PUBLISHERS TO WRITERS: WE WANT YOUR RECORDING RIGHTS AS WELL
At AIMP Luncheon Execs Reveal the New Model of Music Publishing
At the House of Blues this past Thursday the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) held its monthly luncheon. These are always nice places to catch up with colleagues, but this time it was rather unique due to revelations made by the music publishing Execs and their demands on those seeking publishing deals with them– we want your recording rights as well.
The panel, hosted by veteran music barrister, Henry Root, consisted of executives mostly from major publishers. Each opined as to what they will be looking for when signing candidates in what each claimed are “transition times,” for the music industry.
When responding to Root’s question of how 360 Deals, often described as “land grabs” by industry insiders, play a role in a publisher’s decision to sign or not to sign, each panelist gave more or less the same answer using carefully chosen words, which was basically this: If you plan on signing with us, make sure you come with all your rights intact.
Meaning that if you have a previous recording contract on a label and now you have the interest of a major publisher–maybe because one of your recordings has gained some traction–you might have to go back and get out of your record deal.
What the F–k? Did I wake up after taking the red pill r’somthing?
For publishers it used to be, don’t call us unless you’re signed to a major. Now it seems to be the opposite. Since when is a publisher concerned about a songwriter’s recording commitment? Answer: since they started up streaming development deals to major record labels.
Melina: “If the artist already has a [label] deal we basically say you have to re-negotiate so you can give us the 360 rights so we can up stream them to [our sister] major.”
The panel seems in agreement on the point that publishers today are interested in the whole package, even if it’s for rights they themselves do not plan to exploit; just like 360 deals on record labels, who take an interest in an artist’s acting roles, live shows and other things peripheral to the sound recording revenue. Majors traditionally broker those rights to third parties for exploitation. Publishers are now entering that game, parsing off recording rights to labels with which they are “comfortable” doing business. Presumably this will often mean their sister labels. For example a publishing deal on Warner Chapel will likely only yield a record deal on Warner Music.
What if the artist wants to stay indie while licensing their publishing rights for needed cash. One panelist commented that this might not be possible in the new paradigm, “If you are signed to label that we don’t like, you are f–ed.”
And the same works in reverse: If you already signed to a publisher it might impede your sign-ability to a major label recording contract.
Lessoff: “If an artist already has his publishing tied up and then there is only those shiny disks to bring in revenue the deal is not as good for us.”
In the old days, before offering an advance publishers wanted a writer/artist to not only have a record deal, but a guaranteed release with a pressing of at least 100,000 units. This was the signature of a known entity. Now, however, they see a prior deal as an impediment because they are expected to up stream their development act with all rights in place. And they can not do that if an artist still owes an album to the bedroom label who took a chance on them.
Once the publishing world would light up over a Carol King or Bob Dylan. These configurations of artists came with large amounts of rights to parse. But now, even that seems too limiting. To get an advance in “transition times,” according to the panel, you need to be something like Prince: artist, writer and producer.
Saunders: “A home run for us is signing a writer who is a producer and has direct access to [other] artist[s]. The self contained singer/songwriter is still possible but difficult.”
UPSIDE /DOWN SIDE
On the down side, this trend, if carried through to its logical conclusion, would mean that artists looking to enter the major label system– excuse me– the major label/publishing system, will now find themselves more laterally integrated than they may wish to be; If your publishing is on UMG then so must your record deal be on a UMG distributed label, etc, etc.
This limits the artist’s strategic choices and consolidates the power that one company has over the artist’s destiny. True, there is an advantage to having one group handle everything for you, if they are really good at exploiting everything. But what if you’re happy with the job that Bedroom Records is doing for you; promoting you discreetly and in a way that keeps your street cred, but want a high level publisher or Copyright Admin company, like Bug Music, to be a bull dog about getting that ASCAP and sync money? Once you had that option. But it seems the trend is working towards taking that away. Now, if you want that high tower publisher you may to jump to a high tower label, and their weighty 360 Deals.
On the up side, well there really isn’t an upside, unless you look at it like this– now an artist or their manager don’t have to shop the work twice. You get two lousy deals for the effort of one.
What do you think of all this? Comment here.