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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