Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

Representing the artist that would otherwise not have a voice

Author: Billboard Magazine

Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’: A Complete Timeline

Last week was a big one for Taylor Swift. From swiping her social media accounts clean on Aug. 18 to shattering records across the board with her newest single “Look What You Made Me Do,” the evolving pop star’s road to Reputation has been a mix of suspense, excitement, and controversy.

With such a jam-packed 10-day period for one superstar — and the potential for another No. 1 Taylor Swift hit — Billboard wanted to lay out everything that’s happened with Swift in the midst of her latest release. Find a complete timeline below.

August 18: Taylor Swift wipes her social media accounts clean, with all photos and posts on her Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr deleted. The singer also deletes the avatar picture and header for her Twitter and Facebook pages, which she later replaces with promotional pictures for Reputation.

It’s also on this day that a visit to her official website reveals a blank, black screen in place of her usual promotional and tour information. Fans note that it was exactly three years ago on this date that Swift released her single “Shake It Off” and announced the release of her fifth album 1989, igniting further speculation that new music was on the way.

August 21-23: Over the span of three consecutive days, Swift begins posting ominous short video clips of snakes to her social media accounts, with none of the posts offering more information with a caption. Fans immediately find the snakes to be an allusion to the Kardashian-Swift feud that became public on National Snake Day (July 17) last year. The initial post included only an image of a snake-like tail, the second featuring a coiled snake body, and the third finally revealing the animal’s face.

August 23: After more than a week of mysterious signals, Swift officially announces that the first single from her upcoming album will be released the following night, simultaneously announcing the official release date to be Nov. 10. Her Instagram posts reveal the grungy cover art for her album.

August 24: Kim Kardashian seemingly blocks the snake emoji from her Instagram accounts as Swift’s impending release triggered snake-filled comments on her tweets and Instagram posts.

August 25:  “Look What You Made Me Do,” the first single off of Reputation, is released along with an animated lyric music video. The lyric video, which parodies the animation style of the opening credits for Ryan Murphy’s FX anthology Feud: Bette and Joan, breaks the record for the most-watched lyric video within 24 hours of its release. The video breaks the record previously held by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay for “Something Like This,” with an initial 19 million views. The video has now amassed more than 48 million views at press time.

August 27: Swift debuts the official music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” on the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, which was immediately released on YouTube after its premiere. Following the popularity of the earlier-released lyric video, the music video breaks the record for the most watched music video within 24 hours of its release, garnering 43.2 million views in its first day — surpassing Adele’s 27.7 million with her “Hello” video. The visual has since been watched almost 60 million times as of press time.

August 28: Since its release, the single lands itself at No. 77 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (dated Sept. 9) after only 3 days of air-play. However, it’s predicted to soar to No. 1on next week’s Hot 100.

 

Music Industry Will Hit $41 Billion By 2030

A Goldman Sachs analyst forecasted that streaming will account for $34 billion of the total revenues.

The global recorded music industry will grow into a nearly $41 billion behemoth by 2030, thanks largely to the growth of streaming, according to Goldman Sachs analyst Lisa Yang and her team.

The Goldman Sachs analyst further predicts that streaming will account for $34 billion of that, of which $28 billion will come from paid subscription while $6 billion will come from ad-supported streaming services. She predicts that another $4 billon will come from performance rights, synchronization will be $500 million, physical and downloads $700 million and other come in at $1.2 billion.

The report further states that thanks to the explosion of streaming, the Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment should carry hefty valuations. Both companies are themselves not listed in the stock market, but the shares of their parents, respectively Vivendi and Sony. Corp., are publicly traded.

Looking at the Universal Music Group, Yang assigns a valuation of 19.5 billion euros, which according to the OandA website, converts to $23.3 billion; while she says that her estimates for Sony Music Entertainment’s performance suggests a valuation of 2.16 trillion yen or $19.8 billion.

Looking at UMG, Yang breaks out her estimates for that company, which helped derive its valuation. In the Goldman Sachs report, she estimates UMG’s revenue at 12.6 billion euros  ($15.05 billion) by 2030 (that’s twice its current level), of which 1.58 billion euros ($1.89 billion) will be from publishing; 9.3 billion euros ($11.11 billion) from streaming; 1.1 billion euros $1.3 billion) from artist services and music licensing; 500 million euros ($597 million) from merchandising and 150 million euros ($179.2 million) from physical and download sales.

In 2016, U.S. recorded music sales were up by double digits for the first time in nearly 20 years to 11.4 percent with $7.65 billion in revenue, according to the RIAA. That was up from $6.87 million in 2015. Although the music business showed signs of a recovery at the half-year mark, the 2016 year-end results show more significant growth, led by streaming revenue. This was the first time since 1998 that the U.S industry experienced a double digit increase in overall revenue.

Chicago Clubs Fined for Back County Entertainment Taxes

Clubs across Chicago have suddenly found themselves in deep water as the Cook County Department of Revenue demands years worth of funds from unpaid amusement taxes.

According to an article from the Chicago Reader, the county code dictates that 3 percent of all ticket sales from venues with a capacity of 750 or fewer, unless the tickets are sold for “live theatrical, live musical, or other live cultural performances,” should be paid in taxes. Small-capacity club Beauty Bar has been asked to pay more than $200,000 in taxes going back at least six years, and President of Hospitality Business Association of Chicago Pat Doerr told the Chicago Reader he represents a half-dozen more clubs asked to pay similar prices.

Most of the businesses the county has so far demanded back-taxes from are venues that primarily book DJ and electronic acts. Beauty Bar owners and Doerr tell the Chicago Reader they thought these establishments were exempt from the amusement tax when the city of Chicago deemed DJ performances to be “live cultural performance” in 2006, but the county says that rule does not apply at its level.

A statement from Cook County Spokesman Frank Shuftan to Billboard Dance reads as follows:

The Cook County Department of Revenue is responsible for collecting the County’s home rule taxes. Among those are an amusement tax which imposes a tax upon the patrons of every amusement which takes place within the County that fails to meet certain exception criteria contained in the County’s ordinance.

The tax in question contains an exemption for live cultural, live musical or live theatrical performances taking place in a venue with a maximum capacity under 750 people. Venues that fail to meet these criteria or the definitions within the ordinance are subject to collecting the amusement tax from its patrons. Pursuant to the evidence currently in our possession, the County believes there is an outstanding tax liability. The Department of Revenue works with venues to address various questions and resolve outstanding tax liabilities.  In the event, the Department of Revenue is unable to resolve outstanding tax liability issues, those matters are then referred to the County’s Department of Administrative Hearings and after a hearing is conducted, the hearing officer will deliver a decision. 

We look forward to resolving this case in a fair and expeditious manner.

Beauty Bar responded to Billboard Dance as follows:

In May, 2015, our under 750 capacity venue Beauty Bar Chicago that provides some of the best live DJ experiences to our patrons on a weekly basis, received a fine from the Cook County Department of Revenue for $198,104.30 for Amusement Taxes owned since 2008.  We were surprised, to say the least, as we have operated under the commonly understood interpretation of the Amusement Tax ordinance, for both the County and the City, that venues under 750 capacity were exempt from this tax as long as they were collecting cover for “live musical or other live cultural performances”.  In 2006 the City of Chicago issued a Safe Harbor Ruling concluding that DJs were considered to be a live musical and cultural performance so long as they manipulated the music, and in general created a live experience.  Thus, as Beauty Bar only collects cover for nights during which we showcase professional DJs that meet all the criteria set forth by the City of Chicago, we’ve been comfortable operating under the assumption that we’ve been exempt from this tax.  Not once had we been questioned by the County about this tax until receiving the bill.

After we received the May 2015 citation, we merely thought the County was looking for us to articulate our position, which we did via phone and email.  We then received a letter asking for us to provide contracts for our DJs, and a signed statement explaining reasons why our venue was exempt.  We easily complied.  Last Fall and Winter they requested more information such as examples of our advertising/posters showing that our DJ’s were prominently displayed, and amounts paid to DJs during 2015 per month.  On February 23, 2016 we received a summons to court, after which we engaged an attorney to defend us.  We became aware that the County was targeting other DJ driven small venues, and thus we engaged with the Hospitality Association of Chicago to coordinate efforts.  During the proceedings this summer, we became alarmed to learn that the County officer Anita Richardson hearing the case made comments such as “Rock, Rap, and Grunge are not fine art, no matter how popular they may be…”, causing us concern that the County may be positioning to not only collect taxes on our DJ driven venues, but also on our small venues that showcase live bands such as The Empty Bottle that for 25 years now has been a staple in Chicago’s cultural fabric.

The great thing about Chicago is that it is ripe with small venues such as ours, and so it’s a shame that the County would attack the very venues that give life to the City’s culture, instead of working on ways to support and cultivate such enterprise.  As it is, we pay an exorbitant amount of tax, in one of the nation’s highest taxed cities.  We hope that eventually common sense will prevail, and that the County will come to realize they are attacking some of Chicago’s most important cultural contributions to the world.  Chicago invented the idea of a DJ being an artist, and spawned House music, one of the world’s most popular musical genres.  Last year the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs presented a summer long showcase on House Music’s 30 year history.  Some of the world’s best known rappers come from Chicago.  If these proceedings continue on, and Beauty Bar is forced to continue expending legal bills to defend itself and the idea that rap, house, rock, and country are indeed ‘art’, it will become impossible for us to continue operating.  This amount of tax, both the back-tax they are seeking and having to pay this tax on an ongoing basis, would simply put us out of business.  Again, we hope this will not be the case, and that the County officials will not take the preposterous position that a government body ought to determine what is and what is not considered to be ‘art.’

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

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What Prince should have done with his Estate

Few artists are as determined to control the rights to their creative work as Prince was, making the fact that he apparently died without a will astonishing. An estate plan would have appointed his heirs and given clear directions about the use of his music and real estate, and avoided the uncertainty that now surrounds the management of his massive, multi-million-dollar estate. As the situation continues to unfold, music attorney Daniel K. Stuart outlines some basic steps that artists, songwriters and performers can take to protect their assets and would-be heirs from suffering a similar fate.

1. Hire a Good Trusts and Estates Lawyer — and a Good Music Attorney. They can work together to integrate entertainment assets into an estate plan. Neither will be cheap, but the money will be well spent. For larger estates, a tax attorney is also recommended.

2. Create a Last Will and Testament. This instrument appoints the executor of the estate, names childrens’ guardians and outlines how assets will be divided (to the extent that distribution is not otherwise governed by a living trust). Be sure to designate alternates in case the appointed trustee or executor dies, becomes incapacitated or declines to accept the role’s responsibilities.

3. Consider a Living Trust. This instrument provides for a trustee to hold the legal possession of assets to manage and ultimately distribute them. (A living trust may not be necessary for a married person without children who isn’t yet wealthy.) Also, explore using a “No Contest” clause in the Will or Living Trust. This device essentially disqualifies any heirs from receiving assets if they contest the Will or Living Trust and, where enforceable, can be an effective deterrent against a rogue heir interfering with a carefully constructed estate plan.

4. Create an Advanced Health Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney. The former document provides health care instructions in the event a person becomes incapacitated. (Otherwise, such instructions will be determined by relatives or by doctors.) The latter document appoints a trusted person to make health care and financial decisions in the event of the person’s incapacitation.

5. Manage Your Bank Accounts and Insurance Policies. Make sure that all beneficiary forms for retirement accounts and insurance policies are in order. Investment and bank accounts may require a “POD” (payable on death) or “TOD” (transfer on death) form to make sure heirs get access to money upon the account holder’s death.

6. Appraise Intellectual Property Assets. Catalogs of copyrighted compositions, sound recordings and celebrity name, likeness rights and other intellectual property can have considerable value so it is helpful to have that value appraised and updated from time to time.

7. Create an Information Outline. The trustee and/or executor will need to know where to find important documents as well as account numbers and contact information (and logins and passwords) for such items as insurance policies, bank accounts, investment accounts, safe deposit boxes, smartphones, tablets and computers. All of this information should be collected in one integrated document and held by the trusts and estates lawyer.

by Daniel K. Stuart is a partner with King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano in Los Angeles. Published on Billboard Magazine’s website 8/8/2016.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

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Brandy Refiles Lawsuit Claiming on Paper she is a SLAVE

Grammy Award-winning singer Brandy is seeking at least $270,000 in a lawsuit that’s been refiled against Chameleon Entertainment and its president/CEO Breyon Prescott. She is also seeking a court declaration that she is contractually freed from Chameleon. Described in its introduction as “Kesha Redux,” but without the rape allegation, the complaint was filed July 18 in Supreme Court of the State of New York.

“I’m as free as a bird in my mind,” Brandy tells Billboard. “But on paper, it looks like I’m a slave. And I’m not a slave. The kind of deal I’m signed to should be criminal to any artist.” The singer is represented by Robert Meloni of the New York law firm Meloni & McCaffrey.

The 24-page complaint alleges that although Brandy was ready to honor the terms of her Chameleon contract, the defendants have not let the singer record or release any music for the past three years and have “effectively drained the lifeblood from Plaintiff’s recording career.” The suit further stipulates the defendants demanded that she relinquish rights to income from her concerts, acting roles, endorsements and other income-generating ventures in order to secure a 360 deal with Epic Records, where Prescott currently works as head of urban A&R — which Brandy has refused to do.

Brandy, who signed with Chameleon Entertainment in 2011, originally sued the label in Los Angeles Superior Court in March of this year. That lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month because Brandy’s recording contract with Chameleon contained a forum selection clause that specified all claims, disputes or agreements would be resolved through New York state or federal courts.

Brandy’s first Chameleon album, Two Eleven, was released in 2012 under the label’s then-distribution deal with RCA Records. Also as part of its deal with Brandy, Chameleon had the option to release four more albums by the singer. According to the complaint, Chameleon’s distribution pact with RCA ended after RCA decided not to exercise its option for another album in early 2013.

The suit further states that although Brandy was prepared to honor the contract’s terms, Chameleon refused to honor its obligation to fund the singer’s “second album as it was required to do (with or without a distribution deal in place).” The complaint also contends that preventing the singer from recording and releasing any music is “designed to effectively freeze Plaintiff’s career as an artist and force her to capitulate to its [Chameleon’s] onerous demands.”

“Although the contract expired by its terms when Chameleon committed this breach, the business reality is that no label will work with an artist so long as a label maintains this unlawful stranglehold over the artist,” Meloni, Brandy’s attorney, tells Billboard. “This is tantamount to a type of involuntary servitude. So, we need a court to declare Brandy is freed. This is not about publicity at all. It is simply about a great artist wanting to make great music, and being prevented from doing so by a label that not only failed to meet its obligations, but still professes to own her and then, when called to task in this lawsuit, publicly defamed her and insists on denying her that freedom.”

Addressing these allegations, a spokesperson for Prescott, appointed to his Epic executive post in February, issued this statement to Billboard: “Chameleon and CEO Breyon Prescott are disappointed that Brandy has resorted to conjuring fictitious accusations instead of constructively discussing her contractual concerns or status with a company and the colleague that she once stated as her biggest supporter. Her reckless words and accusations that she entered into a contract that is comparable to slavery, given the current state of the country, are irresponsible. Mr. Prescott wishes nothing but the best for Brandy and continues to state that her talent overall should overshadow any present day disputes.” Prescott is represented by Gary Adelman of the legal firm Adelman Matz in New York.

Brandy did release a new song, “Beggin and Pleadin’,” in January after the debut of her new BET series Zoe Ever After. Issued on the singer’s own label, Slayana Records, the costs of the recording and its accompanying music video were allegedly borne completely by the singer since Chameleon allegedly refused to contribute any funds.

According to the summons attached to the complaint, Chameleon Entertainment and Prescott have 20 days to appear and address the allegations.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

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Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney Among 180 Artists Signing Petition For Digital Copyright Reform

For the last three months, the music industry has been fighting — or at least negotiating in public — with YouTube.

Now, artists are adding their voices.

In an ad that will run Tuesday through Thursday in the Washington DC magazines Politico, The Hill, and Roll Call, 180 performers and songwriters are calling for reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which regulates copyright online. A range of big names from every genre signed the ad — from Taylor Swift to Sir Paul McCartneyVince Gill to Vince StaplesCarole King to the Kings of Leon — as did 19 organizations and companies, including the major labels.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), enacted in 1998, gives services like YouTube “safe harbor” from copyright infringement liability for the actions of their users, as long as they respond to takedown notices from rightsholders. In practice, labels and publishers say, this gives YouTube a negotiating advantage. The big labels and publishers have long had deals with the video service, but they have often said that the DMCA gives it leverage that services like Spotify don’t have. In March, the RIAA called this the “value grab.” Manager Irving Azoff, who organized the ad, has made DMCA reform a priority, speaking about the issue in February, when he accepted The Recording Academy President’s Merit Award at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy Awards gala, and two weeks ago at the National Music Publishers Association annual meeting.

Artists are usually reluctant to get involved in copyright policy debates, but several signed an April 1 petition on the same topic. Like the petition many artists signed in 2012 against the Internet Radio Fairness act, which would have lowered online radio royalties, this represents a rare case in which most of the music business agrees on something.

The major labels are now negotiating new deals with YouTube — Universal Music Group’s contract has already expired, although the companies continue to do business on an ongoing basis. At the same time, the U.S. Copyright Office is conducting a study of the DMCA safe harbors as the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is reviewing copyright law. This had made the DMCA an urgent issue for labels and publishers, which believe that YouTube’s free service makes it harder to convince music consumers to sign up for subscription services like Apple Music and Spotify. As performers and songwriters become more willing to speak out about copyright issues, the famously contentious music business seems to have found an issue it can unite around.

The DMCA, this week’s ad says, “has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish.” It suggests that the DMCA wasn’t intended to protect the kind of companies that benefit from it now — a subject that’s been debated by lawyers and policymakers as well — and asks for “sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment.”

YouTube has said it gets no advantage from the DMCA, since its Content ID system gives labels a way to remove or monetize their music, and 99.5 percent of music claims involve it as opposed to manual DMCA requests. This implies that Content ID is very effective, but it’s hard to know for sure, since no one measures how much music the system doesn’t identify. YouTube also points out that it has paid more than $3 billion to the music business, and that much of this revenue is generated by casual music fans who might not subscribe to other services anyway.

However, some online-based artists have been speaking out on behalf of YouTube. After Azoff wrote an open letter to YouTube last month, the video creator Hank Green, who runs the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, responded with a letter than made the case that the service is good for the music business. On June 15, Green announced that he and other creators were forming The Internet Creators Guild to advocate for professional online creators. The guild will apparently not pressure online platforms for better terms, but it will “unify the voice of online creators to create change.” One wonders whether this unified voice could be raised to oppose those of music rightsholders, since Google, which owns YouTube, has sometimes argued that copyright enforcement suppresses online creativity.

Two other artists have been especially critical of YouTube. Trent Reznor, no stranger to technology given his role at Apple Music, told Billboard on June 13 that YouTube was “built on the backs of free, stolen content.” Nikki Sixx’ band Sixx:A.M. also wrote a detailed open letter to YouTube, appealing to Larry Page, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to better compensate musicians. Last week, YouTube responded, in a statement to Music Business Worldwide that said “the voices of the artists are being heard.”

Now, it seems, those voices are speaking louder.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

Why German Producer TheFatRat Walks From Label

Right now, all over the world, boys and girls are hunched excitedly over laptops, unzipping fresh cracked versions of Ableton or FL Studio or Reason, their fingers itching to crank out the next festival anthem. Their minds are whirring with the possibilities. What if they get one million plays on Soundcloud? What if Tiesto likes their track? What if Ultra Music called them with a contract?

It would all be so cool, but one German independent producer wants them to ask themselves another thing. If Ultra Music did come calling, what if they said “no?”

“There are incredible opportunities today for artists,” Christian Büttner says. He’s been making music professionally for 12 years, mostly as a ghost producer, but in the last 18 months, he’s switched his focus to building under his own moniker, TheFatRat

Even though he recently took time off to be with his newborn daughter, he’s amassed more than 183,000 followers on Soundcloud and tens of millions of plays. Now that baby girl is old enough to travel, he’s setting up his first North American tour.

He’s making a career in music work, and he’s doing it all without a deal.

“The all-mighty internet is full of blogs, communities, YouTube channels, forums and a million more things,” Büttner says. “They all can help you to get your music heard, but it’s often difficult for big record labels to use those opportunities.”

Büttner has learned to leverage these sources without the trouble of red-tape and licensing complications. If a 15-year-old boy with a wildly successful YouTube gaming channel wants to use his song, The Fat Rat can give the green light without any hang-ups. Deals like that expose his wildly energetic and genre-blending electro to millions of viewers in an instant. He’s also free to sell his music to app and game developers, and when he strikes such deals, he reaps 100 percent of the profits.

And that brings up another point of contention. Artists who are signed to labels barely see revenue from Spotify or other streaming services, mostly because of contractual fine print. Büttner has learned to be a shrewd business man. These labels are looking out for their bottom line, not his baby girl.

“In some of the deals that were offered to me, I had a base split of 25 percent,” Büttner explains. “When I did the math, I found out that I would effectively end up with not even 7.5 percent of the worldwide streaming revenue. When you sign such a deal you have to generate 130 million plays to make the same money as an independent artist with 10 million plays.”

He also advises independents to take the time to connect with their audience on social media, comment sections, whatever way they can. Without a label to answer to, your fans run the show, and a relationship with them is what makes or breaks your career.

“You want to create an emotional connection with your audience, and you can connect much better to people if you listen to them,” he says. “That way you learn what they are interested in and where exactly you can reach them.”

The independent life ain’t for everyone. It takes a lot of finesse to handle a label-less career. It takes incredible self-motivation and determination. It takes strategy and acumen, and not least of all skills and creative vision. Your first taste of success is addictive, but even as things get better, they don’t necessarily get easier.

Büttner says one of his greatest hurdles is staying focused. He’s an enthusiastic guy. He wants to stay open to as many opportunities as possible, but you’ve got to learn to draw the line somewhere, choose the projects and opportunities that best align with his professional and personal goals as well as his creative voice. Still, if you’ve got the chops, the time and money management skills, and the attention span to handle the ups and downs, it’s a creative lifestyle unlike any other.

“(It’s) creative freedom,” he says. “It’s such an amazing feeling when you sit in your studio, freaking out to the song that you are creating while you can be 100% sure that the song will be released and your fans will hear it. And you don’t have to explain to the whole record company why you are doing a trap song with full orchestra while your last song was chiptune mixed with glitch hop.”

It’s not that TheFatRat would never sign a deal. He just has to be sure it’s the right one. He’s come too far to just hand over his life, and with a big tour looming and growing opportunities on the rise, it’s hard to imagine if that deal will come. There really is no clear road to success for an independent artist. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself, take a page from Jimminy Cricket and let your conscience be your guide. Büttner is doing a good job, but even he says to take his own advice with a grain of salt.

“Don’t look too much on what others do and what is considered ‘best practice,’” he says. “Instead, ask yourself the basic question, ‘who might enjoy my music, and how do I reach those people?’ You’ll probably come up with answers that you never thought of before – and more than anything else, focus on your music.”

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

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Album Sales Sink to Historic Lows — But People Are Listening More Than Ever

It’s the worst year (so far) for music sales since the 1991 debut of SoundScan (now Nielsen Music). Album sales, including track-equivalent albums (TEA, whereby 10 track sales equal one album unit) are down 16.9 percent in the rst half of this year. But sales figures no longer tell the whole story of the record business.

First, let’s bottom-line those disappearing sales. Album units overall fell 13.6 percent, with 100.3 million total sales. The compact disc continued to crumble, losing 11.6 percent and moving 50 million. Digital album sales fell to 43.8 million, from 53.7 million in the first half of last year.

Vinyl sales continued to move up and to the right, growing 11.4 percent, to 6.2 million. New album releases have been most affected by the continued contraction, falling 20.2 percent overall, to 44.1 million units. Catalog albums fell “just” 7.7 percent, to 56.2 million.

Track sales also dropped, to 404.3 million units from 531.6 million units. Current track sales are leading the descent; songs released in the last 18 months saw sales fall nearly 40 percent. Catalog, again, saw a much smaller dip, down 6.4 percent to 236.6 million units.

Listeners streamed 208.9 billion songs (which translates to 139.2 million album units) between January and now (July 6), an increase of 58.7 percent. Of that 208.9 billion, 113.6 billion were audio-only, versus 95.3 billion video streams (defined as a music video view on YouTube, Vevo, Tidal and Apple Music — of which the latter two contribute a very small piece). It’s the first time audio has surpassed lower-paying video streams.

What’s that all mean?

Billboard estimates total U.S. revenue at $1.98 billion so far this year, versus $1.82 billion last year, an corresponding 8.9 percent increase. However, the rate that Billboard uses to estimate the revenue generated by streaming ($0.0063 per song), which is clearly a central part of the revenue estimate, has been disputed as too high by some indie labels.

Drake is clearly the year’s winner so far. The rapper’s newest album, Views, sold 2.61 million total units — 1.3 million album sales; 317,000 track- equivalent albums and 979,000 stream-equivalent albums (SEA, whereby 1,500 streams equal one album unit).

Drake has the year’s best-selling digital album, at 1.4 million units moved. David Bowie’s  Vinyl record, Blackstar, sold nearly 57,000 LPs, making it the year’s best-selling vinyl album.  Flo Rida’s “My House,” with 1.95 million track sales, is the best-selling song of the year and just one of 16 total songs to sell over a million so far (27 had hit that mark by this time last year — six of those had tipped 2 million). The year’s top 200 tracks have scanned 83.8 million units in total.

The most common place for people to purchase albums and songs was, unsurprisingly, at digital retailers, which captured 43.7 percent of the album market (and which, obviously, saw overall sales decline by 18.4 percent, to 43.8 million album units). Surprisingly, “non- traditional” CD retailers, like Amazon and supermarkets, saw an 8.3 percent growth in sales.

Executives that Billboard spoke to at the end of 2015 pointed, in no shock, to streaming as the main culprit in the sales cull, particularly song sales. And streaming is booming.

For the year, total album consumption — which includes TEA, SEA and overall album units — totaled 279.9 million units in the first half of 2016, up 8.9 percent, clearly driven by streaming.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

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Publishing Industry Expresses Confusion, Concern Over Dept. of Justice Copyright Decision

For over two years, music publishers and songwriters have petitioned the Dept. of Justice for changes to the 75-year-old copyright rules they were governed by, requesting amendments in order to stave off dwindling royalty rates caused, in their view, by antiquated U.S. government regulations. last week, in a decision one executive said would result in a “a clusterf—k of epic proportions,” the DoJ announced that it would instead impose further rules on music publishers and songwriters — all who now fear a further recession for their royalties.

In addition to refusing to amend the consent decree to allow partial withdrawals for music publishers from ASCAP and BMI’s blanket licenses, the DoJ ruled that the consent decree requires those performance rights organizations (PROs) to engage in what’s known as “100 percent licensing” for songs with multiple songwriters — meaning a music licensee only needs a license from just one of the songwriters to utilize a song, instead of each of them. That’s in contrast to the traditional fractional licensing — which has up to now been the backbone of the music publishing industry — whereby rights holders can only approve usage of their portion of a work.

One possibly litigious result of the ruling could involve a songwriter going to court for all of the royalties for a song they co-wrote, potentially insisting that they should be disbursing those royalties to their co-writers, not whoever licensed the work. Another case involves songs built brick-by-brick, especially sample-based music — those works could potentially fall outside of the blanket licenses. Yet another: Works where there is an agreement between the songwriters that certain co-writers will not be allowed to license that work, forcing PROs to determine whether those agreements are in place and exclude the exempted co-writers from any blanket license.

The DoJ is said to be giving ASCAP and BMI one year to prepare for the shift to 100 percent licensing. If ASCAP and BMI choose not to adopt 100 percent licensing, the DoJ could file suit against them on antitrust grounds — the reason for the consent decrees initially — leaving a court to decide whether the PROs were in violation. Sources suggest that ASCAP and BMI’s rate court judges, the people responsible for setting statutory license fees, also have to sign off on the DoJ’s interpretation.

“The DoJ decision is very disappointing; it places unnecessary burdens on an already highly regulated marketplace, further impacting the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of songwriters,” BMG U.S. president of creative and marketing Laurent Hubert said in a statement on the decision.

Beyond lower royalties, music publishers and songwriters also fear that the new decision will fundamentally change the way music publishing has operated for 100 years. The DoJ’s decision “is going to cause a tremendous amount of uncertainty and chaos in a marketplace that has worked well… and will adversely impact everyone in the licensing process, including PROs, licensees, music publishers and most of all songwriters, who can ill-afford to hire lawyers to figure out their rights under this inexplicable ruling,” Sony/ATV chairman and CEO Martin Bandier said in a statement. “The decision raises more questions than answers.” Sony/ATV has been one of two majors leading the charge to get the consent decree amended.

“We are disappointed with the DoJ’s recommendation, which after years of hard work and discussion brings us no closer to much-needed consent decree reform than when we started,” BMI president and CEO Mike O’Neill said in an internal e-mail to his staff. “Instead, the DoJ chose to address only the issue of 100 percent licensing, a concept we never raised and one that the marketplace has worked out on its own over the last half-century.”

At ASCAP, CEO Elizabeth Matthews, writing on the organization’s website, addressed the organization’s songwriter members. “We want you to know that while the DoJ has expressed their views, this is not the final outcome of this process. ASCAP strongly disagrees with the DoJ’s position, and we are carefully considering all of our options, including potential legislative and legal remedies.”

Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, the other major publisher pushing for changes to the consent decrees, wrote in an internal email to staff obtained by Billboard that her company’s management “believes that the DoJ’s decision is bad for songwriters, and we are deeply disappointed. The DoJ not only declined to update consent decrees that haven’t been updated in over a decade and badly need to be modernized for today’s market, but they also decided that ASCAP and BMI must engage in ‘100 percent’ licensing.” She predicted that 100 percent licensing will lead to “unfair prices that do not reflect the true value of the music that our songwriters create. It will also provide a disincentive to songwriters to work with fellow writers who are signed with a different PRO.”

Tim Nichols, a co-writer of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” alongside Craig Wiseman, echoed Gerson’s concern in a statement. Nichols writes that he and Wiseman “belong to different PROs, and if 100 percent licensing had been in effect, I’m not sure we would have written that song. You would really be stepping all over writing relationships that are based on special creative chemistry.”

“This determination is completely inconsistent with the manner in which ASCAP and BMI have issued public performance licenses,” writes Warner/Chappell CEO Jon Platt in a statement released today (Jul 5), “It is especially alarming that the DOJ has come to this determination despite the overwhelming concerns expressed by ASCAP, BMI, NMPA, publishers, songwriters and even the U.S. Copyright Office.”

Meanwhile, National Songwriters Association president Lee Thomas Miller, in a statement, called the DoJ decision “unimaginable and the worst possible outcome” for songwriters. “Earlier this year in Washington, D.C., I explained to DoJ that our profession was already decimated, and that mandating 100 percent licensing could put the final nail in our coffin. I am stunned and sickened.”

Yet not everyone is so starkly disapproving. Public Knowledge, which positions itself as an advocate for both consumers and musicians, says it is pleased with the DoJ’s stance.

“It appears that the Department has agreed with our view that antitrust protections should not be removed at a time when the music publishing industry is more concentrated than ever,” says Public Knowledge’s Raza Panjwani in a statement. “The state of the marketplace, and recent bad behavior by the publishers, have made it clear that granting the music publishers the changes they requested would serve as a green light for additional abuse.”

Many music licensees, like the digital streaming services, agree with the DoJ’s view, arguing that the industry has been operating under 100 percent licensing all along. One streaming service executive goes so far as to say the DoJ ruling changes nothing. “As far as we are concerned, we have been operating under 100 percent licensing, because both the ASCAP and BMI license says that if you have one you can play any song in their repertoire,” he says. “The license doesn’t say you can only play their share.”

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

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