10 Things To Do BEFORE You Release Music Into The Marketplace (Even For Free)

Posted on December 21, 2016 by

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By, Wendy Day (seen live at www.YouTube.com/ThisIsWendyDay)

  1. Have a contractual agreement with the producer who made the beat for your songs. Not only do you need a split sheet, but you need a contract that allows you the right to license the track and explains how and where you plan to use it.  The price for using the track will be stipulated as well as how the producer’s credit will appear.  If the producer used any samples in the song, you will need to clear the sample, negotiate with the owner of the sample for what percentage of publishing the sample owner receives, and decide who pays for the sample: the artist, the label, or the producer and how the remaining ownership (publishing) will be split.  For help with sample clearances see http://www.dmgclearances.com.
  2. Have a contractual agreement with every singer, feature, background singer, musician, etc that appears on your songs.  At the very least, you need a split sheet.  But the contractual agreement stipulates if they get paid, how they will be paid, who owns what portion of the song and its publishing, and if there is a credit for their contribution, how that credit will appear.
  3. Everyone who contributes to a song should agree and sign off on a split sheet in the studio after recording the song.  A split sheet states what percentage of the writer’s share and the publisher’s share each person owns.  It also contains their name, address, and phone number and the name of their publishing company (and whether it’s affiliated with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC).  Each contributor should sign this split sheet before they leave the studio.  All money made from the song will be split according to the split sheet and contractual agreements (except the money paid to the writers and publishers by their respective Performing Rights Organizations—ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC).
  4. Every writer and producer on the song (those with ownership of the copyright) should fill out a copyright form (form PA) and register their work with the Copyright Office (https://www.copyright.gov/eco/)
  5. Once you decide to release the song commercially or for free, the person putting out the song and spending the money to market and promote it should fill out a Form SR (sound recording) with the Copyright Office.  If you are putting out your own music and are the writer and performer or the producer of the track, you only need to file the Form SR instead of the Form PA. (https://www.copyright.gov)
  6. Join a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC as soon as you believe your music will get played publicly (in bars, clubs, on the radio, or at performances).  The PROs collect licensing fees from nightclubs, TV, radio, airplanes, elevators, and jukeboxes and pay the artists and publishers whose music is played there. (http://www.ASCAP.com, http://www.BMI.com, http://www.SESAC.com)
  7. Join SoundExchange.com, which is the company that collects money for music streamed via non-interactive digital transmissions on cable, satellite and web cast services.  This is for the copyright owners of the music, and they also collect money from internet radio stations and websites that play music. (http://www.Soundexchange.com)
  8. Get an ISRC Code (International Standard Recording Code) for each of your songs (https://www.usisrc.org).  The ISRC Code is a unique identifier for each song, and is usually inserted into the metadata of the song during mastering.  This is not to be confused with a UPC Code which is the point of sale code that tracks sales of products. The ISRC code identifies each song when it appears in different formats, distribution channels, and places whether internationally across different platforms and services or under different licensing deals.  If you aren’t based in the US, go to http://isrc.ifpi.org/en/contact/national-agency-contacts to sign up for an ISRC code.  For more information about the codes see http://isrc.ifpi.org/en/.
  9. If you plan to sell hard copies of your music (CDs or Vinyl), you will need a UPC Code for each product.  The overseeing organization, GS1, that supplies bar code numbers can be found at http://www.gs1.org/need-gs1-barcode.  However, some CD or vinyl manufacturers will supply one of their bar codes for you to use.  This means that the UPC Bar Code will belong to that company, not you.  If you aren’t planning on releasing subsequent CDs or Vinyl (CDs are a declining industry), or if you have a small budget, you may not see a need to have your own GS1 account to give unique UPC Bar Codes in your company’s name.  GS1 assigns the barcode number, and then you have the number made into a barcode and included in the artwork for printing onto your product (CDs or vinyl, for example).  This code is necessary if you plan to sell product in retail stores.  It’s also used by SoundScan to track physical sales.
  10. If you cover a song—meaning a song that you have not written yourself, you need to obtain a mechanical license from the Harry Fox Agency (owned by SESAC).  You can search for the song information at http://www.songfile.com or check out how to proceed at https://www.harryfox.com/license_music/. If you happen to know the songwriter yourself, you can negotiate a fee directly with them or submit to them a Notice of Intention to Obtain a Compulsory License from the Copyright Office (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ73.pdf) and issue it to them.  Here’s more information about this: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/37/201.18