splash

Music Marketing

Posted By Musician Coaching on July 6th, 2013

A blog for musicians and music industry people. It is a free educational resource and it is also the way I advertise my music consulting services. I am an entertainment professional with deep roots in the music industry. Throughout my music career I have been a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager, a reality show producer, a bass player and the head of a digital record label.

 

Posts Tagged ‘does registering with ascap mean my music is copyrighted?’

A Word with ASCAP

Posted By Musician Coaching on August 12th, 2010

Marc Hutner is a musician and producer and currently the Director of Membership at ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).  I normally summarize people’s biography in the first paragraph when doing interviews but Marc’s biography is a lesson in and of itself.

Music Consultant:

Marc, thanks for taking the time. I know you started out as a musician but how did you become Director of Membership at ASCAP?

MH:

I’m originally from L.A., and I am and was a musician who got signed (Marc was the singer and guitar player for a band called Sugartooth) to Capital/EMI Publishing in 1991. We went from Capital to Geffen in a classic A&R shuffle. We put out two studio records on Geffen and then I just continued doing music and producing. The Dust Brothers took me under their wing and taught me how to do sampling and computer recording back when it was still the wild frontier. Then I produced a band called Bicycle Thief, which was the singer from Thelonious Monster’s new band. That went on the road, and I went with them as a touring guitar player as well. Then I was in another band called Pleasure Club from New Orleans. That was a bit of a punk/gothic thing. We put out two studio records and one live record.

Music Consultant:

Was that through a label system or on your own?

MH:

We put them out on our own and then got picked up by an indie label out of Atlanta.  We ended up selling more on our own than we did through a label.  As a musician I’ve been on major labels, indie labels and released music completely independent.  I’ve toured the world many times over for many years and have played in front of tens of thousands of people, and also had to cancel shows because nobody showed up. I feel like I’m in a good position to advise songwriters at ASCAP because I’ve been around a bit.

Music Consultant:

How did the job at ASCAP come up?

MH:

It actually came up because in the late 90s, Geffen was going through all kinds of awfulness, and my band had basically disbanded, and I was a little bit lost as all my other friends that weren’t musicians had gone and pursued an education and now were working. I was in my later 20s and without a formal education.  So, I was trying to figure out a way to earn a living and stay in music. I knew an ASCAP rep in L.A.  We met, and the stars aligned, and I got hired two weeks after that on a temporary basis, and then temporary turned permanent. I worked for about five years there in L.A., and then I quit to go back out on tour for a few years. Then I decided to move to New York, and the job opened up again, and I moved right in. I’m coming up on five years working there in New York. I’ve been on and off at ASCAP for about a decade.

Music Consultant:

Do you have anything active playing-wise these days?

MH:

I actually don’t play anymore. My stuff still gets licensed in film, TV and video games occasionally but I don’t pursue it at all and rarely pick up the guitar at this point.

Music Consultant:

Tell me in your own words what your job is as director of membership?

MH:

I sign up writers and publishers to ASCAP, and try to help them in anyway I can.  Sometimes it’s in the form of advice, other times it’s helping them refine their songwriting skills through workshops, or helping them meet managers, labels, publishers, etc. The idea is to help ensure that they have the ability to earn a living through creating music.

Because ASCAP is a member-owned, not-for profit, we can operate very differently than most other music industry companies.  If one of the writers I work with became the most successful writer of all time, I wouldn’t get a percentage, a raise or a bonus.  That’s just not how it works.  So what that means is, there isn’t a sense of territorialism with our writers, so we utilize all of our co-workers’ knowledge and connections when we need to – We have an L.A. office, a Nashville office, a UK office and an office in Puerto Rico. You get the advantage of a company that has a network all over the place. It’s a unique situation.

Music Consultant:

ASCAP is a not-for-profit company, right? Tell me about how the money flow works. An artist signs up for ASCAP and then they go out and their music gets played on the radio or on film and TV and…

MH:

A songwriter or publisher joins ASCAP, and because it’s a non-exclusive agreement, they need to register their songs with ASCAP… it’s the registrations that enables us to go out to the marketplace and represent the song, the artist or the publisher and collect the monies. Otherwise, if they don’t register it, we have to assume they don’t want us to because they have the right give away their music for free.  So they register their songs, and then our purpose is to monitor the public performances and pay them performance royalties.  This includes radio, TV, Internet, sporting events, etc – any time you go into a public area and you hear music, whether it’s in an elevator, in a shopping mall or in Central Park, a license fee has been paid to ASCAP for the right to play that music.  We survey those performances and pay the writers and publishers for them.

Music Consultant:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are still people whose jobs it is at ASCAP to wander in and out of different public or retail places and make sure that licenses are in place or that music is not being played or it’s royalty free. Is that right?

MH:

Yeah. It’s our licensing department. It’s a serious undertaking if you can imagine.  You walk into any restaurant in Manhattan, and you’re most likely going to see a little ASCAP sticker in the window saying they’ve paid their licensing fees and can have a live band, a cover band, the radio on, CDs playing. etc. The job of the licensing department is to make sure that happens. If you’re not paying a license fee, you can’t legally play ASCAP music

In films and TV, we receive cue sheets. A cue sheet is a sheet that lists all the music contained within the film or movie in chronological order. It tells us the song title, who wrote it, who published it, how long each piece of music was and how it was used. Was it background, vocals, off-camera, a theme to a show? That’s how we know what’s aired and how to pay it. All the different factors from who aired it, how it’s used, to the duration of the use factor into the amount of money that it generates.

Music Consultant:

Ball park, how many artists are registered with ASCAP?

MH:

We are approaching 400,000 at this point.

Music Consultant:

Really?  I actually expected more.

MH:

Yeah. It seems like it would be. But it’s actually grown exponentially in the past few years.

Music Consultant:

As someone in membership you probably have thousands of artists who know you by name and want your attention, what’s the best way to get the attention of somebody at the membership department? Is it best to meet you in person at an event or cold call or get a referral? What works?

MH:

It can all work. You can make contact with anybody at ASCAP by putting a phone call in or showing up and asking to speak with somebody. If you’re an ASCAP member, you’re entitled to all that membership entails, which certainly includes being able to speak with an ASCAP representative.  But you can attend one of our events and you’re sure to see one of us there, easily accessible

Music Consultant:

And announcements of those ASCAP events are through the newsletter or on the website, right?

MH:

Yes, exactly- but we are also at a lot of shows that aren’t our showcases, seeing bands and trying to stay current.

Music Consultant:

Here’s the tough question – ASCAP, BMI, SESAC … why ASCAP in your opinion?

MH:

When you join ASCAP, you’re a member. The terms of our contracts are one-year… very artist friendly.  At BMI, you’re not a member, you’re an affiliate. You don’t have the same rights that you have at ASCAP. Their contract terms are two years as a writer and five years as a publisher. Therefore, if you want to resign from BMI, and say, join ASCAP, you are able to resign every two years, but you can’t take your songs with until the two-year writer contract and five-year publisher contract coincide, which is every ten years!  Imagine that! At SESAC, their terms are three years.

Music Consultant:

From either your position at ASCAP or your years of being on the road, do you have any advice you could give that you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out – lessons you had to learn or seen learned the hard way?

MH:

I see the same mistakes over and over again. Generally, don’t get a manager until you actually need a manager. From my perspective, you don’t really need a manager until just before you have a label.  That way the manager can still commission the deal, which you want, because the last thing you want is a manager who works for no pay.  Because trust me, that won’t continue as a positive arrangement for very long.  I always see people get managers way too early, and they’re usually really terrible managers or newbie managers who can easily turn people off or even burn bridges.  I would also say, just do the very basic research on publishing and songwriting and performing rights. The way the industry is now, it’s moved to a world where the ASCAPs of the world are one of the few ways you’re going to be able to earn a living anymore. So knowing what that means is important. I highly recommend the book Making Music Make Money: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Music Publisher by Eric Beall.

Learn more about ASCAP