TBT: How to Make it as a Musician

Recently a client’s father asked if his aspiring musician daughter should put a physical care package of sorts together to send out to labels, managers and PR. He thought that this was the best way to get someone’s attention who could help out his daughter’s career. After politely disagreeing, this is what we suggested instead:

It’s really difficult to try to summarize how to make it as a musician.  Especially in the current market.  There used to be a defined set of steps to take but now the easiest answer is: it depends.

I think the be all and end all is good music.  With a budget you can push crappy music, but eventually it filters out and the public loses interest.

So assuming an artist has good music, what are the next steps?

First, determine what content you are releasing:  Is it a single, an EP, an album a video or some combination of the foregoing?

Set a release date and focus all of your attention at getting as many taste makers (blogs, websites, music influencers, friends, families, super fans etc.) to be aware of that date.  Try to get some press (local or otherwise) to focus on the release and tease the public as to when the release is coming out so that you can maximize the attention on the day of your release.  There are many ways of doing that: contests, give aways, bonus tracks etc.  Something that will get people excited.

Once the music is out, you have to continue to push it.  Usually this is done with touring.  Sometimes this is done with radio promotion (which requires a decent budget).  The press push continues and you look at where your music is performing well.  Hit press in those areas as well as venues and try to tour there.

All along, you should be trying to sell merchandise (if you have it) at your shows and online.  Bundling music with shirts, stickers etc. can help.

Try to get other musicians to support your release (and support there’s as well).  You need other musicians for several reasons; touring with support, features on their songs, more fans to reach out to etc.

All the while, create new content.  Whether that means releasing a video, releasing concert footage, releasing a b-side track or a follow up song, you have to stay present and can’t afford for too much lag between the time of releases.

Throughout this process you need a lawyer to make sure that everything is properly documented.  Producer agreements, feature artist agreements, registrations etc.   It is much cheaper to handle ahead of time then after the fact.  A solid lawyer is usually the first thing you need when starting your career as a musician.  Ask other entrepreneurs as to what professional they hired first.  Typically it is either an accountant or a lawyer.

While a manager and PR team may help, it still comes down to content and the artist working full time on the project.  No one will work as hard as you do for your own art.  End of story.  Artists who expect or hope that a manager will get them to where they want to go typically don’t even need a manager.

Demo packages are pretty useless these days.  You need an EPK to be able to easily email people key information about yourself (contact info, social media numbers, soundcloud links etc.) but demos or promotional packages are ignored by industry folks 9 times out of 10.

The Up and Comers, Breakouts and our WOW Performances from SXSW

Now that South by Southwest has wrapped and we are all back at our day jobs, we at Lawyers 4 Musicians want to bring you back to the music and share with you our favorite showcases from this year’s festival. Since we are lawyers (and not musicians) we brought in Whitney Jones from Propelr Music and Shoplifter Music to give us that extra musical insight on the performances that impressed us the most!

  • Lewis Del Mar at Whisler’s – this five-piece band was one of the favorite up and comers this year. We were able to catch them at their first show of the festival on Whisler’s intimate patio. The acoustic guitar mixed with electronic beat topped by frontman, Danny Miller’s laid back vocals, is a refreshing yet edgy new rock sound, certainly worth checking out.
  • Flint Eastwood at Darwin’s Pub – a definite highlight, Flint Eastwood from Detroit creates huge anthemic electro pop songs that could easily be sung by Katie Perry. An amazing live show, it was a complete surprise to see the energy and intensity this woman (Jax Anderson) could bring to her crowd.
  • Pillar Point at Flamingo Cantina – a tight performance from the charismatic frontman of Throw Me the Statute, Scott Reiherman. The layers and layers of synth, drums and guitar had everyone moving.
  • Deep Valley at Bungalow – a true rock and roll female duo, Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards, killed it. Troy’s, American flag fringed body suit gave her that true Joan Jett vibe. We loved her dominating and active stage presence (including her fearlessness to climb the monitors, drum set and anything else she could find).
  • Cloves at JW Marriott Ballroom (Universal Showcase) – Australian singer, Kaity Dunstan known as ‘Cloves’, impressed us with a voice somewhere between Adele and Alicia Keys. With her strong and emotional vocals backed by keys and a guitar, she will be interesting to watch and see where Universal takes her.
  • Jake Bugg at Old School Bar and Grill (Island Showcase) – We can’t help but love Jake Bugg, his cool persona and sound blow us away. His performance was on par, very tight, you could have mistaken it for listening to his album; the man doesn’t miss a key (or string for that matter).

Those are our favorites, check them out and tell us what you think, better yet, let us know if we missed one!

 

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SXSW 2016

 

The Lawyers 4 Musicians team is at South By Southwest this year to meet, learn and discover all of the up and comings in the music world. We will be keeping you posted on events we attend, new findings and tips for musicians, people we meet, and strategies to help you navigate through the legal realm of the music industry.

Let us know if you have questions, thoughts and/or ideas to contribute. If you are at SXSW, come meet us. Schedule a meet up with Josh or I by emailing us at jkaplan@tkhlaw.com or lschulz@tkhlaw.com. Hope to see you there!

Blurred Lines Decision

I’m happy to have been quoted in this article by Paul Schrodt and the Business Insider.

Please take a look here:  http://www.businessinsider.com/blurred-lines-case-music-copyright-2015-12

The Golden Oldies – Recapturing Pre-1978 Copyrights

We have covered several topics on recapturing copyrights here at Lawyer 4 Musicians (see Recapture Basics and Heir’s Rights), as the clock started for copyright owners to terminate a record label or publisher’s grant of rights in 2013. But what if you granted the rights to your copyright before the Copyright Act came into effect (before 1978)? Are they lost for forever? What if I am an heir who has inherited hundreds of songs that are being controlled by someone else? Never fear, with just a gentle tweak in termination timelines, the Copyright Act addresses recapturing of copyrights pre-1978.

Section 304(c) of the Copyright Act allows the copyright owner or his or her heirs to recapture a grant of their copyrights starting on the 56th year from when the copyright was originally registered. Why is it 56 years instead of 35 like post 1978 copyrights? Glad you asked…A little history for you . . . prior to the enactment of the Copyright Act, a copyright was split in two consecutive 28-year periods (this means you could own a copyright for 28 years and then renew it for an additional 28 years) for a grand total of 56 years. Once the Copyright Act was enacted amendments were passed to extend pre-1978 copyrights for an additional 19 years and then again another 20, totaling a whopping 95 years (28+28+19+20). Section 304(c) allows copyright owners or their heirs to recapture for the remaining 39 years that were added by the amendments, (with a few rare exceptions).

The rest of the recapturing maze is the same as post-1978 copyrights . . . simple right? Sort of. The copyright owners or their heirs have a 5-year termination window after the 56th year during which the grant of rights may be terminated. But in order to exercise the termination, the owner must provide written notice to the grantee with an effective termination date falling in the termination window. The notice must be served between 10 and 2 years prior to the effective termination date. Here is an example:

Copyright Registered: June 15, 1950

Termination Window: June 15, 2006 – June 15, 2011

(1950 + 56 years = 2006 + 5 year window = 2011)

Now the tricky part . . . the notice is dependent on the date you want the termination to occur. If you take the above example and want the termination to be effective on January 1, 2010, the termination notice needs to be given to the grantee after January 1, 2000 (later than 10 years before) and before January 1, 2008 (prior to 2 years before). The notice needs to be signed by the owner or if the owner is deceased, those entitled to more than 50% of the copyright interest (see Heir’s Rights article). Then the notice needs to be recorded in the Copyright Office prior to the effective termination date.

A bit complicated, but if you can do the math and send the letter those copyrights are as good as yours! And, of course, we are here to help. Just ask!

Stay tuned for more posts on Lawyers 4 Musicians, after a long hiatus we are back, keeping you updated on all the ins and outs of the music biz!

Breaking Into the Music Scene: What the $%&%#** Should I Do?

Great question. With so many ways to get your music out to the public it should be easier to break into the music scene, right? Definitely Wrong!

We could write an entire book on the importance of your team as an artist.  For the sake of brevity and sanity, let’s focus on networking and management for this post.

The number of individuals who post music to Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, ReverbNation, HypeMachine, Spotify, Pandora, MySpace (I think that site is still live), etc. is staggering. So while it is definitely easier to get your music on-line where it may eventually (randomly) be heard by the public, it remains just as difficult, if not more so, to actually get traction and make a career out of being a musician.

There is no one or best answer to this question.  Unfortunately a lot of what permits an individual to “make it” in music depends on connections.  So much of what happens in music is still based on who you know.  While there are many stories of individuals grinding it out in coffee shops, selling cds out of their trunk, submitting demo after demo until, finally, someone with some clout (aka money) opens the magic gates to true exposure, the majority of musicians that have made it take a different route. Networking, schmoozing, pestering etc. are as important as great lyrics, production and stage presence. Going to panel discussions, meeting the right people or people that can lead you to the right people is hugely important.  Please don’t mistake the necessity of having great music. You can be the best networker in the world and get your music in front of the exact right people, but if that music is not up to par, the door will quickly be closed.

Let’s assume your music is great and you just need the right people to hear it.  What should you do?  We at L4M consistently advise our clients to pick the best team members when embarking on a musical career.  Try to find the right fit and figure out exactly who/what you need.  A lot of artists assume they need a manager immediately.  If the right manager is selected and he/she is utilized correctly by the artist, a manager can be an essential key for success.

Managers can quickly become a crutch or an excuse for an artist. Why am I not getting any gigs? Why am I not getting a publishing deal?  My manager must not be doing something.  While a good manager can secure some opportunities, a manager at the beginning of a musician’s career should be there to offer advice, tough love and help set up a plan for future success.  Connections are a huge plus but having a level head and understanding the artist and his/her goals is equally if not more important.

Other key team members include a booking agent, lawyer and publicist.  We could write long articles about the importance of each person, but in the very beginning of a music career, these people will most likely come with a certain modicum of success.  L4M is obviously partial to lawyers being part of the team, but you will know when you need one (first deal, or band agreement or manager agreement).  A good manager should be able to make introductions to all of the other team members you need.  In fact, a good way to judge the skill set of your manager is to find out who he/she knows that can help build this team.

How do you find a good manager?  Ask around.  Don’t rely on websites (many of the best management teams don’t even have a website).  Find an artist you admire and see who is on their team.  Chances are that Scooter Braun isn’t going to take you on, but find out who he is taking on for clients.  Those artists did not start with him as their manager.  Reach out to people that know.  Lawyers, publicists, other musicians should be your target when trying to find the best management fit.

Remember that there are two sides of a career in music:  first and foremost the music followed closely by the business of music.  If your music is great, your business skills and team need to be up to snuff.  If your team is below par, your music will not get to the masses and you will sadly be lost in the (sound)cloud.

 

 

 

Music Publishing: Dispelling the Mystery (or at least trying)

One of the most misunderstood areas of the music industry is publishing.  Trying to explain that there are two equal halves of publishing each equating to 100% (getting you to 200%), you are bound to get some glazed over faces.  We work with several publishers, administrators, writers and producers and think (brushing our shoulders off) that we have a pretty good handle of how publishing actually works.  Our contributor, Lauren Schulz, does a great job of breaking it down in this straight forward article below. While this is by no means a comprehensive treatise on publishing, we hope that it can shine the light on some of they dark, mysterious and befuddling issues that is music publishing.  Enjoy!

The Purpose of a Music Publisher; What Does a Publishing Contract Do For A Songwriter?

Many individuals in the music industry are aware that once a songwriter or composer starts to receive compensation for their compositions or work, they often sign with a music publisher. But what does a publisher actually do? And what are the various terms of a good publishing agreement?

In a nutshell, a writer signs with a publisher to have the publisher handle the rights to their compositions for the purpose of making the writer more money. A publisher is experienced in the business side of the music industry and often has the connections to create opportunities for the writer that they could not create on their own. Additionally, when a writer handles their own administration, accounting, and/or promotion of their work, there is often very little time to continue creating music, leaving the writer with a not so successful business plan. 

To break it down, if a writer is signing a publishing contract, the writer is essentially hiring the publisher to handle copyright registration, licensing, collection of the writer’s royalties and accounting services. This is often referred to as administration. This is a huge job that often takes a considerable amount of time and knowledge of the music business. A publisher handles quote requests, license requests, monitors how a writer’s composition is used, delegates any fees or payments, prepares paperwork as well as often negotiates license terms. Additionally, publishers collect performance, mechanical and synchronization royalties on behalf of the writer. These royalties are paid in exchange for different uses and sales of the writer’s work and involve third parties such as performance rights societies or the Harry Fox Agency.

In addition to administration, publishers will provide writers with advances and career opportunities. An advance is similar to a loan, given to a writer so that the writer may have an upfront income for his or her work. Often once a song is released, it could take a year or more before it starts to collect any royalties, meaning the writer has to wait a long time to get paid. An advance allows a writer to have income so that he or she may continue to create music. The amount of an advance often depends on the writer’s popularity, skill and potential opportunities. The writer then recoups (or pays back the publisher) through his or her collected royalties. Publishers also create opportunities for the writer. Publishers are often the link to performing artists, record labels and producers that will help generate revenue for the writer. These opportunities help a writer to maintain a longstanding and successful career in the music industry; basically a stepping stone to help a writer reach the next level in his or her career.

The next question then becomes, if I am a writer trying to develop my talent and create a career for myself, how am I going to pay for these services that a publisher provides? A publisher is paid by owning a portion of the copyright to the writer’s compositions. This allows a publisher to receive a percentage of the writer’s royalties for the use of his or her works. The percentage of the copyright granted to the publisher varies depending on how much responsibility the publisher is given. A publisher who only conducts administration will receive a lower percentage than a publisher who provides all of the services listed above.  Often when a publisher provides administration services, opportunities to develop the writer, and an advance, the writer will sign a co-publishing agreement. A co-publishing agreement grants the publisher fifty percent of the ownership to the writer’s work on the publishing side (or twenty-five percent of the ownership including the writer’s share). This explains why a publishing contract is exclusive. A writer will not want to assign any additional portions of the copyrights to their work, nor will they want more than one publisher to handle the rights to their work.

A publishing contract is limited to a term, or certain period of time. A publisher will only own a percentage of the copyright for the work the writer creates during that period of time. For example, if a publishing contract has a term of three years this means that the publisher will own a percentage of the copyright for anything the writer creates during those three years. Often writers will also give their publisher the rights to their work created prior to the publishing contract. This allows a publisher to promote a work created by a writer five years ago that was never released. In exchange, the publisher might give the writer a larger advance. It is important to understand that a publisher does not control or limit a writer’s creative process. A publisher does not control the type or style of music a writer creates nor does a publisher have the ability to force a writer to collaborate with other writers or producers.  Instead the publisher will bring opportunities to the writer, and the writer and publisher often decide together whether the opportunity is a good fit for the writer. 

Overall, it is best to think of a publisher as an agent for the writer. The publisher will handle the business work, promotion, administration and accounting for the writer while the writer can be left to do what the writer does best, create music.