I get asked a lot “I’m with BMI/ASCAP, aren’t they my publisher?” The simple answer to this is no. As Artist/songwriters, you need to know and have a basic understanding of copyrights, PRO’s (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), and publishing companies…..That is if you ever want to get paid for your work!
Let me explain. You write your hit song. You’re ready to press up some CD’s and get down to the local radio station so the world can hear your voice. Your time is NOW!!!!!! But WAIT!!!!!!!! There are a few things you need to do first….like protect your work. Under copyright laws, the second you write down your lyrics or record your song so others can hear it, you are protected under copyrights. End of story. BUT…..how do you prove that you did it first? That’s where the Library of Congress comes in. They keep track of who wrote what song, and when. However, in order for them to do this, they need to know when you have a new song. This is when you fill out the copyright form PA and/or SR. Once this is done, you are safe to play your music for the world.
BUT, HOLD ON…..You didn’t shell out all that money for studio time, CD’s, Artwork, and that $35 copyright fee for nothing did you? You do want to get paid, don’t you? Well then, we have another step. This is the time to sign up with a PRO.
PRO’s or Performing Rights Organizations are the ones that make sure you get paid when the radio (or television, or internet, or clubs, or restaurants, etc….) plays your music. To put this simply, (I’ll be going more into details next week) you have two choices. Either you can go to every radio station in the country, negotiate a price for them to pay every time they play your song, then go back and check when they play it, then go back again to collect your money, OR sign up with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, as well as SoundExchange, and let them do ALL of that for you. And once they collect your money, they will send you check. Very simple.
Now you have a protected song getting played, you’re getting paid for those plays, and you have more songs ready to go. You’ve made so much noise with your hit song, Publishing companies are knocking you’re door down. “What do they want?” you ask… Well, they think your songs sound great, and they think they can get Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, and Coldplay to put them on their albums. All you have to do is sign over your copyrights that you filed, and they will write you a nice check. On top of that, every time these artists sell an album or get played at a club, on tv, or on the radio, or have the ringtones of your songs downloaded, you will still get a check…..It’s a pretty sweet deal….as long as you understand the basics of copyrights, PRO’s, and Publishing.
I WILL be doing more blog posts and video tutorials on these topics and many more in the near future. Until then, if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a note or comment.
Nathan Talbot is an entertainment consultant with over 15 years of industry experience. From DJ’ing, producing and engineering for local and national artists, to producing national television shows, to marketing and brand building for new and exsisting entertainers, Mr. Talbot has gained the knowledge and expertise to help anyone interested in the entertainment industry get their foot in the door, and provides a wealth of FREE resources at his website www.knowthebiz.com. You can download his free quick read book “The Absolutely FREE Guide To Everything You Need To Know About The Music Business: In 30 Minutes Or Less“ here.