Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

Representing the artist that would otherwise not have a voice

Category: Artist Series

Prince’s Estate Signs With Universal Music Publishing

Universal Music Publishing Group announced Wednesday (Nov. 2) that it is the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator for Prince’s entire song catalog — released and unreleased — effective immediately. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although a source tells Billboard it is a “long term agreement.”

According to the announcement, UMPG is “responsible for servicing and administering Prince’s expansive catalog of songs” and will “work closely with the artist’s estate to develop new creative outlets for his music.” Before his death, Prince and his staff managed his publishing catalog, with Peermusic handling back-office administration, after an earlier UMPG contract ended in 2013.

UMPG chairman and CEO Jody Gerson, said to be the company’s key negotiator in the deal, said in a statement, “We’re humbled to be entrusted with Prince’s catalog and I’m grateful to my entire team for their work in making this agreement a reality. With the timelessness and genius of Prince’s music, there are no limits to what we can achieve working with his estate. Prince’s popularity will only continue to grow around the world.”

Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, said, “I congratulate Jody and her team on this landmark deal. Since joining UMPG as chairman and CEO in 2015, Jody has done a remarkable job at developing and signing some of the most important songwriters and recording artists in contemporary music highlighted by the addition of Prince’s incredible catalog of work.”

Bremer Trust, the court-appointed temporary special administrator of the Prince Rogers Nelson Estate, hired longtime Prince associates Charles Koppelman (who, as head of EMI Records, signed Prince to his first post-Warner Bros. deal in 1996) and L. Londell McMillan (who was the artist’s manager and/or attorney for more than a decade) and as advisers on the musical holdings. They commented in a statement, “We are pleased that UMPG shall once again administer Prince’s music publishing worldwide and assist the estate by giving Prince’s iconic music catalog the proper care and support it deserves. With this major agreement, the estate maintains ownership of Prince’s music, and now legions of fans from around the world will have even greater opportunities to continue to delight in his incomparable songwriting and musical expression.”

Negotiations for the licensing rights to much of Prince’s overall catalog, as well as to four decades’ worth of unreleased material, are ongoing. The advisers are considering multiple offers, McMillan confirmed to Billboard earlier this month.

Prince’s longtime label Warner Bros. announced that it had secured the rights to the first releases since the artist’s death on April 21: a 40-track greatest-hits compilation called Prince 4Ever, out Nov. 22, and a deluxe edition of Purple Raincontaining a full album of unreleased material, out early next year. The albums are likely the first of many to come from the singer’s vast archive of recordings. In the years after Prince’s initial deal with Warner Bros., which spanned from the beginning of his professional career in 1977 to 1996, the artist — who railed against the traditional label system and doggedly (and, at times, dogmatically) insisted on controlling the rights to his own work and likeness — struck many different one-off deals with labels and streaming services, and even returned to Warner Bros. in 2014 for a pair of new albums, and a renegotiation that saw him gaining at least some of the rights to his Warner catalog.

One high-placed source opined to Billboard that the recorded-music deal is “Warner’s to lose,” citing Prince’s long history with the company and the good will fostered by the 2014 deal.

Since his death on April 21, Prince has sold 1.95 million albums and 4.9 million song downloads in the U.S. through the week ending Oct. 6, according to Nielsen Music.

As for performance licensing, Prince withdrew from ASCAP effective Jan. 1 2015, but his music is still available from that PRO for licenses that were in effect as of that date. ASCAP says that some of those licenses-in-effect expire at the end of this year, while others will continue in effect for several years. So whatever PRO signs a deal, will even get the Prince catalog for ASCAP licenses expiring at the end of this year too, like the one with Radio Music Licensing Committee. A source tells Billboard that the estate is still in the process of selecting a PRO and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Prince apparently did not leave a will, which has made the management of the estate deeply complicated.

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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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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Prince Changed the Music Industry

The tragic death of the incredible artist known as Prince marks the end of a extraordinary music career.  Prince was a virtuoso on any number of instruments, a master arranger and producer.  Prince’s music was as diverse and versatile as his elaborate outfits.

His pursuit of complete artistic freedom – and legal protections for that freedom – will likely be his legacy.  His confrontations with record companies, streaming services and social media users inspired other artists to both demand artistic freedom and earn their fair share of profits.

Prince Purple Rain Live at the 2007 Super Bowl .  RIP Prince.

Prince was a Musical Genius at 19

In 1978, when Price was 19 years old, He signed with Warner Bros. and released his debut album, “For You.”  Prince is credited with playing every instrument and singing all of the vocals on the album.

Albums of this period typically relied on an army of producers, arrangers, composers and musicians. Michael Jackson’s album “Off the Wall” (1979), for example, credits nearly 40 session musicians and over 15 composers and arrangers. While it wasn’t a major success, “For You” revealed Prince’s budding genius and his desire to exert control over all elements of his work, allowing him to stay true to his artistic vision.

“For You” was the first in a long line of studio albums that Prince produced with Warner Bros. After the release of two other developmental efforts, he released “1999” (1983) and “Purple Rain” (1984), which established the showman as one of the most unique, diverse and dominant pop artists of the 1980s.

Contractual shackles

However, by the early 1990s, the relationship between Prince and Warner Bros. began to cool. After the success of “Diamonds and Pearls” (1991), Prince signed a six-album, US$100 million contract with the record company.

But the details of the contract led to a prolonged legal and creative battle concerning ownership of Prince’s entire Warner Bros. catalog. Under the contract, Warner Bros. received ownership of Prince’s body of work that he had produced for the company. For his part, Prince received a sudden influx of cash to continue working on recording projects at his Paisley Park Records studio in Minnesota.

As Prince grew increasingly frustrated that he had surrendered the rights to his music, the artist began to rebel by publicly appearing with “Slave” written on his cheek.

Prince with the words SLAVE written on his face.

Prince with the words SLAVE written on his face.

Prince changed his name to a symbol

Prince changed his name to a symbol,

which occurred after the artist

declared his former artistic self dead.

To meet the recording demands of the contract – which dictated that Prince needed to produce new albums under the Warner Bros. name – he opted to release prerecorded music to Warner Bros. His final release from this period, “Chaos and Disorder” (1996), is a hodgepodge of hastily written songs that serve as a tongue-in-cheek rebuke to Warner Bros., while allowing the artist to fulfill his obligations to the company.

Fighting for his rights

Given Prince’s public, prolonged dispute with Warner Bros., the damage may have seemed irreparable. However, the two sides renewed their working relationship in 2014, a move that restored Prince’s ownership of his earlier Warner Bros. releases.

Prince spent the last decade of his life fighting other areas of the music industry to ensure that his creative works were protected. In 2007, Prince and Universal Music sued a mother after she posted a video of her son dancing to a Prince song on YouTube.

Then, in 2014, the artist filed suit against 20 people who he claimed violated his copyright protections by either posting his songs online or by participating in file sharing services that posted his music. The complaint sought $1 million in damages from each person.

Focusing on Copyright Infringement

Prince’s lawsuits were meant more to draw attention to issues of copyright infringement than they were to ruin the finances of mothers and kids sharing files on the Internet. After those accused of violating copyright in the cases mentioned ceased their activity, Prince dropped the cases.

More recently, Prince, along with other artists such as Taylor Swift, began demanding that online retailers and streaming services pay better royalties to the artists whose music they play. In 2015, Prince pulled his music from most online vendors, opting to deal exclusively with Jay Z’s service, TIDAL.

Prince’s fight to protect his creative voice has reverberated to the most remote corners of the music world. Choral arrangers – who typically pay a license fee in order to access rights that they then arrange for choral groups – are barred from using the artist’s music as material.

Prince’s Legacy

Prince’s legacy as a brilliant and extraordinarily unique musician will endure in the nearly 30 studio albums that he produced.

But the artist should also be remembered for his work as an advocate for protecting the creative property of musicians and their music. Throughout his career, Prince’s willingness to engage in ownership battles over creative rights played a major role in the growing wave of discontent toward the music industry, now led by Jay Z, David Byrne and Neil Young, among others.

Just as “For You” displayed an artist in total control of his medium, Prince’s battle to maintain control over his music throughout his career will ensure that the legacy he leaves is in the exact voice that he intended.

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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