Tag Archive | Music Licensing

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

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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?

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

Over the last few years, I’ve been researching and sounding the alarm on the growing problem of unclaimed music royalties or so-called “black box” royalties.

I’ve estimated the value of the collective black box to be nearly or above $2B. I’ve presented research, have written extensively and have spoken publicly about this problem, which disproportionately affect independent and legacy songwriters.

Despite my fanfare, industry insiders and stakeholders have shrugged or have blatantly called my estimates a gross overstatement and have held that unclaimed royalties are at best a few hundreds of thousands of dollars and mostly owed to “long-tail artists” who do not quite understand how the music industry works. This is a very myopic, company-focused view. These talking heads tend to speak from their position of administering one right for some music licensees. My estimates are looking at multiple rights administered by multiple entities, which would make the collective black box exponentially greater than the escrow account of a single entity.

Also Read: State of Unclaimed U.S. Music Royalties and Licenses

Yesterday, Variety published an article on the Music Modernization Act where a very important fact was tucked away on a single sentence in a paragraph near the end of the piece:

The DSPs are holding some $1.5 billion in unmatched mechanical royalties. If the MMA passes, that money would be passed through to the MLC which would match it to the songwriters and publishers. [bold and underline added for emphasis]

via Variety

https://variety.com/2018/music/news/music-modernization-act-blackstone-sesac-congress-senate-1202881536/

$1.5B of royalties (I still believe this number is higher) is sitting in, probably, interest-bearing escrow accounts while songwriters and small-to-medium sized music rights holders struggle to understand how and why.

Last year I founded RoyaltyClaim, the world’s first search engine of unclaimed music royalties and licenses, which has recently been acquired by Made In Memphis Entertainment. We’ve helped DIY musicians and rights-holders identify thousands of unclaimed entitlements in just a few months, with one paricular music producer uncovering nearly $150k in unclaimed royalties due to him.

The problem is huge. The system is not transparent. And the people in charge could do a better job communicating these things to rights-holders.

Also Read: I’m Working On A Side Project Addressing ‘Black Box’ Royalties

I’ve been on many panels at music industry conferences where I’ve maintained my position that DIY musicians and small-to-medium sized rights-holders are owed hundreds of millions of dollars, if not several billion, and often my co-panelists have taken a position that my claims are sensational and overstated.

I disagree.

When those on the panel talk about black box we are talking about the aggregate of unclaimed royalties that occur because of any number of factors,’ and not just limited to one service or one collection society, explained moderator Dae Bogan, CEO of TuneRegistry.”

via Billboard

Source: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8456271/black-box-royalties-myths-panel-music-biz-2018

Read the Variety article here.

Check out my commentary on black box royalties here.

What Every Small Artist Management Firm Must Do Immediately

Artist Management Firms: If you do not have someone on your team whose sole responsibility is to utilize online music sync agencies, pitch ad agencies, and cozy up with music supervisers, you’re missing out, bigly.

When I owned/operated Renaissance Artist Management (aka RAM Artist), I established an in-house position for the sole purpose of securing music sync opportunities. This was during the early days of micro-sync and the boom of online sync agencies.

We leveraged online agencies (at the time that included Rumblefish before they were acquired by HFA and pivoted). Check out Songtradr, Music Bed, MusicDealers, YouLicense, Pump Audio, and many others like them.

Consider giving some tracks to exclusive libraries who do well pitching your artists’ sound. Red Bull Media House is always looking for good music and they get YUGE placements.

Make sure to read the deats of their contracts.

Here’s a few things to look out for:

  1. Exclusivity – Try not to give micro sync agencies exclusivity. If you’re giving a company exclusivity, it better be a solid library. (TuneCore PRO users…did you know when you opt-in to their sync licensing program, you’re giving them exclusivity?)
  2. SoundExchange Royalties – Some pitch houses and libraries have tried to sneak in a cut of your SoundExchange royalties. Don’t let them get it. They are not getting your music placed on digital radio, so they do not participate in your digital radio royalties. I successfully helped an indie artist negotiate that clause out of a library agreement.
  3. Tagging/ReTitling– Tagging is the practice of adding an identifier to your song title when the song is registered with a PRO. Retitling is creating a new title for the song when registering. The goal of both methods is to disambiguate any performance royalties generated as a result of the libraries sync placement activities. This is necessary when you have multiple non-exclusive libraries getting places of the same song. They want to make sure that when the cue sheet from the TV show gets to the PRO, the royalties earned against that specific placement gets to the right entity. It’s not unheard of for one song to be placed by several non-exclusive sync agencies, each with retitles or tagging and capturing royalties for their specific placement. Do know that the writer gets the writer share for all of the placements. The agencies/libraries participate in the publishers share of their specific title.
  4. Duration of Term – Exclusive libraries may want up to 3 years exclusivity. Aim for 1 year for the first term.

Learn about royalty forensics, that is the art(science?) of tracking down uses of your music and capturing associated royalties (this is definitely important when it comes to big multi territory placements, TV syndication, and film secondary market distributions). Tunesat and ACRCloud are two audio detection platforms that’ll detect performances of your music in sync media.

You may want to setup your own music licensing store, so that when you meet music sups, you can send them to an easy-to-search library of your own music. Check out Soundgizmo and LicenseQuote for this.

And of course, don’t forget to make sure the music is registered before it starts to generate royalties, with TuneRegistry.

The Uniquely US Challenge That Indie Artists Face When Asked To License Music To Indie Filmmakers, For Free

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Over the last few years I’ve been approached by several indie filmmaker friends seeking my help on getting music licensed for their indie film projects. While some have had budgets, most have asked for recommendations on getting music for free. Now, as an advocate for indie music creators and rights owners, I tend to disregard “no compensation” opportunities as taking advantage of artists and/or devaluing the work of music creators (although the folks behind the opportunities are wicked good people).

 

Several times I’ve had to respectfully tell my indie filmmaker friends that I could not share their “music placement” opportunity, but instead I could direct them to resources to license music for cheap.

 

I’ve since realized that what I have not done was explain why, specifically in the United States, giving filmmakers music for free is frowned upon. So, in this post I aim to do that.

 

But first, I will say that I understand and agree that many opportunities for music placed in film — as well as TV shows and commercials — can be a huge break for up-and-coming artists. Productions that are widely released and viewed can result in significant exposure for the music, which can translate into increased radio airplay, digital downloads, and audio and video streams, which dramatically increases the artist’s income potential and exposure. There’s a long history of songs from movie and TV soundtracks going Gold & Platinum and topping the charts.

 

That being said, small indie film projects are typically not the productions that create these kind of success stories. In fact, I’d argue that over 90% of independently produced projects do little by way of “exposure” for artists (if you’re an independent artist reading this who’ve had your music placed in film, please comment and share your experience).

 

The reality is many indie film  projects do not have the distribution or exposure to generate the volume of public consumption to translate into significant benefit for the artists who contributed music to the film. This is because only a small percentage (maybe less than 1%) of the people who’ve watched the movie would actually make any effort to track down a song placed in the movie.

 

Now, let’s talk about how artists get paid for music licensed to films. I am focusing solely on commercially released songs being licensed to a film. I am not going into the details of original songs composed for a film, film scores, or any “commissioned” work for a film. I am strictly talking about a filmmaker asking an artist to use an already recorded and released track.

 

Ok, so typically, a production company should obtain what’s called a synchronization license from the artist (or label) to use the track in the film.

 

The term “synchronization” refers to the act of synchronizing a sound recording to a motion visual embedded in a video. A production company should pay two (2) fees for licensing music to film: master use fee and synchronization fee.

 

The master use fee is a fee paid to the artist (or his/her label if they are signed to a record label) for the use of the sound recording, also known as a “master.” The synchronization fee is a fee paid to the songwriter (or his/her publisher if they are signed to a publishing company) for the use of the song, also referred to as the composition.

 

The artist/label owns the sound recording/master. The songwriter/publisher owns the song/composition (for example the song “Diamonds” by Rihanna was actually co-written and is co-owned by Sia and her publisher; but the sound recording of “Diamonds” that you hear on the radio is owned by Rihanna’s record label. Both the writer/publisher and the artist/label must get paid for the use of “Diamonds” in a movie; those are two separate copyrights).

 

Alright that was a crash course on publishing.

 

In order for a filmmaker to license a piece of commercially released music to your film, you need a synchronization license from the independent artist (I’m going back to talking about independent artists, although I used Rihanna (a “major” artist) in my example above). An independent artist may not have a publisher nor a label, so he/she is the sole owner and should still get paid the synch fee (for the song/composition) AND the master use fee (for the sound recording/master).

 

Now, so far I’ve talked about what’s known as the up front fees. These are the fees you, filmmaker, would pay to an independent artist to put their music in your movie. But like I said in the beginning, many filmmakers have asked me to help them get music for free. 😦

 

I wouldn’t mind this too much if we weren’t talking about small projects that will be released (and generate most of its viewership) in the United States.

 

Why?

 

Outside of the United States, artists earn public performance income from the movie theaters. That’s right, movie theaters must pay public performance fees to public performance organizations for exhibiting movies. These backend royalties can add up if the movie becomes popular and has many showings across many territories.

 

However, in the United States movie theaters are exempt from having to pay public performance fees. This means, independent artists (specifically, singer-songwriters) do not earn income from movie theaters when they exhibit movies containing their music.

 

So, when you do not earn up front fees from synch and master use fees, because the filmmaker “doesn’t have a budget for music” AND you do not earn backend royalties from U.S. movie theaters, because they are exempt from paying what theaters in other countries pay, it is frowned upon to give music for free to U.S. filmmakers making low budget movies. Because these low budget projects may not have the distribution and marketing backing of it’s major and big-independent counterparts, the potential for the movie to generate “non-compensation benefits” for the artist (e.g. radio airplay, downloads, streams, awards, etc.) is significantly low.

 

Basically, if your indie film is being released in a few United States independent theaters and then on DVD and you want music for free, it will be a challenge. There is no substantial benefit for the artist.

 

All that being said, there are several examples of small budget projects generating grassroots marketing buzz and cult popularity that does impact the distribution and exposure of the movie, which in turn could generate benefits for artists who’ve given gratis (free) licenses to filmmakers. But this is not the norm. Furthermore, there are scenarios where you can license must free in the interim, but commit to payments based on hitting milestones such as getting distribution, hitting box office sales milestones, hitting DVD rental or sales goals, etc. This is a good way for a filmmaker who doesn’t have a big music budget to potentially negotiate with artists to defer compensation based on the performance of the project.

 

Thoughts? Questions? Stories to share? Post in the comments.

Dae Bogan’s “Music Publishing & Copyright Administration in the Internet Age” Workshop at the Indpendent Music Conference in Los Angeles on October 25th

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I am excited to return to the Independent Music Conference to teach a workshop on music publishing and copyright administration. The “Music Publishing & Copyright Administration in the Internet Age” workshop will cover basic music publishing and copyright administration from the perspective of a DIY independent artist. Attendees will learn about self-publishing in the Internet age and takeaway resources for music placement, music licensing, and royalty collection around the world. Attendees should leave with an understanding of synchronization rights, mechanical rights, and performance rights in the United States.

  • When: Saturday, October 25th, 2014
  • Time: 9:00am to 11:00am
  • Where: SAE Institute – 6565 Sunset Blvd., Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA
  • Cost: Conference attendees and SAE students. To become a conference attendee, visit http://www.indiemusicon.com.

The Independent Music Conference will take place October 22 – 25, 2014 in Los Angeles. The conference will be head at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles and SAE Institute. The conference includes professional development mentorship sessions, workshops, seminars, panels, and live performances and networking events at night. See the complete schedule at http://www.indiemusicon.com.

Music Licensing: ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ Takes Music Licensing To The Next Level

It isn’t often that we get to learn about the vision behind the musical selections — including licensed music, commissioned music and collaborations — directly from the music supervisors of entertainment products; especially music supervisors of video games. So, this interview of Rockstar Games’ music supervisor Ivan Pavlovich by The Hollywood Reporter on his work for Grand Theft Auto V is a rare peak behind the curtain of creating the sonic identity of one of the top video games of all time. And boy is it insightful! 

Read More…

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