Let me just bypass the whole “record industry is failing” and “illegal downloading is on the rise” introduction. We all know that professional musicians need to get paid, but this means finding new means of doing so other than record sales and royalties. Over the past 5 to 10 years it has become increasingly apparent that music can be used as a marketing tool—one that can help sell products by adding a coolness factor or a down-to-earth credibility to advertisements that says “hey, we know what you like.” In the past, allowing your music to be used in advertisements or by big corporations for financial gain was known as “selling out.” Now it seems like this might just be survival. Continue reading ‘Sell-Out: Is Music Licensing The Saving Grace For Artist Income?’
The debut feature film from director Craig Zobel, the thriller Compliance, is coming out later this summer. And while we’re big fans of independent cinema, we’ve got a special reason why we’re excited about this movie. Compliance marks a major success for OurStage’s Licensing Program, featuring a soundtrack comprised of OurStage artists.
Don’t go see Compliance if you’re looking for another popcorn movie. Feel good hit of the summer, this is not. The cerebral, challenging movie earned rave reviews when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. From the movie’s synopsis:
Becky and Sandra aren’t the best of friends. Sandra is a middle-aged manager at a fast-food restaurant; Becky is a teenaged counter girl who really needs the job. One stressful day (too many customers and too little bacon), a police officer calls, accusing Becky of stealing money from a customer’s purse, which she vehemently denies. Sandra, overwhelmed by her managerial responsibilities, complies with the officer’s orders to detain Becky. This choice begins a nightmare that tragically blurs the lines between expedience and prudence, legality and reason.
We all know how much the music industry is changing. Technology is evolving and most people have ditched their CD collection for an iTunes library full of illegally-downloaded music. And while file-sharing seems to be the most prominent headline these days, there’s other music news to report. Music licensing has fast become a crucial aspect of the music industry, especially when it comes to making money. When someone owns the copyright to a piece of work, others must obtain a license from the artist in order to use said work. For example, music supervisors must get a synchronization license to use someone’s song in a movie or TV show. Recently, there’s been a lot going on in the world of music licensing. Here are some of the important music licensing stories we think you should know about!
YouTube settled in a lawsuit with the NMPA (National Music Publishers Association of America) by agreeing to pay publishers a portion of their ad revenue in order to keep their artists’ music up on the site (this includes fan made videos with artists’ songs in them). The important thing to know about music publishers is that they represent writers. Sometimes a performer of a song is also the writer, but that’s not always the case. So, only the writers and their publishers will benefit from this settlement.
Back in the ’70s, copyright law was revised to allow artists to reclaim their work (termination rights) after thirty-five years, so long as they apply two years in advance. Right now, record labels own the master recordings of huge artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. The first wave of recordings that this rule applies to is from 1978 and record labels are anxiously preparing to fight back. If they lose the rights to these recordings, they will lose a huge source of income.
A judge found that MP3tunes, in a case against EMI, was not guilty of promoting infringement. The Web site is a music cloud service that allows users to access their own music as well as the songs found through a search engine, which is the main point of concern. The case started out based on the allegation that 33,000 of the songs were infringing on copyright but the case brought it down to only 350 tracks.
Prince kicked off his 21-night tour of Los Angeles last week on Lopez Tonight, and along with discussions about “artichoke” being an excellent swear word and his love for tortilla chips, Prince told George that he wants copyright laws changed so that no one can record covers of his songs. Ever. Prince has always been pretty protective of his songs, fighting his label, YouTube, eBay and even his fans over what he considers his intellectual property. But we’re a little surprised that he’d want to go so far as to make covering his songs illegal. (We’re also surprised that people actually watch Lopez Tonight, but whatever.)
“My problem is when the industry covers the music,” Prince told Lopez. “There’s this thing called compulsory licensing law that allows artists through the record companies to take your music at will without your permission. And that doesn’t exist in any other art form, be it books, movies—There’s only one version of ‘Law & Order.’ There’s several versions of ‘Kiss’ and ‘Purple Rain’.”
There’s just one problem with that: Prince isn’t exactly right. Compulsory licensing does exist in other media, including television, and as Hollywood Reporter explains, there are plenty of “fair use” exceptions in literature and films as well.
Besides the questionable facts Prince uses in his explanation, we just don’t quite get where he’s coming from. Don’t get us wrong—Prince is a superstar and no one rocks sequins and high heels quite like he does, but how can someone who’s covered everyone from Michael Jackson to Radiohead to Gnarls Barkley to Rihanna say that it’s uncool for other people to cover his songs? We’re also a little confused as to what sparked this, especially following Prince’s decision to let Gwyneth Paltrow belt out “Kiss” on an episode of Glee earlier this season. Guess the eighties superstar is down with covers… as long as the money’s right.
Either way, Prince won’t be able to make this happen. Under United States copyright law, once a song has been recorded and publicly distributed compulsory licensing kicks in, and any musician who pays royalties has the ability to record a cover as long as they notify the original artist. But juuuust in case he somehow manages to pull it off, here’s a playlist of some of our current favorite Prince covers to keep you satisfied. No, Limp Bizket’s rendition of “1999” didn’t make the cut.
It’s official. TV is the new radio. Television is now the primary medium through which casual and even passive listeners with a general interest in music stand the greatest chance of discovering new music and artists.
Whether through serial dramas, sitcoms, commercials, or reality programming, television is absolutely soaking up hip indie rock bands and singer-songwriters as well as unsigned and often unknown artists. Sometimes it lends them cache – a coolness factor that comes from being associated with something that sounds new. In the case of some higher-profile bands, like the ubiquitous Black Keys, this can cost them a chunk of change. Subaru and HBO, among others, are shelling out to feature the fresh-retro sound of a band like the Black Keys, which appeals to both young, in-the-know music fans and to an older generation who are so excited to hear something familiar-yet-new that they jump online (or, depending how old they are, to…the record store) to find the genesis of this sound. Other times, and this is best case for the television show or advertiser, they spend relatively little on an unknown song from a licensor’s roster that either sounds fresh or sounds like another act they can’t afford or don’t want to pay for.
They wouldn't spray paint it if it weren't true.
In both cases, it’s a win-win. The unknown artists get the kind of instant and national exposure that they wouldn’t get even if the biggest commercial radio station in their town started playing them. And the TV shows are getting these artists cheap, so they’re cramming more music into their shows AND often giving them a credit somewhere during or after the show. The bigger acts, meanwhile, are benefiting by getting bigger – in the course of six studio albums, the Black Keys have only in the last year or so, with an increase in song licensing, jumped out of a comfortable cult status and into the consciousness of people who are neither savvy toward new music discovery nor particularly interested in getting savvy. Even if they really like good music, they know they don’t need to work that hard to find it. Just wait for the new iPod commercial, do a Google search, and, boom, you’ve discovered The Submarines. Bands, likewise, no longer have to pander, as in years past, to the corporate powers-that-be at major commercial radio. If you have that one song that perfectly captures the ennui that apparently comes standard with having a medical degree, you might get yourself on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy—ladies and gentlemen, The Fray (whose success on that show’s soundtrack has led to more and more such opportunities, many of which the band reports turning down for fear of overexposure).
And bands no longer grapple with the concept of selling-out. Television has always needed music, but bands used to be reluctant to accept offers to have their music synced with a commercial or any images they don’t control. Now, that wall has come down. For bands, getting on television is not only an acceptable way to distribute your music, but an enviable achievement. A band with a song on MTV’s The Real World will remind their friends and fans on Facebook to tune in, posting it as they would a good review. And they see instant results. YouTube views hit the thousands literally overnight even after a brief clip on such a high-profile show. And the next check from iTunes or CDBaby might be a nice surprise.
There are still quality commercial radio stations out there but, over the last ten years, many have become stale and afraid to take chances on untested music. Some major commercial stations began testing alt-rock hits from the mid-90s on listeners, finding that they liked them—they still liked them— and so they put Stone Temple Pilots back into heavy rotation, fifteen years later, rather than risk valuable airtime on a relatively unknown artist.
Well, it’s their loss and the beneficiaries are the TV shows and the artists. The world would be a slightly better place if commercial radio were more adventurous and compelling, but in the meantime, at least there is a new and effective outlet for bands. Television has a broader reach and a more engaged audience to pitch to. Unlike radio listeners, people watching TV aren’t driving or reading or playing with their kids. They’re watching TV, so shut up, dammit, I’m trying to Shazam the song in this Target commercial.
OurStage Classifieds is a music-centric classifieds section designed to help music lovers, emerging artists and industry pros connect with one another on many levels. Think of it as your local classifieds section but on a music discovery site with over 4 million monthly visitors. The OurStage community lives and breathes music—what better place to fulfill all your music-related needs?
This week in Classifieds news, we’re tackling the Artist Opportunities category. Artist Opportunities features 6 subcategories: Collaboration, Contest/Competitions, Licensing, Live Performance, Publicity and Record Labels. Here are the details of each sub-group:
Collaboration – This category is for artists looking for other artists to collaborate with. Are you looking for an artist to sing the hook on your new song? Are you looking for a songwriting partner? Post your listing here! If you are looking for Musicians to join your band, then the best place for your listing is the Musicians Wanted category.
Contest/Competitions- This is the place for industry professionals to accept artist submissions for talent contests and competitions. Looking for contestants to take part in your battle of the bands? Post your listing here! Please do not post listings promoting contests or competitions in the Live Performance category.
Licensing – Here is the place for music industry professionals to post music licensing opportunities for artists. Need songs to feature in your movie, television show or commercial? Post your listing here! If you are in need of an agency to license your songs, the best place for your listing is the Services: Wanted category.
Live Performance – This category serves music industry professionals who need artists to perform live. Looking for artists for your venue, festival or coffee shop? Post your listing here! Artists who want to publicize their availability for live performance opportunities should post in the Connect: Avails category.
Publicity – A place for radio stations (terrestrial or Internet), blogs and other publications looking for new music, or any other opportunity that offers artists publicity. If you are looking to advertise your PR firm, the best place for your listing is the PR section under “Services.” If you are an artist looking to promote your upcoming concerts or releases, the best place for your listing is the Events category. If you are an artist looking to promote yourself to music lovers, the best place for your listing is the Personals: Bands Seeking Fans category.
Record Labels- This category is right for labels who are looking for artists to add to their rosters. Looking for new talent to sign or distribute through your label? Post your Listing here!
If you haven’t caught Gleefever yet, than you’re missing out. Us “gleeks” at OurStage have been anticipating the shows comeback for months now and, after the season premiere, we just can’t get enough. The quirky musical series is putting smiles on not only millions of fans’ faces, but on the faces of music executives as well. On top of being highly entertaining, Glee is demonstrating one of the most profitable functions of the music industry— licensing.
After only two months on the air, Glee was already drawing in an audience of over 8 million viewers. Fans of the show have purchased more than 200 million tracks sung by the cast on iTunes and they’ve bought even more in stores. These tracks, all covers of popular songs, make a great deal of income which is split between Fox, the broadcaster, the record company which puts out the record, the artists and the music publishers.
In today’s industry, labels are desperate to find money and an easy way to do so is to synch up with the best new television shows. In Glee’s case, Sony Music made an offer when they saw the pilot of the show. The company won the deal to partner with Glee and was able to release all music on iTunes and regular physical soundtracks.
Sony’s broad 360 deals are all encompassing, and all of the actors on Glee are under this type of contract. This means that Sony has first rights to recording contracts, and also gets a percentage of earnings from ringtones, merchandising, endorsements and live show revenue. Considering the fact that Glee’s rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is already certified gold with over 500,000 digital sales and seeing the huge sales increase in Rihanna’s “Take A Bow” after the song was featured on the show, it is safe to say that Sony is reaping the benefits of their deal. Now, with the success of Glee, bigger artists are offering up their music to the show. Most recently the series won over Madonna who allowed her catalog to be used in last week’s premiere.
The music industry is now fighting for every dollar so in order to make an impression with their artists, labels are turning to television to spread the word. Vice President of Music at The CW, Leonard Richardson has been quoted as saying, “TV has basically become the new radio. It is about exposure and making an impression.” The CW also notably makes deals with labels to promote music and make their shows more appealing. For example, the broadcasting company gets a reduced rate on music licensing for running ads at the end of shows like Gossip Girlshowcasing the music that was featured.
Licensing music has become the most lucrative way for labels to promote their music, and through deals such as Sony and Fox’s with Glee, everyone’s a winner. Be sure to catch Glee tonight at 9:00 to see what all of the buzz is about!
The RIAA has a beef with copyright infringement. Anyone who reads the paper and sees the headlines knows no one is safe from the RIAA’s wrath; not your average college co-ed, not even your own grandmother. So before you download some of your favorite tunes on the sly, think about what copyright means. With a copyright, all rights are reserved for the copyright holder because the copyright protects the creator’s exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publish, perform, sell and adapt their work for a certain period of time. So, the college co-ed who makes a copy of a Metallica CD without Metallica’s permission is violating the band’s copyright. And your grandmother, who retired from teaching to write Harry Potter fan fiction, is violating J.K Rowling’s copyright.
Now consider what happens if the copyright holder doesn’t mind, or even encourages, the reproduction, distribution or adaption their work? What if an artist finds copyright protection too restrictive? What if they only want some rights reserved? This is where Creative Commons steps in.
Founded in 2001, Creative Commons provides free, downloadable licenses for creative works that allow copyright holders to give up some of their exclusive rights to the public. These licenses also make clear to potential users what these works can and cannot be used for and under what conditions they can be used. This video from the Creative Commons Website gives a great overview of why Creative Commons was founded, and the benefits of creating and using works with Creative Commons licenses.
Creative Commons offers six standard licenses to choose from:
Attribution – This license allows users to share, adapt or remix any work in any way — commercially or non-commercially — as long as they credit the creator.
Attribution Share Alike – Like “Attribution,” this license allows users to adapt and remix any work. However, in addition to crediting the creator, future users of the work must also license any new creations based on the original under the same license used by the creator.
Attribution No Derivatives – This license allows for commercial and non-commercial distribution of any work, as long as no further changes are made to the work and the creator gets credit.
Attribution Non-Commercial – A license allowing users to remix and build upon any non-commercial work. Any works based on the original must also be non- commercial and acknowledge the creator.
Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike – Similar to “Attribution Share Alike, ” this license allows users to remix, download, redistribute and build any non-commercial work. Users must credit the creator, and any new works based on the original must be licensed in the same way.
Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives – This license allows users to download and share any work. They must credit the creator and agree not to alter the work in any way or use the work for commercial purposes.
Licensing music through Creative Commons is a great way to engage current fans and create new ones. Fans no longer have to worry about ending up in court over sharing their favorite artist’s music: the Creative Commons Attribution license tells them that the artist permits and encourages sharing. Music buffs can also get involved in the creative process by creating remixes and getting feedback from other listeners and, sometimes, the original artists themselves. The most high profile artist so far to use Creative Commons licensing to this affect is Trent Reznor. In 2008, Reznor released the Nine Inch Nails album Ghosts I-IV under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license, allowing his fans to download the full multi-track recording of the album and to post their remixes in the online community remix.nin.com. With a traditional copyright license, the thousands of fans who participate in the remix community would need to contact Reznor individually to get his permission for each remix they intend to make. In addition, each remixer would also need to get Reznor’s permission to post their remixes online for download. The Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license lets NIN fans know they already have Reznor’s permission to share his music with their friends, to create new works based on his music and to share those as well.
Copyright infrignment is like stealing. But why steal when you can share? Over 150 million works have been licensed through Creative Commons since the organization’s creation. A Creative Commons license makes it easy to collaborate and share your ideas with people from all over the world, all on your own terms.
For more info about Creative Commons licensing, clickhere.
For music, photos, books and other works licensed under Creative Commons licenses, click here.