Music Licensing ‘In Perpetuity’

I recently received a music licensing contract which basically requires an artist to sign over their song(s) in perpetuity.  Unless you have legal training or understand the music biz legalese, these contracts can bring some unwanted surprises or legal action against you if you’re not clear upfront on all of the terms you’re agreeing to.  Please see the document below:

Based on the wording of this agreement, the music licensing company would own all rights in and to your compositions, including but not limited to all copyrights, master rights, synchronization rights, mechanical rights, etc., in perpetuity. (That’s the legal talk that means they own whatever music you submit to their library.)  If you have tracks that you want to market elsewhere, or someday work into a bigger production, then this would NOT be the contract to sign.

 

 Be aware that no upfront fees of any kind will be paid for music submitted under this agreement which this publisher would then own exclusively (i.e., such compositions can only be exploited by this music company ONLY).

 

 This is how you would typically make money from this type of arrangement:
Music composers are compensated based upon a share of Public Performance Royalties paid by the applicable Performance Rights Societies directly to Publishers and Writers.  The Publisher would retain 100% of the Publisher’s Share of Performance Royalties, and you would retain 100% of the Writers Share of Performance Royalties generated from the use of your compositions.

 

 I attended a Grammy Recording Academy panel discussion a few years ago, and one of the panelists suggested that we never sign an ‘In Perpetuity’ agreement ever.  A better option would be to ask the licensing company for a non-exclusive agreement where you would still retain rights to your music.

 

 You should always know what you’re signing before you put your signature on the dotted line.  If you can’t understand the jargon in a contract, then you should definitely consult an attorney or someone who has experience in this area.  Personally, I won’t be signing this type of contract unless I’m being guaranteed a lot of money up front because I don’t want to lose ownership of one of my creations forever and ever with no way to make any money off my songs should this company decide to shelve my work.

 


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Registering Your Public Domain Song Arrangements

What I love about being a DIY musician is that I learn something new and interesting almost every week.  Last year, I decided to release a custom orchestral arrangement of one of my favorite Christmas tunes that I created from a public domain score.  I like to do my own research, but I never really figured out ASCAP’s public domain registration option until a music library in the UK contacted me about sending my Christmas song to one of their clients.  The contract that they sent me required that I list my song’s ASCAP registration information.  Of course, I wasn’t prepared since I had never registered a public domain arrangement with ASCAP before and didn’t think that my song qualified for that process.  Now that I have lived and learned from that experience, here is what you need to do if you want to register your own public domain arrangement with ASCAP (if you happen to be a member there):

  • Click on the ‘Register a Title’ link

register title



  • Make sure the ‘Standard Form’ and ‘General Registration’ options are selected.  Click the the ‘Begin’ button.

Standard Form



  • On the Questionnaire screen, select the ‘Public domain music’ option.  You can also select the ‘Public domain lyrics(words)’ option if that applies to your situation.  Click the ‘Save & Continue’ button.

public domain



  • Fill out the General Information for your song.  The only fields that are required on this page are ‘Work Title’ and ‘Person to Contact About This Registration’.  You should also fill in as much of the optional information on this page as possible.

Work Title



  • Now you need to fill information about the entitled parties to your work.  I’m also registered with ASCAP as my own publisher, so I clicked the ‘Add’ button to select my company as the publisher.

AWM Publisher



  • Click on the ‘Add’ button in the ‘Writers’ section to select your writers and % ownership.  In my case, the 2 writers that I added are ‘Traditional….(Public Domain’ and ‘Audrey Williams’.  I listed ‘Traditional’ as the composer with 0% ownership.  I listed myself as the arranger with 50% ownership.  (The listed publisher owns the other 50%.)

Writers



  • Next, I enter the ‘Artists and Performers’ information.  Since I created the entire song using my own acoustic cello and MIDI controlled software instruments, I just listed myself in this section.  I also entered the release date information.  Now, I can click the ‘Save & Continue’ button.

artist & performers



  • Enter the appropriate information on the ‘Public Domain Work Information’ screen.  This is where you enter the ‘Original Title’, designate the ‘Composer’ as ‘Traditional’ and designate the ‘Source’ from which the public domain work was obtained.  Click on the ‘Save & Continue’ button.

public domain source



  • You are now at the screen where you can review your entry before clicking on the ‘Submit’ button.

I’ve only ever been a member of ASCAP, so I don’t know the process for the other PROs.

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Using iMovie To Create a YouTube Music Video

Since I’m a classical musician and only compose instrumentals at this time, I never felt the need to set aside any significant budget for the purpose of creating a professional music video.  Every DIY music marketing guide that I’ve come across does recommend that artists put their music out on YouTube since tons of new music gets discovered there daily and has the greatest potential of going viral from that platform.  One day in the future when I start writing better lyrics, I will probably consider making a real music video, but for now, I just use iMovie to combine a static image with my mp3 file to create a quick and dirty video to post on YouTube.  Here is what I do:

  • Click on the ‘iMovie’ icon to launch the application.

iMovie Application

  • Next, click on the ‘Projects’ menu item at the top left of the screen.  This will display all of my saved projects and give me the option to add a new project.

Projects Button

 

  • Now, click on the ‘+’ button and select the ‘Movie’ option.

Add Movie Button

  • The ‘Themes’ screen will pop up.  On this screen, select the ‘No Theme’ option and then, click on the ‘Create’ button.

Select 'No Theme' Theme

  • Type in a name for your movie and click the ‘OK’ button.

iMovie project name

  • Here is where you click on the ‘Import Media’ arrow to add your picture file and mp3 recording to your new movie project.
  • Double click on the audio file to select the entire region and then drag-and-drop it into your work space below in the bottom pane.  Do the same with your image.  You will want extend the length of your image to match the length of your song by dragging the right edge to the desired location.

Work space

  • Make sure your image is selected in the bottom work space pane, and then select the crop icon in the playback area.  I always choose the ‘Fit’ option so that my image gets automatically resized to fit within the viewing area.
  • Now, it’s time to click on the ‘Share’ button to post my movie file on YouTube.

iMovie Share Button

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