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Archive for April, 2019

20 Questions for New Artists Part 2: Performing Rights Society Affiliation

April 30, 2019 Comments off

[For the next few weeks, we’re going to post updated sections from the article “20 Questions for New Artists” by Chris Castle and Amy Mitchell which has been posted various places.  This doesn’t constitute legal advice, or any intent to form the attorney-client relationship. (If you miss an installment, try searching this blog for “20 Questions for New Artists”.)]

There is a bit of strategy involved with affiliating with a songwriter performing rights society in the United States. PROs license and collect royalties for the performance right in your songs, such as a performance on television or radio or live music venues (including in some cases your own performances of your own songs).  Each writer should affiliate with one of the societies although all members of a band or co-writers on a song don’t need to belong to the same society.  This is why you see some songs with both ASCAP and BMI writers.  We will discuss publishing and affiliating your publishing company with a PRO later.  For now, just realize that your publishing company should be affiliated with the same PRO you are affiliated with as a writer.

All the societies have a creative staff. The decision to affiliate with a particular society should be made after the artist/writer has taken some meetings with the performing rights society and decided if there’s more love coming from one than another.

Most of the time we like to wait until the music is fairly well formed and the band has gelled into a working unit before approaching the societies unless there’s a reason to move more quickly, such as getting a film or TV license, or substantial radio/webcasting play. In more experienced bands, the writers will already have an affiliation, so it is a good idea to know this in advance for purposes of servicing the creative staff with new music, competing for slots on compilations and festival shows, etc.

The major U.S. performing rights societies are the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (http://www.ascap.com/), Broadcast Music, Inc. (http://www.bmi.com/), the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (http://www.sesac.com/) and Global Music Rights (http://www.globalmusicrights.com).

There are, of course, payment differences among the societies.  For detailed background on PRO payments (and many other subjects) we recommend the book Music, Money and Success by Jeff and Todd Brabec available in paperback.

Copyright 2019 Chris Castle and Amy Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

20 Questions for New Artists Part 1: Bank Accounts/Tax Returns/Accountants

April 28, 2019 Comments off

For the next few weeks, we’re going to post updated sections from the article “20 Questions for New Artists” by Chris Castle and Amy Mitchell which has been posted various places.  This doesn’t constitute legal advice, or any intent to form the attorney-client relationship. (If you miss an installment, try searching this blog for “20 Questions for New Artists”.)

Bank Accounts/Tax Returns/Accountants: A common mistake that bands make is to have all income paid to one band member, which usually results in unnecessarily complex adjustments at tax time not to mention general distrust should disputes arise.  This can be particularly vexing if the band wants to “fire” that band member whose got all the bank records–much better to have the band’s income and expenses paid from a neutral source.  (We will come to “leaving members” later on.)  Even though we will frequently speak of bands, solo artists should keep their business bank account separate,

Check with your bank branch to find out what the bank requires in order to open a bank account in the band’s name or the solo artist’s stage name (usually at least a “doing business as” or “dba” filing with a local government agency of some kind).

The band should find an accountant in your geographical area who is familiar with music issues and band accounting and take a meeting with that accountant (preferably a Certified Public Accountant who will file the band’s tax return). The band’s accountant should be able to advise you on questions such as the tax deductibility of expenses (recording sessions, haircuts, meals and travel, cell phones, etc.); insurance and financial liability issues (not surprisingly, liability issues substantially increase as soon as the band hits the road and starts driving); whether the band should lease or buy that new band van; and how to treat various income streams such as money received from investors, royalty income, merchandise, etc., as well as payment of sales tax, withholding and income tax.

Eventually, the accountant will be responsible for administering the band’s credit card, paying each band member their draw or salary, settling tours, and making sure any roadies or other employees are properly paid under state and federal tax laws.

See Also: Have you Registered with SoundExchange?

Copyright 2019 Chris Castle and Amy Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Why Artists Should Care About @AGSNYT: How The Times Thinks About Privacy

April 14, 2019 Comments off

The New York Times has started “The Privacy Project” and kicks off the story correctly with an introspective opinion piece from the boss, A.G. Sulzberger.  We should do the same.

Over the past few years, The New York Times has reported aggressively on the erosion of digital privacy, bringing information to light about the exploitation of personal data that Facebook amassed on its users, about companies buying and selling children’s data, and about phone apps secretly tracking users’ every movement. That reporting helped spur global debate about how society should protect privacy in digital spaces.

Yet all of this journalism was paid for, in part, by The Times’s engaging in the type of collecting, using and sharing of reader data that we sometimes report on. As with a politician railing against high drug prices while accepting campaign donations from big pharma, a news organization cannot talk about privacy on the internet without skeptical readers immediately, and rightly, examining its own practices for signs of hypocrisy. So, as we kick off The Privacy Project, I wanted to share a bit about how The Times itself approaches reader data and privacy.

Like virtually every business on the internet, we collect, use and share data about readers. We make money by using that data to sell advertisements and subscriptions, often working with other companies like Google and Facebook, which allows us to sustain a 1,600-person news operation that reports from more than 150 countries every year.

Google, Facebook, Spotify and their fellow data lords have to a large extent got some pretty big players over a barrel:  They are all dependent to some extent on Google and Facebook’s business model built on the twin pillars of addiction and surveillance.  Artists and songwriters should think about their own role in this unhealthy cycle that feeds on human vulnerabilities and dopamine dependency.  Like the Times, artists drive fans into the waiting arms of data lords who scrape, segment and serve up behavioral data in darkness while fans are focused on content.

In the case of the Times it is content the paper creates and serves up on its own web properties.  But in the case of artists and songwriters, it is the music that the creator or their label or publisher at least ostensibly license to a platform.  And that’s a big difference, because unless that license is a statutory mandate, licenses have a term.  Statutory licenses are favored by platforms (see Music Modernization Act Title I) because the service can force creators to license their works and that license can essentially never be terminated–even iHeart got away with not paying royalties through reorganization bankruptcy followed by an IPO once those messy obligations were washed away through the courts.

Artists are very familiar with another version of this story that we fought and still fight with brand-sponsored piracy.  In that ecosystem–which still exists on a large scale–companies like Google sell advertising on pirate sites that is served against stolen music or movies and then get data served back to them through analytics tools.  (This is why I often say that it’s not that Google pays a low royalty, they actually pay a negative royalty when you take into account their profit from piracy.)

But data scraping of fans that artists drive to licensed platforms is a less frequent topic of discussion.  Like the Times, creators should start thinking about the role they play in driving fans to the clutches of the data lords.  As Mr. Sulzberger says:

The Times…maintains clear internal guidelines about how such data is collected and used. But this control is often more limited than it seems because in many cases, the news organizations that host the trackers don’t know what happens with that information once it is transferred to third parties. Those companies include major platforms like Google and Facebook, smaller companies you’ve never heard of that act as analytics providers and advertising intermediaries, and the individual companies that place individual advertisements. Readers may understandably wonder: What data do these companies have? To whom might they sell it? How might those buyers exploit it?

I ask myself those questions, too, as a publisher and as a person who uses the internet.

I suggest that it’s time to stop asking questions and start demanding answers.  We at least can try to cut them off.

@eLAWnora: The EU’s New Copyright Laws Won’t “Wreck the Internet”

April 2, 2019 Comments off

[Excellent work by Eleonora Rosati in Slate on the EU Copyright Directive.  This new legislation is important to creators around the world because it applies to the exploitation of all copyrights in Europe, not just European copyrights in Europe.]

On Tuesday, at the end of a process that lasted more than two and a half years, the European Parliament adopted the latest version of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market….

Critics have dubbed the directive a “censorship machine” that would harm free speech, impose new obligations on platforms that would be technically impossible for them to comply with, kill memes and GIFs, and ultimately “wreck the internet”….

These concerns are of course serious and need to be carefully considered, because the internet and the way it works are crucial to how we get and share information, and how we participate in culture. But it appears unlikely that this new EU law will irreparably harm the internet and our free speech online. In fact, contrary to these allegations, it makes users’ legal position safer than what is currently the case. In fact, in some cases, the directive will protect users from the risk of legal liability for sharing protected content. 

Read the post on Slate.

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