The Changing Face of Music Publishing
Direct Delivery to The Consumer and the DO It Yourself
(c)2000 -Lynne Robin Green


With the proliferation of the internet marketplace and its capability and accessibility to today's unsigned artist's being able to commercially distribute their own product - WE are truly seeing the dawn of a new age in music publishing . Alot of the old systems that we'd used exclusively for common retail distribution (although they are still in place and remain an important factor) -THEY are now no longer the only sole avenue for getting your product out to the consumer market .You might ask where this applies to music publishing - but I'll tell ya - if you own it and your selling it yourself-YOU ARE ALREADY PUBLISHING IT !
 
 It used to be that you had to be able to 1) Get a record deal,  2) 'Do your own album' (or set up an independent label) and then get a retail distribution deal - or 3) Make a publishing deal with a Publisher who would help to get your band a record deal (for the purpose of obtaining a retail distribution outlet and promotional capabilities through an established label). For SO many years these were the hard and fast rules of entry into the record market. The internet marketplace has now allowed the 'everyman artist or independent record label - to be able to bypass alot of these hard rules and to reach the consumer directly with a more profitable percentage margin due to the extraordinary amount of online record sellers that offer a place to sell lesser known product (without taking a large percentage cost and packaging deduction - in turn) -to have your product sold on their site . The end result is that this means more money in the Artist's pocket , more control as to where and how you sell your product and more freedom to promote your product (much less expensively). Of course , once your product has demonstrated its own viable market and sales figures online , you will want to and also will be ready to obtain in-store retail distribution as well .

Although the business of Music Publishing has changed, it very much remains the same , in that we still seek material, place material and exploit material on a worldwide basis (for the mutual benefit of writer and publisher). With the advent of so much new technology today, those new usages of the material we work with has expanded into so many new realms -that we see the language of these new usage perameters in licensing quote request's that we receive now on a daily basis .

For example , many years ago (prior to the advent of home video) we might have seen clauses in a television synchronization license that would say
'the rights granted are inclusive of any and all electronic media usages whether now known or hereinafter created ' in perpetuity. This language pretty much had to reach out to the future of technology and legally encompass this gray area- meaning "includes home video and more" (when THAT'S BEEN INVENTED !) Nowadays synchronization licenses are much more detail specific to include the exact additional ancilliary uses up front -such as Videograms ,DVD ,LaserDisc ,Digital Electronic and Satellite Transmissions and much much more . Why do Producer's now openly request upfront all of these rights inclusive in so many of the licenses that we see ? Because WE have all of these uses NOW --and they will need to be able to have the right to utilize the song/master for those purposes (in many of the deals they make with a second or third party distributor). And because the film production companie's and TV Production companies know that when you go to get a quote from a Publisher or a Master Owner -they should get a quote NOW for all of the rights (as "options") that they think they will need - 'both now and in the future' . Whether we're licensing material for TV ,Film or even internet uses (such as a digital transmission streaming from a Company's web page--as in a virtual jingle ), it still represents an additional usage granted, an additional quotation for that usage, and a clear headed knowledge of what the Publisher should charge for that additional right (and how long the license should be granted for). So ,I must say that if your self publishing and administrating your own material , it's a very good idea to be very very familiar with these licenses ,and the language ,(or at least have your own attorney who can translate these rights to you and advise you accordingly).

 For the same reason that you should become familiar with this type of licensing - you should also be just as vigilant in examining online distribution contracts that you're offered for your CD product. The important points you should be aware of are :

Exclusivity (A non-exclusive agreement is best when you plan to sell your CD in more than one place on the net and also if your hoping to make a record deal -you must reserve the 'exclusive online worldwide rights', and also (this is imperative if youre planning to sell it on your own web site simultaneously). Nextly ...
Term- how long will the agreement run and what are the terms for termination ? It should have an accounting schedule of when and what you'll be paid on sales and an auditing clause -granting you the right to 1) Audit the company if they fail to account to you ,and/or terminate the agreement at will if they fail to remedy an accounting breach. Nextly and importantly
Percentage - what percentage does the online seller take for representing your product at the site ? Remember that IF you have paid for pressing the CD product and are supplying the fully complete album units with bar code and everything ,then the percentage they take should never be higher than a maximum of 40%. And preferably lower if at all possible. Nextly...
Online downloads -
if the site offers online downloads by the song ,or by the entire album -it's important that you are accounted to at and compensated for each individual download at a fair and decent percentage per download. Note that there is a difference of course between just clickable 30 second sound samples (which are considered truly promotional and are not fully downloadable-and I do recommend your allowing the site to use these as promos instead of free MP3's) : whereas an actual MP3 file virtually transfers a copy of your song or album master to a buyer's computer or handheld MP3 recorder-and in my book you should get paid for that kind of transaction .Shoot me but I come from the old school that believes in pay for play .And Im not talking about nightclubs!

 In order to fully enjoy the benefits of independent online distribution for your CD- its a good idea to spread it around (availability-wise) and try to place it online for sale 'at as many online record stores as you can'. There are a few sites (contractual agreements) that may occasionally include retail distribution as part of the deal- but most of those situations I have seen have been sort of spotty (unless the product is real well known in which case THEY will guarantee a certain amount of units for retail in the contract), otherwise retail isnt usually a given (though they might agree to stock a few copies instore in some chains) -or at least be willing to have the chains order it from them -by customer order.. I tend to gravitate to the online stores that are more user friendly to the Artist -and I recommend the ones that offer a less restrictive sales agreement .I'd also recommend your researching music mail order catalogs as well - as a good place to also place your CD- as it allows you to be a part of a mass print subscription situation (where you'll be able to reach more of those record consumers who may not be online). No matter how or where you sell your own product ,the art of being able to control the collection of monies from those sources -is always the end goal and should be your most desirous result.

 

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