The Music Rights Gold Rush

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that over the last few years it has become increasingly important for “indie” distributors to lock up your publishing rights.  Most people just blindly opt-in and never ask any questions about it.  It’s all you’ve got!

Listen, a dream of most musicians is to score a song that catches fire and leads to bigger revenue.  Easier said than done!  But, in the middle, there are small opportunities that could lead to real sustainable growth.  A 5k license has a significant impact on an independent artist or producer but the minute you dilute that it barely counts.  Combine that with the fact that most of the companies that are grabbing up these rights don’t even have a plan to help you monetize them.  They just don’t want to miss out if you do.

There’s a reason this business isn’t for everyone.  It takes a combination of talent, instinct, being coachable, and being patient.  Everyone wants everything now and that’s just not how it works.  While there are a lot of aspects of the music industry that don’t make any traditional business sense, there is a lot of traditional business involved.  Identifying your real opportunity, building a brand, these things take time.  Not to mention the songs.

This goes double for the relationships.  It really takes time to build real relationships and reach the real business.  The hardest part is finding the balance between being coachable and open to opportunities and giving away the little bit of leverage that you have.  But you want it now, and everyone’s doing it.  C’mon, if that’s really how you approach building YOUR UNIQUE brand than your brand is NOT UNIQUE.  You have to take advantage of the immense amount of information that’s out there.

All of this is the exact reason we don’t just work with one label.  Each act is unique and presents a unique opportunity to build a distinct brand.  With that in mind, we know that every label is not good with EVERY format.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, businesses too.

I hear demo’s and submissions daily and just like a music supervisor or A & R contact, if I like it, the first thing I want to know is what is the status of everything about the record, publishing, writing, production, smaples, master, everything.  On the publisher side, we deal with several, and each deal is clearly laid out as to obligations and expectations.  I would never let any artist I work with sign a publishing agreement with no explanation, but that’s what everyone is doing, as an opt-in!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not even mad at those guys, I mean it’s a golden opportunity to amass a huge volume of copyrights and grab some low hanging fruit.  It does upset me when it is done under the premise of being helpful or in favor of the artists, it’s a standard 50/50 split with them taking ‘control’ of your records publishing.  They’ll opt you into some blanket licenses that will translate to pennies for you, but by the time you figure that out, they’ll already own your publishing for 5 to 7 years.

In the end, it’s your responsibility to understand the agreements that you’re entering.  If you don’t you need to get on the web and read up on the topic and terms.  If you’re still unsure look for other blogs like this, there are plenty of people out there sharing their stories and trying to help.  And if you really want to understand it take a class.  Ask questions, it’s the only way you’re going to learn!