My Thoughts On Music Publishing Administrators For U.S. Independent Artist-Songwriters

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I am often asked by independent musicians (or their managers) if it makes sense for them to partner with a music publishing administrator or to control their own rights administration via my platform, TuneRegistry.
For the first time, I will share publicly my thoughts on the matter:
I founded TuneRegistry after spending several years managing independent artists, songwriters and music producers and dealing first-hand with the challenges of making sure that my clients’ music was properly and completely registered everywhere (this is necessary to maximize income potential and, in many cases, to optimize the exposure of the music itself).
The music industry is a digital industry.
As such, it is highly fragmented with many moving parts. Music is being created, published, distributed, licensed and monetized in lightening speed. And services like Dubset Media, Stem, Soundstr and DotblockchainMedia aim to innovative the supply chains and produce more accurate and fair attribution, allocation and distribution of royalties.
I knew this in 2015 when I began working on TuneRegistry while finishing my masters degree in music business (with a focus on music publishing and copyright administration) at CSUN Music Industry Administration. And I am happy to see that many more “rightstech” companies have entered the space since then to help rights-owners and music creators take control of their financial outcomes within the greater music industry.
All of that being said, I believe that a U.S. music creator has the power (and responsibility) to take hold of 100% of his/her available controllable music copyrights without giving away a chunk of his/her hard-earned royalties to a third-party whose only job is to file song registrations and passively collect royalties.
Notwithstanding a legitimate full service music publisher that is willing to invest in a songwriter (via an advance) and promote the songwriter (via pitching songs to artists and securing film/TV placements) and police copyrights around the world (including ligating where necessary), it does not make any sense (to me) to give up control of your copyrights and/or a chunk of your hard-earned publishing income.
Stated simply: I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT (MOST) MUSIC PUBLISHING ADMINISTRATION COMPANIES OFFER A U.S. SONGWRITER ANY REAL VALUE.
Take this financial breakdown into consideration:
Spotify publishing earnings: $10,000 all-in earnings yields $1,200 in publishing royalties (6% performance / 6% mechanical)
TuneRegistry cost: $15 per month (Solo plan) x 12 months = $180 annual subscription
Publishing Administrator cost (15% or royalties): $1,200 x .15 = $180
TuneRegistry subscription: $180
Publishing Administration commission: $180
Now, let’s say that an indie artist-songwriter earns $20,000 a year from Spotify (or combined earnings across all DSPs), then the publishing income would be around $2,400 ($20k x 12%).
TuneRegistry cost ($15 per month): $180
Publishing Administrator cost (15% of royalties): $360
You get the point.
If you earn over $10k in annual music revenue combined (streaming, downloads, live performances, synch placements), it makes MORE sense to register your own music and collect your own royalties than it does to PAY a third-party to do this for you.
In the United States, an independent artist-songwriter can DIRECTLY join music rights organizations (e.g. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SoundExchange, AARC) AND create accounts with rights administration/clearing houses (e.g. Harry Fox Agency, Music Reports) AND deliver meta and rights data to every asset supplier/licensing agent (e.g. Gracenote, MediaNet, Crunch Digital, Loudr) as a self-published entity and handle all registrations to the aforementioned organizations via the all-in-one TuneRegistry platform for only $15 per month while retain 100% of your copyright rights and collecting 100% of earned royalties (versus giving away 15% perpetually to a company to file and collect for you).

But what about foreign publishing income?

In regards to foreign publishing royalties, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC have reciprocal agreements in place with international music rights organizations around the world to exchange rights data and collect performance royalties on behalf of their member writers and publishers. They will pay their members the international performance royalties that they earn.
(Edit 12/14/18: I forgot to include in my piece that I do believe a writer would find value in partnering with an admin for international collection only. The heart of my piece is that a U.S. songwriter can register and collect in the U.S. directly. I make this distinction repeatedly. For creators earning foreign publishing money, it would make more sense to do an admin deal for the world excluding the United States. But most admins do not want to do that.)
For mechanical royalties earned around the world, Audiam is a reproduction rights agency that can go out and collect mechanical royalties for songwriters and publishers and limit its commission rate to this income stream only.
(Edit 12/14/18: I do recognize that Audiam currently focuses on digital mechanicals and does not collect broadcast mechancials in territories where they are earned.)
In a word, I think there are brilliant people across the music industry doing fantastic work for music creators and rights-owners. However, the U.S. music industry simply does not require nor demands that a third-party represents the exclusive rights bestowed upon independent music copyright owners.
As broken as the music licensing system may be (and I definitely believe it needs reform), I have yet to hear a single compelling argument as to why an independent artist-songwriter earning over $10k a year in music earnings should give away $1,200 of that instead of spending the hour or so to handle his or her own registrations.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Want to learn how to be your own label and publisher? Download my free e-guide “The DIY Musician’s Starter Guide To Being Your Own Label & Publisher” at www.daeboganmusic.com/writer.
[That being said, for those who simply choose not to do their own administration, there are some music publishing administrators out there who I respect because they are going above and beyond to provide services to their clients.]

My Thoughts On The MMA In Light Of The CRB Mechanical License Rate Decision

In light of the CRB’s ruling today to increase mechancial royalty rates for on-demand DSPs, I would caution against passing the Music Modernization Act without first amending it to include some very necessary guarantees for DIY musicians.

Given the recent ruling to increase mechanical rates, penalize DSPs for late payments, and remove the TCC cap DSPs will be more incentivized to cling to the safe harbor components of the MMA to limit their financial responsibility to songwriters.

I also fear that the blanket license (combined with the elimination of the statutory damages provision against infringement) would hurt more DIY musicians than protect compared to the existing compulsory licensing schema where today an independent can fully self-administer his/her mechancial rights via a service like TuneRegistry or with a third-party administrator like Songtrust. Why? Because the unclaimed/unpaid (aka “black box”) royalty fund will also increase by 44%, giving major publishers a bigger windfall of market share distributed gains from a royalty pool that generally belongs to unidentified independent songwriters.

What incentive does DSPs, who must pay the rates anyway, and major publishers, who will undoubtedly control the mechanical licensing collective body, have to ensure the works of DIY musicians are properly represented and accounted to and what power do DIY musicians have to assert their limited rights?

I could be completely and utterly wrong.

However, the devil is in the details and the MMA, while it does streamline the process of mechancial licensing in the United States for DSPs it also effectively limits the warranties and representations of DIY musicians.

Every article written about MMA is generally written from the perspective of publishers and NMPA members. As an advocate for and service provider to DIY musicians, my perspective is a bit different and more nuanced.

The decision today by the CRB was a win for all songwriters. The MMA is a win for major publishers. It must be amended.

Free Report: Lyrics Take Centre Stage In Streaming Music

Music Industry Blog

We are pleased to announce the publication of a brand new, totally free, Streaming Music report written on behalf of LyricFind. In this report, we present the findings of an exclusive consumer survey fielded in November 2017 to consumers in the US, UK and Germany, deep diving into streaming behaviours and the growing role that lyrics is taking. The report download link can be found at the bottom of this post.

The report includes data on:

  • Overall music consumption and streaming behaviours
  • Weekly Active User (WAU) penetration of all key streaming music apps
  • Tenure splits of streaming users by streaming service
  • Consumer attitudes towards lyrics
  • Lyric users by tenure length of individual streaming services
  • The relationship between lyrics users and streaming loyalty
  • Key drivers for using lyrics, with gender splits

Here is an overview of some of the findings.
INFOGRAPHIC V 1.1

Streaming music has put the audience in control, letting music fans…

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How To Get A Facebook, Instagram and Oculus Direct License For DIY Musicians & Indie Publishers

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Facebook has been undoubtedly one of the music industry’s biggest missed opportunity for monetization in recent years. With billions of users consuming millions of hours of video on Facebook and Instagram, which embodies sound recordings and compositions, the thought of Facebook rolling out monetization to independent songwriters and publishers makes us giddy!

Well, we are happy to report that that day has finally arrived! Read the story.

Ask Me Anything About The Music Business, With Dae Bogan

Ask Me Anything

Ask me your music business question and I’ll attempt to provide you with an answer or direct you to a resource with a better answer or guidance. I cannot provide specific legal advice, but I can discuss general music business practices. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or DaeBoganMusic.com. Simply drop your question in the comments section wherever you see the above image.

500 Spotify Playlists That You Can Pitch To Right Now

Several members of the Artist Managers Connect Facebook group (a global networking group of artist managers and other music industry professionals such as service providers, music tech founders, and label/publishing reps) curated a list of third-party Spotify playlists.

This amazing resource is a Google Sheet posted by AMC member Jorge Mejias with a caption:

Since I truly hate the fact that there are “PR” companies offering “Spotify Playlist Pitching” for upwards of $1K+ making false promises they know and then saying something around the lines of “it’s just how the industry is” or “Spotify playlisting is tough” or whatever-

Here is a google sheet w/ info on some of the most popular third party Spotify playlists that most of these companies are pitching to because-

1) this information is all public so I don’t feel bad giving it out & saving people some research

2) what you get out of it = how much time you dedicate to it

3) getting scammed in 2017 / not helping prevent it when you can is silly

Contact info is all out there so stop making excuses. Also the follower count on these are outdated.

*Edit* – also this is a thank you to everyone from AMC who has helped me out thus far. you rock~

*Edit2* – also please refrain from publicly posting any contact info- thank youuu!

*Edit3* – this post by no means aims to discredit companies who do properly provide pitching services. Dan put it best by saying “Would like to caveat that some of us work records at Spotify and Apple Music very transparently and based on years of repertoire and success for our artists within the platform’s respective ecosystems. ”

*Edit4* – thank you Dustin for contributing his spreadsheet

The list requires you to do a little bit of work to reach out to the curator, but the awesome thing about the list is that they’ve already done the work to identify the curator’s Spotify username and have tracked followers and genre to help you sort and prioritize.

List: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-jf6HkRHay43pv8f6X_VneDPuEY405YV3Ool8GVdZjs/htmlview

Go forth and pitch your music!

Let me know if you land a placement.

 

 

5 Music Business Tasks You Can Do Before The End Of 2017

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2017 is coming to an end. Here’s a quick rough rundown of some things you can (and some that you must) accomplish before the end of the year:

1. GET YOUR GROOVE MUSIC MECHANICAL ROYALTIES BEFORE ITS FORFEITED. Microsoft is shutting down Groove Music on December 31, 2017. Legally speaking, they are not required to pay mechanical royalties to songwriters and publishers who have not registered their copyrights with the United States Copyright Office. Therefore, in theory, on January 1st, 2018 Microsoft could expunge any unclaimed mechanical royalties. Royalty Claim shows you how to find your songs and begin the process of unlocking any accrued mechanical royalties.

2. GET DISCOUNTED CONFERENCE PASSES FOR 2018. If you’re thinking about going to music industry conferences in 2018, you should know that many of them offer early-bird discounts now. These savings really add up when you attend multiple conferences in one year. SXSW is currently offering lower rates that end on set dates. The next rate increase will be on Nov 17th. NAB is offering a variety of packages at more than 50% off through Nov 24th (including a FREE pass for the Exhibit floor). There are more offers out there such as Music Biz Expo with discounted rates through March and ASCAP’s “I Create Music” Expo with discounted rates through the end of the year.

3. RELEASE A HOLIDAY COVER SONG LEGALLY AND SUBMIT TO BLOGS FOR END OF YEAR EXPOSURE. It’s not too late to record and release a holiday song this season and leverage the exposure from blogs and background music services. I breakdown how to do this in my piece “5 Tips For Making, Marketing And Monetizing Holiday Music This Season”.

4. GET OR RENEW YOUR GOOGLE PLAY MUSIC MECHANICAL LICENSE. If you distribute music to Google Play Music, you may be earning mechanical royalties that you have not collected. Mechanical royalties are different from your master use royalties (paid to labels, distributors, and aggregators) and performance royalties (paid to performing rights organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR in the United States). Mechanical royalties are royalties paid for the distribution of the underlying musical work embodied in a sound recording — that is, the “song.” Mechanical royalties are owed to songwriters and publishers and is not paid to labels, distributors, aggregators, or PROs. To enter into a direct agreement with Google for your Google Play Music mechanical royalties, you can do one of two things: (1) Sign a direct deal with Google Play Music, whereby you will be responsible for data ingestion as well as ongoing account management. Please reach out to indiepublisher@google.com should you like more information about the direct license; or (2) Opt in via the Harry Fox Agency, whereby they will manage your content on your behalf. You can do so by logging into your HFA account at harryfox.com and click the “Authorizaions” link located in the “Licensing” box. If you do not have an HFA Online account, you can fill out a Request for Administrator Account form at https://secure.harryfox.com/public/forms/online-account/form.jsp. You do not need to be a member of HFA to pursue this option. You can easily streamline and expedite the delivery of your song registrations to Harry Fox Agency (and Music Reports Inc., Loudr, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SoundExchange, and many others) using the affordable music rights and metadata management platform TuneRegistry. TuneRegistry was built to empower the independent music company and DIY musicians who self-publish.

5. CLAIM / VERIFY YOUR ARTIST PAGES & SOCIAL MEDIA. Go into 2018 with a tight marketing infrastructure by making sure that you control all of your presence across the top DSPs and social platforms. Symphonic Distribution breaksdown how to claim your label/artist page on DSPs and music marketing agency View Manic can help eligible artists verify their profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

***BONUS ITEM – DUE IN EARLY 2018***

6. PREPARE AND SEND FORM 1099s. Did you hire a publicist or digital marketing consultant to work your campaign this year? Did you book a photographer for a photo shoot? Hire a graphic designer to overhaul your website? Got a new music video from a production company or indie video director? If you hired freelancers or independent contractors this year, make sure to prepare and send them a Form 1099. This form is required (few exceptions) to be sent to non-employees when you’ve paid them $600 or more for services remitted. The information for the form is gathered from payments you’ve made and the contractor’s information, which you should also collect on a Form W-9. Contractors must receive the 1099 by January 31st, 2018. Read more about 1099s here and W-9s here. In the past, I’ve used Track1099 to easily generator and file 1099s. Check them out or others on the market.

 

Featured photo by aiden marples on Unsplash

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