5 Reasons It Pays To Collaborate

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]

 

They often say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” but what does that actually mean? Sure, we all know the benefits of growing our own team to carry out our own vision, but what are the real benefits to working with others who don’t work for us?

In years past, as I tried to get former businesses off the ground, I had been approached many times to collaborate with other business owners. More often than not I said no, afraid someone else would cloud my overall vision or try to usurp whatever I was currently working on and take it for themselves. I also had bad flashbacks of school projects when group work meant me busting my ass and four or five others benefiting off of my all-nighters.

So I pushed ahead on my own.

After two businesses failed to reach their full potential, I realized it was time to get out of my own way and realize the potential of combining forces. It’s one thing to hire internally and have a team help execute your vision – in fact, it’s crucial – but it’s quiet another to work with someone else who is in your same position (the captain of their own ship), but who brings a different perspective or skill set to the table.

Whether you’re a business owner or a songwriter, when it comes to true collaboration, it’s no longer about making your vision work, it’s about doing what works, period.

You don’t have to abandon your vision, but you do have to be open to improving it.

If you can trust that it’s just as important to have people who work with you as it is to have people to work for you then you can profit (in more ways than one) from these five benefits of collaboration:

1. Opens you up to a new or larger fan base: If you’re an artist who is trying to build their fanbase, positioning yourself to be a featured artist on someone else’s track or reaching out to share a stage with an artist who has already established a tour can get you in front of others who may not be familiar with you, but who are already primed to be potential fans of yours. Don’t stay up on other musicians as a way to “keep an eye on the competition,” but stay informed on who’s making moves as a way to keep an eye out for collaboration.

2. Opens you up to more prominent industry attention: Especially if you’re in the songwriting business, collaborating with another writer who already has the ear of industry decision makers can elevate your chances of getting their ear as well. That’s not to say you should only work with people who have reached a certain recognition – working with someone else who is on your same level can be just as beneficial. Not only are two brains almost always better than one, but creating something from two different perspectives can give your project the unique spin needed to make others listen.

3. Gets you a life long partner in this industry who has your back: Creating art is a very vulnerable process. Creating art with someone else can create an almost immediate bond. In an industry that can be very unforgiving, forming a close relationship with someone who can 100% relate to your specific position in the industry can be invaluable as you grow together.

4. Makes you better creatively and professionally: As I said above about not needing to abandon your vision, but being open to improving it, collaboration causes you to reflect on what you bring to the table and push further. A strong collaboration will force you to dig deep and put it all on the table. Much like an accountability buddy when trying to finish a task, when there’s someone to answer to you’ll try harder. On a professional note, knowing how to work with other personalities and talents is never a skill you should let get rusty.

5. Gives you a great story: When you bio is all about you, it becomes a snoozefest. Everyone loves a good love story in the movies, and everyone loves to hear how a song or project came together from a successful collaboration, especially if it’s an unexpected one. It gives you plenty of content to share and drip out as part of your promotional campaign. It makes cross-promotion a no-brainer, once again getting your work in front of a larger audience.

A little bit of skepticism with who you choose to let into your creative world is healthy, but paranoia or being overly controlling has never served anyone in the long run. Remember that in the end, it’s all about presenting your fans with the best version of yourself and sometimes it takes others to bring that out of us.

Here’s to making the dream work!

August Songwriter News

By Stefanie Flamm

From Rio to the US Presidential election, it’s been a busy summer for everyone, including songwriters around the world:

  • Rio turns out to be as much a competition for artists looking to get sync placement as it is for the Olympic athletes.
  • Donald Trump stirs even more controversy by using “We Are the Champions” at the Republican National Convention, against the wishes of Queen.
  • Apple makes a motion to set a standard streaming rate, a move that would revolutionize royalty payments for songwriters.

Advertiser’s $1.2 billion budget for the Rio Olympics turns sync placement into a competition of its own.

It should come as no surprise that the Olympics is one of the most widely-popular televised sporting events around, particularly for US viewers. Even for a disappointingly low year, a whopping average of 27.5 million viewers watched Rio Olympic coverage via NBCUniversal over the 15 days of competition. And with that high number of average viewers, comes a high demand for prime advertising placement.

With the Olympic viewership paling only in comparison to the Superbowl, companies were chomping at the bit for an opportunity to intersperse the high-profile swim and women’s gymnastics competitions, among many others. Particularly at the opening ceremonies, with an outrageous rate of one commercial every eight minutes, there was a lot of competition amongst companies and ad agencies alike to help their product stand out from the crowd. This is where a skilled Music Supervisor comes into play.

Between the more US-friendly time zone and the hype surrounding high-profile athletes like Simone Biles, NBCUniversal had planned for a higher viewership than they received for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As a result, companies were flocking to advertising agencies as early as a year before the competition began. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years — it’s the first time we’ve had to dig deep so early,” commented Grey Group Director or Music Joshua Rabinowitz.

Sync royalties for Olympic commercials were reaching upwards of $250,000 for the Rio games, not to mention the added benefit of an audience of 27.5 million people who could download or stream the song after hearing it.

Some agencies decided to stick with tried-and-true classics, like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” or the Gershwin classic “Rhapsody in Blue,” and some chose to highlight newer artists, like Boys Noize’s “Rock the Bells.” A personal favorite advertisement for Nike included music from the 2003 song “Drums Are My Beat” by Sandy Nelson.

But not every song used for ad sync placement at the Olympics was a catchy or recognizable tune. Writers Andrew Simple and Michael Logan curated a sync-worthy song that snagged them a spot in a commercial for Folgers that left me quietly weeping at my desk. A colleague of Simple’s noted, “I knew it could be the soundtrack for a spot that taps into a close relationship,” and the song was pitched for sync placement before even being released.  

Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and a handful of songwriters were able to take home the gold at this year’s Olympic games.

Repeated unauthorized use of their song “We Are the Champions” on the Donald Trump campaign leaves Queen seeking legal action.

Whether you’re voting for him in November or you’re adamantly protesting against him, everyone can pretty much agree that Donald Trump isn’t playing by the rules of a typical US Presidential campaign. He brought this attitude to the world of publishing recently after his second unauthorized use of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The issue first came up in June of this year, after the last Super Tuesday of the year when Donald Trump celebrated his victory over the last remaining primaries. Trump’s campaign blasted “We Are the Champions” to commemorate their victory, only it didn’t occur to anyone on Trump’s staff to acquire permissions from Queen first.

Queen’s guitarist Brian May immediately expressed his upset over this, taking to his personal website for a reaction statement. “…permission to use the track was neither sought nor given… Regardless of our views on Mr Trump’s platform, it has always been against our policy to allow Queen music to be used as a political campaigning tool.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s team did not see this statement as an unofficial cease-and-desist, as they played the song again this July at the RNC. After Melania Trump’s semi-plagiarized speech, the RNC was a one-two punch of intellectual property theft. Queen took to Twitter shortly after the broadcast to follow-up that Trump’s campaign had, again, failed to request permission to use the song.

This month, Queen’s publishing company Sony/ATV Music Publishing announced a formal statement regarding the Trump campaign’s use of “We Are the Champions:”

Sony/ATV Music Publishing has never been asked by Mr. Trump, the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization for permission to use “We are the Champions” by Queen. On behalf of the band, we are frustrated by the repeated unauthorized use of the song after a previous request to desist, which has obviously been ignored by Mr. Trump and his campaign.

Queen does not want its music associated with any mainstream or political debate in any country. Nor does Queen want “We are the Champions” to be used as an endorsement of Mr. Trump and the political views of the Republican Party. We trust, hope and expect that Mr. Trump and his campaign will respect these wishes moving forward.”

Apple’s proposition to set a concrete, per-stream royalty rate could revolutionize songwriters’ relationship with streaming.

The battle between songwriters and streaming services has been around since the latter’s inception, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be easing up anytime soon. In the wake of the United States Department of Justice ruling for 100 percent licensing, songwriters and publishers alike are not satisfied with the DoJ’s perceived favoritism of streaming services. However, Apple has put an initiative into place that might change streaming payouts in favor of the songwriter.

In a proposal made by Apple, in conjunction with the Copyright Royalty Board, streaming services should pay 9.1 cents in songwriting royalties for every 100 times a song is played. While that only results in a payout of $0.0091 per stream, having a standard rate of streaming could mean more transparency between streaming services and songwriters.

“An interactive stream has an inherent value,” Apple wrote in their proposal, “regardless of the business model a service provider chooses.”

The need for the DoJ, streaming services, and songwriters to come together is ever-present in the increasingly streaming-friendly world. The general consensus seems to be at “freemium” streaming services like Spotify need to change their subscription models in favor of making more money for the songwriters. While this Apple proposition isn’t exactly giving songwriters what they’re asking for (and doesn’t necessarily favor its competitors’ pricing models), it’s a direct attempt to eradicate freemium streaming, and it looks like it may be a step in the right direction towards more harmony between artists and the streaming services that pay them.

For more information on TuneCore Publishing Administration, click here.

SOUND BYTES

Think You Have a Song That's Syncable?

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Liam Farrell, Manager of Sync on TuneCore’s Publishing Administration team, and it was originally featured on Music Connection.]

This past May, I attended a panel discussion on the current state of sync. It was a real who’s-who of gatekeepers from the sync world; a PRO exec, some big name publishers and music director from one of the top creative agencies in the world.

The audience was a mix of music supervisors, catalog reps, and a ton of hungry musicians looking for new and creative ways to monetize their music.  During the Q&A, one of the more forward musicians in the audience presented a very direct question to the panel:

“What kind of music should I write to land a lot of syncs?”

For a few seconds, the panel seemed to be at a loss for words.  That is until the Music Director spoke up, “Inspirational, anthemic rock that builds.”

I watched as everyone in the audience jotted these words as if an angel had visited and given them the password to heaven.  Of course, the Music Director went on to add much more substance and nuance to his answer, including the suggestion that when a songwriter sets out to write a syncable tune, its often obvious and takes away authenticity of the original song idea. However, those five first words continued to resonate in the room.

As I pondered this a bit deeper, I started to look back at my own experience as a music supervisor.  Pitching and clearing music for wide variety of mediums, from multi-million dollar national brand campaigns to Kickstarter videos for salt water taffy start-ups.  I realized, “inspirational anthemic rock that builds” was a great answer if you are trying to land one of those big, career launching ad placements.

But there are so many more avenues into sync where the competition is much thinner and the opportunities are much more frequent. Below are a few thoughts and tips to keep in mind when crafting your next masterpiece. Again, I’m “NOT” suggesting writing a song that hits all of the points to follow. I think most music supervisors will agree with me. These are just a few things to think about applying to your song(s) to maximize your chances for landing syncs of all shapes and sizes.

Tip # 1: Instrumental Versions 

I cannot stress this enough: Have instrumental versions of all of your songs ready and available at a moments notice. For 99% of placements of popular songs in ads, the instrumental version is needed in order to make the edit work.  This is largely because the Voice Over needs room to breath and tell the audience about the product.

Lets say you have a song called “I Got A Feelin’ I Love You” and that a yogurt brand wants to use it in a campaign to introduce their new flavor: Banana Cheesecake Delight.  Target demographic: Moms on the Go.

The first 20 seconds of the spot there’s VO (voice over) speaking to the nutritional value of the yogurt and how easy and convenient it is to eat.  The camera focuses in on someone savoring the first bite. The titular line of your song “I Got a Feelin’ I Love You” plays and the title card appears.  That’s what we call in the biz a “vocal up.”

Now, if the instrumental wasn’t available for the editors, then all of the lyrics preceding “I Got a Feelin’ I Love You” would compete with the VO and the spot will sound cumbersome and confusing.

Tip #2:  Button Up – Never Fade

I’ve been in the room when its happened.  All of the creatives listening to music options for their spot.  There’s one song they all react positively to. Toes tapping and heads bopping.  Everyone is loving this song.  The final chorus comes in and its epic, but then, the worst thing happens.  The song ends on a fade out!  BLASPHEMY!  Everyone is severely disappointed and a few people quit their jobs right there on the spot.  Why? Why ever fade out a song? Very rarely will a TV show or film fade out from one scene to another and it NEVER happens in ads.

If for some reason the spot calls for a fade out, this can easily be done in the edit suite.  Editors cannot, however, undo a fadeout and create an ending that isn’t there.  Its uber-important to put a nice intentional button ending (or sting) on every song you want to be pitched for sync. Trust me.

Tip #3: Clean Versions

We all love edgy music from time to time, amirite? Suggestive lyrics and gratuitous f-bombs are tons of fun at the adults only pool party.

But brands? No way. Brands like to play it safe so they can reach the widest pool of potential consumers possible.  Sure, you can get some swears in a film with a PG-13 or higher rating, or even on a late night cable comedy.  But if you really want to maximize your chances for sync, you should have a clean version readily available.  That doesn’t mean add a BLEEP sound over every bad word. That gets annoying real quick.  That means either replace it or drop the word altogether in the mix.

Tip #4: Whoa Oh Oh’s

You may have noticed (if you haven’t, you will now) that a ton of commercial spots use songs that feature some sort of “Oooo” “Whoa” or “Ahh” in lieu of actual lyrics. This makes sense because it allows the spot to avoid any lyrics that may compete with the brand’s message while also maintaining the vocal element that ‘legitimizes’ the song.  It can also add an extra layer of energy.

Tip #5: Not Too Specific Lyrics

Now this is a tricky one. Not to sound like a broken record, but you shouldn’t set out to write a song specifically for sync. Give us truth. Give us authenticity. Just don’t give us the full name, description, and backstory of your long lost love. Keep it 100.

It’s great to write lyrics that are personal and close to the heart.  However, if your lyrics are too specific, it may hurt your chances for sync.

Lets say a soup brand is looking for the perfect song to go along with their new flavor: New England HAM Chowder.  They want to find a song that reflects the warm and comforting nature of soup. You happen to have a song in your catalog “Warmth.”  The lyrics go something like, “Last winter, up in Maine, We sat by the fire hand in hand, the bluest eyes, shake my core, I love you Margaret, you make me warm…” Bro, that’s not gonna work for soup.

Meanwhile Johnny Syncsalot submits his song called “Comfort.”  He lands the placement because his lyrics were emotive, yet vague enough that they could pass for being about soup, “Oooo I’ve been waiting for this, and I can’t get it out of my mind.  Home is where I want to be, and now your comfort is mine.”

A young man is sitting with his cat and guitar at home on a sofa and is writing songs in a notebook

That could be about soup, a dog, bed sheets, a shower, etc.  Lyrics like this can be applied to a number of different things because they are so vague about what the subject is.

Just something to think about next time you put the pen to paper.

Tip #6: Dynamics – Never Loop

A repetitive track gets boring really quickly.  Having a song that’s dynamic and has lots of peaks and valleys will set your music apart from others.

The people who actually lay the music to picture often look for what they call “edit points.”  These are moments within the song where the mood, intensity, or energy takes a turn.

Lets say you have a scene in a film where a young athlete is struggling to finish her race.  Her legs are tired and she’s falling behind the other runners. The song in the background is pulsing, and tense, matching the pace and mood of the scene.  Then, just as she’s about to give up and quit, she sees her coach in the stands.  The coach gives her a look like “C’mon, you can DO THIS. ” At that moment she finds sudden second wind and pushes herself to speed up for one last lap.  The music pivots intensity and is now triumphant and optimistic, yet still the same song.  She makes it over the finish line and gets her gold medal.

If you’re song is simply a loop of a beat or some chords, there still may be some syncs out there for you.  But they are limited to phone apps and weather channel updates.  Nothing wrong with that.  But spice it up a bit if you want a shot at the big leagues.

Tip #7 – The Build Up

Most commercials are :30 or :60 seconds long. So if you can save an editor from cutting up your song to fit these lengths, you’ll have a serious advantage. Thus, its is wise to have your song build steadily over 30 or 60 seconds. Of course, most real songs (not jingles) are going to be much longer than 60 seconds. So once the song is mixed and ready for master, just create a :30 and :60 cut-down version (maybe even a :15 if you are feeling saucy!).  These are always good to have in your back pocket, ready for sync.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to give the listener a little bit of time to bask in the glory of the crescendo you’ve just built up to. So don’t have it peak at :30 or :60.  Rather, hit the musical zenith at :27 (for a :30) or :54 (for a :60).  If you peak at :30, its like riding a roller coaster to the top of the hill, and then getting off before the payoff. Nahmsayin?

This one I would recommend applying at the final stages of the recording process via editing. Its hard to fit a good and thoughtful song idea into a :30 second edit, so go nuts and write/record the full song first. Then take the juiciest of bits and cut them down after the fact.

Tip #8: Save Sessions

Sometimes, creatives will be really into a song, but not quite feeling the sultry sax solo because it competes with VO.  Often they’ll ask the artist if there is a version without the sax.  The savvy musician will have the session backed up on a hard drive and will be able to deliver a sax-free version at a moments notice.  I’ve seen songs get a lot of love in the edit suite, only to be passed over because the artist couldn’t deliver a different mix.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Back up your sessions!

Tip #9: Less is More

Piggybacking off of Tip #8.  There is some real value in minimal music.  This is especially true in background music for TV or documentaries.  Consider for a moment all of the music in scenes like: tip toeing through a dark hallway, a news report on the aftermath of a natural disaster, a washed up actor recounting a dark time in his life, or an educational look at the process of photosynthesis.

The music under all of these types of moments needs to be subtle and not over the top.  There is a lot of value in ethereal soundscapes, solo piano pieces, or even simple ambient drones.  Sometimes its best to keep it simple and subtle.  You may be surprised how much demand there is for this kind of thing.

Tip #10: Be True to Yourself

This one is VERY important.  While ‘inspirational anthemic rock that builds’ may be the most sought after kind of music for sync, there’s also going to be a lot of competition.  If that’s not your thing, don’t sweat it!  We get requests all the time for very specific, non-mainstream music that is authentic.  Perhaps you are an ole timey barber shop quartet, or maybe a mariachi band.  Stick with it!  There are opportunities out there for you.

One great example is the band, Dropkick Murphys. Quite a specific sound, right? Irish-American Punk.  While they likely wont land the theme song on Real Housewives of Ft Lauderdale, they get a ton of love from Irish-themed shows, movies, and brands. I can’t think of one Boston mob film that they aren’t on the soundtrack of.

You have the same chance at that sort of path to success.  Just find what you are good at, and keep pushing.


LIAM FARRELL is Manager of Sync on TuneCore’s Publishing Administration team. After graduating from Syracuse University in 2008, Farrell moved to New York to foster over eight years of experience in the music industry, ranging from artist management to music supervision. Farrell climbed aboard TuneCore’s Brooklyn vessel in May of 2016, bringing with him a knack and enthusiasm for music synchronization.

July Songwriter News

By Stefanie Flamm

The music industry may seem like it’s settling into its predictable lull, but songwriters and publishers worldwide are fighting harder than ever for a fair marketplace:

  • The US Department of Justice rules in favor of licensing regulations that many songwriters and publishers see as “a clusterf—k of epic proportions.
  • YouTube announces $2 billion in gross earnings for rights owners using their Content ID system.
  • After a $750m buyout from the Michael Jackson Estate, Sony now owns the rights to 50% of Sony/ATV and its catalogue of over 2 million songs.

The Department of Justice passed new legislation that could mean smaller royalty payouts for songwriters across the United States.


When it comes to the world of publishing, the biggest news of the month, by far, has been the US Department of Justice’s recent ruling in favor “100 percent licensing,” meaning that for songs with multiple songwriters, a licensee only requires a license from one of the contributors (instead of each of them). The music industry as a whole is shocked and upset by this verdict, especially in the wake of petitions fighting for a total overhaul of the already-outdated legislation currently in place. Songwriters and publishers alike fear that this could mean lower royalty payout, more complicated work for PROs, and an increase in royalty disputes across the industry.

“Instead of making the necessary modifications, we have been saddled with a disruptive proposal that ignores songwriters’ concerns for our future livelihoods in a streaming world, serves absolutely no public interest and creates confusion and instability for all of us who depend on the efficiencies of collective licensing,” said ASCAP’s President Paul Williams released a statement on July 11th.

The DoJ’s decision was carefully thought-out based on the trajectory of the music industry in the digital age, stemming specifically from the idea that 100 percent licensing would make it easier for parties like Pandora to license music. However, even the US Copyright Office has put in a negative word about the verdict and urges the DoJ to rethink 100 percent licensing.

In a 33-page reaction to the new regulations, the US Copyright Office “believes that an interpretation of the consent decrees that would require these PROs to engage in 100-percent licensing presents a host of legal and policy concerns. Such an approach would seemingly vitiate important principles of copyright law, interfere with creative collaborations among songwriters, negate private contracts, and impermissibly expand the reach of the consent decrees.”

While music licensees see the DoJ decision as a smart move in the fact of the current prevalence of music streaming, they’re going to receive a lot of pushback from songwriters and publishers alike. It doesn’t look like BMI, ACSAP, or the US Copyright Office are looking to back down any time soon, so hopefully for the sake of publishers everywhere, the DoJ can go back to the drawing board and retool a system that benefits both the songwriters and the digital streaming services that are licensing music.

YouTube proudly announces $2 billion in gross earnings for rights owners through their Content ID technology, but the music industry needs more convincing.


YouTube announced in a July 14th blog post that they have collected over $2 billion in streaming revenue for rights owners using their rights management system Content ID, double what YouTube reported back in 2014.

For those unfamiliar with Content ID, the system uses audio files submitted to them by a partner (like TuneCore YouTube Sound Recording Revenue Service), and then detects those audio files on third-party videos uploaded to YouTube to monetize on behalf of the rights owner. In layman’s terms, if someone uses your song on a cat video that goes viral, you get paid for any money that the video makes as the rights owner of the music. It has been a lucrative service for many artists in the industry, with YouTube being one of the most popular methods with which to stream music.

“We take protecting creativity online seriously, and we’re doing more to help battle copyright-infringing activity than ever before,” Senior Policy Counsel for Google, Katie Oyama, said in the statement.

However, many songwriters and publishers on the other side of that $2 billion have a different perspective on YouTube’s news. Both labels and publishers alike have argued that Content ID fails to recognize as much as 40% of their music on third-party videos in YouTube. Additionally, while YouTube claims that 98% of the time rights owners prefer to monetize videos rather than take them down, representatives of the music industry believe that Content ID encourages YouTube piracy.

“Their pitch goes something like this: ‘Hey, advertising is good for you. Why not use Content ID to cash in on all the piracy by getting a share of revenue we can generate from ad placement?’ Well, they don’t call it piracy – but make no mistake, in the end, their whole scheme still depends on a culture of piracy,” said Maria Schneider in an op-ed for Music Technology Policy.

It’s hard to discern who’s really in the right with the Content ID debate, since rights owners are making a marginal streaming payout from each video play and, like any automated system, there will be hiccups based on similar sounding recordings, use of samples, etc. What’s clear is that YouTube is trying to make lemonade out of lemons for musicians who would otherwise be making nothing from these pirated videos. While it’s not an ideal situation for rights owners, one can hope it’s at least a step in the right direction as we learn to deal with the repercussions of the digital age in the music industry.

Despite protestations from competition, groups in the EU give Sony the greenlight for their $750m purchase of the Michael Jackson Estate’s 50% stake in Sony/ATV.


Since Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, his partial ownership of Sony/ATV and its massive catalogue of songs have been up in the air. Sony made moves to resolve this back in March of this year, agreeing to purchase Jackson’s 50% stake in the company for $750 million, giving Sony full ownership of the Sony/ATV catalogue. However, earlier this month, Sony competitors Warner and IMPALA unsuccessfully challenged the acquisition in Europe, slowing down the purchase but ultimately not grinding it to a halt.

Universal and IMPALA both came to the EU’s antitrust organizations in regards to the purchase, claiming that Sony’s acquisition of the over two million songs would create a market-distorting level of power in favor of Sony. The massive catalogue, which includes works from Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and the Beatles, alongside Sony’s administration of the EMI music publishing catalogue, gives the company a 28% global market share.

Upon the approval of the acquisition, the European Commission released a statement saying, “the transaction would have no negative impact on competition in any of the markets for recorded music and music publishing in the European Economic Area.” Representatives from IMPALA have called the verdict “clearly wrong,” but it looks like Sony still gets to walk away the winner of this fight.

SOUND BYTES

June Songwriter News

By Stefanie Flamm

Summer is officially here, but the music publishing industry is not taking a vacation:

  • Racially-charged jazz standard “Strange Fruit” is used in The Birth of a Nation trailer, demonstrating that certain compositions are great to have in a sync catalogue, even if they’re rarely used.
  • Music executives urge for music industry unity at the NMPA’s annual meeting in NYC.
  • Sync placements are shown to be a twofold benefit to artists like Drake, Skrillex, and The Mamas & The Papas.
  • Major labels, digital distributors, and streaming stores came together as part of Berklee College of Music’s Open Music Initiative to provide more efficient royalty solutions for streaming.

Read more to see how songwriters and publishers alike are working hard for higher royalties and greater industry unity.

“Strange Fruit” proves to be an important song for sync placement in spite of its rare use in TV and film.


Be it the original Billie Holiday version, Nina Simone’s haunting cover, or Kanye West’s sampling of the song in his album Yeezus, the lyrics to “Strange Fruit” are an eerie reminder of America’s dark and not-so-distant past. A soulful recollection of both pre-Civil War and Jim Crow-era America, Abel Meeropol’s 1937 poem provides lyrics to one of the most haunting songs in American history and Time Magazine’s song of the 20th Century.

Because of the gravity of the song’s content, rights owner Music Sales Corp. is particular about to whom they license “Strange Fruit.” The licensing of this song is tactful, with permissions only given to a small percentage of applicants.

“The importance of the song is certainly not lost on us,” says Executive VP of Music Sales Corp. Miles Feinberg. “It contributed to the civil rights movement, so we’ve been very ­protective of it.”

It is for this exact reason that Music Sales Corp. decided to greenlight the use of Nina Simone’s version for the trailer of the upcoming film The Birth of a Nation. Simone’s evocative tone gracefully pairs with the footage in the trailer, leaving a feeling that is both ominous and galvanizing.

It’s the rarity of the song’s occurrence in pop culture that makes it so resonant, and while the song isn’t of much monetary value to Music Sales Corp., the principle of owning the song is worth its weight in gold. “[Strange Fruit] is not a big money earner,” says Feinberg. “But it is an ­incredible one to have in your catalog.”

Sometimes the greatest songs are the ones you rarely hear.

Publishers push for music industry unity at the NMPA’s 99th annual meeting in NYC.


The packed event room at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, NY was buzzing on June 8th as music industry professionals gathered for the 99th annual meeting of the National Music Publishers Association. The main focus of the meeting? Music industry unity.

“The music industry has never been more powerful and popular and we as an industry have never done a sh***er job of rallying together as one industry,” legendary music industry executive Irving Azoff said in his keynote address. “We should work together to solve the root of the problem.”

It’s not news that US music publishing legislation is grossly out-of-date; the regulations that were enacted in 1941 have seen very few changes since their inception. Irving speculated that the lack of effective legislation in Washington is a direct result of a disjointed industry. Without a sense of unity, the US Department of Justice has been steamrolling the industry in favor of the consumer.

The DOJ recently reviewed the consent decrees that are at the backbone of BMI and ASCAP’s licensing agreements. With this recent review, the DOJ is considering “100 percent licensing,” which means that any rights owner can license the entire song, regardless of what percentage of the song they own. The music industry seems to unanimously agree that this is a bad idea, as it could potentially mean an imbalance in royalty payments, as well as restricting songwriters to only collaborate with artists in their PRO.

NMPA president David Israelite also had some words to say on what he called the “One Music” strategy, stressing that the industry standing together to fight for better legislation is stronger than individual groups fighting on each side.

Songwriters across the United States believe that now’s the time for songwriters to come together for a common good.

Sync placements kill two birds with one stone for artists like Drake, Skrillex, and more.


We’ve all seen the video – Taylor Swift puts on “Jumpman” by Drake & Future, starts running on her treadmill while rapping along to the song, and falls flat on her face. The Apple Music commercial has gained upwards of 17.5 million views since the video was posted to YouTube on April 1st. But what’s more impressive is the success of the song as a result of the sync placement.

Downloads for “Jumpman” increased 193% in the week that the video went live, from 15,000 sales the week of March 31st to 44,000 a week later. This is another win for Drake, whose sync licensing for “Hotline Bling” in a T-Mobile Superbowl commercial brought in royalties from 130 countries where the game was broadcast.

BMI and ASCAP reported over $590 million in sync revenue from 2015 alone. These sync licenses bring extra attention and sales revenue to both new artists, like when Feist’s “1 2 3 4” was featured in an iPod Nano commercial in 2007, to older artists like The Mamas & The Papas whose 1965 hit “California Dreamin’” is making a resurgence via an H&M commercial for Coachella.

Sync is one of the biggest tools for success in music today, and it’s paying off big for songwriters.

Berklee’s Open Music Initiative brings streaming services together with labels for more efficient royalty matching.


Goliaths of the industry, from major labels to streaming stores, came together this month to help streamline digital music distribution and copyright. These groups are working with The Berklee College of Music’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) as part of the Open Music Initiative (OMI) to create better royalty matching solutions for publishers and streaming services alike.

Berklee is joining with teams from the MIT Media Lab and the University of London to create advancements in matching technology, which will help with the speed and accuracy of royalty reporting. While strides have been made in the past, BerkleeICE believes that the support from institutions, industry executives, and distribution services like TuneCore will give OMI the push it needs to succeed.

“The internet led to an explosion of innovation precisely because of its open architecture. We now have the tools to build an open architecture for music rights, using a decentralized platform,” said Neha Narula, director of research, Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. “We’re excited to work with BerkleeICE and the Open Music Initiative to create a foundation for innovation, not only in rights management but in music itself.”

OMI is hitting the ground running this summer, with their inaugural gathering held in NYC on June 22nd, and a three-week innovation lab to be held in Boston from July 11th-29th.

An open-sourced platform around creative rights could be just the thing the industry needs to create a unified force against outdated legislation.

Make sure you’re receiving all of the songwriter royalties that you’re entitled to by joining our Music Publishing Administration.

SOUND BYTES

May Songwriter News

By Stefanie Flamm

As the days get longer and we gear up for summer, there’s some exciting news happening in the music publishing industry:

  • A new deal could mean improved songwriter royalty distribution from DJ remixes and mashups.
  • ASCAP stands by their songwriters, all the way to Capitol Hill.
  • MediaNet works with SOCAN to provide faster and more reliable methods of royalty distribution.

It’s an exciting time to be a songwriter.

A new deal will allow publishers and songwriters to profit from DJ remixes.


In an exciting new partnership between The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and digital distributor Dubset Media Holdings, songwriters and publishers can now collect from DJ mixes and remixes of their original content. Through this agreement, NMPA members can opt-in to dictate the terms and conditions of using their music in DJ mixes, in addition to receiving derivative royalties for the use of their music.

Dubset’s MixBANK is the first fully cleared distribution platform for remix content, using pre-negotiated licenses to provide equal distribution rights for DJs, songwriters, and publishers alike. Through MixBANK, Dubset can search a remix or mashup for “derivative content,” determine the appropriate royalty owed to the copyright owner, and relay this information to streaming stores like Apple Music.

This is an enormous step forward in the name of songwriter advocacy, and will be a huge benefit to songwriters as more DJs distribute to streaming markets. It’s especially beneficial to independent artists because the deal is focused on collecting for individual songwriters and small, independent publishers. Billboard writes, “Making participation in this new sub-economy available to individual songwriters and smaller publishers is a noteworthy advance, especially within the digital music economy, which so often seems to reward the largest of players.”

One more step in the right direction towards fair royalties for songwriters.

Songwriters urge Congress to reform music licensing at ASCAP’s “Stand with Songwriters” Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.


May 18th was a big day for US songwriters, as they met with elected officials on Capitol Hill for ASCAP’s “Stand with Songwriters” Advocacy Day.

Some of the country’s top songwriters, including Desmond Child (co-writer of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”) and MoZella (co-writer of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”), spent the day lobbying for updates on licensing laws and regulations. With WWII-era licensing regulations still in place, both ASCAP and their songwriters are striving for a major update that will incorporate the ever-growing streaming population.

“The music business is among the toughest and most competitive industries, and our songwriters and composers should not have to accept below-market rates for their work,” said Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

Two days before ASCAP’s Capitol Hill takeover, they released a video highlighting the advancements that the world has made since these songwriter regulations were enacted in 1941. While calling to attention that these laws were imposed before Hawaii and Alaska were part of the United States, the featured songwriters note that streaming companies exploit the outdated laws and urge for a total overhaul of the archaic music licensing legislation.

75 years seems like long enough to wait for licensing reform, but it looks like changes are on the horizon.

MediaNet teams up with SOCAN to improve royalty distribution for songwriters.


Canadian-based collection society SOCAN recently acquired MediaNet, a music tech provider boasting a catalogue of more than 51 million tracks. In a May 12th press release, MediaNet announced, “[we] will provide SOCAN with authoritative information pertaining to master rights (sound recordings), and will augment already strong matching capabilities for all kinds of performances and reproductions of music on radio, digital, live, satellite, film and TV and other delivery of music to public audiences.”

This acquisition now brings SOCAN to the forefront of collection societies for digital matching. It means enhanced royalty reporting for SOCAN’s four-million members, as well as increased profits from services like YouTube, SoundScan, and Facebook. It is also expected to increase the rate of digital match-rates, which should result in faster royalty payment speeds.

Faster, more accurate royalty reporting means less stress and more time for songwriting!

With all of this great songwriter advocacy coming to fruition, now’s the perfect time to be a part of our Music Publishing Administration.

SOUND BYTES