Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

Representing the artist that would otherwise not have a voice

Category: Music Business (page 1 of 2)

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.

How Streaming IS Changing the Sound of Pop Music

In 2015 the U.S. music industry made more money from streaming than from CDs or digital downloads. Streaming platforms now boast more than 100 million paying subscribers worldwide. And the popularity of these services continues to rise, with more than one trillion plays logged last year alone. The times, they are a-changin’.

In case you haven’t noticed, the way we consume music is shifting—and that is impacting artists. (We’ve all seen the pitiful royalty statements and scathing op-eds. And who could forget Taylor Swift’s epic 2015 fallout with Apple Music? But amidst all this talk, no one’s mentioned how the rise of streaming will affect the actual sound of pop music. Streaming will change not only the way pop music is consumed but also the way it’s created. This shift will likely redefine what future hit records sound like. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. There’s always been a close-knit relationship between music, medium, and distribution. For proof, just look to the past.

Built for Radio

In the 1960s, Motown built records for radio. Short songs allowed for the regular interjection of ads, and long intros gave DJs the freedom to talk over tracks. During the 1980s, the dawn of the CD gave way to longer-form content. The length of an average album increased from 40 minutes to well more than an hour. And since it was no longer important to maintain the integrity of vinyl grooves, records started sporting more low end and louder levels. Is it any surprise that hip-hop emerged as a dominant genre during this time? During the 2000s, Apple’s decision to unbundle the album and offer single-track downloads on iTunes shifted the trajectory of the music industry once again. After an album-oriented trend that lasted decades, singles once again became the primary focus.

Along the way, our listening habits evolved too. As on-demand, à-la-carte platforms like iTunes and Spotify emerged, attention spans narrowed. Even I can’t remember the last time I listened to an album from start to finish. Today, music discovery is like mining for gold. We cherry-pick the best songs off albums, curate playlists of our favorite tracks, and ignore the rest. And once we start listening, we’re more impatient than ever. In fact, there’s nearly a 50-percent chance you’ll skip a song before it’s over. Why suffer through a dull bridge, an uninspired outro, or your favorite artist’s “deep cuts?” You’ve got places to be!

Today’s music makers have evolved to serve this ever-changing audience. As long-form content has given way to singles, concept albums have become relics of yesteryear. Albums are now more likely to serve as repositories for singles. And while we may feel nostalgic for iconic albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon, Thriller, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, there isn’t much of an incentive to create their modern-day equivalents.

An Emphasis on Sales

However, throughout the history of the music business, the goal has always remained the same: Encourage listeners to purchase records. The music industry as we know it was built to inspire these one-off transactions, and the traditional pop music-making process evolved to follow suit. Infectious, hook-heavy records were crafted to drive listeners to checkout aisles. The biggest hits seemed inescapable for a month or two, but often disappeared as quickly as they emerged. But as far as the music industry was concerned, this was irrelevant. Once a purchase was made, it didn’t matter whether a record was listened to or not. As long as people bought the CD or downloaded the song, labels were happy.

But streaming has completely changed the game. For the first time, financial success is no longer based on onetime sales, but rather on ongoing play. The more a track is played, the bigger the payout. The implications of this shift are massive. In fact, it’s likely to disrupt the entire music business yet again.

On streaming platforms, flash-in-the-pan tracks that burn bright and fade fast are less lucrative than ever. Current per-stream payouts are nothing to write home about, and these tracks won’t stick around long enough to produce meaningful returns. But payouts will continue to rise, and future plays will be worth much more than they are today. And so the most profitable pop songs will burrow their way into the hearts of listeners, inspiring millions of streams for years to come. In fact, the biggest hits may even increase in value as time goes on.

This shift introduces a powerful new incentive to foster deeper, longer-lasting relationships with listeners. While tracks still need to be hook-laden enough to inspire an immediate connection, they must also be worth listening to hundreds, if not thousands of times. Gone are the days when an artist could stuff an album with filler and rely on the strength of a single to drive sales. Today, there’s nowhere to hide. Songs are evaluated on an individual basis, and their success is determined by merit alone. Artists with the ability to master the long game will win. One-hit-wonders won’t stand a chance.

Loudness War Truce

Evolution in streaming technology will also affect the sound of pop music. For example, most streaming platforms now automatically adjust the volume of different tracks so they play back at an equal level. This seemingly inconsequential feature will likely end a decades-long arms race known as the “loudness war,” where artists and labels compete to release the loudest records. Without any incentive to crush tracks, records will be mixed and mastered at much more conservative levels. And this means they’ll have more punch, impact, and dynamics—and sound better!

But what will the pop hits of the future actually sound like? We can only guess. As terrestrial radio continues to become less relevant, arrangements and song structures will likely become more fluid. New, innovative mediums may even emerge. Who says a recording has to offer the same experience with every play? What if tracks evolved over time? What if, after 100 plays, a bonus verse emerged? As play count becomes a dominant metric for measuring the success of tracks, ideas like these are ripe for exploration.

And the impact of streaming will extend far beyond the music-making process. It will have a profound effect on the way music is marketed and promoted as well. In a world where a sale is no longer the goal, there’s less of a need to build up hype before an album’s release. In fact, some artists are already abandoning traditional album releases entirely. Beyoncé dropped her last two albums without any prior promotion whatsoever. As more listeners adopt streaming platforms, artists will need to find new ways to foster longer-lasting, more consistent levels of engagement with their audience.

If any of this leaves you feeling discouraged or intimidated, keep your chin up. I’m optimistic about the impact streaming will ultimately have on the music industry. I believe it will usher in a new era of artistic innovation, and foster deeper, closer connections between artists and their listeners. And some things will always remain the same. Exceptional artists with something unique and special to say will stay in high demand. Great songs will still rise to the top. But one thing’s for sure—as streaming becomes the dominant platform for music consumption, the sound of pop music will undoubtedly change. Will you change with it?

 

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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Kickstarter Has Helped Create 300,000 Jobs!

Is crowdfunding changing the world?  Apparently it is making a difference.  A new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found that crowdfunding site Kickstarter has created over 8,800 companies since launching, and with it 29,600 full-time jobs and 283,000 part-time ones. Professor Ethan Mollick examined 61,654 successful Kickstarter projects from 2009 thru 2015 and found that the site has generated $5.3 billion for creators and their communities.

“Successful crowdfunding projects have implications that go beyond the interactions of the backers and creators who participate in projects,” Mollick writes. “Crowdfunding campaigns lead to new organizations that ultimately generate billions in non-crowdfunding revenue and have hired thousands of employees.”

According to Mollick’s research, two- thirds of Kickstarter projects were created by individuals, with the rest coming from teams of mostly friends. A plurality of creators were between ages 25-34, though the average is 38, with 41 percent of the creators being female.

For musicians using Kickstarter, only 5 percent said that their projects helped “a lot” in securing a record deal, with 8 percent for publishing deals and 5 percent regarding distribution deals. That said, over 53 percent of respondents reported that their campaign helped “a lot” in owning the rights to their work, and 14.5 percent said it helped when going on tour.

“While it is not possible in this study to compare the e ciency of crowdfunding to other methods of encouraging entrepreneurship or subsidizing creative work, it is clear that, overall, the money raised from campaigns leads to positive returns across a variety of measures,” Mollick concluded.

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

Apple proposes flat streaming music royalties for songwriters

Apple has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board that would simplify streaming royalty rates paid to songwriters, and significantly increase the rates paid by Spotify and other services that offer free, ad-supported music streaming.

A report by Ben Sisario for the New York Times surfaced the company’s submission to the Copyright Royalty Board. Amazon, Google, Pandora, Spotify and the Recording Industry Association of America are also expected to weigh in with their own proposals.

The Copyright Royalty Board is accepting input on future statutory rates that would be applied to downloads and interactive streaming services starting in 2018.

Apple recommended a set songwriting royalty of 9.1 cents per 100 song streams, to replace existing complicated federal streaming rules that enable its competitors—particularly Spotify and YouTube—to offer free streams of music that effectively pay artists very little and devalue music playback as a service.

“An interactive stream has an inherent value,” Apple’s proposal states, “regardless of the business model a service provider chooses.”

Apple Music does not offer a free “interactive” streaming tier as Spotify does, or as Google enables on YouTube. Increasing royalty rates to a flat minimum would make it much more expensive for Apple’s streaming rivals to offer unpaid streaming services, as advertising would not cover the difference.

The music industry has increasingly complained that free streaming services don’t pay enough in royalties, and that the easy access to libraries of artists’ music on sites like YouTube essentially erase the demand for paid services that deliver artists higher royalties.

In an interview last month, Nine Inch Nails frontman and Apple Music Chief Creative Officer Trent Reznorsaid of YouTube’s unpaid streaming services, “it is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that’s how they got that big. I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It’s making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers.”

Apple currently pays out about $7 in royalties for each $10 monthly Apple Music subscription. The company’s last report on subscribers stated that it had 15 million paid subscribers.

Spotify says it has 30 million paid subscribers, but it also provides a “fremium” unpaid tier of interactive streaming service to another 70 million users, who also hear ads. Apple complains that Spotify’s unpaid tier hurts the industry and artists.

In turn, Spotify has complained that in order to reach iOS users in the App Store, it has to pay Apple a cut of subscriptions sold through the App Store. It does not have to pay Apple anything for subscriptions it sells on its own.

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

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

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

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.

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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

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

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