Music production is evolving. Upcoming artists are turning from record companies to the Internet for financial support from investors. But what does this mean for music licensing and music copyright? The soundlounge explores the changing world of making music.
It’s a lifestyle that millions aspire to. Private jets, five-star hotels, adoring fans and a top music production team. But it seems that for an increasing number of upcoming artists the reality of forging a career in the industry is far from the glamorous existence of times past. Like many other sectors, the music production industry is being forced to adapt to a changing economic and social climate. Gone are the days when a talent for singing or instrumental skills was enough to get a band noticed let alone to the top. Now artists are increasingly adopting a head for business and taking an entrepreneurial attitude towards their profession.
A recent article in The Times newspaper explores the impact of this growing structure within the music market citing the emergence of websites such as sellaband.com and slicethepie.com. Unveiled in 2006, sellaband.com supports upcoming bands by encouraging them to sell ‘shares’ in their group to investors. Bands which successfully sell 5,000 parts are then rewarded with their own producer, studio time and support from industry experts to help them record an album.Similarly slicethepie.com allows bands to raise money directly from music fans and gives them the chance to be involved in the music production process. Fans who invest in their band or artist can earn money reviewing tracks as well as enjoy perks such free album copies, their name on album sleeves and a share in the financial returns from record sales. Slicethepie.com has also essentially created a stock exchange of its own, allowing investors to trade shares of their music between other holders within the market domain.
Although slightly different in their processes, both websites hark the dawn of a new ‘free-market’ approach to music where fans have a different kind of control over the success of their favorite artists. Speaking to The Times, Martyn Shone, guitarist for UK band Honey Ryder revealed he and the band’s singer Lindsay O’Mahony had been selling shares for £3,500 each. “Shareholders receive a dividend on future profits on CDs, downloads and licensing deals,” he told the newspaper.
So what does the introduction of these new approaches mean for UK music as a whole? It may be wrong to claim they represent the development of a new platform within the music industry. Rather, they are almost like an online casino where venture capitalists can gamble over the possible success or failure of a particular band. Despite this, it would be a mistake to ignore the impact that this kind of music production will have in the future. Honey Ryder told The Times that much of their group’s revenue will come from songs being played on television and film soundtracks. But could selling off music rights on a shares basis complicate the business of music licensing and music copyright clearance?
Currently, the principle contractual rights owners of a song are the publishing companies who own the intellectual property rooted in the musical composition and whoever owns the master sound recordings – be it the record company, studio or musicians themselves. These new business models raise interesting questions regarding who would hold sway if a large number of people each owned a ‘slice’ of a song. Could a situation arise whereby 100 stakeholders needed to be consulted on the terms of a deal or licensing agreement? And on whose shoulders should the final decision-making rest? Have we solved the problem of music investment only to be faced with another – namely one of who has ultimate control over a piece of music?
Whatever the future holds for the industry, it is important that artists continue to look carefully at their contracts to ensure they retain the moral right and absolute consent for any secondary clearance of rights, such as synchronisation for advertising or film. Without this, companies such as soundlounge, which facilitates and places music in advertising, may find it harder to reach a deal for a desired song – and bands could miss out on additional revenues streams and new platforms to make themselves heard to a wider audience.
Find out more about synchronisation music licensing and music copyright by visiting the soundlounge website – soundlounge.co.uk