Music Licensing & Rights: Please Try to Hit a Nail on the Head While Wearing a Blindfold

Trying to find a model that ensures a profit in today’s music industry is like trying to hit a nail with a hammer with your eyes closed. If you swing with a ton of force and miss, you’re probably going to break your fingers, but if you hit the nail on the head, BINGO, your in. Some artists have exploited the market to create success, while other acts have been placed in the closet. Record labels are falling into a sink hole of debt trying to ring out how to make a smashing revenue in today’s market. EMI last year declared that it had losses over $800million. That’s freaky! Since the rise of the internet and file sharing, trafficking the use of sound recordings has only gotten more difficult. This is problematic for the record labels who seek to distribute music because it cuts out a revenue source. Downloading against the discretion of a song’s owner is against the law, even though we all do it. Even when one purchases a CD, he or she has limited rights to use and reproduce the music. This is because the music is copyrighted. A copyright is used by performers, songwriters, publishers, musicians, and performing rights organizations to create revenue and starts by breaking down musical copyright into two categories: 1) a sound recording and 2) a composition. A song’s copyright offers five licensing opportunities that can be generated into revenue streams. When someone or some business wants to use a song, he, she, or it must pay for the rights of use. A song creates revenue by licensing it’s print rights, performance rights, mechanical rights,master rights, and or synch rights. The funds are then distributed by performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and Soundexchange to the rightful recipient of funds. Different means of song use call for different persons to be paid. Some rights call for songwriters and publishers to be paid, while other rights call for the performer and musicians to be paid. The process of appropriating funds in the music industry can make one dizzy. Luckily, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has created a coding system, abbreviated as ISRC, to help hit the nail on the head. ISRC stands for the International Standard Recording Code, and it is a unique code that is imprinted into a music track or video recording upon mastering. It is issued to better track the number of song plays, generate royalty returns, and prevent piracy. The code never changes regardless of where the track is used or if the track changes ownership. The ISRC is registered with download sites, digital distribution companies, and collecting societies in order to manage digital repertoire and track commerce. Nielsen Soundscan is the enterprise that identifies where a track is played so proper dues can be paid. If the track turns up on some place without its ISRC code, or with a false code, then it’s a good indication that piracy may have taken place.At Slang,we encode all of our original works with an ISRC no matter what the track issued for. Perhaps a song gets some radio play, or the track is licensed to an entertainment company to be used for T.V., film, or a videogame. Soundscan keeps track of where the song is used to reassure us that we are receiving fair play. To turn any track into a vehicle in motion, post-production work is a must but all work could be lost if the track didn’t include the ISRC. Without it, the track could blow up, be pirated, and the royalty check wouldn’t be enough to fill up my gas tank.By: Jack Holland

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