Music Business 101: Messy Rights = Lost Deals, Lost Opportunities
If only it were about the music, and the music alone! But when it comes to licensing songs and striking deals, music supervisors, publishers, and managers keep telling us the same thing. That is, if artists have complicated rights situations, they can easily lose opportunities to the next band or songwriter. “I shy away from [slotting] any artist with complications,” one supervisor told Digital Music News this week. ”Sometimes these are long-term projects, but usually I have to find something by 6 pm that day.”
In other words, no matter how great your song, no matter how well it matches, the music supervisor may simply skip the headache. And, settle for something else that is more controlled – that is, unless theyabsolutely have to have your song. And unfortunately, that seems to be the exception, not the rule.
But this is part of a problem that gets exponentially worse. Because not only are some artists cursed with licenses that are owned by different companies – thereby requiring separate licensing processes – but it can sometimes be very difficult to determine who those license owners are. And, despite conversations about this over the years, this industry still lacks a one-stop, open database that maps all songs to their copyright owners and associated contact information.
Why do we lack this basic infrastructure? On this point, we’ve heard about several efforts to construct such a database – at least one of which is current. That includes a proposed joint initiative between the NMPA and DiMA, a collaboration that was shelved because of funding problems according to NMPA chief David Israelite. We’ve also heard – sadly- that some copyright owners are resistant to such efforts, simply because friction can help to drive up the value of a license deal.
All of which supports the notion of creating a consolidated, controlled bundle of rights from the start. Nettwerk head Terry McBride has referred to a ‘collapsed copyright‘ in the past, with the idea that all rights can be approved with one signature. ”If you’re just starting and you’re a baby band, control all of your rights,” one manager relayed. ”That’s the advice I’d given any artist starting out.”
Or, at least keep them in one place. On this point, 360-deals actually look advantageous, simply because rights are exploited from a central location – even if the artist doesn’t retain complete ownership. -Digital Music News