Category Archives: Music Publishing

November Songwriter News

By Dwight Brown

It’s that time of year when you sit back and remember the reasons why you should be thankful.

For songwriters the top of the list is often the ability to write good songs, share them with appreciative fans and collect songwriting royalties from around the world.

This November, as you count your blessings, the world of songwriting and publishing continues to turn…

Ghostwriters haunt rap music

When Meek Mill accused TuneCore alumnus Drake of not writing his own lyrics, the “Hotline Bling” rapper shut him down. Their Twitter tussle led to investigating the hush-hush side of the hip-hop world where some of the biggest and wealthiest rappers in the game get a hand with their rhymes. Dr. Dre and Sean “Puffy Daddy” Combs have worked with talented invisible scribes. In fact, in the Combs classic rap “Bad Boy For Life,” Combs brags, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks (Ha).” The D.O.C. and Eminem have left their words on others’ tracks—without a trace. And ghostwriters know full well which artists don’t want, need or use their services: Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z (another TuneCore veteran) are among those that are said to have shunned ghost writers entirely.

Forbes reports that ghostwriters are typically paid between $10,000 and $20,000 upfront for their anonymous contributions. Co-writers, on the other hand, average $50,000 and they have a very enviable fringe benefit: royalty payments that can last for years.

Ghostwriter Tracy Horton recognizes the importance of royalties. “For the first few major projects, I was so happy to be on them that I accepted it as paying my dues—I wasn’t looking for anything,” recalls Horton. After he officially wrote five songs for Supernova, the 2001 solo album of TLC’s Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopez, he saw the light. “Now I know the value of publishing.”

Ghostwriting = one paycheck.
Writing with a credit = a larger check and a royalty stream.

The National Music Publishers Association speaks out

David Israelite, Pres/CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and a tireless fighter for publishers and songwriters, has his work cut out for him. In a candid interview on he tackles the elephant in the room: monetization in the digital age. He breaks it down to the basics, stating that “10 years ago, everybody was afraid of theft and piracy. Now our focus has almost entirely shifted to ‘How do we monetize legal sites that are creating a tremendous amount of value?’ “

A quick roundup of the NMPA positions on three key issues outlined in the article:

  • “Fair Pay for Fair Play” Act – They support this initiative.
  • Labels and publishers teaming to maximize profits – They’re for it.
  • Freemium VS Premium streaming services – They prefer Premium,  but feel it should be up to the artist.

I feel we are making progress,” said Israelite, “There is a lot of value in music; we just want to be paid fairly. Let the free market decide, as in every other intellectual property sold on the Internet.”

Can co-writers get paid fairly without Fractional Licensing?

As initially reported by Billboard, a number of sources report that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has sent a letter to ASCAP and BMI telling them that on “split works” — songs written by multiple writers — any writer or rights holder can issue a license for 100% of the song. In other words, the long-established industry practice of each writer or publisher approving their particular share of a song in order to grant a license — also known as “fractional licensing” — may no longer be allowed.

This means that for songs written by more than one writer, if one writer has registered with BMI and the co-writer has registered with ASCAP, BMI would have the right to license on behalf of itself AND the ASCAP writer  

Executives from publishing companies have concerns: Licensees (e.g. streaming services) may pay lower royalty rates when paying one PRO versus several. Songwriters may collect less money if one PRO collects for everybody. Competition among PROs may be stifled. One PRO could take all the marbles. PROs are not set up to pay all rights holders, only their own songwriter members

Why should songwriters care?

93 of the top 100 songs last year had co-writers.

68 of those songs were registered with more than one PRO.  

The DoJ solicited feedback from interested parties and should make a decision in the near future. Here’s one artist’s Op-ed.

Unpaid Royalties. Whose money is it anyway?

Don’t mess with the royalties owed to musician and music industry critic David Lowery (founder of alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven and co-founder of rock band Cracker). He’ll call you out.  And, as reported by Hypebot, that’s precisely what he did when he wrote a letter to the Attorney General of New York, The Honorable Eric T. Schneiderman, focusing on how “Spotify routinely fails to pay songwriter royalties for songwriters who Spotify has failed to locate – but whose songs they use anyway,. 

Lowery continues, “I personally have estimated that Spotify is using over 150 songs I wrote or co-wrote … [I] am demanding an explanation from Spotify.” There is a precedent for getting unclaimed royalties to the rightful artists: in 2004, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced a deal with the nation’s top recording companies that returned nearly $50 million in unclaimed royalties to thousands of performers. As part of the agreement, those recording companies, among other concessions, listed the names of artists and writers who were owed royalty payments on company websites. Not a bad idea.

Related article at The Trichordist: Spotify Has Apparently Failed to License, Account and Pay on More than 150 Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven Songs.

Happy Birthday (To You). Now pay the royalty!

Did you ever wonder why people sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” instead of “Happy Birthday (To You)” in films and on television shows? It’s because you had to pay a sync fee for “Happy Birthday (To You)” to the publisher, while “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” is in the public domain where no license is necessary. This may no longer be the case thanks to documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson. She was making a film about the song “Happy Birthday” and Warner/Chappell insisted that she pay a $1,500 license fee to use the composition. Nelson did not agree; instead she filed a putative class action case against the publisher in 2013.  In October 2015, a federal judge ruled Warner/Chappell’s copyright claim was invalid, giving summary judgment to the plaintiffs.  However, that was only round one.

In a major twist, a US charity, Association for Childhood Education International, filed a motion to intervene in the case. ACEI’s lawyers claim that the organization had been receiving one-third of all revenues generated from “Happy Birthday (To You)” for over 20 years, a royalty stream it inherited from the song’s original co-writers, sisters Patty and Jessica Hill, who wrote the ditty in 1922. Patty Hill was both a founding member and ‘active participant’ in ACEI. The motion hasn’t been ruled on yet. But if you want to sing Happy Birthday on network TV, it could still cost you!

If you’re interested in claiming your royalties, TuneCore’s Music Publishing Administration is here to help.


Artist Breakdown: TuneCore Live: LA @ Bardot 11/18

The live independent music stars have aligned! That’s right: we’ve got TWO TuneCore Live shows on the same night – on both ends of the United States. You may have read about our upcoming event at the Living Room in Brooklyn, but we’re here to remind our buddies in the Los Angeles area that on Wednesday, November 18th, we’ll be hosting another FREE, 21+ show at our home away from home, Bardot Hollywood.

With the ever helpful Swisher Sweets, CeleBuzz and Mirrored Media, we’re psyched to bring you some pre-Thanksgiving live music courtesy of TuneCore Artists Chelsea Lankes, blondfire, and Ships Have Sailed! As always, doors are at 8 and capacity is limited – so get there early. Learn a little bit about all three artists below (and have a listen!), then head over to our Facebook event page to RSVP.

Ships Have Sailed


Combining rock, pop and electronic music, LA’s Ships Have Sailed came out of the garage swinging! Their debut EP, Someday, was released just last year and received critical acclaim and heavy airplay from NPR and college to commercial radio in the U.S. and Canada. Comprised of Will Carpenter and Dan Hange, the duo rode the wave of momentum as they released their recent debut LP, MoodswingsShips Have Sailed aimed to offer their fans “a well-rounded, full-length story intended to be heard from the beginning to the end.”



Comprised of brother and sister Bruce and Erica Driscoll, blondfire acquired wide critical reception and a worldwide fan base with their 2014 album Young Heart. Erica’s vocals allows blondfire tracks to dance between the likes of Top 40 pop music and dark indie synth rock. Meanwhile, Bruce’s stunning production complements the musical journey as he dabbles with keys, synth, guitars and explosive drums. Their latest single, “Pleasure“, as Erica puts it is “inspired by the crazy Manchester drug scene aftermath and how seeking that ultimate euphoria and pleasure can come with a dark side.”

Chelsea Lankes


2015 has been a pretty hot year for singer/songwriter Chelsea Lankes! While we’re proud to say she’s been using TuneCore for a couple of years, it was the release of her two singles “Down For Whatever” and a cover of Motley Crue’s “Too Young To Fall In Love” that gained radio support and a shout out on Spotify’s New Music series. Tie that in with a VICE short film placement, a feature on RAC’s “Can’t Forget You”, being brought on as a BCBG “GenGirl”, and the release of the first single off her upcoming album (stream below), and we’re willing to bet 2016 should be equally as promising for Chelsea!

Hey Austin, TX! Join Us For ATX Master Classes

Whether you’re an independent artist or an aspiring music business professional, education is a huge part of navigating this industry. In an effort to help educate, TuneCore has teamed up with  Economic Development Department in Austin’s Music and Entertainment Division to offer FREE ‘Master Classes’ next Wednesday and Thursday.

Taught by TuneCore’s Manager of Entertainment Relations in our new Austin office, Amy Lombardi, you’ll have the chance to soak in a TON of information about getting your music heard worldwide and the collection of sales revenue and songwriter royalties. Because if you’re writing, performing and trying to distribute your music independently, it never hurts to be armed with knowledge!

Classes will be about an hour, and will also include a Q&A session afterwards. Laptops will be available for registrants to use during the interactive portion of class, or you are welcome to bring your own. Seating is based on an RSVP/first-come, first-serve basis, so if you live in the Austin area, make sure to sign up!

An official poster and specific event information is below.

ATX Music Master Classes

“Get Heard Worldwide & Collect Your Sales Revenue + Songwriter Royalties”
Date: Wednesday Nov. 18th & Thursday Nov. 19th, 2015
Time: 4:00pm
Location: Entrepreneur Center of Austin, 4029 S. Capital of Texas Hwy. Ste 110
More info: Click here
Tunecore Masterclass Poster

More about Amy Lombardi

Amy Lombardi leads TuneCore’s new Austin office in one of the country’s largest music hubs. Previously, Lombardi was the owner and founder of artist management firm Beekeeper Corp. where she managed Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, Cass McCombs, Escondido, and My Gold Mask. She began her career at A&M Records and later spent time in publicity at Warner Bros. Records and Nasty Little Man before founding Call Girl PR, her own arts-based public relations firm. In her new position at TuneCore, Lombardi will work closely with artists to support and develop their careers, while increasing TuneCore’s presence in the local community.

Wednesday Video Diversion: October 28, 2015

Happy Hump Day, universe! Did you know that on this day – in two separate years during the 90s – both Coolio’s “Gangstas Paradise” and AfroMan’s “Cuz I Got High” hit number one on the Billboard charts? Yeah, that’s right. If that’s not a reason to kick back and reflect over some awesome TuneCore Artist videos, we don’t know what is. Enjoy!

Chance the Rapper, “Angels (Live on Colbert)”

X.O., “Country Club”

Hadi Hajilou, “Meri Ankhon (My Eyes)”

Tyrez, “Goodbye”

Chris Rivers, “I Just Wanna Rap (ft. Nitty Scott & Whispers)”

FLAWES, “Don’t Wait For Me”

Heirsound, “Do It Over”

Visakh Menon & Heavy Birds, “View 83”

Potty Mouth, “The Spins”

Audrey Karrasch, “Euphoria”

Interview: TuneCore Talks to Cymbal App Co-Founders

A lot of folks first heard of an app called Instagram and blew it off as a fad – after all, there’s other social channels on which you can share photos that are far more popular and widely used. It didn’t take long for public opinion to sway and for Instagram to become one of the most popular apps available today.

While it’s been described as “Instagram for music” by early adopters who also happen to be die-hard music fans, Cymbal is a relatively new app that’s finding an audience — and venture capital — quickly. Think about it: all music fans already love sharing what they’re listening to, and we’re living in a day and age where it’s acceptable to share everything and anything. Cymbal is the perfect home for music lovers who not only want to share their flavor of the moment, but also follow likeminded fans who can turn them onto new artists.

Cymbal was founded by three college students in Massachusetts – Gabriel Jacobs, Amadou Crookes and Mario Gomez-Hall – and now it’s on its way to growing to new levels, attracting new music and tech fans each day. The guys at Cymbal do an amazing job of summing it all up:

Cymbal is simple.  Make a profile and post songs you love from Soundcloud or Spotify. Then follow friends and tastemakers —blogs, artists, smart people. Follow by follow, you create a timeline: a playlist of songs, one from each of your friends, of the song that means the most to them this instant.

Read on to learn a little more about the three co-founders’ adventure so far, and where they feel Cymbal plays a role in the musical landscape of 2015 and beyond.

First off, share how you all met and began developing Cymbal to begin with. Was it a mutual love of music or programming that spawned the app?

Gabriel Jacobs: We all met at Tufts University. The app development community at Tufts is very small, so we all kind of knew each other. Amadou and I met during our sophomore year when we were assigned to be programming partners in a notoriously hard computer science class.

Since we worked really well together, we decided to take a stab at making an iPhone app junior year. That app never took off, but it gave us the experience and technical knowledge we needed to make Cymbal. Meanwhile, Mario was designing apps for Microsoft, freelance projects, and his own personal ventures. When Amadou and I approached him during the fall semester of our senior year, we immediately knew that we had the perfect team.

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How do you feel this disrupts the larger apps/social channels that allow users to share their favorite bands and artists?

GJ: The issue with sharing music to larger social networks is that most of these networks were not designed specifically for music. Take Instagram for example. Instagram is an unbelievable network for photos. However, a lot of Instagram users attempt to share music through instagram by sharing album art and using hashtag “#nowplaying.”

But in order to listen to that song, their friends have to search it out on a different music network. The same goes for Twitter and Facebook. Music was not meant to be shared on these platforms. On the other hand, Cymbal was specifically designed for the act of sharing music, and we hope that people see it as a more functional way to do just that.

Conversely, explain how major digital music platforms/streaming services come into the fold for Cymbal users.

Mario Gomez-Hall: We’re so lucky to be working on Cymbal at this point in music history. We’re building this product at a time when streaming music has just overtaken digital downloads for the first time ever and is on track to just keep going.

With Spotify, for $10 per month, you can listen to basically every song every recorded. How cool is that? At the same time, there is this incredible DIY music platform in SoundCloud that’s built for artists to quickly and easily upload their music to the internet, so all of this amazing independent music is just waiting to be discovered.

With Cymbal, we’ve combined both of these great platforms with social features that let our users define themselves through music and discover new artists every day.

How would you describe the target user of Cymbal?

Amadou Crookes: Part of what makes Cymbal so cool is that it can be used in so many different ways. A music fan can share their favorite current songs with their friends. Someone looking for new songs can just listen through their feed to find new music. An artist can distribute songs directly to their fans. A label can support emerging artists and debut tracks. A venue can post songs from upcoming shows, and since we’ve got an in-app browser and active links, can post ticket links along with them. In the same way, publications can post songs with links to articles in them.

It’s harder to think of use cases that don’t exist on Cymbal than to winnow down a list of those that do.

We know music lovers are digging Cymbal. What has been the overall response from artists?

AC: They love it! I think it’s appealed to labels first, because they see it as a new way to promote their artists. I think artists – especially independent artists – will see it as a new way to get their music directly to their fans, in the space they’re listening. In that way, it’ll be a powerful way to control how your music is distributed and promoted. Pretty cool.

Similarly, how do you see Cymbal as it relates to the world of independent music and those creating it?

GJ: It has been really fun to see the way independent and emerging artists have been using Cymbal to promote their music. For a lot of these bands, there is no publicist or PR manager getting them album reviews, featured premieres, and other media attention. For them, Cymbal is an easy way to immediately be immersed in an active music community.

One of the best upcoming artists we have on the app is a band called LVL UP. They love it! They joined Cymbal early and have really taken advantage of all the ways Cymbal can help them grow and be discovered. They have over 1.1K followers on Cymbal and their posts consistently get around 40 likes each. For a band like them, that is trying hard to book good gigs and be recognized, Cymbal is a big deal. We hope that as Cymbal gets more popular, bands like LVL UP rise with it.

cymbal shot1

Will Cymbal simply remain a platform for discovery and sharing, or do you have ambitions to get into partnerships, either on the brand or label side?

MGH: It will always be a platform for discovery and sharing, but I think partnerships, whether they’re with brands, labels, or anyone else, can make that experience a lot better for everyone involved. We can work with labels to do exclusives, or to help brands find their target audiences, or help the two do dedicated guest DJing… the list really does go on.

I think you’ll see brands embrace Cymbal because of how powerfully music can unobtrusively convey feeling. That said, the beauty of Cymbal is its democratic nature. Every profile gets one spot in your feed, whether you’re a brand, a band, a blog, or a label.

Are there any exciting plans you get share with us for the rest of the year or in 2016?

MGH: We’re super excited to be working on a full-featured web version of Cymbal. So many startups these days are mobile-first and laugh when you suggest they make a web version, but Cymbal, and music in general, is something people listen to for an extended period of time and in one place. The music media world still primarily exists on the web, and discovery is a time-consuming thing.

If you go to any college and grab some random kid’s MacBook Pro, you’ll see Spotify’s desktop app installed — I guarantee it. Music is what we listen to while we sit at the office all day, write a class paper, and browse the internet. Being on web means we can be with you wherever you are, whatever the activity. It opens us up to amazing things like an embeddable Cymbal widget and means more people can experience social music, regardless of what computer or phone they use.

Interested in getting your music on Cymbal? Do it up! Download Cymbal for iOS here.

TuneCore Sync Placements in Q3 2015

We’re extremely proud to be able to help our TuneCore Artists get their music out to the world in the form of synchronization licensing. From TV shows and movies to video games and advertisements, sync placements are one of the most sought-after successes among independent artists.

In an effort to celebrate and showcase these licenses, we’re continuing to share highlights from each quarter here on the TuneCore Blog! If you’ve been interested in TuneCore’s Music Publishing Administration, peruse through these placements to see just some of what our publishing team has been up to:

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Hotel Transylvania 2 (Promo)
Song Title: “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)”
Writer: Timothy Mingo
Artist: Silentó

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So You Think You Can Dance
Song Title: “The Wild Life”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight

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The Simpsons
Song Title: “What a Wonderful World”
Artist: The Clarks

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South Park
Song Title: “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)”
Writer: Timothy Mingo
Artist: Silentó

Wild Life
NFL Network: 2015 NFL Kickoff Live Coverage
Song Title: “The Wild Life”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight

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Ray Donovan
Song Title: “PreGomesh”
Writer: Siranush Kocharyan
Artist: Sirusho

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Dancing with the Stars
Song Title: “Hey Pachuco”
Writer: Eddie Nichols
Artist: Royal Crown Revue

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CBS This Morning Saturday
Song Title: “Ghost Town” and “Who Do You Think Are?”
Writer: Samuel Morgan
Artist: Sam Outlaw

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The Vampire Diaries
Song Title: “Love & Exhale”
Writer: Kevin Calaba
Artist: AirLands

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Song Title: “Good Morning Sunshine”
Writer: Alex Day
Artist: Alex Day

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Song Title: “Hip Hop Jazz Drum Solo”
Writers: Robert Silverman, Michael Silverman
Artist: Anthem Drums

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Tembo the Badass Elephant (video game trailer)
Song Title: “Dopaminex – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”
Writer: Med Shaw
Artist: Dopaminex

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Double Daddy
Song Title: “Butcher in the Sky”
Writer: David Jones
Artist: David Thomas Jones

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Brand: A Second Coming
Song Title: “Larp”
Writer: Adam Klein
Artist: The Brave Youth