effort to “reserve” a particular name for a specific good or service. The applicant must then actually use the mark in commerce within six months after a “Notice Of Allowance” is issued by the U.S.P.T.O. or an extension must be filed to keep extending the deadline to file a “Notice of Use” to obtain the registration.

In the United States, a mark can only be registered if it is distinctive and not generic for the goods or services provided. A distinctive mark is one that is capable of distinguishing the goods or services provided by one from those provided by others. A mark can be described as fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive or generic. Fanciful marks are those that have no meaning other than acting as an indicator of the source such as “Exxon” for gasoline. An arbitrary mark is one that has no relation to the goods being provided such as “Apple” for computers. A suggestive mark is one that suggests a quality or a particular characteristic of the goods provided such as “Jaguar” for automobiles. A descriptive mark merely describes the goods or services provided without requiring any additional imagination or thought on the part of the consumer.

Generally, a descriptive mark cannot be registered unless it has acquired secondary meaning. This can be demonstrated by providing evidence that the relevant consumer marketplace has come to associate this particular mark with the goods provided with the mark. Additionally, use of a mark in commerce for over five years can create a presumption of secondary meaning that an owner can use to its advantage. Finally, a generic mark is one that is incapable of acting as a trademark as it is a common word or term that identifies the products and services without specifying a particular source for the goods or services.

Since, an artist or band’s name is one of the most important, if not, the most important feature in a musician’s career, proper ownership and prior clearance of a particular name is essential. Generally, one should apply for protection in their artist or band name as soon as possible. While the cost may be perceived as prohibitive, the potential downfall due to a lack of a search or registration could be much more detrimental and costly. Since everything a musician does is based on the name, including associated social media platforms, websites, and merchandise; it is prudent to conduct a trademark screening search prior to establishing and developing these outlets to identify any potential barriers to your name and to determine the availability or lack thereof. This will ensure you are not infringing on someone else’s registered or protected mark.

Needless to say, this is a situation that should clearly be avoided as having to change a band’s name after they have begun utilizing it due to another’s mark will end up destroying the good will and notoriety that the artist has built under that particular brand.

Additionally, if an individual fails to register a band name and just begins utilizing it in a specific area or state, the individual may be later forced to only advertise and utilize that mark only in that particular area or state rather than being able to utilize the mark throughout the nation as a federal registration would permit. For example, a band who operates as “The Owls” in one area of the country may apply for a federal trademark registration if they are in interstate commerce, to protect their band name throughout the country.

It is therefore prudent for an artist or band to ensure their chosen name is “clear” prior to utilizing it in commerce, as even if one artist is bigger and more established than an already registered one, the prior registration typically trumps the non-registered entity and could prevent the artist from utilizing this name.

There are also many other benefits to registering a trademark or service mark, including a presumption of ownership and validity of the mark after the first five (5) years of registration. Second, a registration can be used offensively to prevent others from using confusingly similar marks for the same or similar goods or services as those provided by the owner (dilution). Third, the (R) symbol acts as constructive notice to third parties of the owner’s trademark or service mark rights in the particular mark. Fourth, a registration can provide the owner with exclusive nationwide rights in the mark as of the date of filing the application. Fifth, a registration certificate can also provide priority for international registration of the same name in other countries, which is extremely important to an artist in today’s global music industry.

Finally, a registration is a valuable commodity, permitting the licensing of the mark by third parties, such a record label or other merchandise manufacturer. It also permits the owner with the ability to stop counterfeit or gray market goods bearing the owner’s trademark from entering the United

States. Again, the trademark registration can be owned by the business entity created by the artist that permits the entity to easily enter into licensing agreements to license the inclusion of the name on recordings as well as on any other merchandise. (For more information, review our prior installments about business entities/taxes & loan-out companies.)

A valid trademark registration also facilitates the owner in filing infringement claims with various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, to retrieve or block potentially infringing accounts. A band with a valid registration could also potentially file an Anti- cybersquatting claim with ICANN to retrieve an infringing domain name.

Since a trademark protects a specific phrase or name for a particular type of goods, a solo artist or band should be aware of the various possible classes that they can obtain registration for a particular name in. A few of the more relevant classes include registration in Class 009: “Audio and video recordings featuring music and artistic performances,” “Musical sound recordings,” “Compact discs featuring music,” “Downloadable music files,” and “Downloadable MP3 files and MP3 recordings. Protection can also be extended to Class 041, which includes: “Audio recording and production,” “recording, production and post-production services in the field of music,” “Production of sound and music video recordings,” “live performances by a musical group.” Protection should also be considered in Class 025, which includes various types of clothing and apparel such as shirts, pants, hats, ties and bandanas (merchandise).

In addition to providing the required information in the trademark application, the Applicant (person who submits an application) must provide a suitable specimen depicting the mark being used in commerce for the particular listed good(s). For example, if a mark is for “live performances” in Class 041, copies of live performance flyers or advertisements containing the artist’s name would be appropriate specimens.

As we’ve discussed, trademark law is utilized for protecting an individual or business’s name and is an essential component to succeed in entertainment. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that all the aspects related to it are proper or the lack thereof, could lead to some devastating results.

You should always consult an experienced attorney in the field to understand the requirements and available options.

New Music Friday: February 17, 2017

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! 

jennifer paige
Devil’s in the Details
Jennifer Paige

Singer/Songwriter, Pop

anthemlights
Moana Medley
Anthem Lights

Pop

sidibe
Strangers
Sidibe

Pop, R&B/Soul

lydia cole
The Lay of the Land
Lydia Cole

Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

anchorlot
Bridge the Divide
Anchorlot

Rock, Alternative

passenger
A Kindly Reminder
Passenger

Folk, Singer/Songwriter

pouya
Death By Dishonor

Ghostemane, Shakewell, Pouya & Erick The Architect

Hip Hop/Rap

vanessa carlton
Earlier Things Live
Vanessa Carlton

Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

bugzym
Aggy Wid It
Bugzy Malone

Hip Hop/Rap

pacific dub
Take Me Away EP
Pacific Dub

Reggae, Alternative

trecoast
I Can’t Let You Go
Tre Coast

Dance, Electronic

manafest
Stones
Manafest

Rock

jetty rae
Can’t Curse The Free
Jetty Rae

Singer/Songwriter, Alternative

jess and gabriel
Under The Covers
Jess and Gabriel

Singer/Songwriter, Pop

paperwhite
Human Nature
Paperwhite

Electronic, Pop

hearts like lions
If I Never Speak Again
Hearts Like Lions

Rock, Alternative

titus
Are We A Thing?
Titus

Pop, Hip Hop/Rap

5 Things Artists Can Do to Build Their Network

[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.]

 

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what aspirations you have for yourself professionally, at the end of the day you’re only as strong as your network. In the past, there was a bit of a stigma about artists being active in terms of connecting with music business professionals beyond playing shows and hoping their manager can get a label rep or two out to see them play. For a musician or band to be viewed as an “artist”, it had to appear they didn’t care how successful they were. The rule of thumb for creating a successful music career was to “get in the system without personally engaging in it”. As a result, a lot of artists ended up getting completely ripped off by said system or never truly reached their potential as a career musician because they felt it was ‘uncool’ to take matters into their own hands. Thankfully, those times are done.

In the 90s, we saw punk and hip hop bust open the door and show that you could be a ‘cred’ artist and still handle your business as a professional. One look at what Jay Z did with Rockafella or Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion) did with Epitaph (and all its subsidiaries) will put to bed the idea that real artists don’t involve themselves in the business of the business. In the subsequent years, this has trickled down to each level of artist; from Metallica finally gaining the rights to all their masters a few years ago to the bedroom producer running their own press and Spotify campaigns around their singles.

Here are five ways that independent artists can be more aggressive in taking their fate into their own hands:

1. Facebook and Linkedin Groups

Okay, so maybe involving yourself in Linkedin Groups is a little ambitious for most artists, but there are plenty of Music Business Networking groups on Facebook. I pull new contacts and valuable strategic information from these sorts of groups literally every day. While a lot of my personal favorite groups are invite only, there are plenty that are open for anyone to join. Start joining these groups first and gradually as your network grows you’ll gain access to some of the more exclusive ones. Same principle applies to Linkedin groups if you’re willing to delve into those waters as well.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Cold Email

A lot of people are under the impression that it’ll be a waste of time to email the people they look up to, but doing so can lead to the biggest breaks you’re going to find. What’s important is to just do so with tact. Don’t email an A&R from your favorite label or the guitarist in that band you’ve been obsessed with lately to speak about yourself or ask a favor. Hit them up with specific questions and ask for advice that doesn’t require them to commit to anything. For example…do you really love a particular manager’s roster? Do they always seem to release music in the way you wish you did? Find a contact there and reach out.

Here’s a basic example of a way to reach out that may be fruitful for you:

Hey <artist manager>, my name is Rich and I am a songwriter. I currently play in a band called <band name>. We’re about to release our first record and I am really big fan of the way you roll out new singles with your roster. I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee or shoot over a couple of questions via email to pick your brain a little bit if that’s okay? Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you!”.

3. Go To Networking Events

Same principle as the Facebook Networking Groups but in real life. If you live in a major city like Chicago, Austin, New York or Los Angeles there are ample such events you can find and attend. If you don’t, start your own group. It may be sparsely populated at first but it’ll grow over time. Also, keep in mind that when you’re first getting started these events are about quantity. When you’re starting out you should try to meet anybody and everybody in your city that is involved in the music industry. As you progress, you can hone in on those with events specifically for the bigger players.<

4. Embrace the Hashtag

There are certain hashtags that you should monitor and look to throw yourself into the resulting conversation on Twitter, for instance #MusicBiz. This is a great way to figure out what is currently trending in your professional world, engage others with the same goal and start establishing yourself as someone that people should take seriously. The same sort of success can be achieved by following music business professionals and engaging them in conversation around industry-related articles or thoughts that they post.

5. Collaborate!

A beautiful thing about a music ‘scene’, whether in real life or digitally, that often gets overlooked is the exposure to each others network. Whether you’re collaborating with another artist on a local show or tour, creating a networking group or writing/recording a song together, if you work together both of your networks will automatically double for the endeavor.

If you take a little time each day to dedicate to these suggestions, you will see incredible gains in terms of your understanding of the music business, as well as, the number of opportunities that are presented to you. Also, it puts you in a position where you have a lot more of the chips on your side of the table when the time is right to start talking to labels and managers about your project.

Wednesday Video Diversion: February 15, 2016

We’re officially over the mid-month hump of February! We’re not, however, officially over the mid-week hump. Which means you’re getting groggy, antsy, and need to tune out from whatever you’ve got going on in your afternoon. That’s why we’re here once again to show off some of our TuneCore Artists’ awesome audio-visual talents with a round-up of music videos! Get into it.

 

The Rising Sun All-Stars, “RSG (Till They Bury Me)”

Tdot Illdude, “You And I (feat. Guordan Banks)”

Asta, “I Need Answers”

Paperwhite, “Get Away”

Sarah Darling, “Where Cowboys Ride”

Fortunate Youth, “Left My Love in California”

Bounce Back, “Rizzoo Rizzoo”

Tim Wheatley, “78 Benz”

Young Gordon, “Finna Hit My Walk (feat. DJ T Time)”

In The Valley Below, “Peaches”

The Sneaky Way to Promote Your Music Without Actually Talking About Your Music

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Dave Kusek and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

I know it sounds completely counterintuitive to promote your music and raise awareness for yourself as an artist without actually talking about your music – or your music career, for that matter. But it’s being done more and more and has become a really powerful way to make a name for yourself by bypassing the crowded indie-musician market.

Let me explain. The key is to establish yourself as an expert in some related topic like gear, self-releasing music, or songwriting. It’s about sharing valuable information on a topic you have a lot of experience in to draw potential fans. They find you by searching for “how to write a song,” or “how to book your own gigs,” or “guitar pedal review,” and discover your music through that connection.

Push vs. pull marketing

Traditionally, there are two ways to go about promoting your music. You can either push your message out to fans and potential fans (push marketing), or you can pull them in and get them to come to you (pull marketing).

Push marketing is those typical advertisements you see on TV and hear on the radio. They’re just pushing information out about their product to a large audience hoping to reach someone who may be interested.

Pull marketing is about giving out valuable information that you know your target audience is searching for. This valuable information could be exclusive or behind-the-scenes access to you as an artist. This kind of content will pull in current fans and deepen your relationship.

But you could also share advice on something you have a lot of experience with. This will help you reach a new audience who may not even be familiar with your music.

So let’s go through the strategy step-by-step.

1. Find your expertise

The first step is finding something you have a lot of experience and knowledge in. As a musician, you have a few really obvious routes – music, songwriting, mixing, mastering, music theory, gear, instruments, etc. These are the skills that form the very foundation of your career, so you definitely have a lot of valuable information to bring to the table here.

Many musicians, including Scale the Summit’s bassist Mark Michell, have set up online schools to share their musical knowledge and techniques. The key here is to bring this training online instead of doing local lessons. Not only will you be able to reach a much larger audience, you’ll also start showing up in Google searches for things like “online bass lessons.”

Other musicians pull on other skill sets like music business knowledge, booking gigs, or creating YouTube videos. DIY musician Ari Herstand, for example, runs the blog Ari’s Take, where he shares his experiences and the skills he’s learned from booking his own shows and generally running his own career. Other musicians like Alex Cowles share their knowledge on self-releasing music.

2. Find the right platform

If you want people to organically find you, the best option is to go online. Depending on the kind of information you share, your platform may be a little different. So, if you’re creating music lessons, videos may be your best bet. Try making YouTube tutorials, playthroughs, and lessons, and release them regularly to build an audience.

On the other hand, if you’re sharing the things you’ve learned on getting your songs licensed or booking college gigs, a blog may suit your information better. Gear and guitar pedal reviews and demonstrations might use a combination of blog posts and videos.

You could also aim to partner with other media outlets to share out your information. This will help you get your name out to a larger audience. In addition to his own blog, Ari Herstand also writes for Digital Music News. Maybe you could get a regular column in a small online music magazine or music industry blog – start small and grow from there.

3. Show up in search

Now that you have your content up, you need to make sure people can actually find it. There are plenty of SEO guides out there, but basically, you just want to think about what people are actually typing into search. There are also a lot of cool tools like Google’s Keyword Planner that can give you some ideas.

You want the keywords and article titles you choose to be relevant and specific to what you’re posting. So if you’re posting a review of a certain guitar pedal, a title like “Boss Waza Craft VB-2W Vibrato Review” will perform better than “Guitar Pedal Review.” Likewise, if you’re sharing your tips on how to set up good lighting for a music video, something like “Setting Up Good Lighting for a Music Video” will probably do the trick.

Of course, good SEO won’t instantly drive thousands of people to your articles and videos. It’s going to take a lot of work and consistent posting to build up an audience.

4. Create the connection

Here’s the most important part of this strategy: you need to make the connection to your music and drive your viewers or readers to check it out. After all, music is your main gig.

There are a few options here. You could obviously host your blog on your band’s site, or share your tutorials or gear reviews on your band’s YouTube channel. That way, your music is just a click away. This works, but it will make it more difficult to get the SEO working like you want.

If you host your content off your music website, you need to make the connection obvious. Include an “About” page that shares your story. Highlight your musical journey and your creative career as an indicator of your expertise on the subject.

You should also mention your career and bring out stories in your articles and videos.Preface an amp review by saying you brought it on tour and recorded some awesome sounding live videos with it. Include the live video to prove your point (and introduce your readers to your music).

If you’re teaching people on YouTube about modes, you could mention that you used a certain mode when writing a new song you have out. Play a short section of that song to show your point and include a card in the top right corner to link to your music video.