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A Curated List Of My Thoughts On The Music Modernization Act (And Related Topics)

music-modernization-act

I am a very vocal music creators’ rights advocate and copyright purist. Often, I have the opportunity to share my *opinions* on topics within and circling the music industry that impact the ways in which music creators — especially DIY musicians — navigate and thrive in the United States.

Over the last ten months I have been especially vocal about the Music Modernization Act. I’ve been quoted in Billboard, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Digital Media News. I’ve been invited to panel discussions at music industry conferences and keynotes at universities. And I have written several think pieces (and rants) on the bill, which is now law, and related issues.

Still, I am asked what my thoughts are on the MMA.

I’ll summarize my thoughts by saying that I believe the intent of the MMA is good and admirable on its surface — that is, to improve the way rightsholders are accounted to and paid for the use of their music. I believe there is some good stuff in the MMA; particularly, the entirety of Title 2 (The CLASSICS Act) and Title 3 (The AMP Act). However, I feel that there is still work to be done. I also feel that some compromises, at the expense of DIY music creators, were made too easily (this is partially based on private discussions that I’ve had with individuals with privileged knowledge of the negotiations and dealings that took place during the drafting and subsequent amending of the MMA). That being said, I also believe that the soon to be formed Mechanical Licensing Collective has the opportunity to prove to songwriters that this law was truly about them.

Only time will tell.

Here’s a 2018 curated list of my “thoughts” on the Music Modernization Act (and related topics):

  • (Oct 16, 2018) Here Are 10 Ways That The Music Licensing Collective (MLC) Can Set The Bar As A Collective Licensing Organization In The 21st Century – https://bit.ly/2RW9kW2
  • (Sep 14th, 2018 in Pitchfork) Why So Many Hip-Hop Producers Are Putting Business Before Beats – https://bit.ly/2PEsi1x
  • (Aug 19th, 2018) Another Music Modernization Act Opinion Piece – https://bit.ly/2NLp9LC
  • (Aug 15th, 2018 in Rolling Stone) Why More Pop Songwriters Are Stepping Into the Spotlight – https://bit.ly/2ClAuAc
  • (Jul 24th, 2018) Songwriters Are Owed Nearly $2B In Unclaimed Royalties!!! — Maybe More — I’ve Been Saying This For Some Time Now (Against Pushback), But Finally The Press Has Confirmed It – https://bit.ly/2CMR6Sp
  • (May 15th, 2018 in Billboard) Black Box Royalties Myths, Common Misconceptions Debunked at Music Biz 2018 – https://bit.ly/2q4dhLD
  • (May 7th, 2018 in Digital Music News) Is the Music Modernization Act Enabling ‘Legal Theft’ Against Smaller Artists? – https://bit.ly/2IugrCS
  • (Apr 25th, 2018) 5 Ways The Music Modernization Act Could Be Fairer To ALL Music Creators – https://bit.ly/2Jzn1tb
  • (Apr 20th, 2018) I Was Interviewed By The Congressional Budget Office Regarding The Music Modernization Act, And Now I’m Even More Concerned For DIY Musicians – https://bit.ly/2AdwpN0
  • (Jan 17th, 2018) – My Thoughts On The MMA In Light Of The CRB Mechanical License Rate Decision – https://bit.ly/2P6bT98

Where do you stand on the MMA?

My Response To Ari Herstand’s Comments Regarding TuneRegistry

Tonight, I finally had time to read a recent piece by Ari Herstand in which he reviewed a Spotify playlist submission service called Playlist Push owned by an acquaintance of mine. It was a good piece because Ari spent time using the service and met with the founder to ask questions. His review was credible because he was knowledgeable. Like the good journalist that I generally respect him as, he did his research well.

However, I was taken aback when I clicked through to another article — on registering music with music rights organizations (an obvious interest of mine) — that was referenced in the Playlist Push article and came across a passage at the end where Ari precedes to pass judgment on my company, TuneRegistry, and tells his readers that he can’t recommend us. This was shocking and upsetting because, unlike his review of Playlist Push, Ari has not used TuneRegistry and has never set with me, the founder, to discuss what we do or ask questions (despite the fact that I have invited him to do so in the past). In fact, he states in what is basically a sort of rant against our model, that he has questions about our service.

Ari wrote,

Worth mentioning that TuneRegistry is a new company that was created to get your songs registered most places for a fee. They don’t take a commission, so they don’t really put much effort into tracking down your royalties, they just get your songs registered and hope that the appropriate organizations pay you correctly (but you are required to register yourself with all the organizations they collect from – which is a major headache and NOT recommended). TuneRegistry takes a lot more effort and hands on work by you, but they serve a purpose for those that have the time, energy and understanding of how all this works and want to manage it themselves (and keep all their royalties).

But, you do not need to use them. Let me repeat, you do NOT need to use TuneRegistry (I got some questions about this). I just listed them as an alternative to an admin publishing company. To be honest, I can’t recommend them because of the headaches they cause in making you register with all these orgs. But some people like headaches. So… go for it! I recommend giving up 15% to a full-fledged admin publishing company and saving yourself the headache.

In response, I left the following comment on the article so that readers of Ari’s piece would receive more context from me, the founder of TuneRegistry:

TuneRegistry founder here. I appreciate that Ari decided to mention us in this piece. He’s one of the champs out here providing information to independent artists. That being said, as a music creator rights’ advocate, speaker, writer, music business educator (https://daeboganmusic.com/category/educator), and former indie artist and music manager, I would like to add some context to our offering as a counter to the negative-leaning and misleading tone presented in the piece.

TuneRegistry is an affordable (two Starbucks coffees a month) software that empowers DIY music creators to administer the music rights that they own and control, while retaining 100% of their copyrights and 100% of their royalties. We enable both composition side and master side rights administration, all in one place.

Prior to launching TuneRegistry — which was co-founded by a music industry professional & educator, two lawyers, and a technologist…all of whom are also musicians — I spent 2 years working with all of the U.S. music rights organizations to get them onboard to allow self-published music creators to reap the benefits of being their own publisher. This means, you do not have to give up 20% of your publishing income in perpetuity (until you cancel) just because a 3rd party publishing administrator registered a song for you with a PRO one time several years ago.

Ari states that we “don’t take a commission, so they don’t really put much effort into tracking down your royalties, they just get your songs registered and hope that the appropriate organizations pay you correctly.” It is correct that we do not take a commission. 100% of the royalties flow to the rights-holder. The notion that we do not care about your royalty flow is grossly misleading. We care immensely about your ability to be accounted to and paid royalties. It is this fundamental idea, the creators should be paid all of what they are due, that is at the heart of TuneRegistry. We work with creators every single day to clear conflicts, disputes, push customer service inquiries at societies forward, and provide education on how royalties work and how to collect them (see our free ebook “The DIY Musician’s Starter Guide To Being Your Own Label & Publisher” https://www.tuneregistry.com/lp/the-diy-musicians-starter-guide-to-being-your-own-label-and-publisher). I personally spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in the music industry, at conferences and meeting with organizations and societies to improve outcomes for indies. In a word, we care. We are smaller than all of the traditional publishing administration companies that Ari mentioned in his piece, some of whom boast about having over 150,000 songwriters in their catalog. Without disparaging any of them, I will say that it is impossible to actively “track down” royalties for 150,000 songwriters. Passively receiving royalty payments and unauditied royalty statements, is not the same as tracking down royalties, something that I’ve done with my other company RoyaltyClaim.com, the world’s first search engine for unclaimed royalties, but I’ll digress.

Ari also mentions that, “you are required to register yourself with all the organizations they collect from – which is a major headache and NOT recommended.” We do not collect from any organization at this time. Because you receive 100% of your royalties, you must go to the organization and create accounts to provide them with your banking information so that they can pay you. You must also create accounts so we have an account to register your music into from the TuneRegistry dashboard. This is a one-time thing for only up to 6 organizations. It literally takes an hour or two to submit the applications. This isn’t really that much of a headache. In my opinion, a much bigger headache is giving up 20% of your U.S. publishing royalties in perpetuity (until you cancel) to a 3rd party because you couldn’t put a few hours on a Saturday afternoon aside to get this done. You (the reader) should do the math and be the judge. Can you take out one afternoon to join a few U.S. music rights organizations and then keep 100% of your U.S. music royalties or are you too busy to complete a few forms and would therefore opt to give away 20% of your publishing income in perpetuity? Also, the notion that creating your own accounts is “not recommended” is a fallacy. Not only do all of the organizations encourage music creators to be proactive in their own rights administration, they actively suggest and educate you on how to do so. See this article (https://daeboganmusic.com/2018/03/12/how-to-apply-for-a-harry-fox-agency-online-account-as-a-diy-musician-a-step-by-step-guide/) that we wrote with the approval of Harry Fox Agency showing indie songwriters step-by-step how to get their own account and unlock their Spotify mechanical royalties, which we’ve been doing for some time now (including facilitating opt-ins into direct Facebook, Instagram, and Oculus licenses). Our free ebook mentioned above provides instructions on how to properly setup your own music rights company. We’ve helped many artists and managers do so, and they’ve written positive feedback from this guidance (https://twitter.com/MissAlexWhite/status/1044997438753435649?s=19).

Ari stated, “TuneRegistry takes a lot more effort and hands on work by you, but they serve a purpose for those that have the time, energy and understanding of how all this works and want to manage it themselves (and keep all their royalties).” Yes, we built TuneRegistry for music creators who care about knowing what’s going on with their music business, who care about the ownership and management of their catalogs, and who’d rather get paid all of their U.S. music publishing income faster (no 2 calendar quarters delay by a 3rd party administrator) by being paid directly from U.S. music rights organizations.

Ari writes, “But, you do not need to use them. Let me repeat, you do NOT need to use TuneRegistry.” Technically, you do NOT need to use anyone. This was a bit of an unnecessary statement. He continues, “I got some questions about this. I just listed them as an alternative to an admin publishing company. To be honest, I can’t recommend them because of the headaches they cause in making you register with all these orgs. But some people like headaches.” I would be happy to discuss. I’ve invited you to this discussion several times. You have my email. And please drop the “it’s a headache” bit. That is an incredibly subjective and unfair characterization of the process, by someone who has yet to go through it with us, no less.

Ari concludes, “I recommend giving up 15% to a full-fledged admin publishing company and saving yourself the headache.” To this I say, to each his own. I think there are great admin publishing companies out there doing great work. Many, however, do not accept DIY musicians. In fact, one stated this during his panel at Music Biz Expo this summer. An artist in the room asked what he should do since traditional publishing administrators would not represent his small catalog. The speaker said that artists will just have to wait until their careers grow. I stood up and rejected that notion and introduced TuneRegistry. I do not accept that music creators need to give away up to 20% of their U.S. publishing income. And we’ve been proving this with our users since we launched at SXSW in 2017.

In closing, Ari I appreciate your desire and work to spread information to music creators. Many look to you for advice, insight, and truth. As a writer or contributing journalist myself, I respect your usual research-driven evaluations of services and resources. However, I don’t think you gave us a fair review here since you’ve neither used TuneRegistry nor set down with me to talk about what we’re doing or how. Since you chose to mention my company in your article, a company that my team and I spend and sacrifice so much time and resources to help hundreds of DIY music creators, I would like to invite you, again, to have a discussion with me so that you can get a demo and ask any questions that you may have.

– Dae Bogan
Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, TuneRegistry
Lecturer of Musicology, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

What would a music streaming world look like without playlists?

cassette

Artists, managers, labels, and the entire industry has shifted its obsession with radio programming to playlist curation; and in doing so has lost its collective respect for the craft of songwriting, the art of music production, and the deep connection that comes from a truly engaged and evangelical fan base.

Has the industry become so obsessed with virtual real estate (placement/positioning on playlists), metrics, and convoluted KPIs such as followers and saves that we’ve killed the spirit of why we do what we do?

Asking for 1 Million aspiring artist friends around the world who’ve yet to be jaded by what’s happening to our industry.

Let’s talk honestly about the culture and ethos of what we’re building in this great Digital Streaming Music Era…

Should The Term ‘Urban Music’ Be Eradicated?

Is “urban music” nothing more than a modern colloquialism for the pre-1960’s term “colored music”? Some music industry figures despise the term because it generalizes a set of genres and the diversity of cultures associated with those genres and sub-genres. Furthermore, “urban music” suggests an affinity to racial, sociopolitical, and socioeconomic disenfranchisement that doesn’t translate or characterize the economics and consumption of the main genres encapsulated, or rather hindered, by the label “urban music” — that is, Hip-Hop and R&B are two of the most consumed streaming, radio, and live music genres in the world and many of the genres’ namesakes have no doubt released projects that would more fittingly be considered pop. Should the term “urban music” be eradicated?

Read this article written by Tim Ingham for Music Business Worldwide and let’s discuss in the comments.

Guest Post: How Amazon’s Twitch.tv Cheats Music Creators

This is just another example of the way in which the DMCA Safe Harbor forces music creators to subsidize the businesses of mega corporations.

Music Technology Policy

Guest post* by Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

[This article was first posted on Forbes.com and previously on themusicindustrylawyer.com.]

Music creators (songwriters and performing artists) and rights’ owners (music publishers and record labels) are not collecting a new and substantial source of income – and most of them are not aware they are not collecting it. Enter Twitch, the website exploiting creators and owners without paying for a single cent of music usage.

What is Twitch

Twitch, a subsidiary of Amazon, is a live-streaming video platform that has “over two million broadcasters and 15 million daily active users.” Anyone can become a Twitch “broadcaster,” meaning users set up their own channels and live-stream various content, which includes, but is not limited to, video-game play, card games, pranks, craft tutorials and more.

The broadcasts start out as live streams and are saved on the channel for re-broadcasts and…

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Rule Takers vs. Rule Makers: Congress Should Support Startups in the Music Modernization Act

Chris Castle eloquently expresses a view and sentiment on the MMA, in regards to its potential impact on startups and competition, with which I agree. One could also argue that antitrust regulations would suggest that the proposed MLC (Music Licensing Collective) ought to have competiton in much the way ASCAP directly competes with BMI. Ironically, though, I recently wrote about the antitrust regulations that prevent visual artists from entering into collective licensing mandates in the United States for their reprographic rights, which ultimately result in unclaimed “black box” reprographic royalties internationally.

Music Technology Policy

If you read the current version of the Music Modernization Act, you may fine that it’s more about government mandates that entrench incumbents than a streamlined blanket compulsory license that helps startups climb the ladder.  Yet in the weeds of MMA we find startups dealt out of governance by rule makers and forced as a rule taker to ante up payments by their competitors in a game that the bill makes into the only game in town.

Billboard reports that Senators Cornyn and Cruz suggested a fix for this flaw—allow private market competition alongside the MMA’s government mandate.  (Vaguely reminiscent of the “Section 115 Reform Act” from 2006.)

Let’s review why this fix is necessary and how it could balance the roles of rule makers and takers.

It’s necessary because the problem doesn’t come from songwriters.  It comes from the real rule makers—Amazon, Apple, Facebook…

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Here’s Why I Refunded 100% Of Our Revenue To Every Single Paying Customer, For Four Months

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A LESSON ON CUSTOMER SERVICE DURING THE MOST DIFFICULT OF TIMES:

I’ve just spent the last several hours personally emailing (original email at the very end of this post) and refunding every TuneRegistry​ customer who made a subscription payment since my departure at the top of March 2018.

I’ve refunded each and every one of these wonderful music creators and rights-holders for every day that my co-founders and I were unable to oversee the operations and support of the technology that we sacrificed 3 years to build and grow.

For four months, we were unable to perform the quality service and support that we pride ourselves in providing. For four months, we were unable to deliver on our promise shaped by the value proposition that attracted our customers. For four stressful months, we were unable to push forward our mission to empower music creators and rights-holders.

And while returning over 4 months of subscription revenue is something no entrepreneur would ever volunteer to do, I do not believe that any customer who supports you, who believes in you, should have to pay the price for changes in upper management that impacts the service.

Today, hundreds of refunds were sent out. Here’s a few customer reactions:

“Hello Dae, Thanks for reaching out that was a great thing to do. The refund would be cool, however, I still want to keep the service. Thanks again.” – Dean

“Dae, Congrats on winning TuneRegistery back! Must feel good. I look forward to getting back on the platform and utilizing your updated services. Loving your work!” – Amishar

“I am glad things will be restored back to normal.” – Octavia

“Thank you for your honesty.” – Kristen

“Good afternoon Dae. I really appreciate your concern with regaining rapport with your customers and thank you for offering the refund!” – William

“Thanks Dae! I’m stoked you’re back at the helm and am looking forward to using the new platform!! Thanks!!” – Andy

“Thank you for your courtesy!” – Tiffany

“Thank you for taking over again. ” – Aleisha

“Welcome back, I’m looking forward to working with you and the renewing platform.” – Sadiq

“I am very happy that you are back hoping to continue working together as it is a great help for us independent producers and composers.” – Ricardo

“Hi , I kept my faith and you guys prove me well.” – Jabari

“Thank you SO much. I really wanted to enjoy this service, and I hope to continue to work with your program! ” – Eugene

“Thanks you for this email I was very upset with the service I am so glad you reached out to me about this.” – Wayne

“Dae, Truly grateful for your response. And look forward to moving forward with you guys. I appreciate this heartfelt message and thank you for touching bases and working to right what you feel are the wrongs. Bless. Thank you” – Allen

“I wish you all the best of luck! It’s great to hear that you’ve gotten back behind the wheel and I look forward to seeing you soar!” – Donny

“I’m glad to hear you are all back and on it. I’m praying the best for you on this endeavor.” – Jesse

“Hi Dae, I accept your apology and refund with open arms! Can’t wait to see what the new services are. Thanks.” – Sean

“Hey Dae, Appreciate this- I have been aware of your situation and completely understand. A refund would be appreciated, but I would love to give the platform another shot once you have things back to your standard. I wish you and your team the best in this, and I appreciate the insight you’ve given me in the past, thanks man!” – Tom

“I accept and would love to use your service with you back in charge again.” – Zachary

“Welcome back, Dae, Shane, and Kara!” – Jordan

Honesty is the way to begin building back rapport with frustrated customer base.

Subject: A huge apology from the co-founders of TuneRegistry

Hi Greg,

My name is Dae Bogan and I am the founder of TuneRegistry. I am contacting you in regards to your experience with TuneRegistry over the last four months.

Unfortunately, the TuneRegistry co-founders (myself, Shane and Kara) have not been apart of the TuneRegistry operations and support for the last nearly 4 months.

TuneRegistry was acquired by Haawk in November of 2017. Due to circumstances, the TuneRegistry co-founders, known for our excellent customer support, departed Haawk in early March 2018. Consequently, we have not been able to provide the great support and service that we take pride in providing. To make matters worse, the TuneRegistry platform was not properly maintained during our absence, making it impossible to complete tasks.

The good news is, we just acquired TuneRegistry back a week ago and now have the reigns once again. We will be working to restore operations and support over the next week or two and in the coming months, we will be launching a revamped platform with new features and service offerings.

I apologize for the the poor experience you’ve endured during our absence and would like to offer paid users a complete refund of the last four months. To claim your refund, simply reply to this email or contact us through the in-app messenger.

Kind regards,

Dae Bogan (CEO), Shane Zilinskas (CTO), and Kara McGehee (CPO)

Operation Song

I absolutely love this.

Music Technology Policy

“In a world in which everything is subject to the passing of time, art alone is both subject to time and yet victorious over it.”
― André Malraux

operationsong_logo_color_v1-400x400

I wanted to call your attention to Operation Song, a nonprofit run by our friend Bob Regan the songwriter.  It’s a wonderful organization that describes itself:

Operation Song™ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Nashville Tennessee founded in 2012. We pair professional songwriters with veterans, active military and their families to help them tell their stories through song. We hold weekly workshops in Middle Tennessee and sponsor events and group retreats throughout the U.S. Those we serve need no musical background, only the desire to tell their story. In a typical session, the songwriter listens and encourages the participant to lay out the “puzzle pieces” of his or her experience. Together, they arrange those pieces into verses and choruses. The result…

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Is Michael Beckerman Wearing Your Safe Harbor?

Music Technology Policy

As MTP readers will recall, I prefer to think of Big Tech’s various safe harbors like the CDA, DMCA and now the MMA as an income transfer.  It’s not that the money isn’t getting made, it’s just not getting made by the people who created the value.

For example, when Google profits from selling ads against infringing videos, that money doesn’t disappear, it just doesn’t go to the artist.  So where does it go?

Well…according to a recent article in Modern Luxury “Men of Style,” it appears to go into Michael Beckerman’s shoes.  Michael Beckerman is the CEO of the Internet Association, Google’s main lobbying shillery in DC.

Michael Beckerman

That’s right–$4,950 shoes.  But no socks.  Now that’s what I call an income transfer.  Looks like DMCA safe harbor on his feet, CDA for his watch–what will he buy himself as a reward for the MMA reachback?  Maybe a little poker in…

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