Category Archives: Make Money

Music Sampling: Breaking Down the Basics

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

With advancing technology and the development of new digital musical techniques, it has become even easier for an artist to “sample” and integrate another’s finished recording or sound bite into a new, altered and derivate work created by a new artist.

In today’s evolving marketplace, commercial DJs such as Girl Talk and many of today’s top hip hop, dance and pop music producers are all mixing and weaving together different “samples” (a portion of another’s recording) into their new “music.”  With this practice becoming even more prevalent, a proper understanding of what sampling is and how to obtain proper clearance to legally utilize the sample becomes an essential factor in a song’s potential profitability as well as marketability.

“Sampling” is best described as reusing a specific portion of another’s sound recording. The amount used varies; from as little as merely integrating another’s unique drum combinations or guitar rift into a song, to utilizing the entire chorus or a complete verse from a song.  This action, in simplest terms, can be viewed as merely “copying” and “pasting” a portion of another’s existing sound recording into your new work.

Unlicensed instances of this practice can subject a creator to potential liability for copyright infringement; however, there are ways to avoid potential liability and obtain proper permission to utilize a “sample” of another’s work.

In order to properly and legally “sample” another musician’s work in an artist’s track, the sampling artist must obtain a “sample clearance” from the appropriate owner(s) of the original recording.  Since there are two copyrights in every song — the sound recording (typically administered by a record label, e.g., Interscope Records) and the underlying musical composition (typically administered by a publishing company, e.g., Sony/ATV) — a party must obtain permission from both copyright owners and enter into a licensing agreement with each owner in order to legitimately utilize a “sample.”

There may be situations where a use is determined to be “de minimis” and too small to require licensing; but, that is a complicated situation which requires serious analysis.

Generally, in order to ascertain who the proper owners of each respective copyright are, you can start by accessing and searching through the U.S. performing rights society databases (i.e. ASCAP or BMI).  These databases generally list all the relevant writers, producers and appropriate publisher information for a particular track.  Typically, there is also direct contact information listed in the database; and if not, it is advisable to look for a department that handles “licensing” or “sample” and/or “clearance” at the specific company as those are the individuals who generally handle third-party licensing of the finished recordings.

Once you determine the appropriate licensor contacts, an individual should request a “sampling” license.  This licensee request should generally include:

  • How long the sample is (minutes? seconds?),
  • What part of the song you are planning to use the sample (i.e., the whole chorus, a drum loop, etc.),
  • How you are planning to use the sample (solely replacing a chorus, distorted in the background, continuously looped, etc.), the number of units you plan to create or distribute,
  • What types of media you will use (CD, ringtones, streaming, etc.).

Some licensors may also require you to provide an actual copy of the new recording for the licensors to listen to prior to granting any license.

A typical sample license may include an up-front license fee as well as a royalty on each recording sold and/or may include an actual ownership interest in the new recording for the original artist, especially when a substantial portion of the original track is utilized or when the artist is extremely well-known.

Sometimes deals are made on a “flat-fee” buy-out basis.  There are a variety of factors that may determine a licensing fee, including the success of the original song, the success and notoriety of the original artist, the success and notoriety of the sampling artist, the length of the sample, how it will be distributed and how the sample will be used in the new recording.

Generally, the more famous the original track is and the longer the sample used is, the larger the license fee may be. Thus, each artist’s bargaining power comes into play because the alternative (not licensing the “sample”) could end up in litigation with more significant costs, especially if the sampled song ends up being a commercial success.  Sometimes, they will even request an ownership interest in publishing on the new composition.

Alternatively, since a copyright infringement claim is based on substantial similarity and access, an artist can attempt to independently create a desired recording and utilize this new recording for its own track.  Since the artist is not technically “sampling” the exact existing sound recording, the subsequent similar track might not subject the sampling artist to any liability for copyright infringement of the sound recording.

The policy behind this is that if an individual creates his own recording, even if it sounds identical to the untrained ear, there will still inherently be enough variation that this subsequent recording should not be considered an infringement. Thus, the sampling artist would then only need to obtain permission from the publisher who owns the underlying musical composition.  There, no permission from the record label who owns the sound recording would be needed.

However, there is always potential for a lawsuit, as a long-time British colleague once said, “where there’s a hit, there’s a writ (lawsuit).”


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

6 Tips For Selling Your CDs at Gigs

By Dwight Brown

Selling CDs at gigs can be a cash cow.

You’ve got a wide profit margin because the cost of CD Duplication is minimal compared to the price fans will pay for them. And, selling CDs gets your music out there to fans who will recommend your music.

Tempt audiences at your performances, keep these 6 tips in mind, and you’ll sell CDs and make money:  

  1. Pricing. Charge $10 for an album and $5 for a single and most fans won’t think twice about buying one or more CDs. Selling two CDs for a bargain price is irresistible. Keep prices at $5 increments, and you won’t have to mess with small change. 
  2. Giveaways. Consider rolling the price of a CD into the admission charge. It’s like you’re giving them away, but you’re not. Or hand out a few as door prizes—and watch the rest of the audience have CD envy. 
  3. Special CDs.  Selling CDs that are live recordings, impromptu sessions or feature songs that are not on an official release makes fans feel like they’re buying something special. These “quasi-bootleg” CDs become collectors’ items. 
  4. Concession stands. Mark the title, price clearly and keep CDs at eye level. If you’re selling more than one CD, put them in groups. Concession stand helpers who are personable and/or attractive entice fans to buy more. 
  5. Easy payments:  Take cash, checks and credit cards, which are easy to process thanks to smart phone/tablet mobile apps and dongles (hardware that offers a secure connection). 
  6. Strong shows = strong sales. Connect with you your fans on stage, win them over with a memorable performance and they’ll want a CD to take home that recreates that cool experience. It’s that easy.

Selling CDs at gigs can help you finance your next recording session or tour. If CDs aren’t your thing, USB flash drives work too. You can get started with TuneCore’s CD Duplication service.

TuneCore Partners With TapInfluence: Helping Artists Connect With Brands

TuneCore is excited to announce a partnership with influencer marketing leader, TapInfluence, to give brand and agency marketers unprecedented access to the TuneCore Artist community for sponsored digital campaigns. The partnership will offer TuneCore Artists another channel to monetize their talents.

TapInfluence is an influencer marketing platform used by the world’s best brands to identify and collaborate with artists and content creators for sponsored campaigns. Marketers search TapInfluence’s marketplace for enthusiasts and influencers who help them reach targeted audiences across social platforms.

To simplify the process of sourcing relationships and executing campaigns, the partnership between TapInfluence and TuneCore will welcome independent artists, (a valuable and often overlooked segment), to the negotiation table. Further, it levels the playing field so independent artists can now participate in the same revenue streams that formally only represented artists were able to enjoy.

Historically, brand relationships were largely reserved for artists signed to major record labels and represented by highly connected managers, talent agents, and marketing agencies. Matching an artist to a brand was often an inefficient process; there was no clear avenue for a brand to approach an artist with an offer, or for artists to avail themselves to a desired brand. Independent artists make compelling brand partners because they are more flexible and collaborative and allow room for innovation. In general, they are also less expensive to work with and consumers find indie artists more reliable, and their voices more authentic. The coming together of TapInfluence and TuneCore will alleviate a lot of the current barriers to bringing brands and independent artists together.

Marketers are turning to music influencers to help them connect with consumers on their level. Through TapInfluence, TuneCore artists can create a variety of sponsored content such as images, photographs, testimonials and music for videos on YouTube, Instagram and Vine, in a voice that is authentic and natural to them. They also help brands create buzz by sharing events, product launches, and social media campaigns to their fans through their own social channels. Musicians are powerful influencers for brands and agencies because they are creative, reach millions of consumer fans on social media, and are more relatable than high-profile celebrities.

TuneCore, part of Believe Digital, represents more than 30% of all music uploaded to iTunes and their artists have earned over $541 million from over 15.2 billion downloads and streams. The partnership enables TuneCore to offer brand opportunities to its member base of 200,000 independent artists, giving them additional revenue streams.

“TuneCore’s mission is to help independent artists take charge of their careers and increase their opportunities to earn revenue,” says Scott Ackerman, TuneCore’s CEO. “We are proud to be blazing a trail with TapInfluence that opens the world of brand sponsorships to our artists and puts them in front the best brands in the world looking for innovative, authentic voices trusted by consumers,” says Ackerman.

TuneCore & MSCLVR Offer New Way to Make More Money

When you distribute your singles, EPs, and albums, iTunes is usually on the top of the destinations list right? And it should be – with a huge market share for downloads, iTunes is an international powerhouse in terms of giving fans access to your music.

Once your music is live in iTunes, chances are you’re ready to start promoting and marketing the new release with links to buy it. Whether it’s friends, family, or a dedicated fan base, the iTunes Music Store is a great place to send them. Now, wouldn’t it be cool if you could in fact earn more money when people purchase your tunes via the link you promoted? Good news – you can!

MSCLVR (think ‘music lover‘) is a platform used for easy-to-build links to your music in the iTunes Store. Once you register and create a FREE account, find your album or song (searchable by artist, song or album title), and click “Get Link”, you’re ready to start sharing! Simply copy your newly generated link and past it anywhere you want: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, emails, texts, YouTube, etc.

Now when people click and shop for your music with the link you provided, you earn up to a 10% net revenue commission for each download sale tracked back to your MSCLVR account! Pretty sweet, right? MSCLVR tracks download sales commissions from your links WORLDWIDE, and you can follow your sales performance on your own personal MSCLVR dashboard. When sales are made, your money is deposited directly in your MSCLVR account.

“But how is the commission from a MSCLVR Link different from the money I make from regular iTunes download sales?”
iTunes pays you (the artist) the revenue from the sale of your music, minus their platform fees. That sales revenue is deposited in your TuneCore account. iTunes also pays out a percentage of their platform fees to “Affiliates” that drive traffic to their store. By using a MSCLVR link, and driving traffic to their store, you (the artist) are now also an Affiliate. So you are getting a commission above the net sale. You’re, in effect, getting paid twice for the same sale. Your commission is deposited into your MSCLVR account.

Got more questions about MSCLVR Links? Cool! Visit our Knowledge Base here for more info.

Ready to start building your own MSCLVR Links? Get after it here!

YouTube Announces New Artist-Friendly Features

If you’re an independent artist, the focus on marketing your music to your fan base and your efforts to reach new fans never ceases. YouTube, a social media platform once heralded solely for its ability to amuse viewers by way of cat videos, is now considered the largest streaming service on the Internet. And it’s becoming a marketing powerhouse, with revenue-generating benefits and tools that can help artists build their careers. There are multiple ways to get heard and viewed beyond the “going viral” phenomenon, and if you’re not capitalizing on YouTube as a promotional, money-making and artist-support avenue, you’re missing out.

During this year’s Digital portion of SXSW, YouTube announced the launch of YouTube For Artists. This new suite of services lets independent artists track analytics using geographic data and access more in-depth view/play metrics associated with their channels and other channels where their music is being used. Much of this information will be made available via YouTube’s Content ID system, which is only accessible to independent artists via YouTube Partners.

If you distribute your music using TuneCore, for example, our YouTube Sound Recording Revenue collection service allows you to register your tracks within that Content ID system. From there, TuneCore – your YouTube Partner – can collect the revenue you might be missing out on when an ad is placed on your channel or when your music is featured in user-generated videos. We love having the ability to collect revenue on behalf of our artists. We love sharing data, like number of views and the URLs of the videos that use their music, with artists. And now, with YouTube For Artists, TuneCore Artists will soon be able to drive their career in new directions based on real time metrics.

Vivien Lewit, YouTube’s Head of Artist and Label Relations, told Fast Company that the new and improved creator hub “…takes the wisdom of experts who’ve spent years learning about YouTube through analytics and how to gain exposure, and delivers it to a wider audience of artists. We’re taking all of that and aggregating it in one specific place in a digestible format. It will help people understand how to gain fans, how to monetize content, what does YouTube’s algorithm reward, and what do those rewards mean in terms of where your videos will be surfaced.”

Furthermore, Billboard Magazine noted that, “Perhaps the most applicable tool will arrive after launch. In the coming weeks or months, YouTube will debut an analytical tool that will provide viewer information on a city level, with data going back to fall of 2013. This should help artists plan tours or which time zone to release an upcoming video.

As YouTube aims to position its creators for further success, artists’ data and information will be available for anyone to see. So instead of behind-the-scenes analytics, TuneCore Artists, who sign up with our YouTube Sound Recording Revenue collection service, will also be able to show their stats to decision makers, sponsors or promoters in the music and entertainment world who seek more information.

YouTube has certainly come a long way as a platform for artist promotion. They’ve developed more artist-friendly tools and features and music fans have easier methods of discovery. Plus artists have more efficient methods of managing their marketing efforts, collecting revenue from their sound recordings and analyzing their music’s influence.

Interview: Producer Sound Remedy on YouTube Revenue Collection

Venice Beach-based producer Anthony Howell AKA Sound Remedy blends an array of beats, genres and synth sounds to create electronic music that surpasses expectations and makes people move. Between remixes and originals, Sound Remedy has enjoyed mass exposure on YouTube thanks to his own channel and others’. He’s reached #1 on Hype Machine’s charts on numerous occasions and has acquired plenty of touring experience.

Sound Remedy is the perfect example when discussing the power of user generated content on YouTube: videos using his music have seen over 150 million views! By partnering with TuneCore, he’s now able to collect revenue on those videos when ads are placed on them. In our interview, Sound Remedy explains how key YouTube relationships, a liberal sharing/’open content’ strategy, and TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection play into his success as an independent artist:

Tell us a little bit about how your career has been progressing over the past few years as you’ve shifted away from remixes to originals.

Sound Remedy: Remixes are incredible opportunities for exposure because you’re taking an already good song and putting your own twist on it. Unfortunately, the internet has become a lot stricter on remixes. Switching over to originals has helped me because owning your own content can be a lot more lucrative then taking others and reworking it. It’s also important as an artist, to define your sound and this process is a lot more effective with original content.

As an independent artist, what social platform do find yourself using the most, and why?

I’m not tied to any specific social platform at this point. I would say I am more tied to the entire distribution and experience platform that is “the internet.” The problem with sticking to any one platform is the fact that platforms change unpredictably over time. For instance, Facebook just terminated the “Like to Download” functionality which was a vital part of the growth of my career.

The best strategy is to spread your brand onto as many relevant platforms as possible. You want your fans to be able to find you on whatever they use and because everyone is different, this strategy is the most optimal. All this being said, I believe SoundCloud is the most important platform for my brand specifically because that platform focuses solely on the music content itself.

Regardless you boast pretty impressive numbers on both Twitter & Facebook. What kind of advice do you have for indies looking to build their social communities?

First, you need to make sure that every social network you have links the other social networks. For instance, your Facebook should have links to Twitter, Instagram, etc. and vice versa. You want to make yourself as discoverable as possible. I used the “like to download” functionality (which no longer exists) to grow my network. When you’re first starting out, the path to take is to flood the internet with extremely high quality content and incentivize sharing and following actions in exchange for that content. Even though “Like To Download” doesn’t exist, there is still tweet and follow to download applications which should definitely be utilized. It’s also important to get your music on the blogs (another vital part of my career).

Develop concrete relationships with blogs; NEVER spam them. It’s best to send them targeted content via their ingestion platforms and be as personalized as possible, (nobody wants to feel like just another contact on an email list serve).

Where does YouTube rank in terms of how you interact with your fans?

To be completely honest, I haven’t taken YouTube extremely seriously until now. People have always just naturally uploaded my content to YouTube and it has amassed tens of millions of plays over the years. I never looked at that as a way to make money, but now that I’m releasing original content everything has changed. I think there is one very important fact about YouTube that everyone forgets: it’s the biggest music streaming platform in the world. SoundCloud, YouTube, and Spotify are my three main focuses at the moment in terms of streaming platforms.

How do you use YouTube when it comes to sharing new music, connecting with your fans, and reaching new listeners? 

I use YouTube to upload my music, music videos, live performance content, and also to promote my upcoming tours. I also use it to premier various songs.

Do you encourage the use of your music in user-generated videos on YouTube? In what ways have you seen this being done?

I encourage people to upload my music and I also tell them that I won’t ever issue a “take down” request on them. However, there is a lot deeper principle at play here. The goal is to create content which is high enough in quality that people want to share it. If you can create songs that are good enough, the entire process will happen naturally and organically. Also, let’s look at a case study for artists and management teams who have been liberal about the sharing and remix process. Lana Del Rey and Band of Horses both have teams behind them who “get it.” I’ve remixed both these bands (without their permission) and the respective streams have generated over 25,000,000 views or more. Both of these artists gain new fans from the exposure that I give them, and they can also make money by monetizing the streams on YouTube. Take this principle into consideration when other people remix and upload your own work to their channels.

The single worst thing you can do is to have a “closed content” strategy in which you enforce that your music can only be experienced on platforms that you control; this will vastly undercut your gross revenue earning potential for too many reasons to even list.

What would you say the ratio of revenue collected from your YouTube channel versus others that use your music is?

My YouTube channel currently only has 18,000 subscribers and 2,200,000 views. The amount of views from other people using my music on YouTube is between 50,000,000 and 150,000,000. I only started collecting revenue from the other section of YouTube two months ago. So far I’ve seen month over month revenue increases from that section of 500% and as I ingest more songs I expect extremely rapid growth. At this current section of time (November’s earnings report) I earn 20% of my revenue from my channel as opposed to other people using my music on their channels. However, the revenue growth on my YouTube channel is only about 3% to 7% month over month.

Since I began using TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service, I have seen 500% revenue growth month over month on the other channels. Based on a few calculations and the fact that I am submitting more songs to the service, I expect this revenue to grow between 500% and 1,500% month over month for the next two months. In about three months, the amount of money that I earn from my own channel verses others will most likely be less than 5%.

How do you see YouTube impacting the way people consume music in the next 10 years or even further into the future?

The music industry is undergoing a lot of changes. We’ve seen physical/digital music sales steadily decreasing while the streaming market is growing over 50% year over year. YouTube is currently the biggest streaming platform so it’s important. YouTube is only one piece of puzzle, I think the entire streaming market is going to continue to grow and should therefore be made a priority for all artists.

SR 2

How has TuneCore helped you in your musical journey? 

TuneCore has helped me get to a point where I am no longer reliant on touring to make money, and for that I am very grateful. I can now maintain my lifestyle in Venice Beach solely from the royalties I earn on the service and from music licensing and synchs.

Would you recommend using TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service to other independent artists? 

I would 100% recommend TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection to other independent artists. There is money being left on the table so let TuneCore go out and collect it for you!