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Music Law 2
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Art Rules



music metadata and the standards are corrupted on purpose to steal from artists.

publishers and societies do not want to make their databases public domain, and let third parties develop the uber-database for song rights,

METADATA IS THE BIGGEST LITTLE PROBLEM PLAGUING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY It's a crisis that has left, by some estimations, billions on the table unpaid to musicians 5/29/2019
songwriters and producers to keep metadata records at the point of creation - accurately capture song data

It's estimated that as much as 25 percent of royalty payments aren't paid to publishers at all, or are paid to the wrong entity. “You may get your data correct in your database,” Molinder says, “but if you don't get the others' 100 percent correct too, and if they don't get yours, no one gets paid.”

Entering the correct information about a song sounds like it should be easy enough, but metadata problems have plagued the music industry for decades. Not only are there no standards for how music metadata is collected or displayed, there's no need to verify the accuracy of a song's metadata before it gets released, and there's no one place where music metadata is stored. Instead, fractions of that data is kept in hundreds of different places across the world. Each database has its own set of rules. The second big problem is that the information being entered in the first place is frequently wrong. In 2016, the average hit song had over four songwriters and six publishers. That creates a lot of opportunity for metadata to be submitted incorrectly. And if someone's credit is missing, spelled wrong, or doesn't match a streaming platform's style guide, that can muck up payments for everyone involved. All these little errors add up. It's estimated that as much as 25 percent of royalty payments aren't paid to publishers at all, or are paid to the wrong entity. It's possible to correct metadata errors afterward, but that's reliant on someone catching that error and then correcting it in every database where it appears. Even if it does get fixed, that doesn't mean an artist gets all the payments they're due — every company and collection society has different rules about how long they hold on to unclaimed royalties. The musician who was owed $40,000 missed out because a glitch between two databases removed many of his credits. It wasn't the musician's fault, but too much time had gone by before anyone noticed. The companies involved declined to pay him.
Today, a major hit could have hundreds of different versions, like remixes, covers, sample packs, YouTube lyric videos, recordings in other languages, and more, all of which can, in total, generate “trillions and trillions of transactions” that each bring in fractions of a cent. “The volume of data that now has to be managed has unfolded into a massive problem,” To see how truly complicated music data is, here's a horrifying flow chart from The Music Maze and an explainer from Sonicbids on how to track down song ownership, which ends with “consider paying for research.” Splits, a free mobile app, lets artists create a digital agreement that manages a song's collaborators and their percentages of ownership. There's also Creator Credits, a technology that works within music production software Pro Tools to embed song credits within the Pro Tools files themselves.

You may be interested in a short, crazy, and fascinating history of "The beginning of cloud music streaming technology" you never knew existed unless you were there - in Washington, around 1940 drinking in a bar . . . . :-)


In today's economy attention is everything. It's what we all vie for, especially on social media, it's fleeting, but it precedes monetization. In the old days distribution was king, if you couldn't buy it, it didn't exist. Now everything exists, how do you make people aware, how do you get them to sample? That's the question.

Scarcity is dead. If you lock it up behind a paywall you could end up broke, or hobbled. Think of how much money Prince would have made if his music was on YouTube, Spotify, et al. We want to hear the work of acts we already know and although we also want to hear new music we are overwhelmed by the amount of product, we don't know where to start. Which is why the big get bigger, they've already got a name. The long buildup is history, you announce and then you sell. The acts come and go, the companies remain.

The major label business model. Theft from the artist.

Used to be the sale was the transaction. Now, it's the listen. To agitate for the old paradigm is fruitless.
You must embrace the new.

"mechanical license"

American songwriters are paid per play through what's known as a "mechanical license".

Radio is a second-class enterprise because you can't hear what you want when you want, it's not on demand.

Songwriter says he made $5,679 from 178 million Pandora streams. The rate for radio and for choose your own songs on Spotify are completely different...
"All About That Bass" co-writer makes case for Songwriter Equity Act. Kevin Kadish, the co-writer of the hit 2014 Meghan Trainor song "All About That Bass," made close to $31.90 for every million streams. He did allege that the average streaming-service payout for a song's songwriting team is roughly $90 per million streams. A mechanical license is that streaming music services do not have to negotiate with songwriters over what that per-play fee should be. That rate, according to American copyright law, is chosen by the US Government. Songwriters do also receive payments based on "performance licenses," which can be negotiated, but if an agreement isn't made, songwriters are still at the mercy of federal rate courts.

Songwriter Equity Act

The Songwriter Equity Act, which would update two portions of current American copyright law so that a "fair rate standard" would be established for mechanical licenses.

The Music Modernization Act signed into law 2018



2015 #MUSICIANS Learn what % of fractional shares to each copyrighted musical composition is 'controlled by ASCAP.'


9/23/15 All the 'Happy Birthday' song copyright claims are invalid, federal judge rules. A 1922 copy of "The Everyday Song Book," containing lyrics to "Happy Birthday." In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, the judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the "Happy Birthday To You" song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright. Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song. Warner claimed it still owned the rights to the "Happy Birthday" lyrics, leaning on the 1935 copyright claim. Warner never asserted a copyright claim for the lyrics, even though they sued for the rights to the original melody. Ultimately, the judge ruled that no evidence existed that the Summy Co. -- the original company to assert a copyright claim -- ever legally obtained the rights to the "Happy Birthday To You" song from whomever wrote it.
Even those who wanted to sing the song publicly as part of a business, say a restaurant owner giving out free birthday cake to patrons, technically had to pay to use the song, prompting creative renditions at chain eateries trying to avoid paying royalties.
Warner/Chappell representative seated in the audience told the judge that the company collects as much as "six figures" for certain single uses of the song. The song brings in about $2 million a year in royalties for Warner, according to some estimates.
The story began in 1893, with a Kentucky schoolteacher and her older sister. Patty Smith Hill and Mildred J. Hill wrote the song for Patty's kindergarten students, titling it “Good Morning To All.” The original lyrics Patty wrote were: “Good morning to you / Good morning to you / Good morning, dear children / Good morning to all." Patty later said that she had worked with her sister to compose a simple melody to match the words that could be easily sung by young children. The sisters published the song in a book called “Song Stories for the Kindergarten,” and assigned the copyright to their publisher, Clayton F. Summy Co., in exchange for a cut of the sales.

"60-page PDF FROM 2003 of letters and emails among major labels and stations negotiating pay-for-play deals of the sort for which Sony agreed to pay a $10M settlement yesterday. Highlights: Epic lists exact payouts for 75 spins based on size of market. Quotes: 'I'm a whore this week, what can I say?' 'Get a power rotation commitment before we commit.' 'Don't want to position Duran Duran with an 80's club ... they are still just as relevant in 2004.' And of course the inevitable 'Sent from my Blackberry Wireless Handheld.'" It's awesome: this lists DJ after DJ who accepting paltry little tchotchkes in exchange for their integrity and mortal souls. They're not just whores, they're cheap whores.

Even the lowliest wannabe knows the major label business model is theft . . . from its own acts.

Taylor Swift On Apple Music
Let's get real, Bob
When record companies started, the split at MOST was 10% to the artist and 90% to the label.
It really hasn't changed that much in almost a century. Sure the Springsteens & Stones make out but certainly not the rest of us.
And if your debut album does great, they wait to see how your next album does and cross collateralize the costs of both against the alleged profit. If you're a staff producer, your salary replaces any royalties at all. Think about that.
George Martin was a staff producer for Brit label Parlophone when he produced most of the Fab Four product.
He was exempt from royalties!!!I could go on & on. I am in an unearned position at the label I recorded for to the tune of approximately a quarter of a mil and it keeps rising each statement.
I've had a song I cowrote log in at least 5 million airplays and after the publishing company takes 50% off the top and the three of us split the rest we get 16 2/3 % each. I have been dealing with this math for 56 years.
iTunes pays all the money to the record companies and THEY decide how much to send the artist. Paltry is a good word to describe what they decided to send.
It's the worst continuing crime I know of and no one has been able to correct it much since the dawn of recording. ~ Al Kooper

Current Spotify Royalty Calculation Model is broken because under the current streaming royalty system, payouts are heavily tilted towards artists that get massive numbers of plays. And once a pop artist crosses a certain threshold, it is a mathematical certainty that their royalties will actually exceed what their fans paid in subscription fees. Sadly this royalty bias toward popular artists comes at the expense of small independent artists. You could call this a case of the long tail wagging the dog.

Tidal is a FAILURE Already!
Its time to stop these poor multi-millionaires from losing out to Spotify and other stream services. In it you'll see how rich Jay Z and Madonna and the rest of the Tidalites truly are. Turns your stomach, makes you lose sympathy. That's the Tidal story. It's got nothing to do with streaming and everything to do with income inequality.

In 1914, the performing rights society ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) was founded by Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert and John Phillip Sousa, among others, in order to facilitate the collection of royalties.

  • Deals could be simpler.
  • Royalties could be computerized.
  • But then profits would vaporize.
  • Eric Church Show Reveals How Scalpers Really Work You're clueless as to how private equity truly works, how they really make money. And that's just how they like it. With you in the dark. Ignorant.

2013 Pandora's Fed Up With The Lies The RIAA Has Been Spreading About It: Presents Some Facts


record royalties are still a black art

Read 52 Ways to Screw an Artist, by Warner Bros. Records 2012
Sadly, this is a story that dates back to 1969, when a young James Taylor signed a deal with Warner Bros. Records. That was the beginning of a breakout career that included numerous hit songs and tens of millions of album sales. But it also marked the beginning of a duplicitous financial relationship, one that seemed designed to systematically cheat this artist over a period of several decades.
This week, Taylor and his attorneys decided to file suit against Warner Bros., in part to capture higher royalties from digital downloads. Taylor, like many other legacy artists, wants to treat downloads like licenses instead of sales, and receive drastically higher payouts in the process. But the paperwork is also airing lots of old, dirty laundry.
According to the allegations in the filing, these are the various ways in which Warner Bros. Records has screwed James Taylor. Keep in mind: this list of grievances only dates back to 2004...

A digital download is a License

Digital breakdown musicians get paid for their copyrights
The precedent handed down by a Federal Court decided the difference between a royalty payment for a CD sale and a digital download was that a digital download is a license and the artist is entitled to a 50% cut of the sale. Included in digital downloads are mastertones and ringtones. Calling digital downloads licenses instead of sales, force the music labels give the artists what is legally theirs.The ruling by a Federal Judge made the decision retroactive for older musicians. Musicians were receiving payments from digital download sales here . Judges have ruled, on more than one occasion, that a digital download is equal to a license, thus, entitling music artists to a higher royalty payout than a sale of music. A sale of music would be through CDs or other tangible forms.


The clarity of royalties is an enormous issue. The majors say they are constructing transparency for artists. UMPG was the first. They have a site you can visit and see your royalties. The scam is, the royalties have already been sieved through the UMPG royalty accounting system. You're not seeing what has been raped off the top.
Here's a little more I know. UMPG copyrights all of its material whether sub-published or administered in its name worldwide. Ask the biggest writer or Company at UMPG to get their society information from SACEM or GEMA, they will be refused. If you have material in their catalog and you want to get your statement from the performance and mechanical societies you can't. You are not the owner, UMPG is. NBC-Universal cannot get its royalty information from source. These people are disgusting.
I can give you so much info on publishing thievery you would spin.
_____ _______'s mantra is "always deduct $40,000 from a small writer or small publisher because that's what it costs to start a lawsuit."
At UMPG it can take up to 31 months to get your royalties from Germany. All foreign royalties go back to their U.K. office first, the fee is deducted and the royalties are held for the next pay period plus 60 or 90 days. Then they are sent to the U.S. where they are held another 60 or 90 days after the next payment period is due.

RIAA Accounting: How To Sell 1 Million Albums And Still Owe $500,000
from the who's-ripping-off-whom-again? dept
Last year, we had a post on RIAA accounting, detailing how labels screw over many musicians, even some of the best selling ones, such that they never actually make a dime in royalties. Bas points us to an excellent 14 minute video from lawyer Martin Frascogna, entitled How To Sell 1 Million Albums and Owe $500,000:
It definitely covers a lot of the same ground (in fact, his advance numbers and sales numbers match up exactly with the numbers we quoted last time from Courtney Love), but it also delves into some of the sneakier aspects of record label contracts with musicians -- things that many musicians simply won't know about or understand when they sign their contract. Using those points, he breaks down how a band might think it's getting royalties on $20 million worth of sales but then find out that, thanks to some of these fun tricks, the basis for calculating the royalty takes that number all the way down to $4.9 million (and then with a 10% royalty, the official take is $490,000 -- but if the advance is $1 million... the band still technically "owes" $500,000).
And, as we noted in the post last year, don't think that because a band goes "unrecouped" that the label loses money on them. The "recouping" only comes from the 10% royalty rates, which are really much, much lower (in this example, the "real" royalty rate is more like 2.5% due to the clauses in the contract). That leaves 97.5% of the money in play. Obviously, some of that is covering costs and expenses. But there's plenty of cash that makes its way into the label's bank account, when an album sells $20 million.
As for what kinds of tricks the labels use, well, Frascogna notes "breakage fees" of 20%, which are based on breakage rates for vinyl from half a century ago. That CDs don't break so much and that digital files don't break at all, doesn't matter. The labels still try to get a super high breakage rate that they get to deduct. For them, it's pure profit. Then there are "uncollected account" withholdings, on the basis that some retailers go bankrupt and don't pay for the stock they had. The way it's described here, that's often just a set number, rather than based on any actual, documented cases of uncollected fees.
Next up? "Free goods." Now, we talk about the importance of free goods all the time. But here it's used in a different manner. Basically the labels deduct the "cost" of providing reviewers/radio stations/etc. with "free" copies of your album. That money comes straight out of the gross that the royalty is calculated on. The fact that you could just email the mp3 to those folks yourself? Well, pay no attention to that newfangled technology.
Next up, there are "container charges." That's for things like the jewel cases and inserts for CDs. Again, the fact that digital music doesn't have such expenses is pretty much ignored. Also, the fact that all of these expenses get deducted from the artists' share? That also seems wrong. Even more insane? Apparently the standard "container charge" is an additional 30% off the revenue. Again, in many cases that's just pure profit for the labels.
Finally, there's the ever lovely and totally amorphous "reserves." As Frascogna notes: "no one really knows what reserves entail." It's basically a blank check for the record labels to claim they have to keep some of the money themselves for "other stuff," which is mostly undefined. In this case, some labels simply set a straight percentage, up to 20% more of the gross that artists never get to see as part of their own royalties.
Bring all that together, and the 10% royalty looks more like a 2.5% royalty, and that's not enough to even get halfway to recouping even if you sell 1 million albums at the high high price of $20/album. And that doesn't even touch on splitting up any money you get between band members and paying the manager/agent, etc. When you dig in to things like this, you can understand how artists like Lyle Lovett can say they've sold 4.6 million albums and never made a dime in royalties from album sales.
Now, many of these points can be negotiable if you're knowledgeable about them. But many artists sign such contracts without realizing what that fine print really means -- and that's just what a lot of the labels are counting on.

I recorded for XXXXXX Records from 1968-1972. Later I did a few separate albums for them.
My last statement from them, which was 125 pages of gobbledegook says that I now owe them $80k and that I 'earned' $10k last year which of course they deducted from their figures to come up with the $80k deficit.
In my entire career with them I have never gotten more than $1k or 2k TOTAL as an artist. At the time I was also signed there as a staff producer.
btw they don't pay staff producers ANY royalties because they get meager salaries (except for the various Rick Rubins) while they are working. Allegedly, George Martin, another staff producer got no royalties from Parlaphone for any of the records he produced while on staff including all the Beatle albums.
When I had hit records, my alleged royalties were cross-collateralized from the costs of the next few albums I made. When record companies put out greatest hits albums and other compilations of an artist's work, ALL COSTS are deducted from the artists royalties no matter how much those artists have earned in the past. Artwork, packaging, mastering, studio time, etc. I understand movie companies learned a lot from this.
If I sue them, they will tie it up with their legal department until I can't afford a lawyer anymore. ALL the labels operate this way all over the world and are seemingly exempt from the law or sound reason. Let's see what happens if your various readers start writing in their experiences anonymously.
If it wasn't for BMI and my songwriting royalties, I would be living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere. Now streaming threatens that income and I pontificate soon I will be shopping for that cardboard box.
I have been in the music business for over 50 years and only survived due to live gigs, production advances, and the cavalry known as BMI.
I once signed a girl singer to a production agreement that tied her up for 6 months while I shopped a deal in my behalf. In my paper I said that she would get 10% royalties and I would get 5%. She was incredulous. "Who gets the other 85%?" she asked dumbfounded. "The record company, of course" I replied. She tore up my contract in front of me.
She has to this day never made an album that I know of.
If one took a typical record deal to a lawyer studying for his bar exam on a reality show and asked if it were fair, the lawyer would laugh him out of the room.
Publishers own 50% of your royalties for 56 years from the day you sign each individual song contract. Starting 46 years later, if you don't inform them that you wish to retain the other 50% within ten years. They get to keep it for ANOTHER 56 years and then it becomes public domain and NOBODY gets any publishing money from those songs. This has already happened to Irving Berlin and the Gershwins. So hopefully my grandchildren will benefit from that money because I will surely be off this mortal coil and streaming will cut that money back in half again.
Record companies killed a great many people in the 27 club. A huge artist I know gets forty cartons of royalty statements each period that it takes his accountants, three years to decipher once they are shipped to the accountants offices. Wonder what's left after the accountants bills for three years work are paid ?
When people ask my advice, I tell them to study to be great plumbers or electricians. Those guys work all the time for themselves if they are talented for pretty exorbitant fees. I am insanely jealous.

Kim Cooke
Pheromone Recordings

This guy is probably in his 60's, and yes he probably signed a crap royalty deal, as they were back then, and who knows where the advance money went. And let's hope he's not serious about the living in a box riff. But he provides no details. What were those advances? And how many records were sold? And what was the royalty? Did he consider that maybe the record company IS faithfully paying per the terms of the deal that HE signed and he's simply not in the black?
What irritates me is the whine that royalties earned should not be deducted from amounts owing i.e. advances paid by the record company, that it's not ok to cross collateralize. In fact It's perfectly right to CC. Why should a record company pay out on a success while writing off a failure?
As for the girl artist, it's no surprise she never made a record. There is no "other 85% of the royalties." What there is is recording costs + mastering + packaging + manufacturing + marketing + mechanicals - all the elements required to bring a recording to market.
I run a label in Canada. I write my own deals so I know exactly what's in them. I personally look at every royalty statement that goes out and I take pride in their accuracy and transparency. I feel good when I send an artist a cheque because it means we're both winning. Depending on the leverage of the artist i.e. their ability to sell records, I can pay between $1.60 - $2.00 per album unit in royalties. Every other penny goes to the items above, and if, at the end of the day, I didn't fuck anything up, and the record sells, I can make $2.00 per unit sold to pay myself. That's where the "other 85%" goes.
Our guy in his 60's bitches that he gets reams of royalty paperwork. That means he's being accounted to! And if his output is still generating money 40 years later then chances are the material has been released in multiple countries on umpteen compilations and reissues and configurations. So maybe the royalty accounting IS complicated and DOES require reams of paperwork. And a "huge artist" gets "40 cartons"? Nice problem to have!
If you are not being accounted to per the terms of the deal that YOU signed then do something about it. And if you are being accounted to, again per the terms of the deal that YOU signed, and you are in the red and not receiving royalties then acknowledge that YOU HAVEN'T SOLD ENOUGH TO RECOUP YOUR ADVANCES!
Some labels and their managers are not angels. Some are unscrupulous. Deals used to be incredibly one-sided (they're far less so now). But I don't believe for a moment that I'm the only guy out there dealing fair and square with my artists.


They would have assigned the exclusive right to communicate with the PROs and collectives to UMPG, which explains the cold shoulder when going direct. That may or may not be a fair concept, but that's a different issue. There is a practical side to it, as the opposite could turn into a giant clusterfuck. The ultimate way designed into the system to check the work of your publisher is to audit them. Generally you can't audit the PROs, though, which is a whole other topic worthy of discussion.
They are the institutions most vulnerable to the transparency movement. Ironically, most are controlled in whole or in part by the creators themselves! A classic case of power corrupting. And BMI is owned by their customer (broadcasters), which is the most head scratching thing in the entire US industry. Their sole reason to exist was to bust the ASCAP union/monopoly so they could keep a lid on performance royalty rates. They've done a great job of it. US radio rates are among the worst in the world, and the streaming rate does not even rise to the level of a joke.
One driver of this is the ASCAP consent decree, which says that neither BMI nor ASCAP can refuse a license, and if the parties can't agree on a rate, they can take it to the ASCAP rate court. However ASCAP has never done well in that environment. End result is a dramatic inability to negotiate. Check out the Pandora IPO filing. They practically brag that investors needn't worry about royalty risks to publishers due to the consent decree. It also said 45% of revenue was being paid out as royalties (hurray - finally a business that is entirely dependent on exploiting music rights actually pays much of their revenue to their main suppliers), but 90% of the royalty payments were to Sound Exchange. In other words, the master is worth 10x the song copyright. It's a joke, and a massive failure of ASCAP to prepare for their future. One of the reasons EMI pulled digital rights from them, in my opinion.


All this talk about transparency from the labels is the biggest load of crap I've ever heard. I am a royalty auditor, so please keep my name confidential.
The records you are "permitted" to see during an audit are ridiculous. All of the majors refuse to provide any source royalty statements from digital service providers such as Apple, Rhapsody, etc. You are allowed to select a certain number of catalogue numbers, then they run a report for those catalogue numbers from their system, which has already processed the original source statements. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy. And that's only one thing.
Both Doug Morris and Rio Caraeff have been quoted in the press saying they receive "a lot more than" tens of millions of dollars per year from You Tube. Try getting a YouTube statement during an audit. Pretty much impossible.
An even bigger problem is the licensing of all these new services. The majors get tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in upfront advances and fees, and a fraction of that comes through as royalty earnings, which is what gets reported to artists. Not much different from the record clubs, when majors got huge advances and "trademark fees", and royalties were a fraction of the advances, with tens of millions of dollars in "unrecouped" balances forgiven by the clubs at the end of a deal's term, and new advances paid at the start of the next deal term.
The culture of the majors was always to pay bupkes to artists, but now that the business is in serious trouble, and the majors are even more desperate, it's worse than ever. Most record company deals with licensees are now structured so as little as possible gets classified as "royalties" to be shared with artists, but the majors receive all sorts of other "fees" and equity in some licensees, not to mention huge advances that are never recouped. Artists never see a nickel of these.
Until the culture of the majors is not about keeping as much for themselves as they can get away with, and artists are seen as valued 50/50 partners, all this talk about transparency is a load of hogwash.

Sepp Donahower

Long ago when i was managing rick danko from the band we did a tour of japan. at the time, the last waltz was the number one album in japan and the movie was also number one. we sold out six shows in six cities with ricks band. while there i sat down and calculated what rick was making personally as his royalty share off the last waltz album in japan. the retail price was around $ 100 US dollars in Japan. Rick had a 1/5 share of the artists royalty (most of the guest artists let the "the band" have all the artists royalty as a tribute) i remember, his royalty share calculated out to 25 cents out of an album that was selling for $ 100 retail and was a top seller. I showed this to rick and he was flabbergasted that he and the other band members were getting so screwed. The next day we visited warner brothers japan and sat down with the president......i showed him my 3rd grad arithmetic calculations of rick's royalty (it was very accurate).....he looked very embarrassed.....the whole losing face japanese thing....the next day we had a chauffer driven mercedes limo 24/7 courtesy Warner Brothers....but he still had the same royalty. none of the guys in the band ever got rich off those wonderful albums and all that work....except robbie, and he only because of the publishing royalties. record labels and publishing companies have been screwing artists since copyrights and recordings were invented....especially with foreign licensing and all the smoke and mirrors. rod stewart is a very rich artist partially because his very astute manager at the time, billy gaff, negotiated separate direct record distribution deals for virtually every territory/country/market in the world. in those days it was common for artists to sign a global contract with a record label, and then the label would sub-license the record to foreign markets taking 50% of the royalty as an "administrative fee" and god knows what other charges.


If you're a Sacem member you will get a certain amount of your income kept by your employer(sacem) for all the retirement health plan, retirements etc.. The legal amount is around 30 % in the French system.
It sounds like a good idea, however the vast majority of the writers registered with sacem do not make enough money to actually be part of the various insurances.
In short sacem decided that you do not make enough, we dont send the money you made to the various retirement and insurance funds, we keep it.
How's that for a highway robbery.
Last but not least Sacem is governed by the elected members of sacem . Those members are the most successful and recognized writers. They have passed new rules about the surplus of money.
They spread the money among the biggest earning writers!
Sounds like Lobbying for yourself and voting favorite new rules for your own scam. You can't do that in America!

Stefan Schoener

I'm German and member of the Deutsche GEMA. They stole almost all of my royalties in the last 20 years.
They changed the rules. If the composer performs the music himself (like I did in more than 2000 concerts*) other rules apply and he gets almost nothing.
I would get something if certain conditions were met, but it's almost impossible to do so, if you're unsigned and sell only self produced CDs etc.
There is a group of musicians trying to get heard by German politicians in order to change this system but GEMA's lobbyism is stronger. Politics don't care.
* I checked regularly that my concerts are registered to GEMA by the promoters. On the average I loose around 80 euros per concert.


I was signed to German label ___________ in late summer 2008. The CD they released was a compilation of selected songs from my current CD at the time and the previous. The head of this "label" _____ _______, submitted royalty statements to me (2) but in writing, via email, outright told me: "Regarding the royalties... Money is tight at the moment, so I cannot pay you before the end of the month." This was sent to me in July 2009. What an idiot and he actually put it in writing.
The end of the month came and went. I never saw one dime despite seeing the astronomical amount that was being charged on for my CD amongst other internet music sites. I received a total of two royalty statements despite my continuous asking til this day. The CD was only available in Europe. I was able to get a lawyer via the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in Philadelphia, where I live. For quite some time this guy continued to use my name and image on his website and "played dead" when my lawyer contacted him, never replying. Ultimately all we could do was to get him to stop using my image, name. God only knows how much money he's made via my music that I'll never see. The only thing to do was litigate and this lawyer was working pro bono on my behalf. There was no money for him to go to Europe and serve him with papers, start a litigation, etc.
I thought that he was doing this because in spite of my 20 plus years in this business, I'm still an unknown. He has some bigger "names" on his label. I have reached out to some of them and have come to find he's done the exact same thing to them, not paid them their royalties, always promising, never delivering, always with an excuse. Not to be believed. All of this despite having a written contract. Would love to have the money to litigate, although I'm sure I'd probably wind up with nothing. At this point its not about the royalty payment, its the principle. No one has the right to take what's not theirs, especially on the backs of our music, that we work so hard to create. Yeah, this sounds like sandbox mentality, which is exactly what it is. I know one day I will meet this guy, and there is no doubt I will get what I rightfully deserve, as will he.


Black Box and the other kickback schemes from the PRO's

There is some good information in the notes and some incorrect information from the personal statements, the anger is more than justified.
The movie business started in the U.S. The film studios owned the theatres and the publishing companies.
The studios determined it made no sense for them to pay performance royalties from films and music they owned and played to audiences to their writers if they weren't forced to.
In Europe, it was different.
The societies were paying all writers and publishers for public performances of music from films and sending checks to all writers and publishers including the U.S.
But the other countries got no reciprocity from the U.S.
The other countries have been and remained totally pissed off.
The black box, which is cloaked as somewhat of a mystery has a simple explanation.
It one of many manipulations devised to balance the fucking the foreigners were getting from the U.S.
Side note, the worldwide societies pay out 11 billion dollars annually.
Have you ever heard of "broadcast mechanicals"?
It only occurs in Europe and is another retaliatory move to balance the scale for no U.S. theatrical performances.

Lance Grode

I worked in the business for 40 years on both sides of the table (artist and label). Now retired, I teach a course in Legal Issues in the Music Business at USC Law School.
As I walk my students through a basic record deal, I come back to the the same theme: every time a record label or publisher promises to do something there is a "take-away: clause that negates the thing that is promised. For example, an artist signs a one album deal. You would think this means that the company has to allow you to record an album. Yes, but,he contract will specifically say that the record company is not obligated to record that album, instead they can terminate the deal, usually by paying little money. If the album is recorded and the artist has a "release" guarantee, the contract provides that the album does not have to be released. And so it goes. Some record companies have clauses that say that no matter how great your royalty underpayment , you can't terminate claiming this underpayment is a material breach!!
This raises the one question I would like someone to raise in court (and the one I always pose to my class): is a record contract illusory? The problem is that the only people who can afford to bring this suit are so successful, their contracts are not illusory. As for the rest, a record label can effectively tie an artist up for two years and do nothing.
As for royalties, and, remembering that I've been on both sides of the issue, I never understood why royalty provisions have to be 25 pages long---and, when companies got around to transparent royalties, they still figured out ways to screw artists. Because of cutbacks, It takes three years to do an audit and when you try to settle, record companies say "We don't pay interest" meaning that after they get you to accept less than they owed, they don't think they should pay for the use of your money all those years.
While I do believe that major labels have done good things for some artists, that consistently are dismissed by your column and reader's e-mails, the fact is that the horror stories are true most of the time.
None of this was necessary. It simply got institutionalized and, like Topsy, "just growed". When I think of all the mistakes that record companies made (a two volume tome minimum), I think of the condemned man who has to dig his own grave before they put a bullet in his head and he falls in. As an old man, with no axe to grind, that's what happened to the record business; the graves are dug and everyone is waiting for the fatal shot.
And screw the publishers as well. "Swiss-Twisting" the Beatles (and everyone else), pulling off hide the salami manoeuvres in every country in the world sometimes with the help of corrupt foreign societies that operate on a supra-governmental level, honoring themselves more than Roman emperors and modern day "cult of personality" despots and, oh by the way, laziest pricks that ever drew breath except having ample time to attend extravagant dinners, usually at the writer's expense
There's a ton of reasons why all empires eventually collapse. The music business brought this all on themselves.


I noticed around 18 months ago that there were NO digital earnings on ANY of my royalty statements from EMI/Capitol, granted the sales had dwindled and the (3) records I am speaking of were done between '89-'96 before downloads and streaming were the norm but they did have a considerable amount of sales during their heyday.
Other companies such as Warners and Sony had added digital earnings to my statements automatically.
I sent emails and called the EMI/Capitol royalty department consistently during that 18 month period. I was told that the company neglected to add digital earnings to my contracts.
I was finally informed in February of this year that the digital earnings had been added to my statement.
This past July I finally received a statement for ONE of these records that included digital earning, but only retroactive back to 2009.
There was a substantial payment amount but I am still asking "what about before 2009" and what about these other 2 LP's I have been inquiring about!
I no longer use an accounting firm and I'm sure that if I did that this exclusion of digital earnings would have NEVER been noticed!
I would like to mention that the royalty department NEVER returns my calls or emails and it's only when I get a representative live on the line that I accomplish anything!
Artists-producers beware! Check your statements carefully! DIY Baby!


When it comes to unabated thieves, lets not leave out Wolfgang's Vault.
They bought Bill Graham's belongings after he died. Included were many concert tapes that were originally intended to be played on the radio ONCE and discarded. That's what it said on the contracts we all signed 'way back then'. Wolfgang's Vault decided they could just put them out whether you liked it or not.
My favorite part was they sent you a really lopsided contract in their favor for each show, In the fine print it said that if this contract was signed by you, they had the right to apply it to ALL the other concerts they 'owned' by you. I quickly wrote them back and told them I would NEVER sign that contract. They said okay fine and then put my concert up for sale ANYWAY and just keep ALL the royalties for themselves. It is a concert I would never have approved for release to the public. If it was bootlegged off the radio back then, it probably wouldn't have bothered me.
Anyone that buys anything from them is supporting their abuse of the law and their colossal fxxking nerve.

John Boylan

There is no question that record companies and the greed of their corporate leaders deserve the majority of the blame for their terrible reputation and the severe downturn in their fortunes. And when someone really examines what happen with an unprejudiced eye, I'm certain they will trace the downfall of the business to the late 1960s when Wall Street began its inexorable march toward taking over the American music industry.
In the interest of balance, however, I feel compelled to provide a snapshot of the other side of the coin here. Not every record company story is tale of woe, filled with creative accounting and the exploitation of musicians and producers. Take my story for an example.
I joined the A&R staff of Epic records, then owned by the CBS Corporation, in the summer of 1976, and I worked for the company until it was sold to the Sony Corporation in the 1980s, when I took the offered parachute and went independent again. I rose to the position of Vice-President of A&R, West Coast, and every day I worked there was an adventure. I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
Mostly, it was the people: Gregg Geller, Becky Shargo (now Becky Winding), and Larry Hamby were the three I worked most closely with, but everyone at the company was great, and I remain friends with most of them. I had the privilege of interacting with some legendary record people - Bruce Lundvall, Ron Alexenburg, Steve Popovich and many others, way too numerous to mention. I also had the great fortune to produce some wonderful artists - Boston, Charlie Daniels, Michael Murphey, Angel City, and quite a few others. In addition, I participated in soundtrack projects such as "Urban Cowboy" and "Footloose."
And while I'm sure there was some financial bullshit going on, it wasn't happening to me. I was very well paid. Not only did I receive a very competitive salary, but I received full royalties on anything I produced, and I still get royalty checks to this day. My business manager, who scrupulously examines my statements, has never found a discrepancy. I also had a generous expense account and the freedom to follow my instincts and take a chance on unknown artists, some of which did not pan out very well. No matter - the company stayed with me. No doubt, the fact that I was lucky enough to have some hits was a factor in all this, but that would be true in any company environment. In addition to the work I did for CBS, the company was also generous enough to recognize that I had been a fairly active independent producer before I worked there, and they gave me permission to produce one artist outside Epic every year I was there. I used this permission to work with both Little River Band and Quarterflash. I still get my full royalties on those projects as well.
The parachute I got when I left was unbelievably great, and when I turned 65, I received a huge check for my full pension.
I have no idea whether my story is atypical or not, but it is true, and should be considered in the final judgement.

Name Withheld

ASCAP, with its motto that it is the protector of the writer, whereas bmi protects the broadcasters, is as guilty as anyone of defrauding writers.
Firstly, they developed and copywrote a system that allows them to track any song played digitally. Yet they still pay the writer on a "survey" of any given region of the country during a certain time period. When you ask them why not pay us per play, they say their units pay out too highly so they couldn't afford to do that. Huh? Why not just lower what each play is worth and pay everyone for exactly how often their songs are getting played.
Secondly, they are notorious for paying "matching funds" to writers, under the guise of "advances" to keep writers from bolting to BMI. Now we all know this is standard practice so why mention this? Because under their agreement with the justice department they are not allowed to give matching funds, as they are not allowed to compete as if they were a private business. So they give writers advances with a wink, saying don't worry, these are matching funds, we won't ask you for this money back.
But then, sometimes they give out too many advances and their accountants wave a flag and say we have to start recouping on writers or we'll get busted by the justice department. So they start collecting on the writers matching funds, often years after they've been given them. I'm sure those writers would have bolted to BMI if they knew that was coming down the track.
I know a number of writers who have co-written on a song, are all ASCAP members and yet they were paid different amounts on the song. I'm not referring to one of the writers being BMI and one ASCAP. Im referring to them all being ASCAP.
You can't audit them. There's no transparency.
I could go on and on. Although they do so much to help writers otherwise, their financial department is scamming the writers. They're as bad as anyone else.

2015 #MUSICIANS Learn what % of fractional shares to each copyrighted musical composition is 'controlled by ASCAP.'

Chris " Hot Rod" Long
Chris Long Mgmt
Los Angeles

I managed a band signed to Columbia Records that released its debut album in 2004. The album had a 2+ year cycle- and sold over 1.3 million copies-- a large majority of which were actual cds not downloads- and spawned the most played rock song of the year for 2005- which last time I checked was still the longest charting single in active and modern rock radio history ( 65 weeks and 42 weeks in the top 20 respectively). The album ended up having 3 #1 active rock and 3 top 10 alternative rock radio singles.
For 1.3 MILLION record sales - we received $14.500 ( I think the exact total was $14,345.00) in royalties. 1.3 million x $7.00 appx per disc to retail = $9,100,000 of income ( appx ) on the album- and we received less than $15,000.00.
We spent a LOT of money on a forensic accountant- $40,000 that we earned touring - but the label had a receipt for every single penny of the deductions the claimed they spent - even though most of them were unapproved by the band --- and were not the kind of deductions that could be disputed........... monies spent on so called indie promoters in out of the way unimportant markets..... promotions we had never heard of or approved and other questionable "marketing campaigns" the label swore they actually paid for but we never saw the benefits of totaled MILLIONS of dollars.
During the accounting process we were told by someone at the label there that they thought that we - by asking them to account for where our royalties went - were "nickle and dimeing" and "were creating ill will with those who did so much to build your career that is making you a ton of money on tour and from your PRO"
I responded that we EARNED that money- just like we earned a lot more than $15,000.00 in royalties - but was given the cold shoulder by all we dealt with on this matter - and quite frankly put on the labels shit list for our next release because we had the audacity to ask why we were being screwed so royally by the label.
The next release sold appx 15% of the first release and got barely a fraction of the attention the first release did from the promotions and marketing departments. To add further insult to injury the sales department only shipped 100 cds to the bands home town for the week of its release-one of the few markets we were receiving airplay in - even though their debut had sold THOUSANDS in that market.
Less than 6 months after its release we asked for- and received- our release from the label because it was pretty obvious they were not doing anything to promote the band and quite frankly it was humiliating to have people who were HUGE fans telling us they had no idea our record has been out for months because their radio station - stations that played songs on the first album THOUSANDS OF TIMES- had yet to mention the new release or play the new singles even though all three singles from the first album were still being played.
I will end by saying that THIS situation was one of the main reasons we no longer work together- as they thought it was me being inept instead of the system being corrupt that caused them to be so grossly underpaid.
Even though I gave some pretty big clues about who the band is out of respect to them as individuals I didn't want to mention their name - but I don't mind mentioning mine.

Kyle Johnson

Warner owns a Christian record label in Nashville, Word Entertainment, that is doing 360 right. They have an in-house booking agency as well as a merch company that services their artists. It's a great model that nobody else in town has been able to replicate.

Paul Steele

Kobalt has had a transparent system with an online account login since their inception. I've used both UMPG and Kobalt's online accounts. UMPG is a joke.

Nick Velo

If anyone thinks the Kobalt %'s are clear as day need to re-read their agreement. Maybe it's better than umpg but they are still taking more than people think.

Jonathan Sanders
All this royalty talk reminds me of when I worked for the IRS for three months right out of college ... I earned about $10K, then was let go due to being an "Intern" and not permanently hireable due to a state hiring freeze. This was in '09 ... they still refuse to send me a W2 so I can get my proper tax refund ;) That alone taught me to trust no one, and never expect a refund ... I now claim all my exemptions to take the money now.
What's clear is in a bureaucratic agency, you can't trust anyone else to make sure you get what's yours.