KD Chosen as Music & Law Columnist for SOCAN

Received some great news this morning. I’ve been writing articles on the music industry for years, sharing them here and getting them published every now and then in magazines like Canadian Musician and DRUM! Magazine in the US. Today’s breakthrough is particularly special, as I’ve been a songwriter for most of my life. SOCAN has chosen me to be their “Music and Law” columnist for their website!! I’m incredibly honoured and appreciative. My first article went live last week. Here’s to many more.

Interview with Music Box Artist Consulting

A big thank you to Bonnie McGrew and the great people at Vancouver’s Music Box Artist Consulting for choosing me for their Entertainment Law feature this week.

Click here for the full interview, and check out the entire Music Box site for more.

KD peace

Should Musicians Buy Facebook Likes?

buy likes

Did you know: a lot of bands and musicians in the world buy likes on Facebook? And they do the same on their Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud? And they might do the same to boost their YouTube views? This comes as a shock to most people, or it’s something they hadn’t thought about. And for bands working away for real Likes, it comes as a slap in the face. Go search your top 5 favorite bands on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, and see if the number of Likes or Followers for each makes sense. You may be surprised.

Why Would a Musician Buy Likes?

For starters, “like” it or not, a band’s social media numbers are a huge gauge of success. Fans, record labels, promoters and headlining bands will judge your band based on these numbers, in one way or another. It was the first thing our publicist asked us when she joined our team. It is one of the first things a promoter will look at before booking your band. And for new fans, it is a strong indicator of what level your band is at, and whether your band is worthy of their ‘fandom’. Growing your Likes ‘organically’ isn’t easy, as there is an unlimited number of bands competing for everyone’s precious (and limited) attention. The solution for some bands: buy Likes, and watch your career take off. As we’ll see here, the reality isn’t so easy.

buy likes

How Do You Buy Likes? 

The ability to buy popularity is not new (rich kids have been doing it for generations!). Cheating the system in social media has existed since the Myspace days, when you could buy followers and boost your song plays.

To boost your Facebook/Instragram/Twitter presence, simply Google “buying Facebook Likes” or “buying Twitter followers”. You’ll find hundreds of sites boasting a “safe” and “easy” increase in followers by providing “quality” packages. One site offers 250 Twitter followers for $5 or 25,000 followers for $150. A site called InstagramEngine sells 1,000 followers for $12. Another site called AuthenticHits sells 1,000 SoundCloud plays for $9. Yet another site offers Facebook Like “packages” ranging from just $6 for 2500 to $32 for 50,000.

As you can imagine, it’s big business. Italian security researchers and bloggers Andrea Stroppa and Carla De Micheli estimated in 2013 that sales of fake Twitter followers have the potential to bring in $40 million to $360 million to date, and that fake Facebook activities bring in $200 million a year.

Believe it or not, this method of buying Likes and followers used to work. However, I’m here to tell you all: it doesn’t work anymore.

buy likes

Why Buying Likes Doesn’t Work Anymore

In 2017, buying Likes is likely to do more harm than good. The reason? Facebook has caught on. Since Facebook Timeline was introduced in 2011, everyone’s news feeds have become much smaller. For groups with a Facebook Page, the percentage of fans that see your posts have decreased dramatically, from 100% to 40% on average. This is because the algorithm known as Facebook EdgeRank filters people’s news feed to only include what is important to them, based on three different factors.

So, if only 40% of your Page’s fans see your posts, and you have purchased Likes, you are in real trouble. This is because most of the bought Likes come from fake accounts, often created in China or India. Dhaka, Bangladesh, a city of 7 million in South Asia, is an international hub for so-called “click farms”. The CEO of Dhaka-based social media promotion firm Unique IT World said he has paid workers to manually click on clients’ social media pages, making it harder for Facebook, Twitter, and others to catch them. “Those accounts are not fake, they were genuine”, Shaiful Islam said.

Genuine people, yes. But not genuine fans.

buy likes

What Happens When You Buy Likes

The impact of fake Likes is that the number of “real” fans seeing your posts will be a fraction of the 40% connection rate. In addition, your connection rate will likely start to decrease, as one of the 3 factors used in EdgeRank is “affinity”, which is the number of people that engage with your posts. In other words, because most of your “fake” Likes are not real fans and therefore aren’t going to engage with your posts, your affinity goes down. When affinity goes down, so does your chance of showing up in real fan’s news feeds. What you’re left with are posts that are being “seen” by fake accounts, and not getting through to the real accounts that you’d like them to. Bummer!

That’s one way to tell if a band has bought Likes: if the Likes don’t match up with the number of comments/likes/posts on things they post. If they have 10,000 Page Likes, and only get a few dozen likes/comments on each thing they post, something is askew.

buy likes

What About Sites Claiming to Give ‘Real’ Likes?

Some sites claim to offer “real” likes for purchase. From my research, they are anything but real, and the “people” that form part of the bought Likes will definitely not engage with your posts. Ever.

What If You’ve Already Bought Likes?

The fake Like business has generated another business: auditors. You can now find a slew of companies dedicated to helping bands/businesses who have bought fake Likes, realized it’s a stupid idea, and are now looking for ways to get rid of them.

However, you cannot make the fake people un-Like your page. You can either delete your account and start over (not the best idea if you have a decent amount of real fans), or continue trying to get real Likes, which will increase your EdgeRank and eventually increase your connection rate and “affinity”, albeit slowly.

Conclusion

The music industry can be ruthless. Any advantage, even a phony one, could result in an opportunity that you might not otherwise get. However, at some point, if you cheat, it could all fall apart on you. This is the lesson to be had: there aren’t any true shortcuts to making it. The illusion of a massive online following is often just that: an illusion.

Don’t buy Likes. Write amazing songs. Blow people’s minds in concert. Work harder than every other musician you know. Do that for five, ten, fifteen years and you might get your shot. Along the way, write me an email or two and tell me about it.

In case you’re wondering, my band has never bought a single Like, follower, or YouTube view. They’re all real, and they’re spectacular.

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The 3 Types of Music Publishing Agreements (and why they’re important)

Music Publishing

If you write your own songs, either with a band or on your own, or co-write with others, developing an understanding of music publishing is probably the most important thing you can do for your career.

That being said, music publishing is the most confusing aspect of the music business. The number of blank stares that return my gaze after I explain music publishing to a fellow musician is countless, and perhaps warranted. This stuff is complex.

I’ve put this blog together to help reduce the confusion.

Music Publishing Revenue

Pub 1

In every song, music publishing revenue and ownership is divided into two halves: the Publisher’s Share and the Writer’s Share, as per above. The circle as a whole represents the total music publishing ‘pie’ in a single song. The Writer’s Share always belongs to you, the writer, and it can never be assigned or sold. If you never sign a music publishing deal of any kind, you will retain 100% of the music publishing revenue and ownership in your songs, meaning you will own the full pie.

If you sign a music publishing agreement, you give up part of the Publisher’s Share, or the left half of the pie. Let’s look at how that might happen.

music publishing

The 3 main types of music publishing agreements are:

1) Publishing Administration Agreement

Often artists want to retain ownership in their music publishing, but hire a third party to exploit their catalogue of songs (through film/tv placements, etc.). A music publishing administrator also helps ensure that the correct amount of music publishing revenue from your catalog of songs is being paid and collected around the world. You’d be surprised how many commercials and films and video games use music and fail to pay the writers of the music. This is where an administrator can be your best friend, by ensuring your songs are generating the most music publishing revenue possible around the world.

If you sign a Pub Admin deal, the administrator does not acquire ownership in the copyrights in your songs, but administers them for a fee (ranging from 10-25%). You as writer give up a percentage of your music publishing revenue, with the hope that the administrator will help your songs generate more revenue to offset the fee. In the diagram below I’ve illustrated a 20% pub admin deal. The 20% only applies to the Publisher’s Share (the Writer’s Share is untouchable), so that’s 20% of 50%, or 10% of the overall publishing revenues generated by the Artist’s songs. The Artist retains full ownership of the full pie, but gives up 10% of the total music publishing revenue to the Pub Admin company.

Pub 2

2) Co-Publishing Agreement

The Co-Pub deal is the norm in the business today. The music publisher and the writer co-own the copyrights in the musical works and the music publisher administers the copyrights in the works. This is a deeper commitment than the Admin Deal, as the term is often longer…often equal to the life of the copyrights (which equals the life of the author plus 50 years!). In exchange for this deepened commitment, a music publishing advance for the Artist is normal. The standard Co-Pub deal involves half of the Publisher’s Share going to the Publisher, meaning we’re left with a 75/25 split in favor of the Artist (i.e. 50% of the Publisher’s Share half is given away, or 25% overall):

Pub 3

3) Buy-Out Agreement or a “Full” Publishing Agreement

Buy Out deals are not as common today as they were in the past, and are typically seen when a significant advance is being offered for the Writer’s catalogue. The Publisher owns 100% of the copyrights in the musical works and has sole administration rights. The overall split of music publishing revenue is 50/50, as the Writer is left only with the Writer’ Share of music publishing revenues from performances.

Pub 4

What Does a Music Publisher Do? 

Generally speaking, music publishers administer, promote, exploit and protect your catalogue of songs throughout the world. The two key revenue streams for music publishers are mechanical royalties (royalties from the ‘mechanical’ reproduction of the songs) and performance royalties (royalties earned from the public performance of the songs).

Any time you hear a song on the radio, at the grocery store, at a hockey game, or on a video game, music publishing revenue is being generated and collected (in theory) by a publisher on behalf of an artist.

Until the 20th Century, a music publisher’s main function was administrating printed music in all its forms. However, as 20th Century technology extended the use of music, so the responsibilities of publishers similarly widened to include the licensing of music on records, radio, television, films, concerts and, more recently, tapes, compact discs, satellite and cable distribution, karaoke, video games, computer software, CD-ROMs and other forms of multimedia, etc.

Publishers may also actively ‘pitch’ songs to other artists to record, or ‘plug’ songs to radio, tv/film, and other users.

What is Sub-Publishing?

Once you’ve signed with a music publisher, they will often hire other publishers in other countries to help exploit your songs and collect the revenues around the world. These other publishers are called Sub-Publishers. Often times your publisher will have pre-existing agreements with sub-pubs in every territory in the world.

The advantages of sub-publishing are obvious: the foreign publisher, ideally, has the necessary contacts to expose works in that territory and the administrative skills to collect subsequent royalties. Securing covers is part of the job, but having a sub-publisher ensures proper registration, licensing and documentation of a catalogue. Also, a sub-publisher can, through membership in local mechanical and performing rights societies, collect and distribute income generated by an original recording. Of course, major publishers with offices in many territories don’t usually require sub publishers.

Conclusion

The question remains: should you sign a music publishing deal? There is not a simple answer. I’ve seen more and more artists moving away from the confines of Pub and Co-Pub deals, and opting instead for the freedom of Pub Admin deals. The advances are often lower, but the flexibility and independence are appealing.

So the answer really depends on the reputation of the publisher involved, the current state of your career, the offer on the table, etc. Along with choosing a manager and record label, choosing a music publisher is one of the big three decisions you’ll make in your career. In other words: a decision not to be taken lightly! Call me with questions, and I’ll be happy to help. music publishing

OBS Nominated for Radio Music Award and SiriusXM Indie Award!

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It’s been an amazing week. We’ve been in the studio with our noses to the grindstone, and were pleasantly surprised with some cool news…we’ve been nominated at this year’s Radio Music Awards as well as the SiriusXM Indies!

In our tenth year as a band, we’ve been nominated for Best New Rock Group at this year’s Canadian Radio Music Awards.

For the Indie Awards, we’ve been nominated alongside Monster Truck and Danko Jones for Rock Group of the Year. 

We don’t make music to win awards or be compared against other bands, but it’s nice when the industry starts to recognize what we’ve been trying to create the past ten years. It’s also a great sign of things to come with this new album!

Canadian Radio Music Award Nominees: http://cmw.net/awards/crma/
Indies nominees: http://indies.ca/2014-nominees

The 2 Copyrights in a Song (or The Most Important Concept in the Music Business)

Most artists I talk with have a difficult time understanding the different copyrights in a song, and the revenue streams that flow from them. I don’t blame them. Our copyright system has developed in bits and pieces over decades, so there are layers of complexity that still confuse me (only once in awhile though, and early in the morning).

In every recorded song there exists two main copyrights: one in the written song itself (the Songwriting Copyright) and one in the recording of the song (the Sound Recording Copyright). It is important to understand that the two main copyrights in a song are separate and distinct, and involve different rights and sometimes different owners.

Copyrights in a Song: The Songwriting Copyright

Whoever writes the composition is considered the owner of the Songwriting Copyright. For more on What Constitutes Songwriting, see my article here. The revenue streams generated from the Songwriting Copyright include performance royalties (from radio play, live performance of the song, etc.), mechanical license royalties (a fee paid per song for every copy of the song made), synchronization fees (if the song is ‘synched’ to film or television), and others.

If you sign a publishing deal, you are giving up certain rights in your Songwriting Copyright. For more on the different types of publishing deals, see my article here.

Copyrights in a Song: The Sound Recording Copyright

When a musical composition is recorded, a new copyright is created called the Sound Recording Copyright. The revenue streams generated from the Sound Recording Copyright include record sales revenue (both digital and physical), and master use license fees (to use the actual recording of the song in film/tv/etc.).

If you sign a record deal, the record label acquires certain rights to the sound recording copyright.

Which Copyrights in a Song Are Most Valuable? 

In the pre-internet, pre-Napster world, the Sound Recording Copyright generated a great deal of revenue. This is because records sold a lot more, record deals were aplenty,  and all was good (not really, but you knew that). As the Dylan song goes, things have changed. To say that the sale of recorded music has taken a major hit is the understatement of the year. However, while the sale of music has gone down, the overall use of music (in film, tv, radio, internet, streaming, in restaurants, at sporting events, etc.) has never been higher.

When a song is used, i.e. played/aired/performed, it generates revenue for the songwriter. This means that the Songwriting Copyright is hugely valuable in the modern music industry. It is far more valuable than the Sound Recording Copyright in my opinion.

So what does this mean for you as an artist?

First: The ability to write songs has never been more valuable.

Second: While many artists think that a record deal as the main indicator of success, a strong publishing deal may earn you far more money and open a lot more doors in the long run.

Third: Be very careful when signing anything that mentions publishing or songwriting or an assignment of any rights as a writer.

Finally: While artists like Elvis and Frank Sinatra used to make a very good living performing/recording songs written by others, in today’s industry, those that can write their own songs (and put on an exceptional live show) are much more empowered to make a living from music. So long story short…keep writing. Because unless you make a lot of money from touring, it’s tough to be Ringo in 2017.