Category Archives for "Music Publishing"
Many artists, bands and musicians don’t think much about metadata when creating a song but record labels take it very seriously. It’s a major way to be able to track a song to make sure that all the stakeholders get paid. That said, metadata isn’t standardized and is sometimes filled out incorrectly, defeating its purpose. That’s why the new Recording Information Notification (RIN) metadata standard rolled out by the Digital Data Exchange consortium (DDEX) is so important.
The Recording Information Notification (RIN) standard is an XML-based file format that makes it possible to describe all aspects of a recording session, from the participants to the instruments and equipment used to the time, location, length and other technical and creative elements of the recording. It’s designed to be implemented by digital audio workstation manufacturers and to be interoperable with all other DDEX standards as well.
DDEX also announced the release of an updated version of its Digital Sales Report (DSR) Flat File standard, which is designed to track sales and usage data in streaming-based platforms. DSR allows song streams to be reported in a form that allows music publishers and rights societies to allocate the correct royalties from each sale or use of a work to the appropriate rights holders and organizations, rather than use a percentage, algorithm or market share to determine the payout. The original DSR standard was developed in 2006 and was designed to track and report downloads. The latest version is more in tune with music consumption of today and the future.
A number of companies and organizations, including Apple Music and SECAM, have already endorsed the new releases.
This is potentially a big step in the right direction for getting everyone in the streaming pipeline paid both more fairly and in a more timely fashion. Of course, it depends upon all of the industry adopting it, but it’s a good strong start so far.
In my experience there are two kinds of songwriters. One writes completely from the heart as an expression of art, while the second does it more as a business, writing whatever the situation calls for. Neither is more noble than the other, they’re just different, and both require a tremendous amount of skill and passion. That said, the balance between the “artist” versus the “professional” songwriter might have changed recently. Today there are more artists and bands that will do anything to have their songs exposed, even if it means making fundamental changes that might have been ignored a decade ago. That’s all thanks to the new role of the television and film music supervisor.
With more and more chances for exposure thanks to our new 500 channel universe, the music supervisor has in some ways become the new A&R man, discovering music that many record labels or publishers wouldn’t otherwise touch. If a song gets placed in a show or film, there may be a better chance of getting that label or publishing deal as a result, so many artists and songwriters are now going against their instincts in order to give the music supervisor a tailored version of their songs, which may be completely at odds with their own artistic integrity.
A great example of some of the comments given to an artist from a music supervisor can be seen in the following quotes from a great article by Patrick Duniven in the LA Weekly.
“Your song is really beautiful but it will never get placed because it’s too personal and limits where we can put it.”
“You shouldn’t use the word love in your songs because it will be difficult to place it.”
“Your songs stand out too much; try and write some stuff that blends into the background better.”
Now to be fair, music publishers who push songs to music sups, and the music supervisors themselves are just trying to do their jobs, but there was a time in the not too distant past where a comment like found above would more than likely draw a “F**k Off!” response rather than a mad dash to the studio to try to configure the song to notes, which is like trying to catch your tail while running in a circle anyway. Many artists play the same game with labels by following the latest trend, but they’re always behind as a result.
The sad part about all of this is that trying to catch a placement is so much less lucrative than it was even 5 years ago, with so many artists and bands now trying to get into the game for exactly the same reason. That’s driven the advances way down, as well as the placement’s worth, to a little better than nothing.
So artists, bands and songwriters, do your best to keep the integrity of your art. The next time a publisher or supervisor asks you to make a change, write another song instead. Keep the comments in mind, but don’t force yourself to go where it doesn’t feel right. You’re going to be a lot happier in the end, and your music will be better too.
Regardless of the era, the songwriter and publisher have made money, and continue to make money in three primary ways:
1. Mechanical royalties are paid whenever a song is digitally downloaded, a song is streamed from an on-demand service, or a physical CD or vinyl record is sold.
2. A performance royalty is paid whenever a song is played on radio, on television, or streamed over the Internet.
3. A synchronization fee is paid when music is used against picture.
This payment mechanism hasn’t really changed all that much in Music 4.1 from previous music eras, although it’s managed to become even more complicated than it was. What has changed is that during this period in which music sales are far less than half of what they were at their peak, publishing is the one area of the music industry that has held its own. How does that happen when sales, and therefore mechanical royalties, are down, you ask?
While it’s true that mechanical royalties are not nearly what they used to be now that CD sales are so low and downloads have decreased, they’re offset by the tremendous increase in performance royalties because music is now played on so many more broadcasts than before. The 500-channel cable and satellite television universe, along with satellite and Internet radio, provides more opportunities for music to be played, and as a result, more performance royalties are generated.
That said, music publishing income is derived from more sources than you think, and while some of it doesn’t appear significant by itself, it can all add up to a nice royalty check. Here’s an excerpt of a chart from the latest edition of my Music 4.1 book that shows a simple breakdown of when publishing royalties occur, how it’s collected, and the royalty rate.
As you can see, many of the royalties and fees are variable. Synchronization fees consist of an upfront fee which is usually negotiated by the publisher, and a performance royalty whenever the piece containing the music airs on television.
With a movie, the upfront fee is the only one that’s paid for any showings in the theater, but a performance royalty is paid whenever the movie is played on television afterwards.
Likewise, both printed sheet music and digital use of sheet music or lyrics are subject to negotiation. Ringtones are still a source of income not to be overlooked even though the market for them is far below what it was during their peak.
Publishing royalties come from more places than you think, but the rates are different over a wide range of scenarios, which makes it a very complicated subject.