With the future of the Music Modernization Act looking uncertain, and things generally not looking great for artists in the performance rights in general, Shawn Wilson offers some advice on what those artists performing in Canada can do to pull down a little more money.
Guest post by Shawn Wilson of Muzooka
Let’s face it – artists and songwriters have never gotten paid what they’re truly owed, and things are no less grim in 2018.
Right now, the U.S. is working to make it a little better with the Music Modernization Act (MMA). The act, currently working its way through Congress, would implement a number of changes to the music licensing world to create a licensing standard, improving the ability to find rights owners and assure they get paid properly. A few examples of the improvements outlined in the MMA include royalty protection for pre-1972 performances, a unified rate standard, and a statutory right to recognition for adjunct creators.
Although it unanimously passed the House, the bill’s future is uncertain, its fate currently in the hands of the Senate. As if that’s not daunting enough, also facing the Senate is another bill that would negate the effectiveness of the MMA by eliminating state protection to pre-1972 recordings and shortening the time span before a work enters public domain.
The battle is promising, but far from over. By the time the act passes the Senate and gets successfully implemented, artists today may not be able to reap the rewards of the MMA for another few years, leaving songwriter’s asking themselves, “What can I do today to monetize my music?”
To successfully make the most of your creativity, it’s important to know your rights. Every songwriter has the right to receive performance royalties when their works are performed or transmitted in ‘public’, or any place people typically gather: bars, restaurants, concert venues, etc.
Performance royalties are collected and distributed by Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), each controlling a different catalogue of songs, each with its own guidelines and rates for how they distribute the money amongst their artists. Most countries have just one PRO, with a few exceptions, such as the United States. Canada’s PRO is the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) representing more than 135,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.
What many artists don't know is that they can make money by reporting their setlists.
PROs collect money by requiring venues (radio stations, TV stations, bars, retail stores, etc.) to purchase blanket licenses, which give these venues permission to play the catalog owned by that specific PRO. SOCAN members are paid royalties when their music is performed live; even small bar performances may be eligible if the venue is licensed by SOCAN and there is a cover of at least $6 per person at the event.
For a writer to be considered for payment, SOCAN requires a Notification of Live Music Performance Form to be submitted after each live performance. In addition, it requires a token of proof that the concert took place such as a ticket stub or a program. The writer has one year from the date of the performance to submit these materials. Generally, SOCAN members can expect to receive concert royalties nine months after a live concert performance, given the artist submits the required materials promptly and the promoter pays their license fee on time.
So, alongside synch licenses, hosting music on streaming services, and other typical forms of monetizing music, artists often miss that they can be making additional money on the gigs they are already playing, either because they don’t know this is an option or because they are daunted by the Notification of Live Music Performance submission process.
If you’re part of the latter, don’t fret – there are easy solutions. If you’re already with Songtrust, they easily let you register your setlist through your Songtrust dashboard, sending it out to your PRO for you.
There’s also a tool called Muzooka that could be a big help. Aside from being an online dashboard for artists and their teams to manage their digital assets across multiple platforms, Muzooka has a setlist reporting feature that lets artists report their setlists to performing rights organizations worldwide for proper distribution of live performance royalties.
It works like this – after a live performance, the artist will be prompted with a setlist request. The artist simply selects the songs they performed that night from the list of their pre-registered works, and after a quick data verification process, Muzooka submits the setlist to their PRO to be considered for payment. Muzooka is already working in tandem with SOCAN, so the entire process is quick and painless. (It’s also a worldwide initiative outside of Canada, with international announcements forthcoming - so make sure your non-Canadian musician friends are in the loop too!)
Monetizing music can be difficult, which is why it’s important to capitalize on every opportunity to make the money you deserve. Know your rights. Support good music legislation. And report your setlists!