That Music Publishers Get.
by Lynne Robin Green
President -Winston Music Publishers (Ascap)/Hoffman House Music (BMI)
Reprinted by permission of the author.
(c)1999 All rights reserved world wide.

Q-- I have been trying to break in to writing for Film & TV and am sending out my CD's to a few companies like Dreamworks Films and Sony Pictures and although they both have commented that my music is really good -- Im still not sure what I might be doing wrong cause they havent requested to use it yet! How do I find out what they are really looking for so that I can target my material better.

A-- If you are submitting your band's CD then bear in mind that if they agree to keep it on hand that they do like it and may be contacting you in the future when THEY find they do have an exact usage for it. It's imperative that you have your ascap or bmi affiliation on the cd and all songs on it registered to ascap or bmi,(with all writer credits copyright notice etc,)--as their licensing needs move very fast and if youre not affiliated they will see that your music is NOT published--(by you) and may be hesitant to use it--and it should be registered for performances already with ASCAP or BMI--(should you get one!) As to their taste-with a CD album of a group,its really about the sound,feel, and style of the music and intrinsically also the individual song feel,(and that Company's specific need at the present time).. On the other hand if you are really prolifically writing and recording (master quality)-new songs and are able to get this material together on short notice (on CD or DAT)---then you should also ask what kinds of songs they may be in current need for films or shows that they have in production ? And Id suggest you might give them a CD sampler (but full length versions). It's also a good idea to get The Hollywood Reporter and Variety once a week on the days they publish the Production Charts.These charts list most all current movies and Tv Shows that are in production and their requisite contact numbers.It's best to call and ask for the Music Supervisor directly and inquire what type of source cues (outside songs) they might be seeking?If they respond affirmatively and decide to keep your CD on file its ok to check back every few months or so-but do keep working to compose more material to show them and talk about -- when you call.That's called stacking the deck-aka as the having many more irons in many fires theory..

Q --My band has just been approached by a major record label and they are interested in signing us and they've said that they are sending us a contract --now their asking me if we have a Publisher ? How should I answer them?

A --Lets back up a few sentences and we will see that IF THEY ARE SENDING YOU a recording contract -now is when YOU SHOULD HAVE AN ATTORNEY REPRESENTING YOU IN THIS COMMUNICATION AND FURTHER NEGOTIATION WITH THEM....The attorney should be the one who communicates directly with the label ONLY -regarding any 'interest' that they may have in recording--(or publishing your band)..Never speak for yourself in this kind of situation as you will not understand what they are offering (unless you are a lawyer or speak legalese) and you do not want to be in a position where you may get trapped by your own ignorance agreeing to something YOU DONT FULLY UNDERSTAND....Remember that IF YOU HAVE AN OFFER IN WRITING---you need a good music attorney to handle all such offers and confer with you and advise you towards making the best deal possible.Never verbally commit yourself or agree to anything in front.That's the best possible advice that anyone can ever give you.You should know for a fact that more (unfairly unilateral) aka 'bad contracts'- are constantly signed by people without any proper representation who really had no idea WHAT they were signing away.

Q --I've been sending out my songs to Music Publishers for the last five years but I havent been offered any publishing contracts,WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?

A --Have you received any replies on your submissions? (If so the Publisher may or may not have elaborated WHY your material was not accepted for publication).I'd say they probably havent ELABORATED WHY IT WASNT PICKED UP and thats one of the reasons why you may still be in the dark just wondering what they are thinking.? As a long time independent music publisher we receive so much material from Writer's all over the world--and that kind of sheer heavy constant volume of stuff can be too overwhelming to reply individually to.In the case that a Publisher stipulates they reply with provided SASE, (remember without an SASE they wont reply!)--but I would definately recommend that YOU put in your cover letter that you would appreciate any critique of the material or comments/feedback.Bear in mind that Publisher's as a rule run fast and furiously with what we have that's hot at the moment,or we are looking for something that we have instant need of filling very quickly.....(I personally prefer not to sign anything (aka stockpiling material)-that I cant move rather quickly..It's also possible--your song may not fit either need or category at that moment for that particular Publisher.Thats how busy we get.Our time and this business is all about PRIORITIES. Secondly I'd recommend you align yourself with a local Songwriters Organization where you can participate in live industry pitches and critiques so that you will get instant feedback as to the real commerciality of your material .It's really hard working at something in the dark (its very insular)--and when you get no feedback--you may not really know what caliber nor potentiality your material actually has?. Also I'd definately recommend a professional songwriting workshop as it's a good opportunity for you to get personal critique whilst developing your songwriting craft with others -who are also dead serious about professionally creating and exploiting their work.

Q --I got a call from a film producer and he wants to use my song (and the demo I'd made) in his new movie.He doesnt want to pay to re-record the song.I wasnt the one who sang or played on this ('master'-demo) and Im wondering what I have to do in order to license it for this movie? I already paid the musicians and the singer but I have no receipts.I heard somewhere that I have to provide the film company a written release of the usage on the performers who do the demo, is this true ,and what do I do now--- please HELP!

A --Yes this is true but firstly,dont panic (yet).If you can get in touch with the musicians and the singer who did your demo-(AND IF YOU'VE ALREADY PAID THEM and you dont have receipts or a release signed and THEY wont sign off for what youve already paid them --well that cows already outta the barn,just kiddin,I HAVE A SOLUTION---)--YOU CAN offer them a small percentage of the MASTER LICENSING fee (3% maybe) that you would actually receive for the use of the recording.(aka-Master Use Fee).This would apply to each time you license that master. (This Master Use fee is separate from the synchronization fee WHICH IS THE SONG fee itself)--this simple release is called a (MUSICIAN AND VOCALIST RELEASE)--which I highly recommend to aspiring film & Tv songwriters as a good investment to have drawn up for you by an attorney (to use as you need it).. But DO make sure you get it signed before they perform on your song next time,and do try to get it signed anyway if they havent yet signed one for you.The Film or TV company will expect you to legally sign off that YOU ARE solely liable for any and all damages and/or costs should a session singer/musician claim they did not GIVE YOU the right to use their performance for anything (but a demo)..I believe in covering all the legalities in front -- it really makes for much more mobility of product being available.Believe it or not-we've have lost film uses with masters that couldnt be cleared because of this exact situation. Bottom line-if ain't pre-cleared it wont get used.

This article first published in the magazine 'Inside Connection'-in New York City -April 99 issue-featured in the regular column-A Day In The Life Of A Music Publisher


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