Articles Posted in Music Business

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Everybody wants to be the Next Big Thing. Right? The Voice, American Idol, Rap Wars. The Network chose you, from millions of potential contestants, to appear in this season’s series. That’s flattering. Right? Your appearance on the show guarantees you a successful career, even if you don’t win. Right? It’s really tempting. But who truly benefits from your services on the show?11239528094_8bf12333c5_n

Two words: The Network. The Network will require you to sign a series of contracts that are essentially non-negotiable. So, you want to be on the show? Here it is, take it or leave it. For example, with a music-based series, such as the Voice, the Network will require your exclusive services for the duration of the series season in which you appear, plus a period of time following the conclusion of the series. You’ll be obligated not only to appear in the series (to the exclusion of most every other entertainment enterprise), but to also be available for promotional activities and sponsor-related commercials (if Tide sponsors the show, you can be required to do Tide commercials playing upon your fame as a participant on the show); you will waive any recourse you may have for pretty much anything that happens to you while on the show, including the right to sue for damage to your reputation on account of how the Network presents you to the world. In real life you’re not really an adulterous leprosy carrier? Too bad for you if that’s the way the Network decides to portray you.

Whether or not you win the competition, the Network will own all rights to all of your performances. If you perform original musical material, you will likely be required to assign a portion of your publishing rights, and the Network, of course, owns the rights to your master recordings produced on the show. Often, though, you will retain your rights to material you wrote before being selected for the show; material that you write for the show will typically belong to the Network, as a work for hire. Continue reading

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scales of justiceI’m not a judge. And I don’t play one on TV. And despite what I believed was a strong memorandum in support of summary judgment, District Judge Klausner denied the defendants’ motion and set the case for trial.

Recall that defendant’s motion set forth several bases to support the grant of summary judgment. Following is a summary of the Court’s analysis of the motion for summary judgment, and the reasoning applied in denying the motion. Remember that in ruling upon a motion for summary judgment, the Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the plaintiff here.

The Court first reviewed the parties’ expert testimony as well as deposition testimony of other witnesses to address defendants’ three principal defenses: (1) abandonment/waiver, (2) laches, and (3) defective deposit copy.

Defendants argued that Randy Wolfe had clearly abandoned/waived any claims to infringement, as evidenced by a magazine interview he gave many years ago. But the court found evidence that Wolfe’s waiver may not have been heartfelt. For example, the journalist who conducted the interview testified that Wolfe never received or reviewed the interview notes before the article was published. Plaintiff also pointed to the tenor of the interview, which indicated that Wolfe felt cheated by Led Zeppelin and was merely trying to save face and made light of a bad situation.

NOTE: HEAVY LEGAL ISSUES AHEAD, INCLUDING SOME (OK, COPIOUS) VERBATIM TRANSCRIPTION OF THE ORDER. PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION TO THE JUMP PAGE.

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treble staffI’ve been on Blog Sabbatical for a few months, but I’m back and jazzed to talk about that Stairway to Heaven copyright infringement lawsuit.

You remember, Randy (“California”) Wolfe’s trustee sued Led Zeppelin, claiming Zep copped the intro section of Stairway from the song Taurus, performed by Spirit. Things have been moving right along.

When we last checked in on the case, the trial judge, Hon. Juan R. Sánchez, had permitted venue to remain in Pennsylvania. But in May 2015, Judge Sánchez entered a final order on defendants’ motion to transfer venue, and found that the individual defendants (Messrs. Plant, Page and Jones) lacked sufficient minimum contacts with Pennsylvania to justify retaining venue. Judge Sánchez transferred the case to the Central District of California.

The parties skirmished back and forth through the discovery phase. On February 25, 2016, the Led Zeppelin defendants fired off a motion for partial summary judgment. The memorandum in support of the motion sets forth some pretty persuasive arguments for granting summary judgment in their favor. WARNING: REVIEW OF DENSE LEGAL THEORIES FOLLOWS. BUT IT’S STILL INTERESTING. Continue reading

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NBC’s The Voice is in its eighth season, with few signs of letting up. So what are the pros and cons of being a contestant on the show? I talked to a couple of former participants – Emily Earle from Season 3 and Clara Hong from Season 7 – for their takes on the experience.file0001848982250 edit

Both musicians agreed they got a positive bounce from the show. Not only did the national exposure provide a boost of self-confidence and dose of professional validity, it has also helped them get gigs. Emily says that in her adopted hometown of Nashville, she’s often recognized by a younger demographic than you might expect, and when she performs at the Opry Mall (hey! this is Nashville) it’s often younger kids that hang out to listen. Clara’s experience has been similar, and includes getting messaged by young people looking for career advice. And because both women were in the crucible of a national TV show and very much in the public eye, it’s perhaps a bit easier to meet people. Plus, they got to meet and know many really good musicians. Continue reading

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The music business is in turmoil and no one seems to know what the future holds. Even so, there are some good resources out there to help you get a handle on things.

file1551274811685 editIf you don’t know about Lefsetz Letter, you must check it out. Bob Lefsetz is a brash, highly-opinionated entertainment attorney (what’s new) and industry insider. His daily blog cuts right to the chase, sparing no one. Here’s a bit from his diatribe reacting to Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime extravaganza: “I am saying it’s nowhere for music unless you can own the room, and the only one who’s been able to do this is Prince. And when a smart person witnesses such a triumph, they don’t compete.”

Encore Newsletter is a performance industry magazine that’s e-mailed weekly that “strives to provide timely and accurate information and to create a positive flow of information throughout the entertainment industry. It is our hope not only to inform, but to create business opportunities. We welcome any and all comments and encourage you to report newsworthy items for publishing.”

Pollstar, is another weekly periodical covering the worldwide concert industry. Local bands are free to submit tour dates and Pollstar “may add local or regional acts to our database as time permits but we do not guarantee the entry of any dates submitted. Artist representatives are always welcome to submit itineraries to our data processing department.” Pollstar lets you enter as many touring bands as you want to track and it sends auto-notifications when the act is coming to your city.

Of course there are more specialized publications, depending upon your interests, like Tape Op, about sound recording, Sonic Bids for gig opportunities and the Performing Rights websites for the organizations that collect performance royalties (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC).

I asked a number of music professionals, clients and fans where they get their information about the current state of the music business and to give any observations about same. Their responses cover a wide swath, but there are some common features. Continue reading

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records“There hasn’t been any good music in forty years!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this self-evidently ridiculous assertion, I’d be able to buy a Happy Meal. With a Super-sized Coke Zero. It’s a common sentiment among people of a certain age, and attempts to persuade with opinions to the contrary are inevitably met with skepticism, if not derision. But it looks like the dinosaurs as well as Millennials are putting their money where their mouths are: for the first time, over the course of 2014, online ‘catalog album sales’ (think, classic vinyl, sold via iTunes and other e-services) outpaced online sales of new music.

The Music Business Worldwide article poses some legitimate and worrisome questions for the industry: “are people merely starting to consume their new music on streaming services rather than buying it in album form? Or are they increasingly less impressed with the new album releases that arrive year-in, year-out?” Continue reading