As discussed in previous articles when an author creates an original work, and then “fixes” that work in a tangible medium (writes it down or records it), the author has created a copyright, and is granted six exclusive rights. Each right is important for different reasons, and each ties directly to potential revenue streams that are crucial for artists to understand in order to build sustainable business models around their creative output.
This article highlights an anomaly with respect to United States copyright law as it relates to the exclusive right to publicly perform copyrighted material (in particular, when your music is “publicly performed” – i.e.played – by AM and/or FM radio). The goals of this article are: 1. To increase awareness of the rules around this public performance royalty; 2. To provide suggestions on how artists can best focus their energies in the ever-evolving landscape.
Way back in the old days – the 80’s – when I would walk barefoot in the snow uphill, I bought myself a TASCAM four track recorder. I loved it. I would pop in a cassette and record four tracks of me not playing anything very well. I recorded my first song and played it over and over trying to find ways to improve it (sadly, nothing would have helped).
In a perfect world, radio stations across the country would play songs based simply on the merits of the songs themselves. In a perfect world, a major radio station in a major market could be solicited in the same fashion as a publicist solicits Rolling Stone, for example: by sending a package, making a follow-up call, and if the “deciders” (in the case of radio, the program directors) like what they hear, they would promote the record by playing it on air. Unfortunately this is not how large traditional radio stations work.
Time to imagine sitting in a tucked-away, smokey bar or outdoor café and enjoy a taste of some flamenco (with a hint of salsa). Miguel Espinoza’s cultivated Latin guitar rhythms are nothing short of romantic and enticing. Que rico! By the sound of it, he is truly an artist who makes music for the love of music.
In many bands there is either a single songwriter or a songwriting “team.” This archetype was established early — Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, et al. — and persists to this day. Whether it’s a single songwriter or songwriting team who come up with the necessary elements to create a copyright in a song, there are often others in the band (drummer, bass player, etc.) who have no claim over this copyright.