Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bill Gates Enters The Music Business

It was recently announced that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is getting into the music business, which is an interesting move, although not in the way you might think.

Gates owns Corbis, which is a photo, film, video and art masterpiece library service, which is taking the next step by getting into the music licensing business by launching GreenLight Music with songs from the four largest music publishers.

What the service will do is allow film and video customers to purchase the license for a wide variety of songs available from a library of about a million strong, but in many cases the users actually have to bid on the song and negotiate with the publishers for a price instead of doing a clean purchase online.

One of the first deals that GreenLight did was to license The Monkees' "Daydream Believer" for $1,875 so it could be used during a corporate meeting. Just about any songwriter or publisher will take that kind of dough any day of the week.

The interesting twist is that GreenLight doesn't actually control the copyright to any of the songs in its library, it's merely a middleman. Since producers and editors are already used to checking out Corbis for visual material, it's a no brainer to offer the audio as well.

You may or may not like Microsoft, but no one ever said that Bill Gates isn't one smart guy. After all, he is worth about $56 billion. His action does show that someone actually is bullish on the business thriving in the future, as least on the publishing side of things.
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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Turning A Press Kit Into An EPK

epk logo graphic from Music 3.0 blog
Every artist needs a press kit, and while most are familiar with the major parts (bio, pictures, discography, upcoming gigs, fact sheet, press clippings, etc.), you set off into a different realm when you go to the next level - the electronic press kit, or EPK.

In the old days a press kit was all hard copy that you'd have to send in the mail or deliver personally, but today your kit can be delivered either via your website, in an email via a PDF, or even on a CD or DVD. That said, you can take your press kit to the next level and truly make it an EPK with some powerful additions that are outlined in one of my books, The Musician's Video Handbook. This covers how to create all the different types of videos that an artist or band might need, and there's an entire chapter dedicated just to EPKs. Here's a brief excerpt regarding of some useful additional EPK elements that you can add.
"An EPK is just a press kit in electronic form. All of the above documents (bio, press clippings, etc.) should be made available in PDF, Word or RTF files that can be placed either on a disc or a flash drive or made downloadable online. You can also consolidate them all into a single file if it’s not too long (more than 10 pages or so) and the individual details are easy to access. Here’s what should also be included:
Videos - You need multiple types of videos - interview elements with the artist or entire band, and if it’s a band, individual interviews as well (we’ll cover how to make these in a bit), your most recent music videos, any music video that you consider a “hit”, and a clip of a song from a show. It’s best to make two versions available - one with smaller web-ready files (we’ll go over how to do this in chapter 12), and if you’re an act that’s breaking nationally, another version that’s available in hi-res via FTP download.
Music - Your songs can probably be found online already, but make it easy for whomever is reading the kit by adding links to effortlessly find them. If you’re sending a hard-copy kit, include a CD of your latest releases, and a song or two from any previous releases as well. If you’ve done music for commercials or a soundtrack for a movie or television, include that as well but be sure that you have the right to do so before you include it.
Links to Interviews - If your EPK is on the web, include any links to interviews that you might have done, either audio, video or just text. This leaves it up to the discretion of the reader of the kit just how much she wants to listen to or read, and also keeps your kit lean.
Web-Ready Graphics and Banners - Be sure to include any graphic you might have of promo material or swag, including adverts, T-shirts graphics and the like.
Web Links - If the EPK is online but not on your site, or you’re delivering a hard copy kit, but sure to include a link to your website, as well as links to any social media presence that you have on the web such as Facebook fan page, Google+ page, blog, Twitter, Reverb Nation, etc.
Fan Endorsements - If you have rabid fans that do crazy things like paint themselves up with your logos, get tatoos of your likeness on their backs, or are just super enthusiastic, that could make for an interesting clip. Just make sure that the fans (3 or 4 is all you need) are completely enthusiastic and really special or this element isn’t worth pursuing."

You can read additional excerpts from this book and others at

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You're Not Getting Your Royalties

tunecore logo graphic from Music 3.0 blog
Last week Jeff Price, the founder and CEO of TuneCore, wrote a very profound piece on the Hypebot blog about the amount of songwriting royalties that aren't making it back to the songwriter, especially from digital sales. It's always been a given that a major label would do everything it could not to pay you any royalties at all, but the following goes way beyond our worse nightmares.

This is a very long post, but well worth the read if you have any sales at all.
"While the major music companies' revenue from music sales has gone down, they have a brand new increasing income stream: revenue generated from the sale of other people's music. In the past five years, hundreds of millions of dollars of songwriter royalties have been generated and never paid to the songwriter, or have been given to Warner Bros, EMI, Universal, Sony and others based on their market share- estimates put this new income at over half a billion dollars.
Once these companies get the money, they keep it and don't account to anyone.

All the while, the songwriters that earned this money have no clue their pockets are being picked, their royalties are not being paid, and their rights are being violated.

I discovered this infringement and lack of royalty payments while embarking on a journey to discover how much money TuneCore Artists earned as songwriters. In the past three years, TuneCore Artists have sold over 500 million songs and earned over a quarter billion dollars from the sale of the recordings of their songs. With the help of Jamie Purpora, the former SVP Bug Music Publishing Administration and now President TuneCore Songwriter Publishing Administration, we identified another $60 to $70 million earned by these artists in songwriter royalties. The upsetting part, over 70% of this money never made it back to them. And keep in mind, I'm only talking about artists that use TuneCore—there are many more.

This infringement and lack of payment is one of the biggest outrages of the music industry and yet it is rarely talked about and even more rarely understood.

It needs to stop.

Let me explain the nutshell version of how it happens.

The new music industry is global. However, outside of the United States, digital services require additional rights, use different royalty rates and pay the owed royalties differently than the United States music industry. The end result is:
  • The digital music service does not get all the rights needed from songwriters and therefore never pay the songwriter the money he/she is owed. 
  • At the same time, local performing rights and collection agencies outside the U.S. illegally take a % of the songwriter's money while making it impossible for the songwriter to get what's left over. 
  • This illegally obtained songwriter royalty money is then given to other major music companies in that country. 
These other major music companies knowingly take other people's royalties from the collection agencies. (Why not, it's free money earned off of music sales from songs they don't represent that they do not have to pay royalties on).

This scheme is beyond outrageous, it's wrong, it needs to stop (and it's why we launched the TuneCore Songwriter Service).

How do they get away with it, three reasons:

1) The existing global songwriter administration system was built for analog, not digital.
The old school music industry was built for the world of analog TV, AM/FM radio and 12" pieces of vinyl or 5" circular pieces of plastic; it was not built for the digital world. However, this old "analog" system is used for the administration of royalties from the digital world causing other people's money not to make it to them. The "analog" songwriter collection and administration industry knows this is occurring but has no motivation to change its existing system as it allows them to take/earn hundreds of millions of dollars off of other people's royalties.

2) It's cheaper to violate copyright than pay songwriters.
The new emerging digital music services have no simple solution to get licenses from and make payments to copyright holders; it's a pain, it's complicated, and, for the moment, it's cheaper to take on the potential legal liability than invest resources and time to comply with the law and pay the right people.

3) The complexity of copyright law and a lack of transparency create huge barriers to understanding.
The complexity of copyright law, the total lack of transparency by the collection agencies and the inability to audit anything, and you have a perfect storm for global copyright infringement with hundreds of millions of dollars of other people's money getting siphoned off and/or not paid to the millions of rightful copyright holders."

Please read the rest of this post since it has information that's vital to your well-being as a songwriter.

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Copyright Math: The $8 Billion iPod

The music industry has constantly bellowed about how much money it's been losing to piracy since 1999 or so, and the numbers they've thrown around have been nothing short of outrageous.

The one I love is that for each download that's legally purchased, 20 more are downloaded illegally. They've somehow determined that the worth of each illegal download is $150,000, which is the initial number that the RIAA used in all it's lawsuits against file sharers until they realized the futility of using that number.

Rob Reid, author and founder of the company that created Rhapsody, had an interesting and humorous take on what he termed "copyright math" in a presentation at a recent TED Conference.

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

MTV Gets Back Into Music

artists.MTV graphic from Music 3.0 blog
Believe it or not, MTV used to be strictly a music channel and had a huge influence on the charts and music in general during the 80's and into the 90's. It has since become more of a lifestyle channel and now has much more of cultural significance rather than a musical one, but the network wants to change that by introducing a new online platform dedicated to music called Artists.MTV.

YouTube is currently the go-to place for music discovery, and MTV wants a piece of it, hence the venture. Not only will Artists.MTV be a place for indie and major label acts, but also for unsigned artists as well. MTV wants to be able to have a place where new acts can be heard, promoted and hopefully (doubtfully) paid, but this seems like a real uphill battle.

Van Toffler, president of MTV parent Viacom Music Group, stated at SXSW last week that the goal is to be an all-encompassing musical experience. "You may discover music on Spotify, Pandora, or even MTV Hive," he said, "then you look them up on Wikipedia. Then you go to your Facebook page and tell your friends. Then you go to Songkick and see if they're touring. Then if the artist is lucky, you go to iTunes. It feels like there's an infinite environment to discover music - buy it, listen to it or pirate it, but there doesn't seem to be a uniformed galvanized place where artists could get information to their fans." Well, how about the artist's website, Facebook page or Twitter feed?

So what exactly does Artists.MTV have to offer to artists? Not only will artists have another place for fans to discover their music, but thanks to a partnership with Topspin, artists will be able to sell their music, concert tickets and merch directly to their fans, as well as receive direct payments via a "tip jar."

But the biggest carrot is the promise to connect bands to MTV itself. Artists.MTV will offer a program called Full Frontal where one artist a month is selected for a promo campaign on MTV, VH1 and CMT. The band will be picked by the fans and a committee of artists, managers and producers.

The site will be open to artists in May, and fans can view the site via a private beta soon, although the official launch won't be until sometime during the summer.

Artists already have too many options available to them and feel overwhelmed by them. Artists.MTV might be different in that the network brand still has some cache, but they've long been out of the real music business, and the networks demographic may not be transferrable for all but a few acts. Time will tell whether Artists.MTV will be just another shot in the dark or will have some real traction, but if I were a betting man, I'm not so sure I'd be placing any money on them.

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.


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