As seen from our last L4M post, success in the music industry is often dependent upon the people around you; managers, lawyers, and booking agents make up your “team”. But what about those other musicians that help you create the sound? The artist’s you work with to make a song. Collaborations are so common these days even bands with numerous members are bringing in teams of producers, a second percussionist or guitarist, and additional vocalists. So why does it matter? You work with your friends to create great music, right? Its true, but defining roles and ownership is essential in protecting your music. Some of the biggest disputes in the industry today involve payments to collaborators, the rightful ownership to a song involving guest musicians and artists.
Take for example the dispute between Jack Urbont and Sony Music Entertainment over the theme song for Iron Man. (Urbont v. Sony Music Ent., 100 F.Supp.3d 342 (2015)). Sony released a song by hip-hop artist, Ghost Face Killah, which used a portion of the Iron Man theme song and only received permission from Marvel Television but not Urbont. The main issue being when Urbont worked on the original theme song with Marvel was whether his contribution was considered a work for hire or should he own part of the composition with Marvel. The parties ended up settling out of court after Sony was granted the right to use a work for hire defense against Urbont. So what’s the takeaway? You need to decide prior to releasing any music whether your bestie is taking a fee, getting any rights to the composition or both.
“Work for hire” is a legal term in the copyright act that in a nutshell means you are being paid for your services as a musician but will not own any of the intellectual property to the song. Think of it as any service you pay for, if a carpenter makes you an original table, you pay him or her for the workmanship and the table, but the carpenter doesn’t receive ownership in the table and doesn’t receive a portion of the funds when you resell it. Same for a work for hire musician or vocalist. Work for hires are the most common when the musician doesn’t create anything original, they are just playing or singing what you put in front of them. However, work for hires are becoming more and more common with writers, musicians and producers who contribute original material to the song. Why would they do that? First because you give them a big paycheck and second because they don’t think the song will make more money then the paycheck, it’s a win-win for them.
On the other hand, if you are a songwriter and you ask your friend the guitar player to come in and write the melody, it makes more sense to split the ownership of the composition. This is when you want a guest artist agreement in place so that you won’t have to track down the guitar player every time you receive a license request or want to make a remix. What if you want to use part of that melody in another part of a song? You will need to ask the guitar player for permission and he or she can argue that they want their ownership percentage to stay the same even though your using only a portion of the melody. A guest artist agreement will prevent this headache as you can outline each individual’s rights and permissions involved with the song.
Sometimes artists will collaborate and give both a fee and ownership over the composition. In this case, the fee is treated as an advance that needs to be recouped against profits. Think of it as paying the artist upfront for what you think they will make off of the sale of the song in the future. Until the song recoups the advance amount they won’t receive payment from a label or you, even though they own rights to the composition.
So how do you ensure that all of this is done correctly? Unfortunately, a handshake will not suffice. A legal document signed by both of you will be necessary. Lots of writers and producers use session sheets to delegate publishing splits, but this doesn’t clarify who can do what with the copyright and definitely doesn’t help you in a work for hire situation. Having a lawyer draft this for you is the safest bet, but the good news is that often you can reuse work for hire agreements by changing the name and the fee instead of paying for a new document every time (don’t tell your lawyer I said that). The most important thing is to read the agreement and make sure you understand it!! Ask questions, do your research, and know what rights you have or are giving up. Just make sure that on the day you hit number one you’re not scrambling to get your former bestie to sign a work for hire agreement.
by Lauren Schulz (email@example.com)
I’m sorry (again) for the lack of posts over the last several months (make that years). The truth is that we have been too busy working and have let our attention to this important outlet lapse. Instead of promising to write more, we want to make sure we are posting quality info that can actually help musicians.
In line with that thinking, here is the most important thing that we have come to understand a bit better over the last 12 months or so: a musician’s team (#squad) is more important now then it has ever been. The team is still in second place behind the music (position 1a) and the work ethic of the musician (1b), but in today’s music industry, the people that you have working for you, representing you and seeking opportunities for you is more crucial now then ever before.
There has been plenty written about the demise of the major label system. What seems to be going largely unnoticed or undocumented is the growing roll of those left behind: Managers. Management (effective management) has now become the true one-stop-shop for a musician. Management is the new label. As management, we are faced with the same set of facts and challenges as a label. An artist creates music and now wants to bring it to the masses. Yes, you can get that music out yourself as an artist but how do you make a dent in the din of new releases on Spotify, SoundCloud or Apple?
To make a living as an artist you need to do more then just post your music on the internet. You still need to get a significant number of eyeballs and eardrums to consume your product. So the management team is faced with this challenge without (typically) the luxury of having the deep pockets, employees and relationships that labels have (or had).
An artist’s manager is now in charge of planning a release schedule, getting artwork created, lining up press (more than your mom reposting on facebook), booking shows, figuring splits, clearing samples, registering publishing, monetizing all outlets including YouTube and SoundCloud, paying out band members, featured artists, promoting the release and live shows, finding potential brand sponsors and licensing opportunities etc. etc. All of this without a budget. I’m tired just writing all of these duties and responsibilities.
I’m not implying that a manager is going to literally be able to do all of these things himself, but he will have to figure out who to line up to help with this process. Managers must either strategically team up with the right professionals or outsource these services without breaking the bank. Yes, getting your music on all outlets is pretty easy (TuneCore etc.) but getting on a top Spotify Playlist is not. Yes, booking a show in your home town is very doable but playing in another city is not. Yes, finding someone to remix your track is not hard but figuring out the rights of that new recording is not.
Our opinion is that artists should do what they are best at: making music. To permit this, managers need to keep everything else moving forward. Managers must leverage all relationships and forge ahead with qualified distributors, booking agents, pr agents, and lawyers to realize real success in today’s industry.
I’ve been told to write about what you know best so I can share the story of how we have created our team over here at The Propelr (www.thepropler.com). Obviously we have legal taken care of (www.tkhlaw.com) but we brought on staff to handle all admin from calendar/schedule to financial bookkeeping to merchandise fulfillment. We partnered with a PR company that shares in our percentage income from artists or gives us preferred rates when we need to use their services (ttps://subvertagency.tumblr.com/). We have a licensing company working out of our space that is constantly pitching our music (http://brewhousemusic.com/). We share space with a branding and marketing agency (www.workwithdomino.com) that helps with artwork, social media campaigns and overall branding for our clients. There is a concert promoter working out of our office too (www.silverwrapper.com). So short of having a booking agency in house, we have created a co-op of sorts that allows us to really serve our clients much in the same manner that labels used to do. Obviously I am biased, but I don’t see how else you can really provide value to an artist without building this type of squad.
Want to learn more? Just hit us up.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Hope to see you there!
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
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.