The Business of Music Publishing
I spent a good amount of time this week working through a publishing deal with a friend of mine. Like any good deal, it should offer risks & rewards to both parties. My friend has a company and wants to sell my music. (Sweet!) My friend can’t pay me an advance 😦 but is willing to split revenue 50/50 (Sweet!). He wants to own the content. (insert jeopary “wrong answer” buzzer here).
Lets walk through this together: My friend’s goal is to have a competitive advantage by having great music, but he primarily wants to generate passive income for his company. My primary goal is income & exposure, because I’m at the beginning of my career. Please then, explain why he would need to own the exhaustive, exclusive rights to my music for the Universe. I walked him through a few things: 1- writing for a “work for hire” generally involves great enough pay that the creator is okay with giving up claims to ownership, (or it’s music you can’t really do anything with, and can’t take the time to promote for yourself). More or less, work-for-hire is contract pay for your time. “Music by the pound” as my prof. used to say. The amount of music he was asking for amounted to several hundred hours of my time.
So I want compensation and the rights, and he wants a competitive advantage…. so now what?
I gave offered him a limited term exlusive distribution license. His company has my music in their catalog for 2 years, and the exclusive right to the content in their industry. (and you could even throw in a “right of first refusal,” for extensions/competitors, but we didn’t do that)
Dear business owners: you don’t have to OWN the content in order to have a competitive advantage and the exclusivity you seek. And if you aren’t going to be forking over a generous advance, you have no business requesting the rights (just in case you place it in a movie in 2150).
So I keep the tunes I’ll write to exploit however I want (online licensing? yes please); and he gets to launch his new initiave with music from me. Everybody leaves happy.
P.S. short term agreements (2 years) are also great because he doesn’t need to be bothered with content that’s not selling. If it’s not getting any traction with his clientele, it’s in Both our interests to not be in his catalog. I can put it somewhere else, or on my own website, and he’s spared having a catalog littered with duds.