Ultra-successful singer and performer Rihanna, born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, has filed a federal complaint against her father Ronald Fenty and others. The Entertainment Law case is grounded in intellectual property, with claims that include invasion of privacy, false designation of origin and false advertising.
HEITNER LEGAL is very excited for its client A&G, who have had a preview of their forthcoming song “Run With Me” released as a teaser by Ultra Records. The track was produced by Northmark and includes vocals from Gabrielle Ross. HEITNER LEGAL successfully negotiated the contracts between A&G and the producer as well as A&G and the vocalist, songwriter.
The full “Run With Me” track is scheduled to be released on Beatport on October 24 with anticipated play on radio stations starting on that date. On November 11, the song should be released on iTUNES and all other platforms.
Music publishing companies are extremely valuable to the future of recording artists and groups in the music industry. Most artists are typically concerned about securing their first major recording deal with a top label; as a result, they fail to see the importance behind obtaining or forming a publishing company. There are many record labels that have expanded their services to be a full, one-stop shop for their beneficiaries. Nonetheless, for the most part, publishing companies and record labels fulfill different tasks for the artist.
Record labels are mostly focused on the recording, production, distribution, and marketing of an artist’s songs. Publishing companies, on the other hand, are more duly equipped to collect royalties for when the artist’s songs are performed, recorded, or otherwise played for another person’s or entity’s own commercial gain. By entering into a publishing agreement, the artist effectively grants the publishing company one of the following rights: (1) copyright to the songs; (2) partial copyright to the songs; or (3) a percentage of the revenue earned from the use of the artist’s songs. In exchange for one or more of the aforementioned rights, the music publishing company becomes obligated to seek opportunities on the artist’s behalf for licensing the right to use the songs and collect fees based upon the usage. The music publishing company’s share of royalties is usually 50%. When the contractual agreement comes to an end, all rights automatically revert back to the artist.
Music publishers advertise their artists’ songs to record labels, movie and television producers, and any others who may be in the market for a certain sound. The type of licenses dispensed by music publishers are the following: (1) Reproduction (Mechanical) licenses – for music distributed or recorded in physical and/or digital form by another artist; (2) Public Performance licenses – for music broadcast on radio, live venues and/or other public places; (3) Synchronization licenses – for music used in film, television, commercials, etc.; and (4) Folio licenses – for music published in written form as lyrics or sheet music.
As previously mentioned, publishing companies do not participate in the recording or production of the artist’s songs; artists who seek representation from a publishing company are either self-financed, self-recorded, or have received some form of financial backing from a record label. However, independent artists without funding should not be wary of pursuing assistance from a publishing company. Music publishers have the utmost interest in finding multiple, various avenues for the artist’s songs to be heard due to the fact that means more royalties for the artist and more commissions/fees for the company. Publishing companies are extremely beneficial to the artists’ brand and their ability to fully capitalize on their outreach potential.
Modern music offers a wide variety of innovations, genres, styles, and sounds that are more available to the public then ever before. Not only has the Internet made this wide world a smaller place, but technology has made it both easier and more affordable for bands and artists to record their music at home. In one classic Weezer song, Rivers Cuomo sings:
“In the garage, I feel safe.
No one cares about my ways.
In the garage where I belong.
No one hears me sing this song.
In the garage.”
Artists primarily have three options today. First, an artist may never leave the safety of his garage and his music would never reach the general public. More likely than not, artists want to have their music heard. To do this, an artist can either take a “do it yourself” approach, or sign a 360 Deal (assuming someone is interested in signing that artist). 360 Deals are the norm for record labels today. In fact, both majors and indie labels use them, and even non-label organizations such as Live Nation have signed artists to 360 Deals.
360 Deals are contracts where the record label gets a cut from all of the artists profits: record rights, touring, merchandising, sponsorship, endorsements, fan clubs, music publishing, and the list goes on. Many artists feel like 360 Deals are like signing their lives away and would rather take the “do it yourself” approach. However, there are multiple advantages to the 360 Deal as long as an artist signs the right contract. Namely, the artist will have an experienced organization label perform all the functions an artist needs to go big.
While 360 Deals are the norm today, this was not necessarily the case just a decade ago. Where did these Deals come from and why are they so common now? A good place to start is Motown. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, was at the forefront of the 360 Deal. Motown managed the music, touring, and just about everything else for its artists. Other forms of 360 Deals that took place in the 60’s and 70’s include the made-for-TV groups such as the Monkeys and the Partridge Family. A record label or TV network creates the band, then the label writes the songs, manages and controls all the touring for the band they created. This style of a 360 Deal is present today with groups such as the late 90’s Backstreet Boys, and the winners of reality shows such as American Idol.
Though hard to believe, music was not always instantly available on a computer. Until recently, consumers were not able to buy just the single they wanted, or have access to any song legally for free. In that distant age (pre-2001), labels did not use 360 Deals all that often. An artist would sign a record contract and the label would receive a cut of the record sales. The artist would then be free to have whomever he wanted to manage touring, merchandising, or even song writing. This all changed once music went digital. Labels began losing money due to a drop in album sales, and to make up for these costs, labels found a way to take a cut of all profits with 360 Deals.
Not all 360 Deals are the same. While some artists have signed their lives away, other artists, such as Paramore, have become amazingly successful with a 360 Deal. They have had several singles, play a busy tour schedule at large venues, and have merchandise sold in retailers across the country. While 360 Deals are sometimes viewed negatively, this is not the music industry of old. An artist is more capable of managing the “do it yourself” approach to making it in the business, and records deals are not as necessary as they were for artist ten to fifteen years ago. This gives today’s artists leverage to wait and strike the right 360 Deal for them. Both major and indie labels are now more capable of managing each facet of the music business, and with touring companies like Live Nation participating, artists can receive a large boost from today’s 360 Deals.
I was reading Billboard magazine when I came across an interesting blurb in a discussion about the American rock duo, The Black Keys. The blurb states that The Black Keys have refused to allow Spotify to stream their new music (from the album El Camino). It was simply a business decision for the duo. They explain that it would take an unprecedented number of full steams on Spotify to even equal the amount they would receive on one digital download. Billboard did the tough work and figured out exactly how many full streams would actually be necessary to equal that 99-cent digital download. Billboard found that it takes 64 full streams for an artist to make as much $ on Spotify as they would w/a single 99-cent download on iTunes.
The Black Keys are not the only artists to shun Spotify. Major names including Adele and Coldplay have limited what can be heard on Spotify in the past.
While Spotify provides an excellent platform for artists to easily publicize their works, it leaves much to be desired in the realm of compensation. Artists must recognize that they will not be able to earn a living off of Spotify streams, and then work with their management teams to determine whether the benefits of having new releases on the service outweighs the negative of basically giving away their music for free.
Further, artists would do themselves good to hire competent counsel in the negotiation of 360 agreements, which includes language for the distribution of revenue between the artists and labels. A good attorney will be able to negotiate the highest percentage possible for the artists in important categories such as concert revenue and merchandise sales, which are the categories that tend to provide the most money to artists in today’s day and age.
Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor are two of Hollywood’s top talent agencies. They are currently being sued in federal court in the Southern District of New York by a man named Justin Samuels, who is arguing that he was denied work by the two companies based on their racially and sexually discriminatory practices. But was he discriminated based on his race/sex or was it due to the quality of his work? There is nothing illegal about the latter.
Samuels has been quoted as saying the following:
“[Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor’s] extremely restrictive recruiting policies for screenwriters locks out non-white and women screenwriters. I tried to break in for nine years. I’ve sent out hundreds, if not thousands of query letters.
Major production companies always respond by saying that you need an agent to submit to them. Major agencies — such as CAA and WME — say that they don’t accept unsolicited communications, and that the only way they would consider you is if a major player in the industry referred you.”
The film industry is entirely closed. To get read by a major producer or studio, your work must be sent by an agency. The agents only read work recommended by players. This disproportionately locks out non-whites.”
One confusing aspect of Samuels’ claim is the inclusion of sexually discriminatory practices. Meanwhile, Samuels is a male and actually benefited by any such practice (if in fact proved to be true). Thus, I am not sure how he has standing to bring that particular claim. As for the racial discrimination claim – I am not buying it, and I doubt a judge will, either. This seems more like the common story of someone doing his best to “make it” in a cutthroat field and just not having the connections and/or quality of work that is demanded to break in. Samuels will likely have to join the club along with others who have been spurned by mega agencies in the past. One this is certain – Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor cannot just bring on every screenwriter who thinks he is G-d’s gift to Hollywood. They would lose their clout and lose their businesses.
Samuels is proud of his educational background, which includes a Bachelors of Arts from Cornell University. Again, there are plenty of well educated screenwriters who just did not make the cut with a big agency in Hollywood. To blame it on race/sex discrimination without any hard proof of same will not work in court.
For over 20 years, South Florida has hosted an annual week-long event called the Winter Music Conference (WMC). People from around the world come to the event, which includes over 500 sub-events under WMC’s umbrella of festivities. One of the more popular sub-events is the Ultra Music Festival (Ultra). For the first year, in 2011, Ultra will be a 3-year festival. From 2007-2010 it encompassed 2 days of shows. Ultra is an outdoor music festival comprised of the most popular electronic DJs in the world. Last year, Ultra had over 100,000 attendees.
Ultra has grown so large that it plans on throwing its 2011 event outside of WMC week. WMC extremely displeased with this decision. Should WMC decide to take legal action, the conference might have a leg to stand on. Read more “Winter Music Conference In A Fight With Ultra Music Festival”