February Songwriter News

By Dwight Brown

The music industry is moving along and songwriters and artists are making it happen.  

Finally the “Happy Birthday” song controversy is over. A top songwriter, unhappy with a royalty streaming check, gets active. Spotify fights back against a class-action lawsuit. A who’s who of songwriter activists gather at the California Copyright Conference to get the word out.

There’s a lot going on for songwriters and music publishing. It’s a lot to digest.

‘Happy Birthday’ boldly takes steps into Public Domain Land

Indie filmmaker Jennifer Nelson has beaten Goliath. She filed a class action suit against Warner/Chappell for charging her a $1,500 license fee for using “Happy Birthday” in a documentary she was making about the song. According to Hollywood Reporter, “music publisher Warner will pay $14 million to end a lawsuit challenging its hold on the English language’s most popular song.” U.S. District Judge George H. King determined Warner and its predecessor didn’t hold any valid copyright to the song and never acquired the rights to the “Happy Birthday” lyrics.

Warner avoids fines for collecting licensing money for many decades. Around $4.62m of the $14m goes to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. The rest goes to those who licensed “Happy Birthday” and meet the definition of the proposed class. King stopped short of declaring the song was in the public domain. However, Warner will not stand in the way of a judge doing so. “How old are you now?  How old are you now?”

Indie songwriter shocked into action over tiny royalty check

Indie-rock singer-songwriter Michelle Lewis was elated when her song “Wings” had nearly three million streams on Spotify. Not so happy when she got her royalty check. Lewis: “It was for seventeen dollars and seventy-two cents.”

Lewis and writing partner Kay Hanely sought advice from L.A. music lawyer Dina LaPolt, who specializes in songwriter issues. Their voyage of discovery and songwriter rights are chronicled in a very detailed New Yorker article, “Will Streaming Music Kill Songwriting?”

The article points out historical milestones:

  1. The Copyright Act of 1909
  2. The 1920s/’30s when broadcast radio’ s performance royalties were significant.
  3. 1941 when the Justice Department’s Consent Decree allowed Performing-Rights Organizations (collecting societies) to process the licensing fees for songwriters,
  4. The now outdated Copyright Act of 1976.

LaPolt makes some key points:

  1. Unless music-licensing system is overhauled, the songwriting profession will die.
  2. Members of the profession need a bargaining leverage (e.g. a union).
  3. Songwriters have to become activists.

LaPolt, Lewis, and hundreds of songwriters joined Songwriters of North America (SONA).  

Spotify dukes it out with a class-action lawsuit

Spotify responded to a lawsuit filed in December by Camper Van Beethoven and Camper front man David Lowery, who seeks $150 million in damages from the streaming service over alleged willful copyright infringement. Lowery’s suit arrived on Spotify’s doorstep just days after the company announced plans for a new publishing database designed to alleviate royalty payment issues.

In the Billboard article, Spotify raises questions and states the difficulties they face:

Q: What do you do when multiple songs have the same name?

S: Just having the title “Hello” is not enough to determine if it is by Adele, Lionel Richie, Evanescence or Ice Cube.

Q: How do you define the members of the proposed class?

S: Not administratively feasible for a catalog of 30 million-plus songs.

While Spotify spars with the lawsuit, Billboard sources say another class action suit is in the planning stages. Stay tuned.

Grassroots Advocacy Panel speaks out at California Copyright Conference

According to Chris Castle at Music Tech Policy, the activists at the #irespectmusic Grassroots Advocacy Panel at the California Copyright Conference had one thing in common: “All of their stories are inspiring examples of individual action. Blake Morgan took on Pandora and Big Radio and founded the #irespectmusic campaign. Karoline Kramer Gould joined Blake in supporting the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act and became an inspiration to all of us. Adam Dorn started SONA out of spontaneous meetings with songwriters who were confounded by the state of the industry. And David Lowery [involved in Spotify class action suit] started writing the Trichordist blog as a cathartic blog that has inspired thousands and is widely read.”

The activists came together to tell their personal stories. Inspiration turned to advocacy as they actively recruited. Follow them on Twitter through the #irespectmusic‬‬‬‬ and @theblakemorgan, @radioclevekkg @davidclowery @moceanworker and @musictechpolicy. Each is involved in a campaign for the fair treatment of all creators.

Artists and songwriters prove you can’t stop progress. A filmmaker topples a corporate giant’s royalty reign. Advocates fight for fair pay. All are making a difference in 2016. It’s a good time to have TuneCore Music Publishing Administration in your corner.


Team up with TuneCore Publishing Administration!

New Music Friday: February 26, 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?

It’s Political
Shannon LaBrie

Pop, Singer/Songwriter

Side A
Christina Grimmie

Pop, R&B/Soul

Young Futura

Hip Hop/Rap, Electronic

Adelita’s Way


Running With Giants
Thousand Foot Krutch


Step 2 
Cole Taylor



Alternative, Pop

Alligator Tears

The Downtown Fiction


Stranger Things


What the Hurt For
Mila Mason

Singer/Songwriter, Country

In the Altogether
The Sea The Sea

Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

Memory Man
Juke Jaxon

R&B/Soul, Rock

February News From Our Store Partners

By Dwight Brown

Two months into the New Year and already our digital store and streaming partners are helping more and more TuneCore Artists reach new fans around the world.

Tidal is giving back to the community. Spotify is wooing paid subscribers. Apple Music is going into countries where one of its chief rivals hasn’t gone before.

Read on.

The home of some of today’s top artists shows some heart

Initially, music fans looking to stream Kanye’s The Life of Pablo had only two choices: his website and Tidal. Beyoncé made her single, “Formation (Dirty),” a free download on Tidal too. Fans scored a free copy of Rhi Rhi’s eighth studio album Anti by using the code “ANTI” on Tidal’s website. T.I. announced at a pop-up show at Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall, which was being live-streamed as part of the Tidal X concert series, that he’d become a co-owner.

tidal logoNow the brand previously best known for pushing windowing into the mainstream is wading into the waters of social justice too. Billboard reports that Tidal has donated $1.5 million to Black Lives Matter and other social justice groups. The money comes from the proceeds of the first Tidal X: 10/20 charity concert that took place in Brooklyn. Tidal is also dedicated to mentoring new artists through its Tidal Discovery Program, which is done in partnership with TuneCore.

Spotify’s expanding subscriber base takes on a life of its own

By the end of 2015, Spotify amassed more than 25m payingspotify subscribers. Two months into 2016 and that number has ballooned up to 28m! As Musicbusinessworld.com points out, “what’s really significant about these new numbers…is the rate of conversion… let’s assume that Spotify’s total active user number is 99m. Spotify would have successfully converted 28.3% of its customers into paying subscribers.” Does that mean Spotify’s Freemium model is on its farewell tour?

MBW: “If 28m people are paying for Spotify right now, they will be generating a whopping $1.986bn a year – approximately 70% of which will be paid to music rightsholders.” That’s quite a calling card as CEO Daniel Ek seeks $500m in financing. Still, some talking heads wonder how the funding model (loans with guaranteed interest) will affect artists

OTHER NEWS: The lyric annotation website Genius is teaming up with Spotify. Its new Fact Tracks initiative offers explanations and anecdotes of a song’s lyrics as it streams.

Apple Music is now in 113 countries and live on Sonos systems

apple-musicEight months after its launch, Apple Music has expanded its reach into areas where Spotify has not gone, including: Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine), Asia (Indonesia, Japan, China, India), Africa (Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria) and the Middle East (UAE, Saudi Arabia). Musicbusinessworld.com lists “59 countries in which Apple Music is available and Spotify is not.”

As the article notes, Apple Music is following in the strategic footsteps of iTunes. That’s easier for a streaming service to do when it’s backed by one of the richest companies in the world, which can well afford the overhead for new launches. Meanwhile, Spotify, as aforementioned, is seeking $500M investment funding to reach its goals. Billboard.com scores it: Spotify: 28m subscribers. Apple Music: 11m subscribers, and expected to reach 20m by year’s end.

OTHER NEWS: Apple Music is now available on Sonos systems and a Sonos Station on Apple Music has also been launched.

Apple is getting into the video production biz. It financed Drake’s ultra popular Hotline Bling video.


Event Recap: Indie Artist Forum & TuneCore Live Nashville

Last week, TuneCore kicked off its second ever Indie Artist Forum, inviting musicians and industry professionals to meet at the Acme Feed & Seed in Nashville, TN. The goal was to hold discussions with independent music makers and songwriters, share wisdom from folks in the field, and revel in performances by talented TuneCore Artists based in the creative city.

Indie Artist Forum

Folks began to line up outside the venue as early as 9:00 AM, and not long after, the Forum was underway! Eager artists and songwriters checked in, mingled and grabbed some breakfast – just in time to catch TuneCore singer-songwriter Justin Klump perform.

Justin Klump - Indie Artist Forum

As breakfast wrapped up, our noble host, the ever charismatic artist Kelley James hit the stage to introduce TuneCore CEO Scott Ackerman. He connected with the crowd, sharing notes on TuneCore’s 2015 growth, and where the company is headed in 2016. Scott’s words resonated with the artists in attendance, and they were reminded that they, too, were very much part of the company.

Scott Ackerman - Indie Artist Forum

“Our ultimate goal is to be on the journey with TuneCore Artists, from that first song all the way through their career,” Ackerman explained.

Charlie Peacock - Indie Artist Forum

Next, it was time for our first music industry guest to speak, legendary Grammy award-winning producer, artist and songwriter, Charlie Peacock. Charlie urged artists to establish some level of flexibility and adaptability, even while maintaining their authenticity. As someone who has navigated the business so well himself, his advice meant a lot.

“The path you want to be on is a middle-way, you want to enjoy your successes, knowing that they won’t last long. You must reinvent and reinvent,” Charlie divulged, adding “If you’re ever in a dip, find out why you started making music in the first place. If you’re a maker, you’ve got to be making. You’re only stuck if your imagination is stuck.”

Peter Frampton - Indie Artist Forum

After geeking out over Mr. Peacock, it was time to introduce the rock star known as Peter Frampton! Frampton awed the audience with an inspirational overview of his career, stressing the importance of dedication and practice, as well as taking notes from the best to help grow your music and performance.

Check out some of our favorite Peter Frampton quotes from the Forum:

  • On guitar: “Unless I get a great sound that inspires me, I can’t play.”
  • On his biggest inspiration: “Django Reinhardt. I think I have every recording he’s ever done. You can tell when you listen to him play, that’s all passion.”
  • Advice to young artists on connecting with their audience: “I was very shy when I first went on stage. Along the way I watched all these bands and how they communicated with the audience – it’s a special power. I learned so much from Steve Marriott.”
  • On new technology in music: “Use technology – don’t let it use you.”
  • On putting your influences to work: “It’s all about stealing from the best.”

Like Strangers - Indie Artist Forum

After a two hour session with the rock idol, it was time for lunch and a performance from Nashville-based country duo Like Strangers!

Craig Wiseman - Indie Artist Forum

Hitting the stage next was a local celebrity and accomplished publisher/songwriter whose worked with Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton (to name a few) – Craig Wiseman!

Craig captivated the room with his candid advice on starting and growing your music career. He shared insights on co-writing, paralleling it with dating and how it takes time to find the right co-writing partner, and the impact that can make on your career. He kept the whole room laughing and garnered several standing ovations!

“There’s no conspiracy that the record label doesn’t want you,” said Wiseman, “When it’s all said and done, it’s simple: it’s about great freaking music. If you want to get out of bed and make a song every three months, it’s not going to happen.”

“But if you want to play ball like Michael Jordan – if you’re busting your ass, and you’ve got the song, you can’t stop the phone from ringing. It’s your game to get to that level.”

Indie Artist Forum

Genevieve Thompson and Drew Simmons were summoned to the stage after Mr. Wiseman to share insights on growing a music career in 2016 and utilizing social media to build your audience. Thompson is a partner at Back 40 Entertainment – a label, publishing and management company – and Simmons is the artist manager behind Young the Giant and GM of Foundations Artist Management.

“You shouldn’t skip steps in establishing an audience before you show them your music,” Drew advised when questioned about building hard ticket sales.

John Marks - Indie Artist Forum

Our final speaking guest of the day was John Marks – taste making SiriusXM music programmer and current Head of Global Programming, Country Music at Spotify. He provided insights on the changing landscape of radio and the future of streaming. Marks challenged the audience, insisting that there has never been so much opportunity for independent musicians to be discovered and heard as there is today.

“I am calling the kettle black – I was always a radio person my entire life, but streaming is simply the wave of the future,” John regaled. “There’s a whole generation of people ages 12-34 who are growing up without a traditional radio experience.”

R.LUM.R - Indie Artist Forum

What better way to close out a day of indie music strategy discussion than with another performance?! TuneCore Artist and Nashville newcomer R.LUM.R capped off a long day by captivating his peers, our speaking guests, and the TuneCore staff with his edgy and thoughtful R&B tunes.

Just a couple hours after R.LUM.R wrapped up his set, the Acme Feed & Seed was transformed and our first-ever TuneCore Live: Nashville was underway!

Nightly - Indie Artist Forum

Up first was the brand new Nightly! We’re always pleased to showcase our talented artists at TuneCore Live, but this was the first time we’ve had a group perform that was also playing their FIRST show! Nightly got the energy going early with their catchy indie pop sounds.

Ray Scott - Indie Artist Forum

Up next was country artist Ray Scott, who helped us keep this thing as “Nashville” as possible! Wielding a traditional country sound, Ray entertained show goers with renditions of his hits like “Drinkin’ Beer” and “Those Jeans”.

Meghan Linsey - Indie Artist Forum

Closing out the night was the charming singer songwriter Meghan Linsey. Sound familiar? You may have caught her as a contestant on this small-time TV show known as The Voice in 2015! Meghan kept the crowd going and provided the perfect soundtrack to close out an amazing Saturday of music, education, and of course, a little bit of partying.

A special thanks goes out to all of our guest speakers, performing artists, our sponsors and most importantly, the independent artists who took time out of their weekend to work on their career and join us for what turned out to be an amazing day of learning and discussion. We cannot wait to party again, and you can stay tuned for details of our next Indie Artist Forum!

Check out our photo gallery from the Indie Artist Forum and TuneCore Live Nashville:

Wednesday Video Diversion: February 24, 2016

The good news: February, the coldest and often dreariest month of the year, is almost through!

The bad news: It’s Wednesday afternoon and you’re bored.

The better news: We’ve got a bunch of awesome TuneCore artist music videos to keep you distracted! Enjoy:


Matt Beilis, “Famous”

Daniel Taylor, “Snowing In Boston”

Viola Beach, “Swings & Waterslides”

Olivver the Kid, “BBblue”

Mason Jennings, “Arma”

Curtis Williams, “Face It”

Paperwhite, “Magic”

Surf Rock Is Dead, “Anymore”

Andy Suzuki & the Method, “Lucy (Devil Song)”

Meghan Linsey, “Love Never Sleeps”

Artist Breakdown: TuneCore Live Atlanta @ Music Room

Hot off the heels of a tremendously successful TuneCore Live at Acme Feed & Seed in Nashville, we’re riding high on the love from our Southern fans and artists. For the first time since we brought it down to A3C Fest in October, TuneCore Live is hitting the Music Room in Atlanta on March 2nd, 2016 – which, incidentally, is also Georgia Music Day!

“Three TuneCore Artists?” you may be asking. Nope, try EIGHT! It’s gonna be a long night of amazing independent hip hop and R&B, and we’re psyched to be partnering with our friends at A3C FestivalCeleBuzz and Mirrored Media to give these artists the opportunity to showcase their skills, share the stage with fellow locals, and network with their TuneCore family and others in the Atlanta scene.

So come on out and get to know us! We’ll be hanging at 8pm, the event is free and 21+. Learn more here, and read about the artists performing below.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 6.55.26 PM

Formed by MCs Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot while in high school in 2007, EarthGang drew on influences both in and outside of hip hop to craft a southern sound that lends itself to Pharcyde comparisons. On top of touring with acts like Mac Miller and Ab-Soul, the duo have released two EPs and three full-length albums, their most recent being November 2015’s Strays With Rabies.


Born and raised in New York City, Yonas got his start in music when he began studying classical violin at a young age. When he was ready to put it down, he focused his efforts on hip hop, releasing his debut mixtape The New Golden Era in 2010 (via TuneCore!). Since then, he went on to drive over 6 million views of his “Pumped Up Kicks” remix on YouTube, climb the iTunes charts with singles and albums, and share the stage with artists such as Macklemore and Wale.

Buggs Tha Rocka
Buggs Tha Rocka

Based in Cincinnati where he grew up, Buggs Tha Rocka trades in the gangsta rap appeal for amusing and conscious rhymes placed nicely over eclectic beats. One-half of the duo Space Invadaz and founder of hip hop-jazz fusion group Gold Shoes, Buggs’ ability to innovate and spit garnered the attention of Talib Kweli, who invited the MC to join him on tour.

India Shawn

LA-born and raised India Shawn dropped her debut release, Origins, back in 2012, and went on to be featured on Solange Knowles’ “Saint Heron” compilation. On top of working with artists like Chris Brown, El Debarge, Keri Hilson, and Monica, India released her pop-fused R&B EP Origins, a collaboration with James Fauntleroy, in 2015. Read an interview that we featured on the TuneCore Blog.


A high-energy hip hop trio, Atlanta-based Goldyard consists of A.T, In-Doe and Producer Flick James. In the spring of 2015, they released F**k Culture 2, the follow-up to their 2014 EP of the same title. Fans can expect a third installment in the F**k Culture series this year. Goldyard has shared the stage with current hip hop stars and has a reputation for active, intense live performances.

Mighty High Coup

Consisting of Mr. SOS, Ricky Raw, and A-Bomb – Mighty High Coup got together through performing and partying in Atlanta’s hip hop scene and have been distributing music through TuneCore since their debut, To The Moon in 2010. After that release, their track “808” received the remix treatment from legendary dubstep producer Bassnectar – which opened up doors into the EDM/house music/rave world.

Natasha Mosley

ATL-born and raised, Natasha Mosley is a rising R&B artist who has been featured on tracks with Lil Wayne, Jeremih, YG, and Tyga. Releasing her debut full length, Rose Hall, in May of last year, her single “Anything” (stream below) has racked up over 7 million plays on Soundcloud and 2 million streams on YouTube!

Nick Grant
NG press photo

Atlanta-based up-and-comer Nick Grant grew up in a town of only 5,000 in South Carolina, and it’s there that he learned how to stand out. When he discovered his abilities to rhyme, it consumed him, and eventually caught the attention of the right hip hop figures. Taking notes from the legends like Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, Grant dropped his latest mix tape, 88, in early 2016.