Positioned For Millions
A few years ago a local Artist walked into my office to discuss providing legal representation for his music career. This Artist was a writer and performer, so quickly the conversation turned to the issue of copyrights and publishing. The Artist emphatically told me “Angela, I do not give up any publishing rights.” Of course we all know that the real money is made with copyright ownership and publishing rights. This is not the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s where music writers are getting totally ripped off. They know the business.
Now, I thought to myself, “Here is an Artist that understands his business.” I was going to enjoy working with him. I mean he was regionally known, in heavy rotation locally, was being played on internet radio, and had written for and performed with other artists on major labels. Therefore, I could understand him not wanting to give up his publishing rights. Not at this stage of the game.
So, I told the Artist that I would enjoy working with him. All I needed was a copy of his Copyright Registration Forms, BMI Registration Forms, among other things to compile his file. I must have been talking in tongues, because he looked at me as though he did not understand a word I was saying. I asked him had he filed his songs with the US Copyright Office. His eyes darted to the left then back before admitting that because his money was tight he did not have the required filing fees. I told him, “That’s okay; we can prepare that paperwork and you start saving the money to file the copyright forms.”
Then I asked him had be registered himself as a writer and publisher with BMI. A huge smile crossed his face as he said, “Yes I have. Here is my membership card.” I thought to myself, “All is not lost, we have somewhere to start”. So I asked him to give me the information that shows where he registered his songs with BMI. The smile that was once on his face, quickly vanished as reality sunk in, “I did not know that once I signed up with BMI, then I had to register each individual song”, he said. That was when reality finally hit me. I had my work cut out for me.
The Artist was getting airplay, but because his music was not registered, he was not in position to be PAID. Now this Artist was not on a major label, so the most he could have lost was maybe Hundreds of dollars, but that’s not the point. The point is that he was not in Position for Millions. At any time one of those songs could have gotten picked up by a major label, major artist or better yet, he could have become a runaway hit on his independent label. You have to plan for where you want to go. If you publish your material then you should plan as though any one of those songs can turn into the million dollar payday. Your plan should start by registering your music, being set up with BMI, ASCAP or SESAC, register performers with Sound Exchange, forming Partnerships, Corporations or Limited Liability Companies. If your plan does not reflect this list, then you are not Positioned For Millions!
Written by: Angela Green, Attorney at Law
Laquita Stokes, Attorney at Law
Angela Green & Associates, P.C.