An Examination of the Songwriter & Music Publisher Relationship [PART 1]

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

 

UPDATE: Read Part 2 of this series here!

We will now examine the music publisher and its exclusive publishing agreement with a songwriter. In addition to the standard exclusive publishing agreement explored below, there are other types of related agreements a songwriter could potentially sign with a music publisher, including a co-publishing, sub-publishing or administration arrangement; however, these will not be explored in this article.

Music publishers, which include Sony/ATV Publishing, Universal Music Publishing and Warner Music Publishing, are companies that manage a songwriter’s rights in a track. This may be typically referred to as an “administration” right in the composition. This provides the publisher with the right to license the music to others as well as to collect payments from any third-party for their uses of the songwriter’s work. The publishing company also handles the “paperwork” associated with the composition, including registering the copyrights in the songs, indexing the track with the appropriate Performing Rights Organization, as well as accounting and distributing the collected funds. A publisher may also “shop” a songwriter’s tracks in order to obtain licensable placements for its signed talent. An individual responsible for this task is sometimes referred to as a “song plugger.”

In most instances, the songwriter and publishing company equally split all of the proverbial “publishing monies.” In reality, this means that fifty (50%) percent of the total amount earned is allotted for the “writer’s share” of the composition and the remaining fifty (50%) percent is allocated for the “publisher share” of the composition. Since a single track can have several co-writers, this means that several publishing companies and other individuals may also be entitled to a part of the “writer” or “publisher” share of the track. For instance, if a song has two co-writers, the “writer’s share” of the composition could be split equally with each writer receiving fifty (50%) percent of the entire track’s “writer” share.

The streams of income generally subject to an exclusive publishing agreement include mechanical royalties, public performance royalties, synchronization fees and print incomes. Mechanical royalties are paid for the use of a musical composition on CDs, vinyl, cassettes and as MP3 downloads. In the United States, the Harry Fox Agency is generally responsible for collecting and distributing mechanical royalties. Print Income is also subject to these agreements and applies to any funds earned from the sale of the printed musical work, such as in lyric and musical score folios, individual sheet music and when the same is displayed or sold as sheet music on the Internet.

Public performance royalties are also subject to a publishing agreement. This income is due when a musical composition is publicly performed, including when it is played on the radio, at a nightclub, a concert hall, or a stadium. These funds are collected by Performing Rights Organizations (P.R.O.). In the United States, the P.R.O.s are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. A songwriter must become a member of a P.R.O. in order to receive their public performance royalties. Additionally, each country has their own P.R.O., so a foreign citizen should become a member of the organization in their country of citizenship.

Finally, synchronization income, referred to as “synch” monies, are subject to the same publishing deal. This income is paid when a composition is displayed with a visual image, such as in a motion picture, in a television program, in a music video or in a video game. There is income here that may also be collected by the owner’s respective P.R.O.

As is standard with most exclusive recording agreements, the deal is usually cross-collateralized with any other agreements between the same parties. Again, this means that any advance and any other funds expended on behalf of the writer, whether under a recording contract or a publishing contract, are recouped against any royalties earned from either agreement. If possible, it is prudent to limit or prevent the cross-collateralization of the agreements; however, most companies will not permit this.

In addition, some publishing companies attempt to cross-collateralize the royalties earned by one co-writer in a composition with that of any other co-writers of the same track. This permits the publisher to credit any royalties earned by any co-writer of a composition toward the outstanding royalty balance of any other co-writers of a song, even if they are not attributable to this particular co-written song. If it is cross-collateralized, the publisher is permitted to credit any royalties earned by any co-writer of a composition, even if they are not attributable to this particular co-written song, toward the outstanding royalty balance of any other co-writers of a song. It is prudent to ensure that each writer’s royalty account is not cross-collateralized with any other co-writers of a track by ensuring that only tracks written by one writer are credited toward that writer’s outstanding balance without permitting the cross-collateralization of accounts with any other co-writers.

Another point to be aware of is that an artist should try to ensure that if they are signed to both a recording and publishing agreement with the company; and, if the company wants to extend one of the deals, the other deal is also not automatically extended. This prevents the artist from being dropped from the label while still being signed to the publishing company.

One final matter that should be addressed in this arrangement is the songwriter’s creative control and approval for the uses of its compositions. In particular, a writer should try to include a limitation on the types of works that their composition can be licensed to or included in. For instance, a “kid friendly” pop star may not want their composition featured in a commercial that contains drug, alcohol or tobacco use, features sexual content, or violence. In addition, an artist should have a right to approve any changes to their finished music. This includes ensuring that any song or lyric alterations conform to the artist’s “mood” or “style” of music. For example, a publisher should not be able to take a dance track created by a dance artist and edit it so that it is now a heavy metal record.

We will now examine a few standard clauses included in an exclusive songwriter publishing agreement.

SERVICES – During the Term, Writer shall furnish to Publisher, Writer’s exclusive services as a songwriter and composer and shall deliver to Publisher, for exclusive exploitation hereunder, all of Writer’s interest in and to all of the Compositions. 

(a) New Compositions – Musical works that are written, composed, created, owned and/or acquired, during the Term, by Writer, alone or in collaboration with another or others (hereinafter referred to individually and collectively as “New Compositions”) 

(b) Old Compositions – Musical works that are written, composed, created, conceived, owned, controlled and/or acquired, in whole or in part, prior to the Term, by Writer, alone or in collaboration with another or others (hereinafter referred to individually and collectively as “Old Compositions”). The New Compositions and the Old Compositions are individually and collectively referred to as the “Compositions.” 

As described above, the publishing agreement usually signs the writer to an exclusive agreement for their publishing rights in all of their Compositions. This means that the agreement applies to any existing compositions that the writer has created and owns as well as any new material they create or acquire during the term of this agreement. It may be advisable to attempt to exclude certain existing tracks from the agreement in an effort to prevent the publisher from receiving income from those compositions. This is especially true, if those tracks are already under a prior exclusive publishing deal. This is not the easiest goal to achieve as most of the time; the artist is only receiving the publishing deal due to an interest in all of their existing material as well as any new material they create going forward.

GRANT OF RIGHTS

(a) Writer hereby irrevocably assigns and grants to Publisher and its successors, all rights and interests of every kind and nature in and to the results of Writer’s songwriting and composing services, including, the Compositions, the copyrights therein and any and all renewals and/or extensions thereof throughout the Territory, all for the full term of copyright protection and all extensions and renewals thereof throughout the Territory. 

(b) Administration – Publisher shall have the sole and exclusive right to administer one hundred percent (100%) of Publisher’s and Writer’s respective interests in and to the Compositions, whether now in existence or hereafter created, including the following: 

(i) To perform the Compositions publicly, by means of public or private performance, radio broadcasting, television, or any and all other means, whether now known or which may hereafter come into existence. 

(ii) To substitute a new title or titles for the Compositions, and to make any adaptation or translation of the Compositions, in whole or in part, and to add new music or lyrics to the music of any Composition. 

(iii) To make and to license others to make, master records, tapes, compact discs, and any other mechanical or other reproductions of the Compositions, including the right to synchronize the same with sound motion pictures, radio broadcast, television, tapes, compact discs and any and all other means or devices, whether now known or which may hereafter come into existence. 

(iv) To print, publish and sell, and to license others to print, publish and sell, sheet music, orchestrations, arrangements, including, without limitation, the inclusion of any or all of the Compositions in song folios, song books or lyric magazines. 

(v) To collect all monies earned during the Term with respect to the Compositions. 

The above language explores the various rights granted to the publisher by the songwriter in the agreement. The clause affords the publisher with the exclusive right to administer one hundred (100%) percent of the song’s publishing. Under this provision, the publisher has the right to license the work for inclusions on CDs, as MP3 downloads and as sheet music. They also have the right to collect all the monies earned on the contracted for compositions.

Additionally, the publisher has the right to license the work on the radio, on television, in motion pictures and by “. . . all other means or devices, whether now known or which may hereafter come into existence.” This language permits the publisher to apply its current publishing deal to any new technology or means of distributing music that may come into existence at a later date. Furthermore, the publisher is granted the right to translate into another language as well as adding new lyrics to any composition created by the songwriter.

In our next installment, we will continue our discussion on a music publisher’s exclusive publishing agreement with a songwriter.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted. Some of the clauses have been condensed and/or edited for content purposes, so none of these clauses should be used verbatim nor do they act as any form of legal advice or counseling. 

June Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Tests “Sponsored Songs” and Expands Concert Listings


In lieu of traditional audio ads that ‘freemium’ tier users of Spotify hear during a given listening session, Spotify is testing a new process that would allow artists and labels to pay for placement of their song – thus monetizing the free listening associated with this kind of membership. This opens up the potential for artists to to secure a place on playlists, which have soared in popularity among subscribers of all kinds over the past couple of years.

Users of the ad-supported tier will have the option of opting out of this test; and Spotify has confirmed that even if the test is successful, this feature will only remain on this tier. Relying heavily on its plethora of data, Spotify will target sponsored song placement based on listening habits.

While sponsored songs’ likeness to the traditional ‘payola’ models of old terrestrial radio is up for debate, it does represent a shift in how Spotify manages its ‘freemium’ platform and drives revenue from those still unwilling to subscribe for a monthly or annual fee. Spotify has remained one of the few popular streaming platforms to offer a free listening tier, and there has long been speculation around whether or not the company would be willing to eliminate it; the ‘freemium’ model is a key differentiating offer when compared to its growing and formidable streaming rival Apple Music.

It remains to be seen how this will be rolled out and made available to independent artists, but if it is made reasonably affordable and accessible to music makers outside of the label system, they could stand to benefit from the feature by reaching new listeners who are more likely to tune into a ‘sponsored song’ then a generic advertisement.

Spotify also announced that in addition to its partnerships with Ticketmaser and digital ticketing platform SongKick, users will now be able to access artists’ upcoming tour dates via a collaboration with Eventbrite and AEG’s AXS. This means more hometown venues, more touring territories, and more opportunities to promote local live experiences for fans.

LANDR Celebrates 1 Million Users


TuneCore’s pals over at LANDR – the tool that allows independent artists to instantly master their tracks at an affordable rate – have hit a major milestone: one million users! LANDR has continued to offer a great solution to artists hoping to polish the sounds of their tracks while lacking a robust mastering budget.

Throughout most of June, LANDR partnered with TuneCore Artist Chance the Rapper, donating $1.00 for every user that masters a track Chance’s Chicago-based “Social Works” Music Academy, as well as 10% of all purchases. We always love to see great brands connecting with great artists, and the charitable element of this arrangement only warms our hearts more.

Google Play Music’s New Release Radio Feature Launches


No matter what music streaming platform your fans dig the most, (and remember, we help you get your releases on a lot of ‘em!), we can all agree that they should be aware of new releases each week. After all, with so much music being digitally released each year, listeners can feel a bit overwhelmed, and it helps to have a little curated direction when it comes to being alerted about the latest and greatest.

Much like Spotify’s “Release Radar” or Apple Music’s “My New Music Mix” features, Google Play Music announced this month that it’s now offering a feature for subscribers called “New Release Radio”. It’s essentially, according to the Android Authority blog, “a playlist that offers up the latest new release and is actually updated on a daily basis to ensure that you’ve always got something new to listen to.”

As personalized, data-driven playlists and features continue to increase in popularity among streaming platforms, Google’s New Release Radio is a welcomed addition. We look forward to seeing how TuneCore Artists can make their music more discoverable to more fans.

ASCAP and YouTube Strike a Performance Rights Deal


In an era in which artists and songwriters have been forced to be more vigilant when it comes to collecting digital royalties, video streaming giant YouTube and performance rights organization ASCAP have reached a multi-year agreement for public performance rights and data collaboration in the U.S. This comes as a sigh of relief to many who have been seeking ways to ensure that royalties are being paid to songwriters, composers and publishers when their works are streamed on YouTube.

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews says, “This agreement achieves two important ASCAP goals – it will yield substantially higher overall compensation for our members from YouTube and will continue to propel ASCAP’s ongoing transformation strategy to lead the industry toward more accurate and reliable data.”

Good news for TuneCore Artists who are affiliated with ASCAP: this new deal will allow the two parties to address the issues around identifying and compensating songwriters using the extensive amount of data they have available. This, in general, is also another important step towards creating a system within the digital music economy that holds platforms and rights societies responsible for proper royalty payments.

10 Things You Should Legally Do As An Entertainer

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

 

While there are no real bright line rules that an entertainer must follow, there are some essential strategies that a musician should take into account when conducting their music business in the new year. As we have already explored, a musician should approach their career as a business, which includes following the applicable state and federal laws, to ensure they adequately and properly exploit their works and receive the full intended benefit from them.

With that said, we have compiled a few guiding resolutions that an entertainer should take to heart and implement this new year.

1. Always consult an entertainment attorney prior to signing anything. When you sign something, it will generally bind you to the terms of the contract, whether you understand them or not.

While this might seem obvious and straight forward, many individuals simply sign what they are presented without fully understanding the nature of the document and what the terms actually mean in a practical sense. A musician also may fail to realize that most agreements are negotiable; so, a first offer isn’t usually a “take it or leave it” arrangement, as most situations should permit the discussion and negotiation of some important points prior to the signing. If it is presented as a “take it or leave it” proposition, that is an indication that an artist might want to avoid the deal. Hard sell salesmen usually indicate that an artist should run. An artist should always have time to consider the deal after “the heat” of the moment has passed.

This is also an important resolution as sometimes an entertainer may just search the Internet to obtain some standard template or form in an attempt to feel that they are properly secure. In theory, this might be good and might work fine; but, an attorney specializing in the field will bring an expertise and understanding that ensures you have the proper terms and the agreement you sign actually operates as you intended it to. An artist’s worst nightmare is signing something that doesn’t provide the artist with the rights they thought they had. This mistake prevents them from fully realizing their work’s worth. If the cost of obtaining an attorney is too high, there are many volunteer organizations, such Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts, that provide cost-free or reduced fee legal guidance to creators.

2. Always obtain a license to use a “sample,” i.e., anything used in a recording that isn’t yours and is somebody else’s. Failure to clear a “sample” can cause more liability on a potential hit to the sample’s owners than the hit makes.

This is a fairly straight-forward resolution as utilizing something that doesn’t belong to an artist can subject them to liability. It is essential to ensure that an artist has rights to whatever they use. A simple motto is that, if this isn’t the artist’s, then the artist should not use it without first obtaining rights. This will save an artist many headaches and potentially thousands of dollars. An artist who creates their own beats and samples can also reduce the issues. We explored “sampling” basics in more detail in a prior installment.

3. If you’re a songwriter, make sure to sign up as a writer with a performing right society and index your songs. In America, they are: A.S.C.A.P., B.M.I., and S.E.S.A.C.

If an individual is a songwriter, they are entitled to various streams of income when their works are publicly performed. In order to obtain some of this income, the songwriter must “sign-up” with a performing rights society. These societies collect public performance royalties on behalf of their songwriters. In order to be properly paid by these organizations, the songwriter’s works must be completely indexed. This means that the songwriter’s compositions are properly listed in the performance rights society’s databases with all the appropriate ownership information. To sign-up and index a songwriter’s music, visit ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. My further discussion on “Publishing” monies is available on Hypebot.

4. Always file your federal and state income taxes, and consult with a tax professional to ensure you are in compliance with all state, city and federal tax laws.

This resolution is one that an artist should already be complying with in their personal life. In addition, if an individual started their own corporate entity to create their music empire, they must ensure that their yearly corporate taxes are also filed. An accountant should be consulted to make sure that all appropriate state, federal and/or city corporate taxes are properly filed. We explored corporate and tax matters as they related to the music business in prior articles.

5. Always register your copyright in a work with the U.S. Copyright Office because failure to register a copyright will prevent the recovery of certain damages for infringement, including attorneys’ fees.

While a creator can simply mail themselves a created work without opening it as a way to prove copyright, this procedure does not afford the creator with all the rights a registered copyright confers. Although the Berne Convention provides for a “copyright” in a work upon the creation and fixing of it in a tangible medium of expression, the lack of federal registration limits an owner’s available recourse if their work is infringed. My further discussion on why an artist should register their “copyrighted” work is available on Hypebot.

6. Always do a trademark search prior to selecting a company or entertainment name, and have a qualified attorney do so.

Before embarking on this wonderful voyage called “music,” an artist should ensure that the name and corresponding social media and website domains are available prior to creating and marketing works under a particular name. The worst situation is building a following with a certain name to only receive a “cease and desist” letter from another similarly named artist demanding that an artist stop utilizing this name. Ensuring that a name is clear prior to using it will save the artist from a significant amount of headaches and potential costly legal bills.

7. If you’re in a band or a group, make sure to have a signed band agreement that details the members’ rights and responsibilities.

Band members should resolve to ensure that all applicable band members’ matters and procedures are discussed and agreed to in a writing signed by all the members. This is necessary to avoid any misunderstandings. This document should list the proper mechanisms to ensure the continued profitability of a band, especially if certain internal situations or relationships begin to deteriorate. My further discussion on what should be included in a band member agreement is available on Hypebot.

8. If you have a manager, make sure you have a signed agreement with them.

In most situations, an artist’s first manager, or sometimes only manager, is their friend, family member or significant other. While, familiarity and trust may exist in these relationships; when money and in particular, substantial sums are involved, it is prudent to have a signed agreement. That document would outline who is entitled to what and under what circumstances. Since this is business, it is vital that all the parties understand the nature of the relationship and that all parties are adequately protected. Having an executed agreement listing all of the agreed upon matters ensures that a neutral arbitrator (the document) exists to hopefully resolve any differences that may arise.

9. If you are a performer or producer of a recording, always make sure you register with SoundExchange and the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies to ensure you receive all the royalties you are entitled to.

All artists should resolve to ensure that they receive all the funds they are entitled to, including certain royalties they may not be aware of. Two of these royalty streams that many artist’s neglect to properly manage are SoundExchange and D.A.R.T. royalties from the Alliance Of Artists and Recording Companies (A.A.R.C.). These entities exist to obtain royalties on behalf of an artist that signs up with them. An artist signs up with these entities enabling these companies to collect royalties on the artist’s behalf. My further discussion on why you should sign-up for SoundExchange is available on Hypebot and for additional information on A.A.R.C., visit my prior article available  and their official website.

10. If you are working on a recording with a producer or a performer that isn’t you, then you need an agreement with that person to clarify ownership of the recording.

An artist should always remember that if a contribution isn’t theirs, then the artist cannot use it unless they have rights from the creator to utilize it. This applies to any beat, vocals or other material that the artist didn’t personally perform and is included in a final sound recording. An artist should make a resolution to obtain an agreement with every individual they work with to ensure they have all the rights to utilize the finished material. We explored the need for an agreement with a producer of a “beat” and for any co-creator or co-writer.

As 2017 begins, an artist should remember that following these simple resolutions will be a great start to getting their music business house in order and running properly.

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

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

February Songwriter News

By Dwight Brown

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

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

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

‘Happy Birthday’ boldly takes steps into Public Domain Land

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

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

Indie songwriter shocked into action over tiny royalty check

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

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

The article points out historical milestones:

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

LaPolt makes some key points:

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

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

Spotify dukes it out with a class-action lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grassroots Advocacy Panel speaks out at California Copyright Conference

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

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

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

SOUND BYTES

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