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Music’s Biggest Night, the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards, will return to Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, and will be broadcast in high-definition and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The eligibility year for the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards is Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015.

GRAMMY Week — a weeklong series of cultural events culminating with Music’s Biggest Night — will again feature celebrations of music, education and philanthropy, including the annual MusiCares Person of the Year tribute, Clive Davis’ and The Recording Academy’s Pre-GRAMMY Gala, the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception, the Producers & Engineers Wing event, and the Entertainment Law Initiative luncheon, among other events.

The GRAMMY Awards telecast is one of television’s major broadcast events, ranking as one of the highest-rated and most-watched specials. This year’s 57th GRAMMYs drew 27 million viewers and generated 20.9 million show-related tweets globally. A combined viewership of more than 40 million in the U.S. alone tuned in for three GRAMMY-related shows during GRAMMY “season”: the 57th GRAMMY telecast, “A Very GRAMMY Christmas” and the star-studded “Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute.”

Hard French to Celebrate 5 Years: “Higher and Higher” featuring Spinderella on

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Hard French is turning 5 this year and what better way to celebrate than with an ALL YEAR LONG anniversary! This year’s theme is “Higher and Higher” – and one thing we can reveal is “Spinderella” a.k.a. “Spin,” of the multiplatinum, award-winning female group “Salt N Pepa” will be joining them on May 16th to create the biggest and best dance party experience yet!

About Hard French
Hard French is an outdoor daytime soul music dance party that sets out to modernize, takeover, revamp, trick out, revive, and do up the dance party experience. The HF crew is made up of producer Devon Devine, art directors Jorge P. and Tim T., and DJs Brown Amy and Carnita. The event brings a fresh perspective to the SF party scene – focusing on a genuine experience through creativity, magic and the value of dancing your heart out to your favorite song. Recently awarded ‘Best Monthly Party’ from the California Music and Culture Association, HF also has ‘Best in SF’ awards from the SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly and Asterisk Magazine.

About DJ Spinderella
Although she now prefers to be called “Spin” the fans, specifically those into Hip Hop and Pop music, know her of course, as the irrepressible, fun, funky and talented “DJ Spinderella” of the sexy female group Salt-N-Pepa of multi-platinum selling, award winning fame. Her appearances have included “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show,” VH1’s “The List,” and most recently Quincy Jones’ VH1 special, a five part series “Say It Loud! A Celebration of Black Music in America.” Those early appearances led Spin to also host her own MTV show, “Lip Service”. The world famous DJ has hosted various radio shows as well.

Please Contact us for DJ and hosting engagement opportunities, booking requirements, available dates and further information at your convenience: +1 (310) 295-4150.

A Day in the life of an Ex-Slave

I was searching through the state of Oklahoma government records looking for information when I stumbled across biographies of former slaves. I opened the PDF and read the first story told by Ethel Wolfe Barrison. Her story was like nothing I had read in school text books in our history class. Ethel explains her day to day life through her eyes, yet to me it was a whole new outlook and perspective of the pain, sorrow, loneliness, fear, unstable lives they had to live. She also describes the day the army rode up on horses, yelling “the slaves are free”, and how her life changed, but her memories were buried deep within.

Times have truly changed, right? or have they? I wish everyone would take a second to read these biographies and really let it sink in what they went through, and where we are today, in the present time. The lack of respect that most individuals have for one another, and themselves, the names we jokingly call our friends and loved ones as well as ourselves when speaking in 3rd person (that’s my bitch, that’s my dog, that’s my nigga) all in the name of love right? No. Its disrespectful, its degrading and truly should be looked at as an insult. Change starts with self. If we all hold ourselves accountable, think of the possibilities and change that could manifest from that one simple action. Its not hard, so whats stopping you from taking that initial step? Leader is the only name you should be called.

***I have attached the full PDF here Ex-Slave Biographies

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Description Contains biographies of former slaves written by the employees of the FWP

Ethel Wolfe Barrison          Ethel Wolfe Barrison2

Ethel Wolfe Barrison3                 Ethel Wolfe Barrison4

musicIn creating an effective music marketing plan, so far we have discussed building a solid and complete online foundation and outlined strategies for a successful new release launch. Now it is time to kick back and relax for a little while before starting to write material for the next album that you’ll release a year or two down the road right…..Couldn’t be further from the truth!

To build off of all the progress you’ve been making up to this point, while you are working on that next record, you will have to keep supplying content on a consistent basis to strengthen your relationship and stay relevant with your current fans, and at the same time this content will also help to increase your fanbase.

Additional merchandise is one content idea, you can make vinyl for the last album or announce a new T-shirt design. Continue to release music videos for songs off the last album is another, for example take footage from the album release tour and edit to create an easy and fun music video to upload to your YouTube channel.

In the final post of this series I will discuss the three crucial content streams of Music, Social Media and Performing Live.

MUSIC

Gone are the days of releasing an album once every couple of years and leaving it at that, today’s artists need to be constantly feeding their fanbase new music. Releasing singles will keep people engaged while they are waiting on a full length, but you’re not limited to just releasing original new works.

Create alternate versions of your studio tracks:

Get a DJ to remix one of your songs. Not saying this has to be a famous DJ, just someone who knows the technology and is Sparlers Notescreative. If you’re interested in holding a remix contest should contact the folks over at Indaba Music, they put together some great remix campaigns for artists. Unless you’re already an acoustic act, take a page from Nirvana and release an album of stripped down “unplugged” versions of your studio tracks. A great way to show a different side of the band and appeal to potentially new listeners. Lastly release a live album, preferably from the CD release show, but any show will work as long as the audio is of top quality.

Record cover songs:

Music fans love covers. Recording cover songs is a great strategy for gaining awareness for new artists and providing fun content to share with your fans. Cover artists that inspire the music that you make and bigger name similar sounding artists to further entrench yourself within your genre. But also look outside of your genre as you never know, might end up tapping in to a whole new fanbase. This is exactly what the pianist Scott D. Davis did when he decided to combine his love of heavy metal with the beautiful piano pieces he was recording. The result was millions of youtube hits for his metal covers and new fans out of the heavy metal community, even of the artists themselves; Scott has been invited to open for Godsmack, Korn, P.O.D., Sevendust, Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe and Queensrÿche among others.

*Please note, to legally sell a cover song you will need to obtain and pay for a mechanical license. Harry Fox Agency is the foremost mechanical licensing agency in the US. Or work with Limelight who will get the license for a small fee per song on top of the mechanical license fee.

SOCIAL MEDIA, NEWSLETTER, BLOG Social MediaReal simple here, keep doing it. Just because you may not have a big ticket item like a new album that doesn’t mean you should stop communicating with your fans on a regular basis. You should be updating daily to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Newsletters should still be going out once a month and keep your blog active with a couple new entries per month. In addition to all the content ideas I’ve gone over in this blog post thus far that you can share, post about things happening in your personal life, such as a vacation you just went on or a great movie you recently saw. Repost interesting articles you’ve just read or a post song from a band you recently discovered that you love. News, politics, sports, parenting, art and fashion all make good topics for people to engage and connect around. Now that you have continued to stay present with fans, you’ll have a stronger and larger online audience when you’re ready to release the next album.

PERFORMING LIVE

Continue to tour, hitting the same markets that you played while supporting the new album to build on the momentum that has been made. There are undoubtedly limitations though on how often you can tour and you more than likely won’t be able to tour to every market where there are fans. Live streaming is a great solution to these limitations and if you use a platform like Stageit or Concert Window you will also be able to monetize these performances. There are also some great features that they offer to reward supporters and create tip rewards for an enhanced and more financial rewarding experience. Then spread the word by making a Facebook invite with all the details and sending to your fans, posting on twitter and letting everyone on your mailing list know.

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Keeping the shows fresh and different will help with increasing viewership from show-to-show:

Play a game at some point during the performance using the live streaming platforms chat feature, a fun way to interact with the viewers. Trivia would be a very easy game to execute, where people could win merch or any other prizes that you can get your hands on for being the first to answer the question correctly. Learn a new cover song for each performance, or better yet, ask people what covers you should play for the next live streaming show. Post the question to Facebook as well and the song suggestion that gets the most likes will be the one(s) you cover. Invite a guest performer to join you, a great way to add a new element to the live stream, while cross promoting to each others fans at the same time.

LEADING UP TO THE NEXT RELEASE TAKE PEOPLE ON THE JOURNEY WITH YOU

People like to follow along to real life stories that are interesting and different from their own lives, hence the popularity of realityStart TV. Used by an artist around a specific story, such as the making of a new album, is a great way to form a stronger bond with your current fans. The types of content that you could be sending are updates on how the recording is going using text posts, videos and pics via your social media channels, blog and newsletter. But also engage with your following on things like artwork and song titles by polling your fans and holding contests to select what cover or title to go with. The goal of all this activity is to get people excited so they are telling their friends about the upcoming release and will buy it the minute it’s available!

Releasing an album or EP into today’s music landscape can feel like a daunting task. Who do you send it to? How will you get people to listen? How do you cut through the noise? Where are all the places to put it online?

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The first blog post in this 3-part series for creating an effective marketing plan dealt with building a strong online presence, so if you follow those instructions you are already in better shape than the majority of artists releasing music today.

In this, part 2, we will discuss steps to take in order to have a successful new release launch.

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION

You must digitally distribute your album or EP. A physical CD only release or selling MP3s strictly on your website is not the way to go.

Digital distribution allows your music to be available everywhere fans will want it. Some will prefer streamed (Spotify, Rdio) and some will purchase (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) and the best way to get added to all of these is to go to a digital distributor like CD Baby or Tunecore.

I talk to artists all the time who take this step too far and sign up with multiple distributors because they think they are covering all their bases, which they are not. All this will do is put multiple copies of the same album on all the digital retail stores.

So, choose one and stick with them. We prefer CD Baby over Tunecore’s model because it’s a one time fee plus a small % of sales vs an annual fee that Tunecore will charge. So unless you think you’ll be generating at least $1k in sales year after year, then CD Baby is the economical option.

THE ALBUM IS JUST THE BEGINNING

The release of the actual music itself is one big event, and this album/EP as a whole represents your main content that will be used in an effective launch campaign.

Keep in mind that you need to also plan for other types of content to support the release. These are many assets you can use to reach out to press and share with your current following that will work to draw attention to the release.

Here are a few of the most effective categories:

TOURING

Ideally you will have a tour booked to kickoff following the official release of your album or EP. I’m not saying this has to be a long tour, it can be just a few regional dates, as this will help with your press efforts. Local blogs cheering crowd in front of bright stage lightsand newspapers in each market will be much more inclined to cover a new album or EP for an artist if a show is booked in their town.

CrowdHaving multiple markets to play in will also help you leverage when it’s time for a national press campaign. A list of tour dates will add credibility and demonstrate that you are an active artist working hard to promote your career.

VIDEOS

We all know MTV does not play music anymore, that is well-worn territory, but there are thousands of blogs who do love to post videos everyday. A music video that is captivating, colorful, funny, interesting (the list goes on, but you get the idea) greatly helps with a press campaign. The video can be used in the initial pitch to blogs about your album to make for a stronger pitch.

Another thing you can do with a video is secure an exclusive premier of the video on one blog ahead of the album release date to start generating buzz. Or if you don’t have the video ready in time for the release you can also drop it a month or two after the release date as a tool to continue to build awareness and draw attention back to the release.

You should have at least one official music video for an album to use in your press efforts, but you should plan on making videos for every song on the release. The idea is you want to build a fanbase and get as many people listening as possible and YouTube is where millions of people are going to listen to music. Many artists will upload the song’s audio to YouTube with a static image of the artist or album cover, but people are much more inclined to listen to your music if there are moving images.

MERCH

Pretty much everything in regards to your music career takes longer than expected, from making the album to creating the artwork to booking shows, and this definitely applies to any merchandise you want to have available to sell with the new album or EP, so start your planning months in advance.

I will caution you to ask your fans before you make merch to find out what they might like and if you don’t have a good sized fan base merch may not be a great move (yet!), as it can be costly to order merch that doesn’t yet have an audience to buy it.

Remember to match your merch to your crowd and merch isn’t limited to T-Shirts and posters, handmade items can make for great unique offerings or flash drives are great items that are functional and can be pre-filled with your music, videos and even sheet music.

Spark sales at shows, and through your online store, by selling your music through bundling items together. At the merch booth using download stickers from companies like Bandcamp or CD Baby you can create packages by placing a sticker with a download code to your music right on the t-shirt or other physical merch item that you are wishing to bundle your music with. Even though people aren’t buying CDs much anymore, they are still interested in supporting artists they love, so give them lots of different ways to support you and purchase your music.

PRESS CAMPAIGN

A big component when promoting a new album is the press campaign, and you can do this by working with a PR company to handle your press outreach or going the DIY route.

I talk to many independent artists who don’t see the point in a press campaign for their new release, usually because they (or artists they know) have spent thousands of dollars on a PR company in the past with little to no results. I definitely feel for artists here, but ignoring press completely is not the solution. Internet-Public-Relations

When hiring a publicist make sure your music is a good fit with their existing roster and that the publicist has a well thought out plan for the campaign, and most of all, honestly likes your music. An expensive campaign with a PR company that has some major label big name clients is not by any means a slam dunk that you will get “tons” of “great” press for your independent release, and many times will be the exact opposite. Try contacting boutique PR firms that can offer more personal attention or PR companies that are focused on independent artists.

For many artists doing-it-yourself is a totally feasible option that I consult with artists on with strategy and supplying specific media outlets to target.

For the campaign itself having all this support content that we discussed will help immensely in your outreach to press outlets, keeping a steady stream of talking points throughout the campaign instead of just talking about the album over and over and over. But do not focus on just music blogs, your passions, history, interests and hobbies that you have outside of music can all be utilized in a PR campaign. These are your niches and by making connections with blogs and their communities who share your passions and interests will provide a great opportunity to promote your music at the same time.

PREPARE YOUR LAUNCH TIMELINE

Here is a basic model to follow for an upcoming new album or EP release. If you plan on working with a PR company though to promote a new release please don’t set the release date until AFTER you have talked with them as it is important to have their input to make sure everything is aligned with their vision and timetable.

Two Months Before Release

  • Press campaign begins
  • Release a single, a great way excite your fans and also to get some current press quotes to include when contacting press about the full length release
  • Reskin social media profiles to advertise the new release
  • Get your newsletter firing and tell fans you have a special announcement

One Month Before Release

  • Announce pre-sale campaign through your newsletter and social media networks- create bundles of merch to sell for extra boost
  • Set up a Facebook invite for the new release, send it to all your Facebook friends and post on your Fan Page

Two Weeks Before Release

  • Keep the excitement going, hold a contest to win a copy of the new album and/or tickets to the release show

Official Release Day Activities

  • Write a news post about the release on your website or blog
  • Update Twitter and Facebook with an “album out now” post and link to where they can purchase it (I suggest you pay to boost post so people see it!)
  • Send out a Newsletter to your mailing list

One Month After The Release

  • Service press with official music video and announce tour dates

Again, the more activities you can plan surrounding a release will help build and foster excitement amongst your fans and will create more opportunities to keep contacting press with new content, while at the same time reminding them about the new album or EP.

Also don’t forget to ask your family, friends and fans to write reviews of your new release on iTunes and other digital retailers the minute it becomes available. Studies have shown that albums that are reviewed actually sell more than albums with little to no reviews posted.

In the next and final post – Part 3 I will talk about supplying content while you’re in between album cycles, as a means to stay relevant and fresh with your current fans, and to increase your fanbase as well.

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Over the years I’ve seen the same problems occur again and again. An artist will call us up looking for help promoting a new album that they’re planning on releasing in a few weeks or less! And often their only plan is just to hire a publicist. It completely baffles me that an artist will work so hard on an album, spending hours and hours writing songs and practicing these songs and then spending large sums of money recording, mixing and mastering, to only rush the release without being ready and having a complete plan in place.  Especially in today’s saturated climate where even small music blogs are getting inundated with hundreds of emails a day from artists looking for coverage, just making an album and then wanting to “get some press”, is not enough of a plan. An artist needs to be working many different angles and taking many different approaches to get seen and heard.

In this three part series I will discuss some basic components of a marketing plan to promote you and your new release. This begins with building a solid online presence, which will be the focus of part one in this series.

Time and energy needs to be spent building a strong online presence in order to be taken seriously as an artist for when the time comes to start actively promoting. This will begin many months before there is even a thought of releasing an album. Here I’ve laid out the critical elements for a solid online presence and other important steps that will prepare you for a new release launch.

ONLINE PRESENCE

The music industry is built on appearances. To be taken seriously it is very important to have a complete and professional looking online 360 degree presence. There are lots of places online that artists can have a presence, but I will focus on the four of the most important: Official Website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Your socials are not substitutions for your website. It’s important to have an online home where you are in complete control that is modern and functional. Your website should have a place where people can easily listen to and buy your music (but not a player that plays automatically when a person lands on your site, I can’t stress that enough), a news section where people can read the latest happenings with your career, and a newsletter sign up that offers an incentive for signing up such as free music or merch discounts. It always surprises when I go to an artist website and can’t find any contact information or links to their socials. Ariel wrote a great guide to help you with the architecture so you don’t miss anything.

TWITTER Twitter

This platform is great as you can easily build a following of targeted users. Many clients come to us with stale Twitter accounts (their last Tweets from months ago), the profile is missing a cover image or bio and there are hardly any followers. What I also see is many don’t know the basics. Not understanding them will really hurt your promotional efforts as bloggers, and other music industry professionals you may be contacting will often visit your social media sites to see how serious you are and see what kind of existing following you have, and a stale profile will not help you chances. If this is the state your Twitter is in it’s time to jump start your followers by following people and many will follow you back. Every single person you interact with in real life should be searched for and followed on Twitter (friends, musicians, producers, club owners etc.) As there are only so many people that you can interact with in person, also target similar sounding artists online and follow their Twitter followers, as there is a great chance that these followers will also like the music that you are creating. There are many tools out there to help with this following effort, Tweepi is a great one for example. But don’t follow more than 50 accounts in a day to avoid being flagged by Twitter.

Next to tackle the image problem, or lack there of, upload a cover photo that says something about you and your music. A picture of the countryside may look beautiful, but instead use this prime real estate as an advertisement. A simple solution is to use a publicity shot with text on top of the image that promotes anything on the horizon like single, EP, or album releases, new music videos and tour announcements. To keep your profile active with Tweets use a program that will allow for pre-programming like Hootsuite and in as little as one hour could potentially schedule a weeks worth of tweets. Vary the topics you tweet about from career news (which should be no more than 20% of your output) to your interests, passions and hobbies. News, politics, sports, culture are all great topics to share for people to engage and connect around. There are many relationship building practices and benefits for being active on Twitter of course that we teach our clients, but by following these instructions you will at least have a respectable presence on this powerful platform.

FACEBOOK facebook

Yes there is definitely a pay-to-play reality on Facebook for a Fanpage to get maximum exposure. If you wish to spend money on advertising we suggest it but you should have goals in place before you do, and you should have a complete Fanpage that is active with daily posts if you want to appear professional. Make sure the page has a cover photo as discussed above for Twitter and install apps that work as promotional tools for you and your music. Three that I suggest you install are an artist profile (Ex. Bandpage), a store (Ex. Bandcamp) and a mailing list sign up form (Ex. MailChimp). For your posting efforts even though the posts won’t get seen by a large percentage of the people who have liked your page without advertising organic reach is still possible and an active Fanpage helps to show that you are an active artist. Posts that are not just text will have a greater chance of being seen, so share photos and links as much as possible and ask questions to increase engagement.

YOUTUBE youtube

YouTube is the first place millions of people worldwide go when they’re looking for online video, and with music being the number one type of content being streamed, it is a very powerful platform where artists are getting seen and discovered. youtube icon For any artist looking to increase awareness and raise their profile, it is imperative to have a presence on YouTube with a professional looking channel, one that has a branded cover image and is linked to your other social media profiles so people can connect with you across platforms. Create a home page that looks amazing and is very functional by making categories to group your videos for easy viewing, such as “Behind The Scenes”, “Official Music Videos”, and “Live Performances”, and highlight an official music video in the featured spot at the top. For the videos themselves I often see artists leaving off their artist name in the title of the video, which is terrible for search. Need to think of these videos as stand alone entities, not videos found on your YouTube Channel. Make sure you include keywords in your tags and place those most important keywords and keyword phrases at the start of your tags fields. Use adjectives that describe your music and similar artists as keywords with your artist name also being a keyword, the latter of which will ensure a greater chance your other videos will show up in the “related videos section” after one of your videos is viewed. I also often see description sections left blank too. This is a crucial piece of real estate to tell the viewer what they are watching and provide links to other content you own, such as your website and iTunes, where they can go for more music and learn more about the band (Make sure to use http:// or it won’t turn in to a hyperlink!).

NEWSLETTERemail

This is real simple, have one, and contact your mailing list once a month with news. Don’t cut corners on this either, a newsletter is where you’ll see the greatest impact on sales. All the tweets and Facebook posts about a new album out for sale won’t equal the results of a well crafted newsletter, so spend money on a mailing list service provider that can help you design a rich looking email and provide analytics and tracking capabilities so you can measure the effectiveness of your newsletters and make adjustments where need be. A premier solution that many of our clients enjoy working with is MailChimp.

5 Critical Things to Keep In Mind for Your Newsletter

Cyber PR’s 3 G’s – GREETING, GUTS & GETTING – How To Write An Effective Newsletter

PRESS

I know this might seem too soon to talk about press but it’s not. This is not about pitching press, but identifying and becoming familiar with press outlets that you will eventually want to pitch your music to well in advance. Before reaching out to press it is a good idea to make a connection by simply following them on social media and then retweeting and favoriting tweets they are posting. For blogs that you want to make an even further connection with leave a comment on one of their blog posts (not about your music, a genuine comment about the blog post). Through this activity this way when you do send the press outlet an email about your music, or if a publicist will be doing it for you, there could now be some familiarity there and relationships potentially built that will help the PR campaign in getting your emails opened and then your new album hopefully featured. There are many ways to start building a media list of targeted media, one method is to identify a musician that is on the same level as you, or slightly further along with their career, and take note of the press outlets that they are getting featured in as then there is a great chance that those publications would also feature you.

Now that you know how to build a solid online foundation and the beginnings of an online community dive in and do it. Do not cut corners here. Having a true base will put you in a much better position when you’re getting ready to release a new album, which is the topic for part 2 of this 3-part series. In the next blog post I will discuss some basic principles for an effective album or EP launch.

When your ready for a publicist check out my website and then give me a call. www.collinsconnect.org and follow me on Twitter! @Makiniteasy

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After a glitzy night in Los Angeles for the Grammys awards, we can say that it wasn’t just stars who upped their profile – the issue of songwriter royalties has more prominence than ever.

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow adapted his annual anti-piracy speech during the awards to focus on royalties from streaming music, while Sony/ATV boss Martin Bandier also highlighted the issue before the event, in a speech picking up a President’s Award at the pre-Grammy Gala.

“Music has tremendous value in our lives. While ways of listening to music evolve, we must remember that music matters in our lives, and that new technology must pay artists fairly,” said Portnow from the Grammys stage. This, as his organisation launched something called the Creators Alliance, which plans to “advise those who make policy in music and in government so that our next generation of creators are able to make tomorrow’s music as great as tonight’s”.

Bandier had also banged the drum for songwriters’ rights in his pre-Grammys speech. “The music industry is changing in ways that I could never have imagined even just a decade ago; it is exciting for us that this has resulted in music lovers having new ways to listen to music as they move from CDs and digital downloads to streaming services,” he said. “But it is also the case that songwriters are not being adequately compensated for their creations in today’s digital world. Their songs are the very reason these services exist.”

In the US, there is added impetus from last week’s Copyright and the Music Marketplace report by the US Copyright Office, with its suggestion that “sound recordings and the underlying musical works should stand on more equal footing” in the digital realm.

Meanwhile, in the UK, songwriters’ body BASCA has just launched its own “The Day The Music Died” campaign calling for fairer digital deals and more transparency: “Without songwriters and composers there is no music industry and it is, therefore, scarcely believable that writers are almost an afterthought when it comes to getting paid for their work from digital sources,” said chief executive Vick Bain.

Tension between publishers and labels over royalties is nothing new, to say the least. Individually, a number of songwriters have spoken out about their worries over digital royalties in recent years too.

But there’s an urgency about the desire of their representative bodies to give these issues a higher profile at the start of 2015, for reasons including copyright legislation and upcoming royalty-rate setting in the US; the accelerating streaming transition with Apple and YouTube’s full market entry to come; and perhaps a sense that songwriters and publishers have a moment of leverage with labels by threatening to put a spoke in the wheels of Spotify’s IPO bandwagon.

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A comprehensive effort to review music licensing concluded Thursday with the release of the U.S. Copyright Office’s Music Licensing Study. The 245-page document is the result of the Copyright Office’s request for comments on a variety of licensing issues as well as hearings in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.

The Office guides and informs Congress on the complicated matters of copyright. As such, this report should influence Congress as it attempts to update copyright law in the coming years.

During its study, the Office found a broad consensus across four principals: music creators should be fairly compensated; the licensing process should be more efficient; market participants should have access to authoritative data to identify and license sound recordings and musical works; and usage and payment information should be transparent and accessible to rights owners.

Why Tuesday’s Music Licensing Hearing is a Big Deal

It also provided addition principles it feels should guide copyright reform: government uses of music should aspire to treat like uses of music alike; government supervision should enable voluntary transactions while still supporting collective solutions; rate-setting and enforcement of antitrust laws should be separately managed and addressed; and a single-market oriented rate-setting standard should apply to all music uses under statutory licenses.

Here are just some of the standout aspects of the Copyright Office’s proposed rate-setting framework:

— A more equal footing for sound recordings and musical works. At least in the digital realm, the Office believes “sound recordings and the underlying musical works should stand on more equal footing.” An alternative, free-market approach “would give copyright owners an opt‐out right to withdraw specific categories of rights from government oversight in key areas where sound recording owners enjoy such benefits–namely, interactive streaming uses and downloads.” Music publishers have long complained that musical works shared too little in digital royalties.

— Replace the 801(b) standard with a single, market-oriented standard such as the “willing buyer, willing seller” (“or some alternative formulation”) for both sound recordings and musical works. The 801(b) standard used is currently used to set rates for satellite and cable radio. Rates for webcasters like Pandora are set using the market-based “willing buyer” standard.

Licensing Hearings in June Expanded, to Include David Israelite, Neil Portnow

— Allow publishers to withdraw from PROs for interactive streaming. However, the Office believes these withdrawals should be limited — “at least for now” — to interactive streaming rights for digital services. Publishers that opt out would be required to provide a list of withdrawn works to a central source (some kind of “general music rights organization”).

— Allow for transparency in direct deals. The Office suggests direct deals between rights owners and digital services (negotiated outside the performing rights societies) allow songwriters and artists to elect to receive their royalties from “the licensee through their chosen licensing entity.”

— Bundle mechanical and performance rights. Supported by industry stakeholders, this proposal would allow PROs and other entities to become “music rights organizations” that offer both mechanical and performance rights for musical works.

— Allow for blanket licenses for digital uses under Section 115. A move to a blanket license system would eliminate concern about liability and “allow marketplace entrants to launch their services–and begin paying royalties–more quickly.”

East Village Radio to Close, Cites High Cost of Licensing

— Fully federalized pre-1972 recordings. The Office believes pre-1972 recordings, currently subject to state laws, should be brought within federal law “with the same rights, exceptions, and limitations as more recently created sound recordings.” The lack of federal protection has meant some digital services do not pay performance royalties for pre-1972 recordings.

— Establish of a new public performance right for sound recordings. These rates would be negotiated in a free market. Sound recordings do not currently have this public performance right, although some labels have negotiated deals for performance royalties with terrestrial broadcasters that also cover webcasting.

— From rate courts to CRB. The Office hopes for a “productive reconsideration” of 75-year-old consent decrees that bind ASCAP and BMI to the Department of Justice. Similarly, the Office suggests rate-setting of public performances of musical works could be more appropriately handled by Congress, via the CRB, than the DOJ.

— Incentives to create an “authoritative public database.” The Office believes any solution to the music data problem should be built by private actors rather than the government.

Key West Songwriters Festival

BMI is pleased to announce the lineup for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Key West Songwriters Festival, presented by BMI. Benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and in association with Visit Florida, Jagermeister and the Key West & Florida Keys Tourist Development Council, the Key West Songwriters Festival for the 20th year will again feature many of music’s most decorated songwriters in one-of-a-kind showcases and concert events dotting venues across the tropical island May 6-10, 2015.

“The Key West Songwriters Festival exhibits BMI’s strong commitment to nurturing the careers of our songwriters and is the perfect place for songwriters to showcase their talent,” says Mark Mason, BMI’s Executive Director of Writer/Publisher Relations. “We’re thrilled to be able to partner with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in such a unique location to host show after show of some of the best songwriters in the country.”

The impressive list of performers for this year includes headliners Chris Young, Robert Earl Keen, Dean Dillon, Jeffrey Steele, Kacey Musgraves, Rhett Akins, Bob Dipiero, Lee Thomas Miller, Raul Malo, Al Anderson, Pat MacLaughlin, Shawn Camp, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, James Slater, Even Stevens, Steve Bogard, Steve McEwan, Guthrie Trapp and the Mulekickers, Chuck Cannon, Loving Mary, Josh Dorr, Dylan Altman Blues Band, Kostas, Aaron Watson, and many more.

“We are so honored to sponsor the Key West Songwriters Festival,” says Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “It brings a diverse line up of some of the top songwriters to a vibrant city, encouraging people to venture to the festival to discover new acts or revisit old favorites. We cannot wait to see what this year’s talented group of songwriters has in store for us this round.”

The festival will kick off with a concert on Ocean Key Resort’s Sunset Pier, followed by daily stages at the Southernmost Hotel Collection, sunset shows on Pier House Resort’s beach and The Westin, Main Stage Duval Street Concert featuring Chris Young, and rounded out with a closing concert at the historic Casa Marina Resort. In addition, the NSAI will present a special Bluebird at Blue Heaven show on Thursday, May 7. Ticketed shows for the festival will include Theatre Shows at San Carlos Institute, Tropic Cinema, and the revived Key West Theater and Sunset Sail Shows on Fury Water Adventures. Tickets for these events will be on sale in March.

For updates on the event, follow @BMI on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and use hashtag #BMIKeyWest. Sponsors of the Key West Songwriters Festival include SunTrust Bank, Texas Roadhouse, HD Radio, Epiphone, and Texas Heritage Songwriters Association. For a complete listing of sponsoring hotels, local businesses, participating songwriters and more, visit www.keywestsongwritersfestival.com.

key west songwriters festival

SoundScan revealed it’s 2014 statistics for the music industry, spotlighting 54 percent growth in on-demand streams of audio and video music-related content. Total streams were up from 106 billion in 2013 to 164 billion in 2014 due to the popularity of services like Spotify, Beats Music, Rhapsody and Pandora.

pandora-beats-spotify-icons

The rise of streaming services comes as traditional digital album and song sales are on the decline. Sales of digital albums fell 9 percent in 2014 to 117.6 million, while songs dropped 12 percent to 1.26 billion.

For the year, total sales for hip-hop albums were down 24.1 percent, while all other genres dropped just 11.2 percent. It is important to note that R&B and hip-hop music are popular on streaming sites as they increased 54 percent last year.

Some industry insiders believe that the popularity of streaming services might’ve helped the record industry break even this year. Pandora alone contributed royalties equivalent to 16.3 million album sales.

While sales may be down, streaming is way up, which will only help the music industry transition into a digital world.

Register With State Agencies
Register Your Business With State Agencies

Some business types require registration with your state government:

  • A corporation
  • A nonprofit organization
  • A limited-liability company or partnership

If you establish your business as a sole proprietorship, you won’t need to register your business at the state level. However, many states require sole proprietors to use their own name for the business name unless they formally file another name. This is known as a your Doing Business As (DBA) name, trade name or a fictitious name.

Select a state to find out about specific filing requirements in the state where you will form your business.

Alabama 

Alaska 

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado 

Connecticut

Delaware

District of Columbia

Florida 

Georgia

Guam

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas 

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland 

Massachusetts 

Michigan

Minnesota 

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico 

New York

North Carolina 

North Dakota

Ohio 

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania 

Puerto Rico

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee 

Texas 

U.S. Virgin Islands

Utah

Vermont 

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin 

Wyoming 

Changing Your Business Type

Your initial choice of a business type is not permanent. You can start out as a sole proprietorship, and if your business grows and your risk of personal liability increases, you can convert your business to an LLC.

If you change your business structure, follow the Internal Revenue Service’s instructions for Changes in Ownership or Organization.

You will also need to file new documents with your state government, and depending on state and local laws, you may also need to obtain new business licenses.

Register Your Business Name
Naming your business is an important branding exercise, but if you choose to name your business as anything other than your own personal name then you’ll need to register it with the appropriate authorities.

This process is known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name.

What is a “Doing Business As” Name?

A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name or DBA name) is a business name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

It’s important to note that when you form a business, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity that owns the business, unless you choose to rename it and register it as a DBA name.

For example, consider this scenario: John Smith sets up a painting business. Rather than operate under his own name, John instead chooses to name his business: “John Smith Painting”. This name is considered an assumed name and John will need to register it with the appropriate local government agency.

The legal name of your business is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits.

Do I Need a “Doing Business As” Name?

A DBA is needed in the following scenarios:

Sole Proprietors or Partnerships – If you wish to start a business under anything other than your real name, you’ll need to register a DBA so that you can do business as another name.
Existing Corporations or LLCs – If your business is already set up and you want to do business under a name other than your existing corporation or LLC name, you will need to register a DBA.
Note: Not all states require the registering of fictitious business names or DBAs.

How to Register your “Doing Business As” Name

Registering your DBA is done either with your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where your business is located. There are a few states that do not require the registering of fictitious business names.

Choose Your Business Name
Choosing a business name is an important step in the business planning process. Not only should you pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure it is properly registered and protected for the long term. You should also give a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Is the domain name even available?

Here are some tips to help you pick, register, and protect your business name.

Factors to Consider When Naming Your Business

Many businesses start out as freelancers, solo operations, or partnerships. In these cases, it’s easy to fall back on your own name as your business name. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does make it tougher to present a professional image and build brand awareness.

Here are some points to consider as you choose a name:

How will your name look? – On the web, as part of a logo, on social media.
What connotations does it evoke? – Is your name too corporate or not corporate enough? Does it reflect your business philosophy and culture? Does it appeal to your market?
Is it unique? – Pick a name that hasn’t been claimed by others, online or offline. A quick web search and domain name search (more on this below) will alert you to any existing use.
Check for Trademarks

Trademark infringement can carry a high cost for your business. Before you pick a name, use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark search tool to see if a similar name, or variations of it, is trademarked.

If You Intend to Incorporate

If you intend to incorporate your business, you’ll need to contact your state filing office to check whether your intended business name has already been claimed and is in use. If you find a business operating under your proposed name, you may still be able to use it, provided your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.

Pick a Name That is Web-Ready

In order to claim a website address or URL, your business name needs to be unique and available. It should also be rich in key words that reflect what your business does. To find out if your business name has been claimed online, do a simple web search to see if anyone is already using that name.

Next, check whether a domain name (or web address) is available. You can do this using the WHOIS database of domain names. If it is available, be sure to claim it right away. This guide explains how to register a domain name.

Claim Your Social Media Identity

It’s a good idea to claim your social media name early in the naming process – even if you are not sure which sites you intend to use. A name for your Facebook page can be set up and changed, but you can only claim a vanity URL or custom URL once you’ve got 25 fans or “likes.” This custom URL name must be unique, or un-claimed.

Register Your New Business Name

Registering a business name is a confusing area for new business owners. What does it mean and what are you required to do?

Registering your business name involves a process known as registering a “Doing Business As (DBA)” name or trade name. This process shouldn’t be confused with incorporation and it doesn’t provide trademark protection. Registering your “Doing Business As” name is simply the process of letting your state government know that you are doing business as a name other than your personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation. If you are operating under your own name, then you can skip the process.

Learn about the requirements in your state and how to file in this Registering Your Doing Business As Name guide.

Apply for Trademark Protection

A trademark protects words, names, symbols, and logos that distinguish goods and services. Your name is one of your most valuable business assets, so it’s worth protecting. You can file for a trademark for less than $300. Learn how to trademark your business name.