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Music Publishing News Roundup: May 22nd, 2015

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Downtown Music Publishing has acquired Eagle-i Music, a london based music publisher. In this deal, Downtown has acquired catalogs from Deep Purple, Jeff Healey, and Brian Jonestown Massacre. They have also acquired Eagle-i’s neighboring right and production library which they will be integrated into general operations of the business. Eagle-i’s co-founder, Roberto Neri has now been named managing director of Downtown UK.

Sony Music and Spotify has forced removal of their contract from a recent publication. The document was leaked earlier this week with major news outlets such as Billboard, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Times covering the story. The Verge, who also covered the story managed to leak the document and was quickly forced to remove the contract by attorneys of Sony Music citing “a copyright claim”.

The BMI vs. Pandora court battle resolved last week in BMI’s favor and the music publishing community feels it is a very positive step in the right direction. Although, a success, the publishing community wants to continue to fight for fair compensation for rights holders. Read more about certain views from the publishing community as well as details in regards to this ongoing issue.

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5 Things You Can Do Today to Grow Your Songwriting Career

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Submit your Songs into Songwriting Competitions:

Yes, there are scams out there, but don’t let that stop you. Many songwriting competitions can help your songs gain exposure to top music industry executives. They can also help you meet other writers which may lead to potential new collaboration opportunities. The International Songwriting Competition has a panel of judges ranging from Grammy-Winning artists and songwriters to CEOs of major record companies. We also recommend Song Of The Year, The U.S.A Songwriting Competition, and The Great American Song Contest.

Schedule a Co-Writing Session:

Working with others may sound daunting, but collaborating with other writers can sometimes be the best way to come up with fresh ideas you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Not only could your co-written songs end up better, but the more people you collaborate with, the more people will be actively playing and advocating for your songs. Don’t be scared to reach out to well established artists and songwriters about co-writing sessions – It never hurts to ask! Always remember that 1% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

Sign up for a Songwriting Seminar or Workshop:

The best musicians are always learning. Songwriting seminars and workshops are great places to learn new styles and techniques from established songwriters and artists. The prestigious Berklee College of Music offers a free online songwriting course once a year with professor Pat Pattison, who has previously taught artists like John Mayer and David Wilcox. The ASCAP EXPO is an annual 3 day conference with panels ranging from premier ASCAP writers to top music executives. BMI also offers several great Songwriting boot camp style workshops throughout the year.

Join a Writer’s Round or Open Mic Night:

Writer’s rounds are great places to network with other writers and try out your songs in front of a crowd. If you have stage fright, performing at these places can also give you invaluable experience playing in front of people. Artists like Michelle Branch and Ian Axel (of A Great Big World) started at New York Songwriters Circle, a monthly songwriter’s circle at The Bitter End in NYC. Open mic nights are everywhere and also great places to get exposure to new people.

Record a Cover Song and Upload it to YouTube:

Many of today’s most established songwriters and artists including Karmin and Justin Bieber, to name a few got discovered through their YouTube cover videos. This can be a great tool for attracting fans of a current song and directing them to your original music. Once your cover song is recorded, signing up with Loudr will allow you to sell and get paid for your cover song without worrying about any of the licensing business headaches.

Once your songs are out there in the world, they will quickly start generating revenue. At this stage in your career you want to collect any money that is available, small or large. Songtrust is a one stop shop for global royalty collection. Learn more here.

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Industry Q&A: Fer Isella

Fer Isella founded Limbo Music, a music production house specializing in contemporary music from Argentina from diverse musical genres, and Limbo Arts which provides sync and publishing for TV music spots in the US. Isella is also an award-winning composer.

How old were you when you began writing music? What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

I started playing piano at the age of 9. It was a very exiting time. I was experimenting a lot on finding well-known melodies, but gradually I started to look for a new “combination” of sounds and intervals, and then I discovered that I was a fairly good “melodist”, so started recording those on a cassette tape recorder.

I come from a family of musicians, my dad is a folk singer-songwriter, pretty well known in Latin America, so music was around my life all the time. On vinyl, from Beatles to Mozart, then becoming more and more influenced by musicians like Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Steve Reich, Egberto Gismonti, Astor Piazzolla – that kinda stuff.

You released Cosecha on August 1. How many albums have you released before this? In what way is this one different?

I’m really happy with Cosecha, my second album, because is a natural development of my previous album recorded in New York (Doña Furia Gaucha). It has roots on the folkloric side of Argentina, but It’s very electric, eclectic, experimental, “post-rockish” and jazz influenced in the sense of re-interpretation and improvisation by the band. We recorded all the tracks in one take live in the studio with no overdubs. It was a wonderful challenge.

Your music has great atmosphere. How important are atmosphere and mood to you, as a songwriter?

Actually, I try not to have control over this when I’m composing, it’s a more “natural” feel that happens when we actually perform the music in the rehearsal room. That sort of experimentation that surrounds what’s written in the piece of paper. That’s why is so important for me to collaborate with the right musicians, open minded and artists who deliver without me telling them every single note they oughta play.

You studied jazz composition at Berklee. How does jazz continue to inspire your music?

I won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to Boston to study Jazz at Berklee College of Music. I don’t play jazz piano well per se. So, what I have taken with me for life from that experience it’s just one word: “interaction”.

You are involved in lots of progressive, digital music initiatives—like digital marketing, and the use of QR codes. At what point did you become interested in this side of the music industry?

I’m actually a cultural entrepreneur and music producer besides being a musician. I’ve been producing records since 15 y/o (Sony Music), then developed my music career in the U.S., but just once I came back to my homeland, Buenos Aires, I started doing a lot of promotion and digital distribution stuff with my own independent records label, Limbo Music. Since I’m very passionate about developing things where there is an opportunity to create something that doesn’t even exists in the first place, I saw the opportunity to develop a digital marketing career in Latin America, getting involved with current news and trends that are happening in the US and EU, and trying to push the envelope to make Latina America a creative ground for independent artists that want to promote their music around the world using all the new tools.

From the label to the digital marketing, for me it was a natural progression to happen. QR codes are fascinating. The cover of my new album it’s just that, a simple QR code that able you to scan and go listen to the whole album online, watch videos, read, but also it’s an interactive point of reference where fans can also send multimedia inspired on the album, whether is pictures, remixes, videos, illustrations, text, whatever. For me, in this case, QR codes are the perfect balance and a bridge between the physical world (CD) and the virtual one (online).

Can you tell me about your role with UnConvention? What inspired you to work on it? How does a strong DIY ethos guide what you do?

Un-Convention is the response to a lot of music industry events and conferences that are just places where the major industry discuss “numbers” about the “future” of the industry, but where actual tools, experiences and/or solutions are not talked about in the benefit of the independent artists, labels, managers. Un-Convention is based in the UK, founded by Ruth Daniel, but it’s becoming a huge network of conferences around the globe.

The philosophy behind UnConvention is DIT (do it together!) instead of DIY. We recorded a full professional album in 72 hours in our last event in Argentina, having the opportunity to also giving music conferences, duplicating 500 CD in just one night, 300 t-shirts, 200 flyers, 6 album covers, digital distribution in partnership with SoundCloud, music videos, and so on.., all due and possible thanks to the collaboration between the workstations involved, and a truly passion for working on we love the most: music.

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Industry Q&A: Eric Beall

Eric Beall does it all: he is currently Vice President of A&R at Shapiro Bernstein, author of two books, and teacher/creator of Music Publishing 101 for Berklee Music Online.

How did you get your start in the music business?

I started as an arranger and guitar player when I first moved to New York, and that pretty quickly turned into a 15-year career as a songwriter and producer. I really entered the business on the creative side, and was fortunate enough to place a few songs early on.

What motivated your move into publishing from songwriting?

My entry into music publishing was really a case of an opportunity simply landing in my lap. Steve Lunt, who was an A&R person at Jive Records at the time (later moving on to Atlantic), had been an old songwriting partner of mine and he called me one day to suggest I might want to consider a job that had just opened up at Zomba on the publishing side. It was completely out of the blue—I was sitting at my desk working on a lyric. But I knew the company because I had been signed to Zomba back in the Eighties, and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to do something different. It just seemed like one of those rare chances to see the other side of the industry. As it turned out, those were remarkable years at the company—I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of it. Steve and Richard Blackstone took a big chance bringing me into something for which I had minimal experience. It was one of those crazy, lucky breaks.

What are some of the key ways emerging songwriters and artists can best manage their song copyrights?

This is a challenging time for songwriters to find music publishing deals—most of the time, songwriters have to get something going on their own, to show that their songs can generate income, before they can expect offers from a larger publisher. Many publishers are in transitional periods where they’re being bought or sold, and attention to administering and protecting their copyrights may be missing. I think many songwriters can benefit from either trying to operate their own publishing entity, or perhaps partnering with another larger company to administer their copyrights—which is to say that the administering publisher handles a lot of the registrations and collects the money from around the world.

I do think that Songtrust is one of the most innovative models along these lines, as it allows songwriters to continue to control and own their own material, but at the same time, gives them the support they need in order to administer their copyrights. It is not easy to register songs around the world and collect the money—especially these days. Realistically, I think most songwriters will need a partner in that area. Songtrust is a very good option in that respect.

Can you describe your current role as Vice President of A&R at Shapiro Bernstein? What’s a typical day like for you?

My primary responsibility is to acquire new songwriters and catalogs and to develop the songwriters already signed to Shapiro.  What I love about this particular job is that in a small company like ours, there are no restrictions on genre or territory. I don’t have to focus only on pop or rock or urban, and I can look for opportunities anywhere in the world.  So my day can vary wildly between different styles of music—I might be talking to one of our country writers, then discussing a sub-publishing deal with a publisher of dance music in Eastern Europe, then speaking to a musical theater composer in London. I usually try to do four or five meetings each week with writers or publishers who are in New York, and there are always deals to be structured, projects that we need to pitch songs to, and writing trips and collaborations to arrange.

You’ve worked at publishers of all sizes, from Zomba to Sony to now Shapiro Bernstein. Can you describe the differences between them? 

Zomba was what I would call a mid-size publishing company, the kind that doesn’t exist much anymore, as they’ve all been acquired and rolled into the majors. Zomba was also very special because it was closely linked to Jive Records, and a lot of the emphasis was on creating material for Jive’s pop artist roster, like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and NSYNC, who were all incredibly hot at the time. In that sense, it was very much modeled on the old Motown business structure.

At the time that I worked there, Sony ATV was the smallest of the major publishers, but like most major publishers there was a definite focus on trying to control market share— it was more about trying to sign whatever was hot on the charts at a particular moment than trying to interact with the Sony labels, or to “pitch” songs.

Shapiro Bernstein is really distinguished by its history, which is unlike almost any other place—it goes back to the very beginnings of music publishing and Tin Pan Alley in the 1900’s, and remains family-owned and independent to this day. The catalog is an amazing collection of classic American songs—as I’m originally a jazz musician, a lot of them are songs I grew up playing. At the same time, we’ve really revitalized the company, and with songs like “Put Your Records On”, “Too Little Too Late”, “I Gotta Feeling” and “Without You”, we’ve created a very relevant contemporary catalog.  But it’s still a small company, a family atmosphere, and definitely the most writer-friendly place I’ve ever worked.

You’ve coordinated and directed writers at Zomba Music Publishing who have produced material for the likes of Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. In your opinion, what did Justin Timberlake have that the rest of them just didn’t?

The thing that was always evident about Justin was the desire to learn—to master every facet of the creative process. Particularly in that pop era, many artists came to the studio, sang their parts, and left. Justin was the opposite— he would stay to be part of the production, the mix, the songwriting, everything. I remember one night when NSYNC was playing the Garden in New York—Justin went back to Battery Studios after the concert and stayed all night working on the new record. He has a tremendous work ethic and curiosity that you now see extended into his acting career and business ventures.

What inspired you to start teaching at Berklee? Who should sign up for the class, and what can they expect to learn?

Music Publishing 101, the class I designed for Berkleemusic, grew out of my book, Making Music Make Money, which was published by Hal Leonard and Berklee Press. After completing the book, Berklee asked me if I’d be interested in designing a course for the online school, and it seemed a logical extension of what I’d started doing with the book. One of the core principles of the class is that anyone in the music industry who is a songwriter, or who regularly comes into contact with songwriters and artists, from studio owners to record producers to managers, should have a music publishing component to their business.  The course really is designed to take students through the step-by-step process of creating their own music publishing company, and helping them understand the issues and challenges that they’ll face.

Why would a student want to start her own music publishing company today? 

What most songwriters don’t realize is that if they’ve written a song, they already are a music publisher. They automatically control their own publishing on that song as soon as it’s created. The question then becomes how to be an effective music publisher. As I always say, songwriting is not actually a business. There’s no financial element to songwriting—it’s just something you do. It’s the job of the music publisher to turn songs into something that can generate income. That’s why my book was called Making Music Make Money. For people who want to write songs for a living, it’s also a reason that songwriters need to learn to be effective music publishers.

What advice would you have for a young songwriter afraid that a business-oriented mindset could obscure a clear creative vision?

Songwriters need to learn to wear more than one “hat”. Of course you need a certain amount of isolation to create, but you also need some reality checks to look at your own music objectively and to figure out where the music fits in the market. In the end, that alternative perspective will actually help the creative vision, at least on a commercial level, by raising the quality of the writing and focusing it in a way that makes it easier for audiences to grasp. For myself, and I think for most professional songwriters or music publishers, it’s always a battle to balance the time demands of running a business with those of creating music— they’re both full-time jobs, and the more you do of one, the more work there is to do on the other. It’s never a completely comfortable fit, but the tension between the two is a big part of what pushes us to do our best work.

The book also places a heavy emphasis on the “exploitation process” of music. Can you explain this term?

Exploitation is one of those things that sounds bad—but in fact, it’s the essential component that makes all of music publishing and songwriting work. Without it, nothing happens. Exploitation just means getting your music into places where people can hear it, and where someone can pay you for it—whether it’s on television, on radio, in an advertisement or from “Billy Bass” the plastic singing fish. Most songwriters want their song exploited as much as possible.

Your other book, The Billboard Guide to Writing and Producing Songs That Sell, focuses on the formula for a hit single. All musicians need an income, but what do you think are the implications for music if too many artists are concerned with “music that sells” as opposed to artistic innovation? On the other hand, do you think music is devalued when musicians settle for increasingly small paychecks?

I think it’s important to remember that a song that sells, is a song that communicates. That’s why it’s selling a lot—because it’s touching a lot of people. At some point, a songwriter has to decide why they’re making music. Is it about personal expression? Or is it about communication? If it’s about personal expression, then the reaction of anyone else is pretty much irrelevant. But if it’s about communication, then you have to accept that “hit” songs are the benchmark—they’re communicating and connecting with millions of people around the world.

I do think the devaluation of music is a huge concern—perhaps the biggest one we have in the industry. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in my blog, the fact is that there is simply more music out there than anyone can use, and the price is falling drastically. While I understand why many musicians will do anything, including give away their music for free, in order to be heard, it’s a hugely damaging trend for the industry overall.  The problem is, once you’ve set the value for something at a very low price, it’s difficult to raise it, except in tiny, incremental steps. This is my concern with the current streaming rates, which are absurdly low. We’ve now established that price with the streaming services, and every negotiation we have from here on will be based on that number.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about the music industry since starting out?

I always try to avoid chasing the artist or writer that everyone else is hyping. I just haven’t seen many “buzz bands” or “next big things” that ever pay off. I’ve also learned that you need to be very careful of publishing contracts with Minimum Release Commitments—those can be very dangerous if you don’t understand what you’re signing. In general, it’s very important that songwriters not put themselves in a position of always relying on others—they need to understand the business of music and be able to take a pro-active role in their own career.

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Creating a Sustainable Career as a Songwriter w/ Tim Noyes

How exactly can you turn your hobby of writing music into a sustainable and profitable career?  Where do you even begin?  Are there specific steps that every successful songwriter must take?  What’s the formula?

Like many people out there, Tim Noyes didn’t really dive into music until he was about 18 years old.  It started as a creative hobby, but has since grown into a legitimate career for the singer/songwriter.  In just those few years since he picked up a guitar, Tim and his band Aunt Martha have released an EP and a full-length album, are preparing to record their second full-length, have toured the country, penned a publishing deal, were selected to play at Bonnaroo, and had their material placed in television shows — the sky seems to be the limit for him.

Trying to create a sustainable career as a songwriter is never easy and there is no master formula for success. But it can happen — Tim will tell you that.

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