If you read this, you are probably dreaming of a career in music. Bright lights, screaming fans, luck, fame and documents … For some reason, no one talks about the last part, which implies a lot of administrative work, responsible for the monetization of music on a large scale. It may not seem as rosy as a guitar solo, but it is also important for a career. And the first step to making money on music is copyright.
What is copyright and why is it needed?
Copyright is an exclusive opportunity to create and distribute copies of your music. But in order to demand monetization for a work, you need to establish it in one form or another, because, according to US law, copyright only “protects the original copyright works that are recorded in the material environment of expression.”
What does it mean?
Contrary to popular belief, copyright does not protect “ideas.” They can only protect unique creative works, such as a specific song or recording of that song. You can claim copyright after your “unique expression” is placed on some tangible medium, whether digital or analog, whether in audio form or in the form of notes.
Two types of copyright
There are two main types of copyright in music:
- Performing Arts (PA)
- Sound Recordings (SR)
Performing Arts (PA) copyrights apply to the songs themselves and are usually owned by the author. According to American copyright law, a “song” is considered a tune, lyrics and composition. You cannot copy chords, common phrases or its individual parts (for example, a bass line) if they are so noticeable that they meet the criteria for a “melody”.
Meanwhile, sound recording copyright (SR) extends to the “main recording” of your song. This is the right to the latest remodeled version that you publish as an MP3, CD, or vinyl record. Previously, they were almost always held by recording studios or publishing companies, but today many independent musicians can own their own “masters”.
Do I, as a musician, need to register copyright?
Technically, copyright begins to exist at a time when “the original work is recorded in a tangible medium.” Once you record it, it is protected by copyright. But proving when you made this entry will be problematic (especially if there is an acute debate). Therefore, registering rights with the Library of Congress can give you extra protection in case such a problem arises.
If you like to fuss with paper documents, do not let third parties register your creation. Some companies provide this service for a fee, but it is always more expensive than its base cost ($ 35 for 1 job, or $ 65 for a collection).
To register copyright in the United States:
- Go to copyright.gov
- Create and log in to your account
- Follow the instructions to submit your SR form
- Fill out additional information on the PA form
It is worth noting that you can also opt out of the copyright system whenever you want. If you are not so worried about wired music and do not plan to monetize music, you have the opportunity to publicly declare your work as part of Creative Commons, thereby waiving some (or all) of the rights to allow others to freely use your music.
Getting money from publishing
Now that your song (©) and your master record (℗) are protected, you must find a way to “use” them. The word “exploit” has a negative connotation, but in the music business it is legalized and basically means “make money.” As a songwriter, you are entitled to a reward for performing each time your song is used. This is your money for recording a song. But as a publisher, you can also license your music to others to use it for extra income.
The music publisher is responsible for administrative duties related to making music (for example, licensing songs for use in screensavers, videos, live or movies), and for collecting royalties. In exchange for their services, publishers usually receive 50% of the revenue generated by the product.
Alternatively, companies such as CD Baby, Songtrust, and TuneCore offer similar services. They will process documents for a 15% fee and collect all the royalties on your behalf, so you can focus on creativity.
If you have signed a contract with a label, it will act as your publisher (large labels often pay for recording costs and take responsibility for all financial and copyright transactions). Fortunately, with a small amount of documents, you can “publish” your own music and receive money every time it is played or bought. First you need to register as a songwriter or publisher with the Performing Rights Organization or PRO.
What is a human rights enforcement organization?
PROs are organizations that collect performance rewards on behalf of publishers and copyright owners. Obviously, you cannot call every bar, club or radio station and receive royalties. How to organize all this and simplify your life?
This is where PRO works. Basic structures:
- ASCAP: American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers
- BMI: Broadcast Music Inc.
- GMR: global music rights
- SESAC: Society of European Composers (entry by invitation only).
- SoundExchange *
* Note. SoundExchange focuses solely on digital non-interactive royalties from services such as SiriusXM and Pandoraon, on behalf of SR copyright owners and artists (usually labels and composers). Thus, no matter which PRO you choose, you must also register with SoundExchange to make sure you are not missing any royalties. Yes, and it’s free!
Which of the PRO structures is better?
All of them provide the same service, but have slight differences. ASCAP does not have a registration fee, but charges $ 50 each time you apply. BMI charges a registration fee of $ 150 for individuals ($ 250 for companies). ASCAP hires a firm to randomly monitor radio stations to determine royalties. BMI has its own stations / groups of people filling out documentation and magazines.
Besides the slightly different payout schedules, the differences between them end. As a musician, you can only subscribe to one PRO service. But as a publisher, you have the right to use several. The publisher must be associated with the same PRO as the artist in order to publish and collect royalties for music.
If you have a large audience, do not forget about registering copyrights, and do not miss your passive income. Our studio, when performing information and mastering, does not distribute materials to third parties and, after a certain time, deletes projects without the possibility of restoration. Thus, only the author / performer has source codes and finished products, which will protect intellectual property.