Category: music streaming

YouTube – How To Make It Work For You

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Three Steps To Improve Performance

This feels like old news, but it’s possible you haven’t heard. If you’re not leveraging YouTube to your advantage, you have a gap in your approach to music sales. Maybe you don’t want to make a living from your music or you love your day job. That’s fine. You can probably stop reading this now. Or maybe you already have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Millions, even. You too may stop reading this. If neither of these exceptions apply to you, then settle in. Let’s talk The YouTube. *wink*

You live in a wondrous time! Just look at the Internet. It’s an amazing resource to the independent artist and band. The thing is you’re busy – out there pounding the pavement, rocking various houses night after night. But, ask any wildly successful artist. To make that dollar, you’re going to have to spend time, both on and off the stage to develop your fan base. (Unless you’re posting your performances. Then bully to you!) And in this day in which we live it’s now easier than ever to reach untapped fans via YouTube.

But first, the bad news: You won’t make any livable wage monetizing YouTube videos until you start raking in views in the hundreds of millions. Some sources report that YouTube pays $.0003 per play. This means that in order for you to pull in minimum wage you would have to have views in the tens of millions, depending on your state’s minimum wage. So that’s the bummer. But, the good news is that you don’t have to rely solely on monetization to make YouTube work for you. There are lots of examples of bands and artists (and puppeteers and style gurus and… you get the idea) who have used streaming video to get their names out there and launch their careers onto other more lucrative platforms. Remember, if you’re trying to make a living from you music, you’re not just a musician. You’re in music business. Time to get savvy. Here are a few ways to yield desirable results from YouTube.

Invite your viewers to take it to the next level and subscribe.

Make no mistake. Gathering subscribers is important. Create your channel, make delightful viewing material and call your viewers to action by encouraging them to subscribe. (Just don’t expect to make noticeable amounts of money directly from YouTube doing this.) You have to say the words too. Here’s why: In most cases, people hear about a great video. They go watch the video. They move on with their day. The end. Don’t let this be your viewers. At the end of your video, thank them for watching and then say, “subscribe!” It’s that simple. You could add a please for good measure. Or confetti. Do you, but say the words.

Invite them to your website so they can buy your stuff.

Every subscriber you procure is now your fan. They have taken time to subscribe and this means they like you. Congratulations! Now it’s time to tell them how they can listen to your awesome music wherever they go, by driving them to your website or digital storefront to buy tracks they can’t get on YouTube. You may want to incentify people to subscribe by giving them a coupon code to save a dollar off your album (which is sold only on your website or Amazon, right?). Or maybe YouTube subscribers get access to extra video content or mp3 tracks that your average schmo can’t get. Hock your interesting and hilarious t-shirts and bumper stickers by sending these captive fans to your shop. Your subscribers will not necessarily arrive at the brilliant decision to visit your website. You must invite them to do so.

Make lots of interesting content. Lots!

Here’s the deal. There are many reasons to have a prolific amount of content. One of the reasons is this: the more you’re out there, the more you increase your chances of getting subscribers. You’ll reach people you wouldn’t normally have access to through other outlets – especially younger music fans. YouTube is the most listened to music platform. The most! Gathering more fans from the juggernaut of all music conduits can help you completely bypass a music label – like so many other successful musicians have – and allow you to do music on your own terms. Or maybe you want a music contract. Perfect! Having a huge number of subscribers can only help your cause. Having a large subscriber following also means drawing the attention of potential sponsors. YouTubers who have been successful at accumulating lots of subscribers have definitely grabbed the attention of sponsors. These sponsors can pay thousands of dollars for one video that includes a mention or placement of their product. This is not a farfetched pipe-dream, either. Sponsors are well within reach. It’s hard work, of course. Nothing worth doing will ever come easy. (Sorry.) But, the rewards include garnering a larger fan base and getting to make a living from your music and videos.

So now that you know why tons of content is a must, let’s talk about what you should post. Your video subject matter should be as diverse as you and you’re music, but you don’t have to over think everything you post. Sometimes these videos are just something fun – a day-in-the-life bit or a tutorial of some kind. I can hear some of your eyes rolling right now as you read this. This may feel beneath you or pandering, even. But, try to keep an open mind about this. It’s not selling out. You’re not giving into the man. You’re dominating various digital avenues so that they work for you. Think groceries and rent – and beyond! You’re not giving in. You’re making the Internet your bitch. So get creative. By all means, post your music and your shows and your time in the studio. But, also keep in mind that people will be endeared to you by getting to see behind the proverbial curtain a bit. Talk to your fans and let them see your fun side. Cover your favorite popular songs. Reveal to them your stupid human trick. Do skits. Get viewers to vote on which guitar strap or pair of skinny jeans you’ll wear at your next performance. Video your band’s trust exercises or day of water skiing. Whatever. You’re imaginative. Just give the fans what they want and make lots and lots of content.

There’s another perk of posting tons of videos. If you haven’t created a YouTube channel or your haven’t been posting very much, creating a lot of content will also help fast track the process of gathering subscribers and getting noticed by sponsors. And bonus, the more momentum you pick up, the more monetizing your content will pay. Again, not lucrative amounts, but it’s better than nothing.

It’s time – your time. Start using YouTube like the music business tool it is.

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Understanding Music Copyright—Streaming, Music Videos, and Licensing

Understanding Music Copyright—
Streaming, Music Videos, and Licensing

By David Frazee Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

written by: David Frazee

I know how important copyright is, and I know that it can also be completely confusing and overwhelming… so I’m breaking it down and going through it, bit by bit.

This is the third article in the Copyright series. If you missed the first and/or second article, please take a moment to go back and read them before continuing this one.

Stream Digital Versions (Audio only)

You know some of your fans are all over the streaming services, such as Pandora, Spotify, and XM radio. While you don’t want to put all of your music on there (since they won’t buy it if they can stream it for free or almost free), you are interested in offering two songs off of your newest album—one is an original, and one is a cover.

But streaming is a bit more complicated than it seems, and you might have no idea what rights are involved with putting your music out there. The good news is I’ve done some digging for you.

Streaming companies gain a license from musicians to play the recordings; the particular license depends on whether the streaming service is interactive or not. An interactive service—such as Spotify—allows the user to select the exact songs they listen to. In that case, the company would have to obtain the right to “digital performances of sound recordings” from the copyright owner. On the other hand, non-interactive services—like Pandora or XM Radio—provide a pre-programmed or semi-random combination of tracks; with these services, users cannot control exactly what song plays or when. These services need a “statutory license.” SoundExchange is a service authorized by Congress to administer statutory licenses.

Additionally, streaming digital music is considered a public performance, so the services need to obtain performance rights to perform underlying musical composition.

So, to stream music online, you will likely need to transfer the underlying performance rights in the musical composition and the right to the digital performances of your sound recording to the service providing the streaming.

Unless you have given up some of your rights, you have the right to place your own music online or on the radio.

If you have not already created a digital version of a song someone else created, you will need a mechanical license to create that sound recording in digital form and to stream that song. Again, most copyright owners use the Harry Fox Agency to manage this interactive streaming license. Additionally, you will need a public performance license for the musical composition, and you will need to pay the performance fees to the correct PROs. After acquiring the proper rights from the original song owner or publisher and creating your version, you will need to give the service the right to the digital performance of your sound recording.

Creating a Music Video

In an effort to promote your new album, you’ve taken the best songs—the one with the killer hook, and the crowd pleaser—and come up with crazy-awesome concepts for a music video. You’re ready to start production, but you want to make sure you cover all the bases first.

When you create a music video of your original songs that is not being live streamed, your reproduction, distribution, and synchronization rights come into play. “Synchronization” is a special kind of right not precisely defined by law; that said, it is generally understood to be part of your reproduction rights and comes about anytime visual images are placed with your music.

To get your music video online or on TV generally requires you license the company or service a portion of your rights. To start, this will include both some sound recording (because you are not performing live) and musical composition rights (because your music and lyrics are still being played). Since companies will want to cover all their bases, the contract you enter with the company will likely be over-inclusive for what is actually required. Often this will include the right to reproduce the video, distribute the video, display your band name or CD cover, perform (or “play”) your work for public viewing, and derivative rights, to prepare derivative works. You may be thinking, “what are derivative rights, and why do they need them?” Derivative rights allow the company to adapt or change the music video—usually to fit their programming and produce the show for viewing—without infringing your copyright. It is more common with television programs than online services.

In terms of songs someone else created, you need two things to legally distribute your music video of a cover song: a mechanical license and a synchronization license. Why do you need two licenses? Your music video has an underlying audio track that exists as a separate file from the final video. That audio track technically requires a mechanical license (to create the recording and distribute it; the Harry Fox Agency handles mechanical licenses. But, in order to make a music video and align that recording of someone else’s song with any moving images, you need a special license called a “synchronization license.” This is obtained from the musical composition rights owner—likely the artist’s publisher. To find the publisher, you can look the song up on the PRO’s (BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC) website; find and contact the owner/publisher; and request to negotiate a synch license. One thing worth noting: since you can also obtain the mechanical right from the owner/publisher, you might be able to obtain a “sync license” that includes all the necessary reproduction and distribution rights you need for your video… meaning you wouldn’t need a separate mechanical license.

What does this mean, practically speaking? That hit song that everyone and their brother is covering online—those artists either obtained the proper licenses (which can cost a pretty penny, depending on the song) or they did it illegally. And doing things illegally has a range of repercussions ranging from your account being penalized to legal action. Even if everyone else seems to be doing it the wrong way, is it really worth risking your reputation, your online presence, your finances, and your career?

Song Placement: TV Shows, Movies and Commercials

Your music videos’ view counts are climbing by the minute, and your new album is trending on social media and climbing the charts (congrats!). You’ve had two emails come in—one from a company wanting to use your cover of a song in a television ad, and one wanting to use your original song in a movie.

Let’s start with your original song and the movie. The rights you might have to give up depend on whether the movie company is using a pre-recorded version of your song or is asking you to record a new version for the movie.

If they want to use a previously recorded version of your song, they will have to obtain a synchronization license and the sound recording license (called a “mast use license”). The mast use license is acquired from whomever owns the rights to the sound recording–likely you or your record label. Anytime your music is placed with moving images, a sync license is required from you and/or your publisher. The sync license should cover your performance royalties from the showing of the movie; this means the producer will submit a “cue sheet” to your PRO and the authorized broadcasts will be granted only to companies registered with your PRO. The license might also include a mechanical license, since they will likely want to release, reproduce, and distribute a soundtrack with copies of your song… and you want to get paid for those copies!

If you are recording a new version, you will likely have to give up sound recording rights, display rights, distribution rights to the work that results, the right to reproduce copies of that recording, as well as any derivative works resulting from that recording. Seems like a lot to give up, but it is pretty standard.

This is important: if you have already recorded a version of your song with a record label, be sure you do not need their permission to use the previous recording or to record a new version of the song for this new use.

Now, for licensing the cover song. Whether it’s a movie, a music video, or on television, anytime you want to place someone’s music with moving images, you need a synch license. If you already have a music video and obtained a synchronization license from the artist’s publisher, you might think you’re covered. Think again. Since this is a different use, the sync license will most likely need to be negotiated again. Additionally, performance rights to the underlying musical composition need to be obtained from the proper PRO and fees paid accordingly. Hopefully, the ad producers will take care of this for you!

So far, we’ve covered the most common Copyright issues. Let me know if there are additional topics you’d like me to address by leaving a comment below… and be sure to check back and find out more!

Disclaimer: The above article is not legal advice; is it not intended to, nor can it, replace professional legal advice in any way. It is only intended to provide a short guide to basic legal terms and practices in the music industry. In your own interest, consult with a copyright attorney before entering into any contractual agreement or taking any action against copyright infringement.

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Spotify, Pandora and Streaming Music: Should You Post Your Music?

Spotify, Pandora and Streaming Music: Should You Post Your Music?

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

How charitable are you feeling?

You see, neither Spotify nor Pandora is making any money, and they could really use a little bit of yours. So, if you are feeling charitable and believe in their cause, sign right up, and let the giving begin!

If you heard the real numbers, though, you might change your mind about that donation. They’re quite staggering. Pandora’s stock price has tripled in the last 12 months, and they have a stock market valuation of over $7 billion dollars. At the same time, they have yet to create a profit. Spotify has not yet gone public, but it is anticipated to do so in the near future. Initial estimates put Spotify’s valuation at close to $10 billion dollars.

Don’t feel sorry for them, though. This is the new model for becoming a Wall Street darling. In effect, both of these companies have created a business model that offers a great product to music fans but fails to charge those fans a reasonable amount for the experience. Therefore, the companies lose money. Then, they use their losses as an excuse to pay musicians virtually nothing for their music. By the way, the best music streaming interface in the world is useless if it has no music to play.

These companies might feel that they cannot get fans to pay a fair amount for streaming music—probably a correct assumption, by the way—so instead they offer it for free and let the musician pay for it, not the listener. Sound crazy? Some people would argue that the listener pays by listening to commercials, or by paying a fee to hear commercial-free music. But, if you examine the pitiful payout that musicians receive, it will become clear who is footing the bill.

Somewhere along the way, the indie music community bought into the idea that streaming music is a good thing. After all, can’t a person listen to traditional (terrestrial) radio for free? How could streaming be any different? The answers are both subtle and significant.

Traditional Radio vs. Streaming

In the past, when we heard music on traditional radio and really liked it, off to the music store we would go. Why? We wanted control over our listening. A listener has no control whatsoever of what plays on traditional radio. The most they can do is change the station. Purchasing the music allowed us to control how often we were able to listen to it.

Streaming changed this. With streaming, there is no reason to purchase the music. On Pandora, users have substantial control because they can use the tools that Pandora provides to tailor the station to fit their taste. With Spotify, the listener has complete control. Play what you want, how you want it, when you want it, and as often or little as you like. This is nothing like traditional radio.

What’s worse is that traditional radio stations are jumping on the streaming bandwagon, just like everyone else. Platforms like iHeartRadio have the potential to be just as damaging to musicians as any other music streaming services. Don’t get us wrong; we are in favor of listening to traditional radio stations online; however, we are not in favor of traditional radio stations streaming music self-crafted to anyone’s personal listening preferences.

Worse still is this: Pandora is making the case with Congress to lower payments to musicians. Pandora says they cannot compete with terrestrial radio because radio pays a lower royalty. In fact, Pandora is asking for legislation that lowers their payments by 50% or more. This is ridiculous! Traditional radio and music streaming are two entirely different things.

Let’s call streaming music what it really is: a financial failure. Generally, when a business model fails because it is not financially viable, the business closes and declares bankruptcy. The only way that streaming music survives is if someone picks up the financial shortfall; right now, that someone is the musician.

What Does This Mean To You As A Musician?

A streaming music company’s success is realized at the expense of the musicians who unwittingly contribute to the corporate craziness with their music and receive very little in return. As a musician, the best move you can make is to put money in the stock market and invest in Pandora stock (Spotify, too, when it’s available). You should not contribute your unique sound to their portfolio of music.

Let us tell you why: if companies like Pandora and Spotify continue to make it big, you will not receive any of the benefits, and they will ruin the music business. Sure, they offer to expose you to large numbers of people who will listen to your music. But at what cost?

Some musicians believe using these companies results in additional sales of their music along with increased exposure, which is ultimately good for their careers. We believe this to be far from the truth. Our own experiences seem to demonstrate the complete opposite of these claims.

Confessions Of A Streaming Junkie

When we play music on Pandora, we enjoy the experience. Their technology does a nice job of playing music that we like, and it comes up with new artists that we have never heard of before. We have no control over who plays next, but we can select an artist or song that we want Pandora to consider when choosing what music to play. It also allows us to skip a song, hit thumbs up, hit thumbs down, etc. The software learns more about what we like and makes adjustments to better fit our listening style. All good, so far. (Good for users, that is).

This is what makes Pandora so compelling. Free music that is tailored to our listening tastes is much better than a traditional radio station! In fact, if we are willing to invest just $0.10 per day (that’s 10 cents), we can get the music without any commercials. Wow, what a deal!

Spotify is a little different. It offers more overall functionality through its apps, artist radio, library function, messaging, etc. The biggest difference for users is that they can create playlists and choose exactly what they want to listen to. Spotify will also make artist recommendations, but not in the same way as Pandora. Spotify offers a free service for a limited time but you can pay just $0.334 per day (that’s 33.4 cents) to get full access without commercials. Some people we know, in an effort to avoid paying anything, keep signing up for the 30-day free trial after the initial trial period expires by using a new email address. Spotify also lets paying users download playlists to listen to offline.

Truthfully, both services are great for the listener, and that is what makes them so popular. Several other streaming services are also available that offer similar features. Every one of them is focused on the listener experience, and most do an acceptable job. This is where the problems begin for musicians. Fans love these products for what they offer: your music the way they want it. Most importantly, it’s free (or almost free) and it enhances the listener experience.

Since we began using streaming services, our purchases of music have dropped considerably. In fact, we no longer open iTunes to listen to our library of music. There is no need. Why would we do that when we can access everything we want on a streaming player? Plus, the players offer features that iTunes does not. (While we might be unique, our conversations with others suggest that we aren’t the exception.)

The Tale Of The Tape

An artist friend of ours recently showed us her statement of income from digital streaming services. Over the past 12 months, she had a total of 14,932 streaming downloads and was paid $71.02. This is an average of $0.004756 per stream.

During the same period, she sold 2,200 CDs at her gigs. The income from the CD sales was $20,300.00. It is only fair to note that she had to pay something for the CDs to be manufactured, but that cost was only $2,046.00, making her net income from the CD sales $18,254.00.

In addition to the sales of physical CDs at gigs, our friend did have some sales from digital downloads of music on iTunes. iTunes is her only way to sell digital downloads; because she mentions it frequently at her shows, she believes that most of her sales on iTunes come from people who attend her shows. For the same period that we mentioned above, her album sales on iTunes were 113 albums for a total of $668.57.

Let’s run those numbers. She made 257 times more money selling CDs at her gigs than she did with streaming her music. That’s impressive… or, it might be more appropriate to say that the streaming income was dismal. Either way, she would not have survived without the physical CD sales at gigs. (She also made money on other merchandise sales and a fee from doing the gig, but we are not including that income in our example.) She could have gone to the gigs and not sold any product, but who would choose to do that?

You might make the argument that she had to gig to sell physical CDs, whereas with streaming services you don’t have to do anything other than sign up, and you would be mostly correct, but…

We want you to consider one thing: the expense to create quality music is significant. Even if you do not place a value on the time it takes to write music, write lyrics, practice, etc., the production costs are still high. (Just for the record: we think you should consider all time and effort necessary to produce your music. Even if you don’t write yourself a check for your time, it doesn’t mean it’s free.)

It would be fair to say that a solo indie artist could easily spend $3,000 to $5,000—excluding the cost of CDs or paying other artists—to produce one album, if they stayed on a tight, tight budget. How do the numbers work? Let’s suppose you spend $3,000 to produce your album and then posted it with several music streaming companies. If you used our artist friend as a test case, it would take 40+ years just to recoup your initial investment. Even if you are an incredible success and experience 10 times as much play as she did, it would still take more than 4 years to get your investment back. That’s 630,782 streaming plays just to break even. Of course, you haven’t made any money yet.

So, What Can Artists Do?

Clearly, streaming music complicates things, and it’s not the best business plan for an independent musician to adopt. If you feel that streaming is a necessary part of your music marketing plan, then try posting just a single song or a small sampling of your work. Hopefully, this will help you gain exposure with a larger audience, who will then purchase your music.

Is the future of the indie music business bleak? Absolutely not. There is a great deal more to it than streaming downloads. The future holds great promise, and as an artist you have to be prepared to grab it. For indie artists, the biggest challenge remains the same: how do you, as an independent artist, build a sustainable career?

 We’ll continue addressing that question in future articles.

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