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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Happy October! It’s officially holiday season. Over the next few months thousands of holiday songs will be streamed and downloaded by millions of consumers around the world; especially in Washington D.C., but not so much in Idaho.
The holiday season is pretty much the only time of year when arrangements of public domain works are highly rotated in commercial music. Cover songs are also very popular as music consumers enjoy classic and updated renditions of their favorite holiday tunes from their childhood. And for the most creative among us, original new holiday songs can also have a huge impact this season.
Whether you decide to release a rock version of Silent Night, an R&B cover of Silver Bells, or an original new pumpkin spice rap record, here are a few tips to help you along the way:
1. Song Selection – From a legal standpoint, there are three options when it comes to song selection: original song, public domain song, or cover song. If you plan to write and record a completely original song — original music, melody, and lyrics — then you will own the copyright in all of its components and can release it just like any of your other original song. If you want to create your own arrangement of a public domain song (e.g. Jingle Bells), you will own the copyright in your sound recording, but not in the underlying composition (unless you create a completely original arrangement; in which case you could own the copyright in the arrangement). However, you do not need to secure a mechanical license to record and distribute the public domain song, nor do you need to secure a synchronization license to use the song in a video that you would upload on YouTube. Public domain songs have fallen out of copyright protection and are freely available to perform and monetize by anyone without seeking permission and paying royalties to the original author(s) of the public domain song.
Cover songs (e.g. Feliz Navidad) are new versions of songs that are still under copyright protection. Therefore, you must obtain a mechanical license in order to record and distribute the song and you are limited in how much you can alter the song lyrically and stylistically. If your performance of the song you’re covering is drastically dissimilar from the original, you begin to navigate into the realm of derivative works and your mechanical license would be in jeopardy. You’d have to get permission from the copyright owner instead of being able to utilize the compulsory mechanical licensing process, which does not require permission per se, but rather a notice and payment of royalties. You would also need to get a synchronization license directly from the copyright owner (e.g. publisher) to use the song in a video to upload to YouTube, or risk having your cover version taken down.
Whichever you choose, make sure to know what obligations you have for your song. CD Baby put together this awesome quick-read on public domain vs. cover songs.
2. Release – Depending on your song selection, you will be required to complete several or few steps before you’re able to release, as far as securing proper licenses. Once you’re cleared to release, create a single release campaign. In addition to the release, consider giving the song away to friends and family as a holiday gift. I like that CD Baby now offers physical on-demand. This may be a good way to get physical CDs with nice artwork available without the upfront cost of having to get them pressed up on your own dime.
3. Marketing & Promotion – If your holiday song is great, it could land on a holiday playlist on Spotify or Apple Music or, if submitted in a timely manner, it could end up on a Pandora channel or Music Choice holiday channel. I personally like to listen to a holiday channels on Pandora from November 1st through December 31st.
There’s also placement on retail radio. Hundreds of millions of shoppers will hit their local shopping center and mall this season; especially during the weeks leading up to and immediately following Black Friday (Black Friday is a shopping day for a combination of reasons. As the first day after the last major holiday before Christmas, it marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Additionally, many employers give their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Wikipedia). Background music and in-store music video networks are good opportunities for exposure; especially if you’ve delivered your song to Shazaam and SoundHound. When I owned my in-store music video network, I programmed holiday music for 150 youth-targeted retail stores. Every major retail chain plays holiday music, so submit as soon as possible to services such as PlayNetwork and Mood Media.
4. Performing – Performing small live shows can be an income-generator during the holiday season. Coffee shops, shopping centers and malls, hotel lobbies, retail stores, restaurants, and other non-traditional venues could be great to perform for a small talent fee plus tips. Many communities organize community events during the holiday season. Reach out now to your local city council’s office regarding performance opportunities. The exposure on their event posters, newsletters, website, and social media could be good for you locally and add to your electronic press kit going into 2018. (Tip: If you are performing original songs, make sure to submit your set list to your PRO — ASCAP, BMI, SESAC — to potentially earn performance royalties in addition to your talent fee and tips). You may also wish to host online concerts via YouTube or Facebook Live; or a platform that enables tipping, like YouNow.
5. Merchandise – Consider hiring an graphic artist to make a really good cover art for your song, then use a made-on-demand merchandise service such as CafePress or Merchify to sell coffee mugs, tote bags, postcards, and more with your cover art. Because there is very little upfront cost besides the designer fee, this additional component to your holiday campaign could add significant extra income. (Tip: Make sure to have your designer sign a work made for hire agreement and transfer the copyright ownership in the artwork to you OR give them a royalty on merch sales to reduce your upfront design cost.)
In conclusion, the holiday season is a great time to create and release music that makes people feel good. Whether you select a recognizable favorite or choose to explore your hand at writing holiday music, if done well, you just might make the Billboard Holiday 100 charts while making some money along the way.
Here’s a little treat: Durand Bernarr‘s Silver Bells (2015)