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How Songwriters Make Money From Publishing

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 08, 2016 @07:00 AM

How Songwriters Make Money From Publishing
by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq., The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

Songwriting

While songwriters and musicians are often advised by their fellow artists to keep their own publishing, such an approach is no longer especially applicable in the modern music economy. It is more important that artists develop a solid understanding of where exactly publishing revenue comes from, and how to deal with Performing Rights Organizations.

Every new musician is told by some other musician or industry professional “to keep your publishing” or some variation of this. Such a statement is archaic and a potentially career debilitating mistake. A better understanding of what “publishing” monies consist of and why this outdated advice of “keeping your publishing at all costs” no longer applies in today’s digital music age is needed.

Generally, “publishing money” as it is referred to, actually includes the royalties earned from the public performance of a musical work, specifically for the owners of the copyright in the underlying musical composition. Typically, the underlying musical composition in a musical work refers to the lyrics and underlying musical composition. These rights are owned by the track’s songwriters, composers and publishers.

A track’s songwriters, producers and composers must sign up with the appropriate performing rights organization to receive their public performance royalties or so-called “publishing monies.” In the U.S., the Performing Rights Organizations are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Each country has their own performing rights organizations, so a foreign citizen might apply and become a member of the organization for the country they are citizen of.

Once an individual is signed up with a Performing Rights Organization, they must properly index their works with that organization. This involves listing each track’s writers and composers as well as their appropriate ownership percentage. The performing rights organizations then collect and distribute these “small” public performance royalties to its members based upon its own unique pay-out formula. Each organization has its own pay-out formula and a musician can research and determine the best fit for their music on each organization’s official website.

Every Performing Rights Organization collects and licenses their members’ works for public performance usages. Some of these public usages include license fees to play the songs on terrestrial and satellite radio, on television, in motion pictures, through digital streaming services and for the live performances of the works at venues, stadiums, theme parks and concert halls as well as colleges and universities.

Today’s music business has evolved to a more 360° model, where all of the artist’s monetary revenue streams are subject to recoupment and payment to a particular entity, like a record label. These deals typically include a specific percent interest in the signing artist’s “publishing;” and, since this has become the norm, it’s nearly impossible for an artist to have such stream excluded.

In order for an artist to typically achieve the notoriety and budget needed to create a real impact in the entertainment industry, the benefits that a major label receives in return must be worth their time and effort. Without one of the most lucrative streams of income, i.e. “publishing,” such a feat is nearly impossible and impractical from a label’s point of view.

So some new advice is, keep your publishing unless you have a really good reason not to, like to bring your career to the next level, a level that you might not have otherwise been able to achieve. As they say 100% of nothing, is, well, nothing.

For additional information and membership forms, please visit www.ascap.com ; www.bmi.com; or www.sesac.com.

 

[Article used by permission from Justin Jacobson]

Justin M. Jacobson has helped bring in numerous new high-profile clients, including Celebrity DJ/Producer Joshua “Zeke” Thomas and his Gorilla Records label; international live art competition, ArtBattles; G-Unit Records recording artist, Precious Paris; former NY Jet Donald Strickland; Warner-Chappell producer, J-Dens; celebrity jewelry designer, Laurel DeWitt; and BMI Latin award-winning producer, Carlos Escalona. He also spoke at Cardozo School of Law as part of “Beyond The Billboard: Advertising Law in the Fashion Industry” presented by their SELSA & IPLS Fashion Law Committees. He is a lawyer at The Jacobson Firm, P.C.: http://www.thejacobsonfirmpc.com/
  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, music publishing, demo recording, Co-Writing Songs

Strategies For A Successful Career In Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 @05:24 PM

Strategies For A Successful Career In Songwriting
By Sara Light

Before landing my first staff writing deal and major label cut, I served as the membership director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). Over the course of four years I worked with, talked to and counseled new and aspiring songwriters and I began to recognize certain similarities between those songwriters who continually realized their goals and those who didn't. As I watched people move to town, leave town, reach goals or give-up, I learned some important strategies to achieving long-term success as a songwriter.

Strategy 1: Find your team
From the day we make the decision to pursue our dream of becoming a professional songwriter we're beginning a long and often frustrating journey. Like Dorothy on her way to Oz, we need help reaching our destination. At first, our family and friends may be the ones to give us the emotional support we need to keep going. Eventually, however, we must expand our team of supporters to include industry professionals who can keep us moving in the right direction. Performing Rights Organization representatives (in the US: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, in Canada: SOCAN, in the UK: ALCS), publishers, professional songwriters, producers and even major label recording artists, all may eventually become part of our team. Attending songwriting workshops given by local, national and international songwriting organizations is one way to start. You never know if the unknown guy you bump into today might be the Garth Brooks of tomorrow. Just a few of the hit songwriters and artists who have attended songwriting workshops include Mark D. Sanders ("I Hope You Dance"), Mike Reid ("I Can't Make You Love Me"), Carolyn Dawn Johnson ("I Don't Want You To Go") and Dianne Warren ("How Do I Live"). By continually improving our songwriting craft and expanding our knowledge of the industry, we let our potential team know that we're serious and motivated. In addition, by having the patience to form honest relationships and showing appreciation when someone helps us, we earn the trust and respect that we need to add members to our team little by little. Rarely is success achieved overnight. It usually takes years of hard work and persistence. Take for example, Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross who were both given a helping hand by the artists for whom they had been singing backup. Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks and Vince Gill made contacts by singing demos while looking for their label deals. Luckily, we don't need everybody in town to like our songs, but we do need a strong team who does.

Strategy 2: Stay Focused
Most of the aspiring songwriters I've met actually begin with some kind of plan. For some, it is to take frequent trips from their hometown to a major music center in order to write and establish relationships. For example, Northern California songwriter, Steve Seskin ("Don't Laugh At Me"), and up-state NY songwriter, Hugh Prestwood ("The Song Remembers When"), both have had great success writing for the Nashville market. However, one thing most "out-of-town" writers would probably tell you is that making and maintaining contacts from a distance takes an incredible commitment of time, money and energy. For other songwriters, the plan is to move to a major music center and find an alternate means of income until the ship carrying their hit song comes in. Don Schlitz ("The Gambler") tells the story of how he wrote songs while working as a computer operator at night. Garth Brooks had a variety of jobs when he moved to Nashville, including selling boots.

Strategy 3: Set Goals
Even if we're living in a major music center, it's easy to get sidetracked or discouraged if things aren't happening as quickly as we might have hoped. Organization and goal setting are key ingredients to persevering and moving forward on our journey. In his book, Life Is A Contact Sport (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1994), manager Ken Kragen, whose past and present client roster includes Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood, discusses how using a step-by-step approach has made him and his clients successful. Instead of looking at a desired outcome as an overwhelming task, Kragen sets smaller goals. He helps his clients create a road map beginning from where they are and the steps they need to accomplish to reach their ultimate goal. By reaching intermediate goals along the way, the payoff is constant and the journey is satisfying. I followed Kragen's advice and over the years some of the goals I set for myself and reached included: I will take guitar lessons; I will host a show at the Bluebird Café in Nashville; I will get meetings with five music publishers this month; I will write everyday; I will save enough money to demo ten songs this year; I will get a major artist cut.

Strategy 4: Take chances
In an industry as competitive as this one, we cannot afford to let our fears of failure hold us back. To "take a chance" means something different for everyone. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and different "comfort zones." What might feel like a risk to one person, might be a piece of cake to another. But, as my favorite T-shirt says, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I've been told that Jodee Messina walked right up to the head of Curb Records, Mike Curb, and told him that he needed a redhead on the label. If she hadn't done that, who knows if today she'd have several number one singles and a platinum album. So keep in mind that if you're not writing a song today, someone else is. If you're not calling a certain publisher, someone else is. If you're not booking a gig - well, you get the point. If we never step outside of what feels comfortable to us we can't learn the skills we need to succeed. We must be willing to accept possible rejection or failure and keep going in spite of it. A good example of this kind of perspective and persistence is exemplified by what Thomas Edison said to his wife while watching his laboratory burn down - "that's a good way to get rid of all those mistakes I was making in there."

You've already taken a huge step, just by allowing yourself to pursue your dream. It's not always an easy thing to do, but don't let yourself give up too easily. You can do it!

--Sara

Short Bio:
Songwriter Sara Light Sara Light
is a Tony-Award nominated, hit songwriter and co-founder of www.SongU.com. SongU.com provides multi-level song writing courses developed by award-winning songwriters, song feedback, mentoring, one-on-one song coaching, co-writing, unscreened pitching opportunities and more. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 

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