By George Howard
In many bands there is either a single songwriter or a songwriting “team.” This archetype was established early — Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, et al. — and persists to this day. Whether it’s a single songwriter or songwriting team who come up with the necessary elements to create a copyright in a song, there are often others in the band (drummer, bass player, etc.) who have no claim over this copyright.
If you have been following the Artists House articles on the TuneCore blog, you know that we are addressing several threads of a musician’s business: copyright, legal, financial, business, production, planning, and marketing. In this article, I’m going to talk about how the revenue streams from your song or recording are created, that is, the “instrument” that takes your rights and turns them into money.
Let’s review: if you render an “original” idea in a tangible form, you are creating a copyright. The second you make your idea tangible, six “exclusive rights” attach to that work, and they are your rights as the author or creator of that work to do with as you wish.
This week we continue our series on artists’ assets. The series began with Artists House founder, and Grammy Award winning producer, John Snyder’s article entitled, "The Magic of Copyright". This was followed by, “Your First Asset: The Right to Reproduce,” the first in a series of articles that examine the rights an artist is granted upon creation of a copyright, and how these rights relate to licenses.
We now move to another of the six exclusive rights granted to an artist when they create a copyright: the right to perform the copyrighted work publicly. One key point of this article, as it relates to your overall sustainability as an artist, is that you must affiliate with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) in order to avail yourselves of the financial and other opportunities associated with the exclusive right of public performance. The three dominant PROs in the United States are:
Below you will find an explanation of what exactly these PROs do, and how they relate to your work as an artist, but, again, in order to benefit from your public performance right, you must affiliate with one of the three.
My friend and colleague John Snyder, wrote an article entitled "The Magic of Copyright" for this blog a few weeks back. The article brilliantly puts forth the idea that by creating an original work and fixing it in a tangible form (writing it down or recording it), you not only immediately and automatically create a copyright in the work, but you create an asset.
In an era of artists needing to become self-sufficient, and decrease (cease) their reliance on labels for success, it's crucial to begin thinking in terms of assets; they are what you have in order to generate the revenue needed to build a self-sustaining career in the music business….on your own terms!
Thanks for the feedback. My main point was that rights attach at the creation of a work, automatically. Not when the work is published or registered. The first two of those rights are the right to copy and the right to distribute. These are powerful rights and magically appear, at least that's the way I see it. Poof! You're a publishing company.
And it is true that you have to register to file a copyright infringement action. (Section 411(a)). The DMCA exempted works first published outside the US to conform US law to the Berne Convention, but otherwise, you have to register to sue.
The following article is the beginning of your journey to self-reliance. Understanding your rights under the Federal copyright statutes is the first step towards creating revenue from those rights. In the articles that follow this, we will continue to drill down into the topic in coming weeks by exploring each right individually, its limitations and opportunities, how these rights can be made to produce income, and the agreements that govern those transactions. It’s a beautiful trip and you’ll love it, so, bon voyage! Feel free to comment and ask questions and tune in for our weekly webcast beginning at the end of August for more information and interaction.
The magic of copyright is simple: you render an original work in a tangible form, that work is copyrighted. Under federal copyright statutes you have, at that moment in time, six exclusive rights that attach to that work that you own. (That’s assuming you haven’t already somehow managed to sign away your rights.) The words “original”, “work”, “tangible”, “author” have definitions, rules and exceptions, but it’s pretty simple really: if you made it up and you made it real by writing it down or typing it in or recording it, it’s copyrighted and it’s yours.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter/engineer/producer/author and owner of recording studios in Nashville and New York City. Download Cliff's free e-book, “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos”
As a result of recording and producing hundreds of demos, I've learned that it is always better to "prepare and prevent" than to "repair and repent." Here are a few steps you can take to help make your demo recording experience more successful.
It may sound obvious but make sure your song is FINISHED. I can't tell you the number of times I've had clients come into the studio only to start rewriting a part of the lyric or melody. It is significantly less stressful (and quite a bit less expensive) to write a song when you're not paying the studio an hourly fee.