AES Section Meeting Reports

Los Angeles - March 27, 2018

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On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, the Audio Engineering Society Los Ange-les section hosted a panel entitled "Getting Paid: How Musicians and Au-dio Engineers Can Thrive in Today's Market." The panel was the second evening at our new location at the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) in Hollywood and was moderated by AES-LA Executive Board Member Lenise Bent.
The panel included Sara Brockman, from licensing and sales at Audio Net-work, a high-end music library; Amanda Shoffner, Director of Film & TV at ASCAP; Vince Villanueva, who does music clearance independently, and Chris Lakey, Vice President of Synchronization and New Media for Kobalt Music Publishing's North America offices. Discussion by the panelists was quite lively and could have gone on well past the scheduled time.
Responding to a question about the current state of the industry, Sara Brockman got us started by saying that there are more ways for artists to make money now than ever, and there is more money out there than ever, but it's is also more complicated than ever. Because of these new revenue streams, Amanda Shoffner described the market as "democratized," with more opportunities for more people. Chris Lakey pointed out that there have been more placements than ever this year, while Vince Villanueva said clearance work is rising in New Media (e.g. Twitch, Videogram).
If you're a musician, the panel said, the entire process of getting your songs a sync deal starts with clearance. To start this process, Vince asked "Are your songs registered with a PRO (Performance Rights Organization)?" These are companies, mostly publishers, such as BMI, ASCAP, etc., that can register work and protect your work and create licensing deals. According to Vince, the music has to be good to start with, and then has to work with a current project. If it gets placed, it still needs to make the final cut, and even then the project has to air. Unfortunately, if the episode of the TV show your song was placed in gets bumped because of a news report or other unexpected event, you don't actually get paid!
Sara said clearance involves two sides: Publishing (Lyrics & notes [or melody]) and the Label (the recording). If you control the rights to both, they are considered "synced." Chris recommended: "Find shows that match your music. Then find who pitches music to those shows. There are 'pitch houses' that do that for a fee, but beware of a lot of scams out there." You can look up music supervisors on IMDB, con-tact them on Twitter where they post briefs (projects they're working on) or FaceBook but he said, "don't contact them on Instagram — that's invasive."
Moderator Lenise Bent asked whether local appearances at songwriter nights help. According to Sara, A&R (Artists and Repetoire representatives) are out constantly because if they are interested in an artist they know from YouTube or iTunes and hear that he or she is doing a local appearance, they will make an effort to go and see them. When trying to sell your music, it's all about creating awareness. Amanda: "Look for allies. Make connections. Network. People remember the stuff they like."
What happens when a song is accepted? According to Vince, a Sync Request is sent. This says which song for which show, the terms, whether domestic or worldwide, and other information. Also... the price! There is no one rate for a sync placement. It depends on the budget of the project, and rates fluctuate. Some artists are fine with just getting exposure. Amanda said "a popular show that you didn't get paid for still gives you credits towards your publishing." You might make more on the back-end of the deal - what happens with that project after the show airs or the movie premieres. Chris: "If you are not signed and own your own masters and you have publishing, you may be in a position to ask what the budget is for the song." Most productions will have a music budget and will tell you.
When Lenise asked if the song is accepted as is or if it is re-recorded for the project, the panelists said that re-recording is done only in rare situations, therefore, don't submit your work in an unfinished state. Have your masters done already and with the correct meta-data. Vince suggested also always having the stems ready. Chris noted that "songs are not re-cut for sync, only ownership — which can be shady!"
You are eligible for payment on the day of release: the air date of the show or premiere date of the movie. Questions to ask at this point include: "What is the payment schedule?" and " What about the back-end?" Sara said typical payment for a TV show is 6-9 months after airing — so be ready to wait. Before release, get a cue sheet - what is being played and how for all the music in a project. Chris said to "stay on top of it. It's different for every company." Amanda: "You are in control of your rights tracking. Be a businessperson. You need permission from everyone using your music." Sara: "Keep an excel spreadsheet of all clearances and [deal] closures."
Clearances are done on a worldwide basis. Chris continued, "but it's a brave new world. Trends are different everywhere." Sara: "Sub-publishers are used — they are not owned by a US music company but pitch music in other countries."
Lenise asked the panel what happens when your song is used without permission? Sara: "Get a lawyer if there is [significant] money involved. You have to ask, will you make more than your legal fees?" Vince: "You can put your work on SoundCloud, but register it with a publisher." Amanda: "Register it to be contacted you can be paid." Sara: "The copyright office is very slow." and "Be sure to have all your con-tact info included wherever it is registered."
The panel went on to discuss Music Labels vs. Music Libraries — Labels are individual deals and could pay more money in the long run, but work slower. Libraries have less money in the long run, but they have the same contract for everyone, the fastest turnarounds, and are very aggressive about collecting royal-ties. Sara: " Libraries are involved in creating playlists for shows and can help smaller artists." Vince: "There are more relationships between music supervisors and publishers."
The panel agreed that it's tough to get these deals. When Lenise asked our panel for some parting wisdom, relative to today's industry, the panel was very encouraging but were realistic and made it clear that there is work involved. Sara: "Be prepared for a lot of 'no's', which means to be prepared financially." Vince said to ask yourself, "Is this just cool...or is it my passion?" Chris: "Make great songs, and stay true to yourself. Sync requires research."

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