Category Archives: Professional Songwriting

Tip on Being a Professional Songwriter: Saving Money on Copyrights

 

 

When artists first start creating with being a professional songwriter in mind, information floating around can be a little misleading about copyrights. It is surprising that there are still people who would like to think that cheap copyrights can be achieved by mailing something to yourself, but take a moment to walk through that theoretical lawsuit in the context of the music industry:

You and your band get a hit song stolen by a multimillion dollar record company backed boy-band, and you put together your case using all the money you didn’t make from the royalties of your plagiarized work. You walk into the courtroom facing a team of lawyers, all of them sharks sizing you up for the value of a counter-suit, and your best evidence is a disc sealed in a padded mailer, and perhaps the other members of your band who by hearsay claim you were the first to the punch. For more on this and other issues in music law, you can check out this article here on our own site.

A copyright through the Library of Congress, on the other hand, would mean that an official report was available showing exactly when they received the record of your having written the song, and exactly what you recorded when you documented that as your own composition.

So now you’ve faced facts and you’re ready to invest in actually protecting your work. The best way to save on copyrights is to register fewer of them altogether. If you are immediately concerned about the safety of something you have written, by all means file immediately. But the fact is, if you wait until you have a collection to bundle into a single registration, you can save quite of a bit of money, especially over time.

It used to be that one needed to fill out what’s called Form CA after registering a collection of songs in order to validate the collection entirely. Now that the copyright office is online, you can simply call what you are submitting a collection and go through the Form PA process, checking the box along the way that this is not just a single work you are registering. One snag–this savings plan assumes that each song in the collection is going to get the same songwriting credits across the board. (You can’t give your drummer credit for tracks 1 and 3 and take credit for the rest yourself, for example).

If all you want to protect is a single song, it is $35, and the fee for a collection is $55. To fill out the paper application and send a hard copy representation of your work, the Library of Congress penalizes you for the extra manpower in the mail-room, charging $85.

Once you have your collection together and have a record of it (it doesn’t have to be a high quality recording at all–just as long as it can be heard, or read in the case of lyrics), you are ready to get your form together.

  1. Go to http://www.copyright.gov–or if you don’t feel the need to peruse the website’s information, go straight to the Register a Copyright page. You will need to register with them first (in a manner similar to many websites requiring some personal info). From there, you are going to want to register your songs as a work of Performing Arts, using Form PA. For the hard copy application process here is the PDF link: http://copyright.gov/forms/formpa.pdf
  2. The website is fairly intuitive. You will follow some slightly less intuitive prompts along the way. One is regarding the “Type of Work.” For this “Add” a “New” listing. Select “Title of work being registered” for each song you want to include, and click on the “edit” icon to the right of the listing when you see it, to put in every detail you can about it. It’s the same process when you get to the “Authors” section of the form–remember that you won’t be able to save money registering songs with different combinations of authors.
  3. Some of the next steps (“Limitation of Claims,” “Special Handling”) you might be able to skip through (by pressing “Continue”). Look them over to see if they might apply to your situation.
  4. When you’ve added all the information the Copyright Office requires, it’ll be time to “Review Submission.”
  5. Finally, after you review the information, you’ll “Add to Cart,” and check out. Note that after checkout is when you’ll upload your material.

So there you have it! For each demo of material you might save yourself one hundred dollars, provided each song is written by the same author (or combination of authors, such as the entire band), and you take the time to put it all into one registration form!

Indie International is here to offer as much information as possible to creative people in the entertainment industry. Please feel free to contact us for more information about songwriting and the music industry.

How to Protect Yourself When Marketing Your Music

 

In today’s entertainment industry, the key to getting the word out about your music is to take advantage of the wide range of marketing tools that are available online. Using social media and email campaigns can help to vastly increase your fan base, but the downside is that online marketing comes with inherent security risks that can compromise your personal information and creative content. Here are a few ways that you can keep yourself safe when marketing your music online.
Consider Copyright Protection



One of the most important issues when it comes to staying safe when marketing your music is protecting your content. You don’t want any original images, music or lyrics that you use to promote yourself online to be stolen and reused.
Obtaining a copyright on this content will help to protect against this. To do this, ensure that you register original music with the U.S. Copyright Office. Include a clear copyright notice on your content so you can take action against infringement just in case your music is reused without your permission.
If your band has a specific brand identity (such as a logo), this is something you should also protect. Use the TM or SM symbol to protect this content from being stolen, and registering it with the US Patent and Trademark Office will allow you to use the ® symbol to protect against infringement. It may not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference and gives you the legal high ground.
Have A Secure Internet Connection


Another important step in protecting yourself when marketing your music online is to have a secure internet connection. Since most of your tracks and recordings are stored online and on your computer, they are vulnerable to security threats. If your computer or internet connection falls prey to a virus or malware, all of your hard work could be compromised. You need to make sure you use proper security software to avoid viruses and malware. If your personal information isn’t valuable now, it will be one day.
Since it is crucial for musicians to stay in touch with fans, you will also need to take steps to protect your personal information while online. If you’re at a gig and you want to upload photos or share an update, using a public WiFi network can leave your data unencrypted and allow for unauthorized access to sensitive information such as passwords and even bank details. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will encrypt your data to keep your information and content safe. If you need to find the right option for you, Secure Thoughts has some great reviews.

Manage Your Website Securely

A functional website is the perfect hub for your band’s online marketing campaign, hosting photos, tour dates, music and more. As all of this content is stored on your site’s server, you will definitely want to keep it safe. Be sure to browse the wide range of website security plugins that are available.
It is also important to ensure that your site is hosted with a reliable company. Conduct thorough research on various hosts before you choosing one for your site. Find out which one is the most trustworthy and be sure to work with them closely. The quality of hosts may change over time as well, so don’t be hesitant to switch companies if you find that you aren’t satisfied.

Double Check Social Media Privacy Settings 
Social media is one of the most powerful tools for musicians who want to spread the word about their craft. However, it is a very vulnerable form of online marketing, and networks such as SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr can be hacked if you’re not careful. To prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to your account and spamming your followers with malware, keep a close eye on your privacy settings. Ensure that you are visible to fans without providing too much public access to your information. Use multiple forms of verification if at all possible.
It is also important to keep your passwords complex to reduce the possibility of your social media accounts being hacked. Ensure that each social network has a different password. While this may seem like a pain, it is crucial for keeping your social media profiles safe.
What methods do you use to keep yourself safe when promoting your music online? Do you have any thoughts on what was said above? Leave us a comment and let us know your tips!
Author Bio: Caroline is a social media guru who is passionate about music. Using her knowledge of online marketing, she wants to help her favourite indie artists protect their music online. 

Music Publishing

Music Publishing: Professional Songwriter Basics

 

 

Building up a catalog of songs and protecting it is the first step in professional songwriting. Further down the rabbit hole of this business is something called “publishing.” Being a professional songwriter means knowing exactly how your songs are lined up to pay out in the event of a royalty jack-pot. Here are a few basic ideas about music publishing that may help prepare you for conversations and contracts should the need or opportunity arise.

What is Music Publishing?

Publishing is the business pie of any given composition and/or catalog of songs. It is an oddly shaped pie, more like two pies as we shall discuss, but generally, it was long ago established that anytime songwriters secure proof of having invented a song, a certain portion of the business for that song will go directly to those songwriters involved. If you have written a song, and established a copyright for yourself, you and any partners are guaranteed to be paid for profits on the same. This is the simplest way of thinking about music publishing–if you own a copyright, you own a good share.

The Business Share

So here is the concept of the two pies. If an entity, such as a music publishing company, your manager, or your controlling spouse takes on the business side of your songwriting, you are agreeing to give up a certain share of song revenues to that party. Whether this is a good idea or not will be discussed even further on, but for every song registered with BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC (performing rights organizations in charge of distributing monies for music), a share is set aside for whomever is in charge of the business registration and exploitation of the composition. While we typically think of the word “exploitation” disparagingly, in this case we simply mean the act of trying to find opportunities to render profit by way of a composition. This is where the question of possessing your own publishing rights comes in.

Should You Keep Your Publishing Share?

Many amateur songwriters believe that protecting every possibility for profit on a song is the way to go. Why wouldn’t it be?

Signed musicians have also been known to retain their publishing rights. Two famous examples are Rick Ocasek (songwriter for The Cars), and Soundgarden. If you look at the liner notes on Soundgarden’s first few albums, you’ll find that for every combination of songwriters within the band (singer writing alone, singer plus the drummer, bassist writing alone, etc), a different (and often quite amusingly named) publishing company was put in place. This made sure that the only people who would be paid for the sale and use of those songs were the creative parties directly involved.

Here’s the thing: 100% of zero is zero. If you are on the cutting edge of a break, and absolutely sure you are going to render the kind of air-play, movie and TV show usage over the next couple of decades, so that owning your publishing would mean twice and three times the millions you would have seen otherwise, then by all means, start a publishing business (it amounts to a small investment of time and money), and protect those rights.

If, on the other hand, you are not sure of the direction of your career, other than knowing you write songs and are looking for opportunities to make money off of them, it might be worth simply protecting your rights as a songwriter, and here is why: music publishers are specialized in finding revenue for songs. Some of them will be highly motivated to seek revenue out, while the songwriters themselves do what they presumably know best.

Furthermore

The conversation goes on, to where it is perhaps off-topic in a beginning songwriter’s career. It might not matter all that much in the long run whether or not you own the publishing to your music, if you start to get real attention. Big music publishing entities are capable of paying large sums of monies to acquire a catalog, at which time the songwriter and management team will look into the pros and cons of such a deal.

The bottom line is that in keeping one’s publishing rights, you are also keeping sole responsibility and motivation for exploiting your music. When considering a music publishing contract, it is definitely worth scrutinizing the company’s reason for wanting your catalog. Are they just putting a little something on the roulette table of your career (in which case your songs could end up among many others, on the music publisher’s shelf), or does this business actually hear something in your creative work they believe in enough to aggressively seek out placement?

For questions about songwriting and the business that comes with it, feel free to contact us!