February 2009


mdday-courtyard1Congratulations! Everything on your mixtape, EP, or LP is mixed, mastered, packaged and ready to go. Now comes the fun part – finding your outlet. Creating a buzz, and ultimately building an audience, is one of the most difficult aspects of this business. First, let’s do away with solely relying on Myspace. Forget about it! Myspace is now used as a major outlet for big names and many times indie artists (such as yourself) get lost in the shuffle. By all means, create a myspace site to help showcase your music but PLEASE use it to supplement your additional efforts of marketing and selling your material.

For people like you it’s time to start thinking outside of the box and very, very creatively. Here are a couple of ideas to serve as a starting point —

College & University Campuses

So, after paying for beats, studio time, blank cds, jewel cases, etc. you’re dead broke. Not only that but it’s quite probable you’re in debt. You can’t possibly afford distribution. No problem. The student center or courtyard at the nearest college campus is your best bet. Set up a table, lay out your packaged cd’s and talk to anyone in listening range. From morning to night, they’ll be plenty of students passing by or killing time in between classes. Campuses are great proving grounds because there is arguably no better time for minds to be open to new and experimental  music than during college years. This is also a great way to network and possibly find someone working as a campus representative with a major label. College Reps jobs primarily consist of street team work for established acts but they are also on the look out for people just like you!

Independent / Student Films

This is a great medium for you to get your music heard and add credits to your resume . Find a film school and speak with anyone interested in scoring or looking to place music within their project. Chances are they’ll be on a limited budget (after all they’re as indie as you are) but if you’re lucky you can squeeze a couple of dollars out of them. If nothing else they’ll be more than willing to create a “Step Deal“. In this case, you won’t receive payment initially but if the movie takes off and becomes a major hit (for example, gets entered into the Cannes Film Festival) you’ll recoup your money if the project hits certain milestones or whatever terms you agree upon. For example, if the movie is good enough to be entered at the festival, you can ask for a certain dollar amount. If it goes on to win, ask for a larger amount. If the movie is picked up by a major distributor, you can ask for a MAJOR amount. Step deals are great relationship builders. Who knows? You may come across the next Spielberg, Coppola, or Scorsese and build a great working relationship.

In-Stores

So what you don’t have a presence in major retail outlets? And so what you dont have a million dollar video directed by Hype Williams, featuring Hollywood heavyweights Samuel L. Jackson and Ron Howard? (see Jamie Foxx’s Blame It video here) You may still be able to talk your way into creating a mini-concert or “in-store performance” at your favorite store. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of artists hosting these events by simply asking to do so. If you’re lucky, you still may have a mom & pop record store somewhere in your area. Chances are these brick-and-mortar stores will be absolutely elated to have a new way to bring customers into their stores. Just ask. It can’t hurt. If you don’t happen to a record store in your area try out clothing outlets, cafe’s, etc. Of course you’re type of music has to fit their consumer demographic but once you find a good fit…you can set up shop, possibly on a routine basis.

The main idea in all of this is think outside the box when trying to market your music. Networking will get you everywhere! Anything “traditional” or “conventional” is not going to stand out and thus – slip into obscurity. Go out & hustle!

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ascap_bmiSo, which one is better for you? First, allow me to explain what they do and why you need them. Performance Rights Organizations were created in efforts of collecting performance rights on your behalf. After all, you’re a superstar. Your focus should remain on creating more hits! You don’t have time to track down all the mainstream & college radio stations, nightclubs, bars, hotel lobbies, doctor offices, major or independent released films, and waiting rooms, that play…ahem “publicly perform”, your music. The PRO keeps track of who is playing what and how often. The different mediums must pay PROs a performance fee in order to play your music. The collected fee is sent to your publisher. (After your publisher takes out their cut) the remainder is sent to you. This payment are called your performance royalties. If you don’t have a publisher – the check is sent directly to you.

It suffices to say, if you write a big enough hit and have enough clout to negotiate a large split with your publishing company (or even better, if you own the publishing company), you stand to make a living off of royalty checks alone! **This is why I made the first post about copyrighting your music. After all…you can’t collect on music you don’t properly own. And until you do, PROs will not entertain the thought of you or your music.

So, which is better for you? Speak to 5 different people, you’ll get 5 different opinions. It all comes down to which one works best for you personally. As with anything, you’ll have to do your research. Read the brief contracts and speak with any available PRO representatives to find out which will work in your best interest. Each organization asks that you sign to a 2 year exclusive agreement, so you can only be associated with one PRO at a time. In other words, it’s best that you choose wisely. For a quick overview video from ASCAP’s Vice President, click here. For a point-by-point comparison, see the chart here.

I’ve attached links to each PRO for you to review — ASCAP, BMI.

During my time at one P.R.O., I was surprised at how many ‘artists’ had no idea how to correctly register songs with the United States Copyright Office. You MUST become owners of your own material. After all you’ve put so much time & passion into the creation of the work – why not make sure you’re protected against people that may want to steal it? Now, it’s true once your songs are in tangible form, i.e. a cd, the material is technically copyright protected. But in the midst of litigation and dealing with the federal government , you don’t want to base your copyright infringement case on a technicality. **The mailbox rule is another falsehood. Mailing a copy of your song to yourself with a postmarked date upon the package means nothing.

The two copyright forms you’ll need to know immediately are PASR.

Form PA is used for published and unpublished performance arts. PA generally includes any work that is planned to be “performed” directly before an audience or indirectly via “means of devices or process”.  This includes motion pictures, audiovisual presentations,  musical works, etc. Here’s an example – if you’re a producer and you create a demo with lyrics and accompanying music but you’re only interested in claiming ownership to the underlying music, this is the form for you.

Form SR is used for published and unpublished sound recordings. It is used for registration of the particular sounds or a particular recorded performance. SR should be used if you wish to make a single registration for both sound recording and original work (music composition). You may make a single registration only if the copyright claimant is the same for both sound recording and musical composition. For example – as the producer you would like to seek ownership on both the underlying music and lyrics of only this particular recording, this is the form for you.

Processing takes approx. 1-2 months and costs $45, however, the copyright office has streamlined the process by creating an online form (Form CO). Its processed much faster and the fee is lowered to $35. Simply follow the instructions provided (here by musicbizadvice). If you prefer the basic way, it will cost you the regular $45 fee. Visit http://www.copyright.gov, find the necessary document, print, fill, sign, and mail to:

U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000