Saturday, September 19, 2015

Who Really Owns Music - Part 2

Sizzla Kalonji
Part 2 - Reproduction
Licensing, Performing, and Pressing Play

Elvis has left the building. The lights on the 3-tracks RCA console have gone dark, and the 2" master tape reels have been taken to the factory, where they'll be transformed into 7" vinyl records for sale. Multiple forms of intellectual property have been created. It's time to start using them.

You might be surprised to know that Elvis didn't write "Heartbreak Hotel."  It was written by Mae Boren Axton (aka "Queen Mother of Nashville") and Tommy Durden. Elvis did manage to get a songwriting credit, but many believe it to be a vanity credit. These 3 songwriters are the technical owners of the composition. RCA Victor Records is the sound recording owner, and Elvis Presley is the performing artist for the sound recording.

Fast forward to 2015. You own a boutique digital streaming subscription service, one that serves exclusively Elvis music. In order to allow your listeners to press play on "Heartbreak Hotel," you must obtain 3 different licenses:


  • a license to use the sound recording (specifically, Elvis' performance)
  • a license to reproduce the composition (known as a "mechanical license")
  • and a license to publicly perform the composition ("public performance" constitutes any exhibition of the song - radio, live shows, or even on the speakers at Steak Shack).
Each license is an agreement to pay the rights holder an arranged amount of money fo the use of their intellectual property. Obtaining these allows Elvis Music Service to run, but only for streaming on-demand. There are other licenses that are needed for other uses of music. For example, licenses also must be obtained to attach music to moving pictures (a synchronization license), and to publish a composition's words and notes on paper (a print license).

Each of these rights is owned by a combination of Elvis, Axton, Durden, RCA and various third parties (more on that in a minute). Each expect a portion of the money earned from the use of their contribution to the work.

In addition, every different kind of digital music use (streaming, downloads, radio, movies) requires various combinations of these licenses in order to be legal. Some licenses are even granted by copyright law (called "Compulsory Licenses")., with pre-determined royalty rates.

In short, using music for any commercial purpose requires a litany of license acquisition from the owners; and that doesn't even begin to cover payment.

Part 3 - Payments
Labels, Publishers, Societies, and Performing Rights Organizations

Paying labels for sound recordings is relatively straightforward. When the recording of "Heartbreak Hotel" is used, RCA Victor (now simply RCA) Records is paid for their ownership of the sound recording. Sound recording royalties are delivered on almost every use of a song.

But what about the composers, lyricists, and songwriters? How do they get paid when their compositions are reproduced on CD, played on the radio, digitally streamed, or otherwise used? In our example, payment comes from mechanical licenses (for compositions), and public performance licenses.

Dennis Brown and Bob Marley
In theory, the Presley-Axton-Durden trio could have managed the right to the composition by themselves and act as their own publisher. Acting as your own publisher can be time-consuming and confusing, so most songwriters and composers opt to be represented by a publishing company like Warner/Chappell, BMG Chrysalis, Kobalt, Sony/ATV, and others - companies that promote the composition and ensure songwriters and composers get paid when their compositions are use.


To be continued........
Glen Sears is Editorial Content Manager at MediaNet


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Friday, September 18, 2015

Tommy Hilfiger's Marley inspired designs hit the catwalk at New York Fashion Week

Re-known fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger displayed a line inspired by Bob Marley for his Spring/Summer 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) recently. The new collection was arrayed with bright colours, crochet two- pieces and bucket hats in black, red, yellow and green, as well as sundresses and long mesh vests. 

According to Vogue magazine, one of Tommy Hilfiger's signature Caribbean "looks" was a tracksuit very similar to one worn by soccer-fan Bob Marley in the 1970s." 

Watch exclusive video by vogue below:-




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Source: Jamaicans dot com vogue.com 

An unusual collab - A Marley and a Soca Artiste


"If this was ever done before please pardon my ignorance. But who would have taught they would hear a Marley and a Soca artiste on the same song?  Obviously not me and it is indeed a pleasant surprise."

Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley has collaborated with popular soca artiste Bunji Garlin addressing society's ills and aspiring for change. The song entitled 'The Message' is produced by Phillip "Jr. Blender" Meckseper. In a release, Bunji Garlin gives an insight on the collaboration, "We recorded this song at Gong's studio in Florida.It was a studio session, after we spent about an hour and a half just talking and getting a vibe off of each other's knowledge, views and energies" he said.

"The Message" is a powerful delivery coming from two highly influential Caribbean artistes in their own rights. The song airs their concerns and thoughts in relation to 'the soul of youths and future generation.

Junior Gong is slated to perform in Trinidad and Tobago ending October at the Hasley Crawford Stadium.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throw Back - 70s Teens Reggae Chart-Topper Althea and Donna

Althea and Donna were a Jamaican singing duo best known for their 1977 hit single "Uptown Top Ranking," which hit number one on the UK chart in 1978.

The Jamaican teenagers Althea Forrest and Donna Reid then 17 and 18 years old respectively, caused a chart surprise when their song became a UK hit, ousting greats such as Paul McCartney and Bob Marley and held the Number 1 spot for two weeks.  Note their subtle, appealing image as well as playful and fun lyrics that are similar in comparison to OMI's chart-topper 'Cheerleader' single. These artistes scored number one on a major chart in an era that springboarded from the late 60s/early 70s when the British music press and BBC was alleged to have actively campaigned to keep reggae off the airwaves. 

Subsequent to their major chart break, Althea and Donna gained recognition as the first female Deejays in the history of reggae music and this fact is recorded in the Guinness Book of Hit Songs. The duo got signed to Virgin Records and became the label's 'Top Act,' recording an album of the same name "Uptown Top Ranking" in 1978. Other successes by the jovial pair included a role in the Jamaican and/or Jamaican music inspired films "Rockers" and "Heartland Reggae."  

"Uptown Top Ranking" is about two "Uptown" girls coming out against certain social standing that plagued the society at that time. Their message was basically  'don't judge us' because we are dressed in 'heel and things' this is who we are we 'nah pop no style; a strictly roots.' This was an important message in the 70s which lead to their performing the track at an historical peace concert in Kingston in 1980. "Uptown Top Ranking" became that song in the history of Jamaica that marked a musical connection between uptown and downtown. Althea and Donna went on to record other singles including 'Going To Negril' and 'No More Fighting' which were also popular in Jamaica.

Today, Althea and Donna are planning to relinquish their music career with a return to the industry. Their re-immergence is largely as a result of the motivation of their children who all have musical interests. Although they have been on a musical low for more than 20 years, plans are underway for a relaunch of Althea and Donna in Jamaica.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Who Really Owns Music - Part 1


Exploring The Dizzying Spiral Of Music Rights and Payments
(Part 1 of a 4-part series by Glen Sears)
The controversy surrounding music streaming and artist compensation has been earning quite a bit of press lately. Still, the actual process of licensing, publishing and compensating those involved in music publishing is complex and convoluted. This article offers a clear and detailed breakdown of exactly how music rights and payments work.

One Kurt Cobain post, "I wish there had been a music business 101 course I could have taken."

If you write a song, you own that song. maybe your record label owns a piece of your song in exchange for recording and distributing it. When your friend Andrew buys your song, the label gets a cut and you get a cut. The service it was bought from gets a cut, too. The more it gets used, the more everyone makes.

It's a simple formula, and it's how most of us think the music industry operates. In reality, this idea is quite inaccurate. Every song produced is a labyrinth of split ownership, licenses, and right subject to decades-old laws spread across 100s of countries. They determine where a song can be played, how it can be used, and where the money goes afterward.

Calls for transparency and fair pay in the music industry have finally hit critical mass, capturing the attention of news outlets like NPR and building support for activism by stars like Taylor Swift. TIDAL was launched as an attempt to increase the amount of money artists are paid from streaming. Berklee College of Music released a 28-page report on its suggestions for repairing digital music. Everyone cares about music industry payments now.

It's great news. But what about the next time you're at a party and someone starts the "aren't paid enough" conversation? How can anyone speak about music industry payments when they aren't armed with all the information?

How does song ownership and payment really work, and can it be explained in a way non-industry experts understand;

Part 1 - What Is Music?
Sound Recording, Composition, and Copyright

On January 10, 1956, Elvis Presley recorded his seminal hit "Heartbreak Hotel" at RCA Studio B Nashville. The moment The master tape stopped rolling, the genre-defining song became two main elements: a Sound Recording, and a Composition.

A song is made up of many pieces: lyrics, notes, structure, instrumentation, and melody. In copyright law, these intangible qualities that constitute a song are known as the Composition. When the composition is recorded, the recording of that composition is known as a Sound Recording. The sound recording is a "single acoustic event" of the composition that was put to tape. Two separate, uniquely important entities.

Making a sound recording from the composition grants special rights (called copyright) to the songwriters. Recording music, however, is a recent, is a recent technological advance. It is not the only way to turn a composition into a copyrightable work. The intangibles of music also become a composition capable of being copyrighted the moment they are written down on paper.

We've been writing down musical compositions for a long time. 1800 years before Elvis was lamenting his loneliness, an lonian songwriter was penning the Seikilos epitaph in what is now Turkey. It is the oldest-known complete composition (notes and lyrics). By today's copyright standards, it became a copyrightable composition at the moment it was inscribed in stone.

Copyright is, plainly, a set of exclusive rights granted to the owner of a creative work. For a composition, this includes the exclusive right to publish works (recordings or writings) depicting the composition. Copyright requires anyone else wanting to use the composition to obtain permission (called a License) from the owner.

Back in Nashville, the "Heartbreak Hotel" sound recording was also now a copyrightable work. Almost all artist-label contracts dictate the copyright in the sound recording is granted to the label. Copyright law now requires anyone wanting to use the actual recording of the song to obtain permission from the label.

Two distinct pieces of intellectual property (each with their own copyright rules) now existed for "Heartbreak Hotel:" (1) the composition, and (2) the sound recording.

To Be Continued.......
Glen Sears is Editorial Content Manager at MediaNet

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