The music industry today looks very different than it did twenty years ago. The biggest beneficiaries of the old music industry were the intermediaries who enabled the distribution and sale of physical records at an international scale. Technology has turned the industry on its head, yet a lot of the complexity still remains.
Twenty years from now, the industry will have changed just as radically, except the biggest beneficiaries will be music creators and consumers.
The consumers are already winning. For a low monthly fee, one can access all the music that has ever been available and listen to as much of it as they want. For creators, however, the next couple decades will be about using technology to bypass the existing power structure and take control over their music and their career.
The Future will be much more modular. Artists and songwriters will have separate partnerships with companies that perform the various functions that would all traditionally be conducted by their label or publisher: one for distribution, royalty administration, public relations, marketing, merchandising, tour support, artist management, business management, securing an advance against future royalties, and sync licensing of course.
Creators will build solutions they trust around their music, and the companies that survive will be the companies that deliver the best results.
We believe in that future at The Plug Music Administration. That’s why we operate as a non-exclusive sync agency. You’re free to find other non-exclusive agencies to represent your songs. We only benefit when we get your music licensed, and you can terminate our agreement at any time if you change your mind.
The following is an introduction to some of the basics of copyright law. If you would like to learn more, we recommend taking a look at the Songtrust E-Book. For a more in-depth understanding, consider reading “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” by Donald Passman, an industry standard.
If you are an artist who is considering whether or not you need a record label, Don Passman has an important message for you here.
Most beginner songwriters don't realize that their songs and their recordings are protected under completely separate copyrights. Recordings generate royalties that songs don't, and vice versa. However, songs typically generate royalties through the exploitation of recordings. Especially in the digital age.
Artist, songwriter, or both?
Some people are just artists who perform songs, they make recordings and perform live. Even cover bands own their recordings because it's their performance, but they don't own the underlying song and thus pay royalties to the songwriter. Other people are just songwriters who write lyrics (if your song has them) and the underlying melody. Some even specialize further as lyricists or composers. Maybe you do it all! A jack-of-all-trades; or as many people in the Biz would call you, a singer-songwriter. Perhaps you just learned how to more-accurately describe your role in the music industry, which is great! But in order to work with The Plug, you need to have recordings of your own original songs.
Sadly, we can't represent your recording if you performed someone else's song. Unless, of course, you and the songwriter have an agreement that allows either of you to grant the rights associated with that song/recording on the other's behalf. If you wrote and performed your songs with others, you should also have an agreement that allows you to enter into and agreement with organizations like The Plug Music Administration on the behalf of the other writers and performers. At the very least, all contributors should understand and agree how their songs are being represented, and should be willing to have their songs associated with other media.
how do i make money from my songs?
Each song and recording has it's own copyright, which protects the following rights:
The right to reproduce the copyrighted work
The right to create derivative works based upon the work
The right to distribute copies of the work to the public
The right to perform the copyrighted work publicly
Artists create a derivative work of a song when they make a recording. An advertising agency makes a derivative work of the recording and the underlying song when they incorporate the recording into their television advertisement, which in turn is protected under a new copyright. That is why content creators need a sync license to incorporate music in their visual media, and a master use license in order to use a specific recording. At The Plug Music Administration, we do our best to sell sync licenses and master use licenses to media producers and other content creators in one seamless and convenient transaction.
Once media that uses your music has been distributed to the public, it is likely to generate performance royalties which get paid to the songwriter(s) and publisher(s). We do not take ownership of your publishing, so you are entitled to collect all performance royalties (associated with the right to perform a work, as listed above). Songwriters should register with their preferred Performance Rights Organization (PRO) as both a songwriter and a publisher so that they can collect both the writer’s share and publisher’s share of royalties.
Starting a publishing company to collect your publisher’s share is easy. Learn how to do so here.
*Bold words may be unfamiliar to you. Their definitions can likely be found in this glossary.
A final note on publishing splits
For songwriters, your royalty income is also referred to as back-end income or publishing income. In a standard publishing deal, the publisher takes ownership of the writer’s songs, has the exclusive right to exploit those songs, and attributes to the songwriter 50% of all royalties received. In a co-publishing deal, you will maintain 100% of the writer’s share and 50% of the publisher’s share, meaning you receive a total 75% of publishing income.
The Plug Music Administration is a non-exclusive sync agency and does not participate in any of your back-end publishing royalties.