In our last blog, we gave you 4 important areas a music supervisor will ask you before making an offer to use your song in their production.
MUSIC SUPERVISORS WILL ASK THESE QUESTIONS:
- Do you own your own masters? They will need these masters and music stems to place the music in their production
- Have you secured a copyright your songs? All songs need to have copyright with COPYRIGHT.GOV. This agency is the only legal agency recognized by the US Courts.
- Are you part of a PRO? You need to be signed up as a songwriter & publisher at ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. They collect your royalty monies for you!
- Do you have the power to give permission to use the song? If there is more than one songwriter or any of you have a publisher, you need to get permission quickly especially if you are getting music placed in film
WHAT EVERY SONGWRITER SHOULD KNOW
- MAKE A SONGWRITERS SPLIT SHEET. Just before you finishing a co-write of a song, have some written paper to list the song title, songwriter’s names & publishing information plus each percentage of the song each person owns. If you need a copy….email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ORGANIZE YOUR MUSIC CATALOG. Many musicians develop a protected soundcloud so you can send a link to the music supervisor to listen to your songs. Make sure you have all your metadata correct on each song too; it will help the supervisor with their job!
- DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND! Many states have an organization called “LAWYERS FOR THE ARTS” in their state. For instance we have California Lawyers for the Arts, where entertainment lawyers volunteer their time for a modest fee ($25) to help you read your contract. OR ask another music friend for an attorney’s name. BEWARE! Lawyers’ regular fees are about $300 an hour. *PLEASE UNDERSTAND EVERY CONTRACT YOU SIGN!
Next we will continue some music publishing basics! For a song there are 2 types of musicians: 1) The Songwriter/Composer and 2) The Performing/Recording Artist.
SONGWRITER AND COMPOSERS hold the rights to the lyrics and melody and if you are DIY, you have all those rights. If you sign with a music publisher, the publisher has the duty of assign rights for music placements.
PERFORMING/RECORDING ARTIST holds the rights to the master recording. If you are DIY, you have those master recordings and can approve placements. Usually if you have a record company, the label owns and gives permission to use those masters for any type of media projects.
Understanding publishing terms will be important for you to know to really make the best deal. Today, we just go over Performing Royalties, Mechanical Royalties and Sync Licenses. REMEMBER! Today is just a review of the basics.
PERFORMING ROYALTIES (OR the RIGHT TO PERFORM THE SONG)
- Your Performing Rights Organization or PRO (ASCAP, BMI OR SESAC) will collect the monies for songs broadcast or performed in public…. like restaurants, gyms, supermarkets, malls, doctor’s offices….if you hear music when you are out & about, those songs are generating music for the songwriters.
- Radio play is considered a performing right…why? Because the listener does not choose the song they are listening to, the radio DJ and station makes those calls for the listener.
- Business MUST pay a license to use those songs. PROS collect and pay royalties to the songwriter sand publisher regardless of who performed the song.
MECHANICAL ROYALTIES: OR a License to Sell the Song!
- Someone covering your song needs license to SELL THE SONG. Songwriters cannot deny this type of license. The Harry Fox Agency is one of the biggest companies that award this type of license.
- The Copyright Act provides that, once a piece of music has been recorded and publicly distributed, anyone else can record that work provided they pay the current statutory rate. This is called a compulsory license. Permission is required to mechanically reproduce a licensed work.
- Every time a song is sold or downloaded ALL THE MECHANICAL ROYALTIES GO TO THE SONGWRITER(s). This includes: Put on a CD or vinyl, downloaded digitally, used as a ringtone or streamed on interactive platforms (like Spotify).
- The current rate is 9.1 cents for a song not longer than 5 minutes. So if you are reproducing 1000 copies or think you may sell 1000 digital downloads, Harry Fox Agency or the person that holds permission, will charge you $91.00 for the license. AGAIN, this rate is regulated by the Copyright Act.
UNDER MECHANICAL A LICENSE: STREAMING SERVICES. Now we could go on for hours about streaming services and what is fair or not but today we are just covering the basics. So below is just some general information for you!
- STREAMING SERVICES like: Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, or Deezer are to pay a performance royalty (paid to songwriters directly and paid to publishers) and a mechanical royalty (paid to publishers).
- Spotify is owned, in part, by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music, whose continued growth is tied to the success of the streaming giant. They pay 1/3 to ½ a cent per stream! If Spotify does a special deal with a place like Gold Gym, the Gym pays a license for their customers to listen via Spotify onsite, instead of each member paying for a membership. How much of that goes to you?….only Spotify knows.
- Apple Music, Tidal, or Deezer pay 1 cent per stream.
It may sound like I am down on streaming services. Not all the way true! All the streaming services gets you more listeners, and isn’t what each musician wants? But will it make money for you in the long run? Maybe… if you have a social media strategy tied with those successes. So do you need to be on all the streaming platforms. ABSOLUTELY!
WHAT IS THE MLS AND SHOULD I JOIN?
In 2019, if you followed the legal battle called the Music Modernization Act, you should know there was a court battle with Spotify to get them to be more fair with their payments. This sparked the development of the MLC.
- The Mechanical Licensing Collective(The MLC) is a nonprofit organization created in 2019 by the Music Modernization Act (MMA) to administer blanket mechanical licenses to eligible streaming services in the U.S., and to pay the resulting royalties to songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers.
- The MLC only collects domestic mechanical royalties from digital service providers such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Tidal as well as digital downloads from such as iTunes.
- MLC does not collect performance royalties from performing rights organizations (PROs) like BMI, ASCAP& SESAC.
If you have questions on if you should join MLC or not, go to their website, they have a lot of detailed information for you there. MLC is non-profit, not like other publishing agency and I like that about their business.
SO WHAT IS SOUND EXCHANGE AND SONGTRUST?
- Sound Exchange collects digital performance royalties for master recording owners and performers that have been generated from a master recording. This is a FREE service that collects royalties on behalf of master owners and performers.
- Songtrust is a publishing administration company that collects royalties for songwriters and music publishers that have been generated by a song’s composition (also called publishing royalties). They collect royalties on behalf of songwriters and music publishers. They have a one-time $100 fee to start with them. If you are not collecting more than a few hundred dollars a year from streaming royalties, you may just want to stick with Sound Exchange and your PRO.
HOW DO I START…& HOW DO I FIND MUSIC SUPERVISORS?
- STUDY YOUR MEDIA! How do you expect to write music for TV, FILM, VIDEO GAMES, ADVERTISEMENTS….etc. if you are not watching what is being presented today! Watch whatever you think you want to write for and try to listen to the music under the dialog. Then you may want to try turning the volume off and try making your own music under the images. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
- FINDING PUBLISHERS & MUSIC SUPERVISORS: Most music supervisors have a profile on LinkedIn. Do a search yourself on Google & be detailed like this: “Who is the music supervisor for The Blacklist (or any show)?” 9 times out of 10 you can find a profile for the person or their company on LinkedIn.
- OTHER PLACES to NETWORK WITH MUSIC SUPERVISORS: Check out the Music Registry, SongwriterUniverse.com, Music Connection Magazine’s Industry lists…attend ASCAP EXPO, CCC, Music Biz Panels.
Learning how to compose for different media, can really give you the credits you need to make a music career in music placement opportunities …AND…can bring you money for years to come!
SYNCHRONIZATION LICENSES (OR SYNC LICENSE)
Yes, we finally get to how TV/Film/Gaming…etc… develop the offer and permission to use your song(s) in so many different mediums.
- A SYNC LICENSE: is a legal agreement between the copyright owner of a piece of music and another party that seeks to use that music in media.
- MEDIA INCLUDES: just about item you see that has music when you see an image. (I.E. TV, film, gaming, advertisements, podcasts, Broadway…etc)
- MUSIC SUPERVISOR: is the person who will is the person who wants to place your music in all types of media. Some work as independents other are tied to TV shows, films & advertising.
- METADATA: describing words of the song…like the vibe, genre, PLUS noting the name & contact of the songwriter(s). Great, detailed metadata will help the supervisor to catalog your work for future projects!
Music placements develop into what we call ‘Mailbox Money.” A placement in a TV show, film or advertisement that gets shown over and over, develops into a one time sync fee that could be $50 to $20,000; costs vary depending on where in the project they want your song. When it gets played in a theater, on TV or streaming online, you can make some excellent royalties, sometimes for the rest of your life!