Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Enter The Micro-License

National Music Publishers Association logo image
One thing that music publishers aren't good at is making their songs available to anything less than major music business entities. If you're Paramount Pictures looking for a title song for a movie, you'll have no problem, but if you're an indie video maker trying to do the right thing and license a song for a video, you're out of luck. Not only are you probably stifled by the process, but you probably can't even easily find the song you want. Believe it or not, most publishers don't even have a publicly searchable index of their catalog.

The National Music Publishers Association and the RIAA are out to change that though, as they recently announced a move to institute "micro-licensing" platforms to make finding and licensing songs much easier. A micro-license is a new kind of business model that allows producers to use the Internet to find the songs they need and do the licensing deal online, without expensive attorneys or negotiations.

Right now most producers might just take a chance on using the music and waiting to see if a cease and desist letter pops up later, or on YouTube, a take-down notice. Let's face it, if it's for a wedding video, the chances of getting caught are pretty small, and if it's something distributed on YouTube, you have the option of either taking the video down or allowing commercials to be inserted in it if the copyright owner discovers you're using it illegally.

But if the process were streamlined, that's a great deal of fairly passive income that would flow into the hands of labels, artists, publishers and songwriters.

You have to look at this announcement in amazement and think, "What took them so long?" Of course, the truth is that for so long there was so much money in publishing that the revenue from micro-licensing seemed insignificant to most publishers. Those days are over though, as a new financial reality seeps into the business.

That can only be good for both artists and songwriters, who need all the revenue streams they can get these days, no matter how small. As we've seen from digital music distribution, it all adds up.

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