Imagine you’re a new, independent artist looking to test the waters of the business they call music. You have a soul-sucking day job, but hey, gotta pay the rent, right? Soon you’d love to quit and make music full time, but first you need to get some momentum going. You bedroom-produced a handful of songs and you’re ready to get streamed. Got $50 to drop on digital distribution for those five songs? “Ayyyyyy, I haven’t even bought a nice microphone yet!”
Do you really want to begin your career hundreds of dollars in the hole?
You can’t catch your dreams if you go broke trying. That’s why we’re dethroning The Old Way with Select Distribution, the smart, budget-friendly way to get your music on the biggest streaming platforms in the world. The Old Way requires you to spend at least $10 per song and $50 per album to get on “hundreds” of streaming sites, apps, and stores. That’s a fine offer for the more established artist with thousands of fans. That guy is confident he’ll make his money back in a few months. But the up-and-comer, well, she needs to be a bit more choosy with her money. Want to do some quick math?
In today’s music landscape, emerging artists are expected to do everything yourself, and that includes music PR. Long gone are the days where A&Rs discover you in smoky bars and dictate your entire persona and image. Not only are A&Rs and labels no longer a necessity, but they often expect you to already have a following, a brand and a style before you even get a reply to your email or a meeting on the books. This is because every single tool you need to “make it” is already available to you. A label or partnership is just icing on the cake (and/or a bank loan, really).
Over the past few years, the consumer model has gone through some major changes. In the good old days, you may have opened up your Christmas stocking and expected to find a bunch of physical products. Then as those products went digital, you probably started to receive a bunch of gift cards for online stores instead. This year, we’ve seen another consumer shift, and this time it’s towards subscriptions; from Netflix to Spotify to Pro Tools and even Microsoft Office, everything today seems runs on a subscription model. And while major record labels haven’t been able to crack the subscription code just yet, there are several tools independent artists can use to make the subscription model work for them. Here are three of the best options for musicians who want to earn income not just from one-off sales or gigs, but on a regular, predictable, and ongoing basis.
Here is something we can all agree on: historic forms of income like record sales for songwriters and artists are not what they used to be. There’s a new money maker in town: sync licensing. Songwriters can make some serious BANK from the placement of music in films, television programs, advertising campaigns, and video games. We sat down with Chase Misenheimer of Hitcher Music to learn about the latest developments and trends in sync licensing, the biggest misconception artists have when dealing with a licensing company, tips for approaching sync licensing, and more.
Hi Chase, thanks for joining our series. Can you tell us a little about yourself? How long have you been in music publishing?
Thanks for having me! I went to Belmont University in Nashville to study the music business. From there I moved to New York and worked at the ad agency mcgarrybowen as a music producer/supervisor. After about five years there, I switched sides to licensing over here at Hitcher. I also like to play drums in my spare time and pretend I’m good at it.
Ghost Ramp Records, who has released music from a diverse range of artists including Wavves, Best Coast, Weezer, and more, is scouting unsigned artists via an exclusive ReverbNation opportunity. We chatted with Patrick McDermott, co-founder of Ghost Ramp, to learn about what sets them apart from other indie labels, what they look for in artists, and more.
Ghost Ramp Records is the the brainchild of Wavves front man Nathan Williams and Patrick McDermott. How did you two meet and what inspired you to start a label together? How has it evolved since its inception?
Nathan and I met via mutual friends. Our friendship really stemmed from our mutual interest in video games (and possibly getting relatively drunk while playing them). But seriously – I think when you meet a fellow gamer as an adult it’s something that does really build a bond. It’s collaborative and just really snowballs in terms of other nerdy hobbies and interests.
Ghost Ramp releases music across several genres. What are some factors you look for when recruiting new artists?
We aren’t calculated with trying to check boxes with genres or really worried about confusing people with lots of genres. I think the modern listener has a diverse palette as ever. People listen to everything just like we do. We truly just put out what we like.
Why do you think its important for a record label to release video game OSTs? Is the release process different from ‘regular’ music releases?
I don’t think it’s necessarily important for other labels to worry about video game OSTs (please leave them to us :)) haha but yes I just really believe some of the best electronic music is coming out of video game scores. I’ve always been super drawn to OST music and I believe it’s time to close the gap between the traditional music world and the video game world which is often considered niche (but in fact has arguably a larger listener base).
So you’ve written a song. Now what? Well, by writing a song you’ve created a piece of intellectual property which you own. Copyright is there to protect the value of this property, allowing you to generate income from its usage. Music publishing is the business of protecting and administering the copyright in your song and maximizing its value. Generally, a music publishing company will take a share of the income from your song in return for the administrative and creative work they do for you. Working with a good publisher can save you time and money and plug you into a wider and more efficient network of opportunities to generate income in comparison with self-administering your songs as a performing rights organization (PRO) member only. We’ve asked Ross Adamson, Senior Catalogue Manager at CONNECT Songs' global publishing administration partner Sentric Music for 5 points you should consider when looking to work with a publisher:
Fair Deal Terms
Are the basic terms of the publishing agreement fair and in-line with what you need for the point you’re at in your music career? Is the publisher offering money (an advance) upfront? The prospect of cash now is always tempting but does the amount being offered seem fair in comparison with the length (the term) of the agreement? If no money is offered as part of the deal then the term should be extremely short – ideally less than 6 months and certainly no longer than a year under normal circumstances. (For example – the CONNECT Songs agreements offer no advance as standard and so the term is an extremely short and very fair 45 days).
What splits are being offered? Traditionally publishing splits were 50/50 but, again, this should be in line with any advance and the term. For big money investment from a publisher, you might be willing to have an initial 50/50 split on royalties with them but what about after they’ve recouped the advance? Does the rate increase in your favour? For a deal with no advance, alongside a short term you should also expect a fair royalty split – probably no less than 75/25 in your favour. (Again, using CONNECT Songs as an example – the performance and mechanical royalty split is 80/20 in favour of the songwriter).
Now that you know what a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) is and that they’re an integral part of the music industry and in getting public performances licensed, tracked and then royalties paid to songwriters, SESAC Creative Services Manager, Diana Akin Scarfo shares her top tips for how to get started with a PRO.