Sign the Petition and Ask Congress to Pass the Music Modernization Act

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION

For too long, songwriters have had to work within an outdated system that over-regulates and undervalues their music. The Music Modernization Act of 2017 will help change that.

[Note: the text of this post is reproduced from an email sent out to ASCAP members. You do not have to be an ASCAP member to respond to this request that is supported by all Performing Rights Organizations and other entities involving songwriters and music publishers. You can find the original message here.]

Improved compensation for music creators

ASCAP has long advocated for a more flexible framework that can adapt to the realities of the modern music marketplace. The Music Modernization Act is a bipartisan music reform bill that represents months of compromise and collaboration between stakeholders from the music and tech sectors.

It includes provisions that we hope will ultimately result in compensation for our members that better reflects the true value of your music:

  • Rate court reform: replacing a single rate court judge for each PRO with different judges randomly assigned to each rate-setting proceeding (the “wheel” system)
  • Removal of Section 114(i) of the Copyright Act: allowing a rate court to consider all relevant evidence when determining songwriter compensation – including the rates that recording artists earn – an ability that is currently prohibited by law.

The Music Modernization Act of 2017 also includes provisions to reform Section 115 of the Copyright Act to create a single licensing entity that will administer the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions like those used in interactive streaming models. This replaces the “bulk NOI” process that often failed to result in payments to songwriters and music publishers with a system that will enable digital music services to find the owners of the music they use.

While no legislation will solve all of our industry challenges, on balance we believe this is a significant step forward for all music creators.

You can help now. Ask Congress to pass the Music Modernization Act today. Click here to sign ASCAP petition.

If you are a member of BMI or SESAC and have received notification from them about a petition regarding the Music Modernization Act of 2017, you are of course welcome to respond to their communication.

Music Row Award Winners honored

Music Row’s Song of the Year: “Blue Ain’t Your Color”

MusicRow, Nashville’s leading music industry publication, presented its 29th annual subscriber-voted awards on Wednesday, June 28, during a private ceremony hosted for the first time by SESAC and sponsored by Anderson Benson insurance in the CMA event space.

MusicRow Song of the Year winning co-writers perform at the 29th Annual MusicRow Awards. Pictured (L-R): Clint Lagerberg, Steven Lee Olsen, Hillary Lindsey. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments by Moser

The 2017 MusicRow Awards recognized Song of the Year “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” recorded by Keith Urban and written by Hillary Lindsey, Clint Lagerberg and Steven Lee Olsen. Sony Nashville’s Maren Morris was honored as Breakthrough Artist. An award Morris received in 2016, Breakthrough Songwriter, went to Parallel Music Publishing’s Jesse Lee. Universal Music Group’s Lauren Alaina won the inaugural award category, Breakthrough Artist-Writer, for co-writing her first Top 10 hit, the No. 1 “Road Less Traveled.Jay Joyce received his second plaque for Producer of the Year, having worked in the studio with Eric Church, Brandy Clark, Little Big Town, Carrie Underwood, Brothers Osborne, Devin Dawson, LANCO, and The Wild Feathers.

Top 10 Album All-Stars

The event also recognized MusicRow’s Top 10 Album All-Stars, studio whiz kids who appeared on the most Billboard Top 10 album credits in eight categories over the past 12 months. Those players include: Jimmie Lee Sloas (bass), Justin Niebank (engineer), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Ilya Toshinskiy (guitar), Charles Judge (keyboards), Russell Terrell (vocals) and a tie for Fred Eltringham and Greg Morrow (guitar), and Dan Dugmore, Paul Franklin and Russ Pahl (steel).

“It’s our honor to feature the winners MusicRow subscribed members voted to become the 2017 class,” said MusicRow Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. “Often a key predictor of future awards ceremonies, these honors allow this publication’s subscribed members to select who they think best represents today’s top music makers. Our 2017 Top Ten Album All-Star Musician Awards salute studio players creating the sound that reaches all corners of the world.”

The MusicRow Awards was hosted for the first year by SESAC and sponsored for the second year by Nashville-based insurance company Anderson Benson, a company dedicated to serving and supporting the entertainment industry. Read more here

SONGWRITERS: Can you answer these seven questions?

Build your Music Biz I.Q.!

guitar and mic 02In every business, there are some things you just have to know. Your songwriting career is no different. Here are seven questions you should be able to answer. If you’re not sure of the answers, go online and search for the information before you scroll down to read the answers. By carrying out your own research, you are more likely to retain the information, adding to your knowledge of the music industry.

QUESTIONS

  1. What are the 6 exclusive rights bestowed upon the owner of a song’s copyright?
  2. What should you do after you have written (or co-written) a song?
  3. True or false: A song has copyright as soon as you finish writing it.
  4. Name the three Performing Rights Organizations (P.R.O.s) in the United States.
  5. What is a P.R.O. and why do you need to belong to one?
  6. What is the length of contract and termination requirements you would sign if you affiliated with one of the three P.R.O.s?
  7. At what age can you start your own publishing company?

Ready to check your answers?

ANSWERS

  1. Preshiasmusic note 02What are the 6 exclusive rights bestowed upon the owner of a song’s copyright?

Here are the six exclusive rights, as defined by the U.S. Copyright Office:-

[i] To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords. ‘Phonorecord’ is a legal term for material objects produced through sound recording, such as a CD, vinyl record, audiotape, MP3, etc.

[ii] To prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work. You have the right to change it around if you wish. Add lyrics, make a new arrangement, change the chorus, etc.

[iii] To distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. (Remember, you are not selling the SONG which is your intangible, intellectual property; you are selling the CD onto which a copy of the song has been recorded!)

[iv] In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly. So, as the songwriter, you have the right to perform your song at a public event such as onstage or at a writers’ night.

[v] In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly. As you might guess, this right refers mainly to painters, sculptors, photographers, who would want to display or show their creative work.

[vi] In the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission. If your song is in a digital file on your computer, you have the right to ‘perform’ it digitally.

Note that you, as the copyright holder, can monetize those rights by licensing the use of your music (for example to a record label or artist that wishes to record your song).

Preshiasmusic note 022. What should you do after you have written (or co-written) a song?

Here’s what you need to do:

[i] Type up the complete lyrics (do not simply type “repeat chorus,” etc) and add your name and your co-writers’ names (if any) to the bottom of the sheet.

[ii] Be sure to include all info for all of the song’s writers (example: Legal name, their P.R.O. and names of publishing company).

[iii] Start a file of typed lyrics sheets.

[iv] Make and print a hard copy for possible future pitches, performances and cuts.

[v] In your file, make note of contact info of all the writers.

Note: If you said “Register the copyright,” that isn’t usually necessary immediately after a song has been written. See Number 3, below.

  1. Preshiasmusic note 02True or false: A song has copyright as soon as you finish writing it.

True. The writer[s] of a song own the copyright as soon as it has been completed, but you should be sure to include the writer’s information on the lyric sheet as noted above.

When you are ready to register your copyright you can do so online at http://copyright.gov/ using their ‘e-copyright’ (eco) form, which is faster and less expensive than filing a hard copy by mail. A copyright registration is considered to be ‘effective’ when it is received by the U.S. Copyright office, subject to review. You’ll receive a mailed certificate several weeks later. Whereas registering your copyright is not essential or even necessary unless the song is going to be commercially recorded or performed in public, registration provides ‘prima facie’ evidence that you legally own the copyright in the event of a dispute or infringement.

  1. Preshiasmusic note 02Name the three Performing Rights Organizations (P.R.O.s) in the United States.

 Here are their names and websites:-

ASCAP  (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) http://www.ascap.com

BMI  (Broadcast Music, Inc.) http://www.bmi.com

SESAC (The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers) http://www.sesac.com

  1. Preshiasmusic note 02What is a P.R.O. and why do you need to belong to one?

P.R.O. stands for Performing Rights Organization.  A P.R.O. acts an intermediary between copyright holders and parties that use copyrighted music works publicly. The key word there is publicly, because a P.R.O. is not involved in any legal consumer purchase of works such as buying a CD from a retail outlet, which confers private performance rights. When music is performed publicly, the P.R.O. collects income owed to songwriters and music publishers. Such public performances can include radio, television, clubs and restaurants.

As an individual songwriter, it would be impossible for you to track down and collect the royalties due to you from all the radio stations and TV broadcasts as well as from clubs and restaurants playing your songs. Your P.R.O. is set up to perform that task for you and retains a small percentage of each payment they receive. There is a lot more you need to know before deciding which, if any, of the P.R.O.s you should join. Visit each of their websites, listed above, and do your homework!

  1. Preshiasmusic note 02What is the length of contract and termination requirements you would sign if you affiliated with one of the three P.R.O.s?

Each of the three P.R.O.s has different regulations concerning the length of your contractual commitment and how you, as a writer and/or publisher, can terminate your affiliation.

ASCAP: The contract terms at ASCAP are identical for both writers and publishers and affiliates may resign at the end of any year of the contract upon three months written notice in advance.

BMI: A standard writer’s contract lasts for two years and a standard publisher’s contract is for five years, but some writers and publishers have been able to negotiate shorter-term contracts. The contracts continue to renew for two years (writers) and five years (publishers) if the termination date is missed. Notice of requested termination must be sent by registered or certified mail no sooner than six months and no later than 60 or 90 days prior to the end of the contract term.

SESAC: For both writers and publishers, contracts last for three years and auto-renew for 3-year periods. Contracts may be terminated in writing not more than six months and not less than three months prior to the contract’s scheduled ending.

Note that – unlike ASCAP and BMI – SESAC membership is essentially ‘by invitation only’ and their website states: ‘SESAC requires potential affiliates or their representatives to have a pre-existing relationship with a member of the Creative Services Department. At this time, SESAC is not taking unsolicited affiliation applications.’

  1. Preshiasmusic note 02At what age can you start your own publishing company?

Because you can write a song at any age, technically you are the ‘publisher’ of the song that you have written (unless you have signed with a publisher), even if you are seven years old.

However, that doesn’t mean you can legally start a commercial enterprise such as your own music publishing business if you are a minor. Running such a business will mean you’d be initiating and/or signing legal documents and that would require you to have reached ‘the age of majority’ which is the age when a person is considered to be an adult, and it may vary according to state laws. In most states, the age of majority is 18, but in Alabama, for instance, the age of majority is 19.

However, there are many highly talented songwriters who begin writing before the age of 18. In many cases, the writer’s parents start a publishing company in behalf of their child and assume the legal responsibilities, at least until the writer reaches the age of majority.

All three of the P.R.O.s mentioned above have very helpful information about starting and operating your own publishing company that you can investigate at their websites.

Knowledge is power

guitar and mic 02The answers above are just an overview and by no means definitive and complete. I encourage you to do your own research at reliable sources online. A good place to start would be the websites of the three P.R.O.s listed above, and also at the U.S. Copyright Office website where you can find several downloadable ‘circulars’ that are informative and easy to read and understand.

Knowledge is power: Increasing your knowledge of how the music industry works will build your confidence and help you to make informed decisions when opportunities are presented to you.