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Congratulations on the first step to your music career journey. Choosing a career in music is and can be a difficult decision to make. Hopefully after reading this blog everything will be easier for you and all you have to do is worry about creating music for your fans. in this article I will be going through and discussing the different steps and tools you will need in your music journey, from P.R.Os, Music distribution, Promotion, and more!
Step 1 (Why Music?)
One of the first things to think about when wanting to start a music career in the first place is, why do you want to do music in the first place. Many artist who choose to have a career in music do so for many different reasons such as Fame, Money, personal enjoyment for music, etc. You have to decide what your main reason for doing music is. Hopefully that reason is your overall enjoyment in music. If you are deciding to become an artist for anything other than the enjoyment of music, you are risking either having a short career or falling out of love for music.
Step 2 (Name Selection)
Having a catchy or easy to remember artist name is key when becoming a music artist. When choosing an artist name, you want to choose a name that is not difficult for fans to pronounce or spell, you also want to choose a name that will be remembered by fans for years to come. Don't overthink the process. Sometimes it takes time to come up with a good name. If overtime you still cannot come up with a name, you can also use your legal name. A lot of artist either use their first and last name or sometimes their first name. I recommend you also search the name you are planning to use and go by and make sure that the name has not already been taken or that there are not already a lot of artist going by that name. Once you have chosen your name its time to move on to the next step. Trademarking your name
Step 3 (Trade mark Your name)
Trademarking your name is very important. This ensures that even if someone else uses or tries to use the same name that your name is already copyrighted and trademarked. There are many different websites and service that you can use to trademark your name. One service I recommend is LegalZoom. Legalzoom is an amazing service I have used in the past to trademark my name. It is a very easy process to do so. Legalzoom searches the name that you want to go by and lets you know if that name has already been trademarked by using their trademark search (Click Here). You can register your artist name with LegalZoom by clicking here. trademarking your name with Legalzoom can cost a little over $200
Step 4 ( Creating Music)
Here is the fun part which is creating the music. As an artist there are many different tools at your finger tips that help you find your sound and create the best possible music out there. There was is one thing you will need more important that anything else when creating music, and that is music recording equipment. You can always visit your local studio and record your songs professionally but if you want to dive into the process yourself you are going to need equipment. Just like you i struggled with finances and finding affordable equipment for my production. One major site that I found that will help you as much as it has helped me is zzounds.com. with Zzounds, you can make affordable monthly payments on equipment while you actually use them with their amazing pay as you play option.
What are some free options?
There are very few free options for recording professional songs, however if you want to just get your foot in the door and test out your vocal ability, then platforms like Rapchat are perfect for you. Rapchat allows you to record songs or freestyle over beats with your mobile device with their amazing mobile friendly app. You can share your freestyles/songs on Soundcloud and Youtube. This is an amazing tool to test your vocal ability as a rapper or singer. Click here to see the article on why you should use Rapchat as a beginner artist. If you already have beats on deck and just want to record for free semi-professionally then you can use free tools like Audacity
What about Beats?
Of course no song will be complete with out a great beat to write to. There are hundreds of different ways you can obtain beats from producers, by either downloading some for free or by buying them. Places like Youtube, Airbit, Beatstars, and Traktrain offer millions of beats created by some amazing producers. Some of these beats are available for free download and some for licensing. Click here to learn the basics of licensing beats
Step 5 (Music Distribution)
When it comes to pushing your music out so potential fans can hear your work on all streaming platforms, one of the most confusing choices to make is choosing a music distributor. A music distributor is a service that allows you to release your music to streaming platforms like Spotify, Pandora, Audiomack, apple music, etc.). There are many different distributors to choose from such as STEM, CD Baby, Tunecore, and Distrokid. There are many more distribution companies out there, but these are just a few more common ones. Each company offers different features that make them better than the other. The one that i recommend is Distrokid. It is more cost effective to you as a beginner artist. With Distrokid, you can set release dates for your music, create fun promovides for your releases, create music promo images, add collaborators for each song release, create music splits easy, and even generate a pre-save/preorder link so your fans can preorder your music.
Distrokid starts off for only $20/yr, but in order to set release dates for your music you will need to sign up to the $30 plan. You can sign up to Distrokid by clicking here
Step 6 (Royalties & Publishing)
Royalties & publishing are the reward of creating dope music for your fans.
What are royalties ?
A royalty is revenue that is generated from your music being streamed by fans on streaming platforms ( Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora) and retail sites (Itunes, google play music, amazon music, etc.). There are at least 13 many different types of royalties that your music can generate.
1. Mechanical Royalties
If you’re serious about getting your music out there, you’re probably selling physical products like CDs, LPs or cassettes (someone must still listen to cassettes...right?). Every time a unit is sold or manufactured, you earn a mechanical royalty, generated from the reproduction of your song. Record companies or other entities manufacturing products with your song — like The Gap, W Hotel, Putumayo — pay this royalty. If the reproduction is in the U.S., the royalty rate is $0.091 per reproduction for songs under five minutes. A formula rate kicks in set by the U.S. Government for songs over five minutes. Outside of the U.S., the royalty rate is typically 8 percent-10 percent of the list price.
2. ‘Analog’ Public Performance Royalties
Every time there’s a “Public Performance” of your composition, you make money. Public Performances happen all the time — you play a set at the local pub, your song gets radio play, you hear your track as background music in a restaurant or hair salon — and each time, the songwriter earns money. So who pays up? AM/FM radio, network TV, bars, restaurants, airplanes, offices, movie theaters...you get the point. Both in the U.S. and outside the U.S., the royalty rate is determined by a one-to-one negotiation between the Performing Rights Organization (PRO) and the entity where the performance occurred.
3. Synchronization License Royalties (from the “Distribution” Copyright)
If a film or TV studio, production company or someone else wants to use your composition in a TV show, movie or commercial (hooray!), they need to pay for the synchronization license. The license fee (both in and outside of the U.S.) is a one-to-one negotiation usually based on several things like the length of the use, how it’s being used (background or up front), the format and the popularity of the production. Because of all these factors, the fee can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
4. Mechanical Synchronization Royalties
Let’s stay on the topic of Sync for a moment, as there’s also a mechanical royalty generated from the “Reproduction” copyright. All that publishing lingo means that there’s a per unit royalty payment owed to the songwriter based on the number of units manufactured that include the song (like a greeting card, toy, video game, etc.). Depending on the type of unit manufactured, entities like Hallmark, toy companies, or video game companies generate and pay this royalty, and the value worldwide is usually based on initial manufactured units.
5. Print Royalties
As the name suggests, this royalty, generated from the Public Display copyright, has to do with printed materials — lyrics, sheet music, tablature, etc. When music publishers like Hal Leonard or Alfred Music Publishing create sheet music, or a company prints t-shirts with lyrics on them, they are required to pay a print royalty. There’s no government rate for this royalty — it’s a one-to-one negotiation. If we’re talking sheet music, the royalty is usually 15 percent of retail price, and/or a one-time fee for pressing is negotiated.
Digital Songwriter Royalties & Revenue
6. Digital Download Mechanical Royalties
If you write a song and distribute it to download music services like iTunes, Amazon or Google, you’re owed a royalty for every unit of your music that’s downloaded. This royalty type comes from the “Reproduction” and “Distribution” copyrights, and the royalty payment mirrors physical reproductions: $0.091 per reproduction in the U.S., and generally 8 percent - 10 percent of the list price outside the U.S.
7. Streaming Mechanical Royalties
Streaming is the name of the game these days, and if you distributed your music to digital stores, it’s likely that you chose a few interactive streaming services like Spotify, Rhapsody or Rdio. In case you’re not familiar with the term, “interactive” means that the user can choose songs, stop, go backwards, create playlists, etc. As was the case with digital downloads, a songwriter is owed a royalty (from the “Reproduction” copyright) for every stream of his or her song on an interactive streaming service. In the U.S. there’s a government-mandated rate of around $0.005 per stream (expected to grow!), and outside of the U.S. the royalty is typically 8 percent - 10 percent of the list price.
8. Digital Non-Interactive “Streaming” Public Performance Royalties
We talked “interactive,” and now we’re talking “non-interactive.” A non-interactive streaming service is one through which you can’t pick songs, create playlists, or otherwise “interact” with the music, kind of like AM/FM radio. A non-interactive stream is a “Public Performance” and therefore generates a songwriter royalty, paid by the streaming service, like Pandora, Slacker, iHeartRadio, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, cable companies, and thousands of other entities. Worldwide, the royalty rate is determined by a one-to-one negotiation between the PRO and the other entity (generally based on a percent of the entity’s Gross Revenue).
9. Interactive “Streaming” Public Performance Royalties
When someone streams your song on an interactive streaming service like YouTube, Spotify or Rdio, it also counts as a “Public Performance,” which means you’re owed additional songwriter royalties. There’s no set government rate in or outside the U.S. — it’s determined individually by the PRO and the other entity, once again usually based on a percent of the entity’s gross revenue. A few formulas and calculations from the PRO later, and you’ve got a royalty.
10. Digital Synchronization License
Sync also applies to the digital world. We all know it’s common for people to create YouTube (or Vimeo) videos that use someone else’s music in the background. In slightly more technical terms, what’s happening here is that the song is being synchronized with a moving image, and when this happens, a per use license payment is required.
As far as the royalty rate goes, there is no government rate, just a one-to-one negotiation that sets the per use royalty rate. It’s typically a percentage of Net Revenue as generated by advertising dollars.
11. Digital Print
Google any song and you’ll immediately find dozens of sites with the song lyrics, sheet music, or tablature available for your use. The use of the music on these sites is yet another form of public display, and the lyric sites, musician sites, and even sites with avatars wearing virtual t-shirts with song lyrics (yup, those count) all generate and pay this songwriter royalty. Once again there’s no government rate set worldwide, and the rate is typically a fee for a specific period of time, and/or a percentage of the site’s gross revenue from paid subscriptions or advertising.
12. Mechanical Royalty for a Ringtone/Ringback Tone
Ever purchase a ringtone? Or distribute your own to the iTunes store on your phone? Whenever a ringtone or ringback tone is purchased for a mobile device, a royalty is owed (it’s generated from the “Reproduction” and “Distribution” copyrights). Music services and telecoms like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Cricket, Vodafone and more are required to pay mechanical royalties to the tune of $0.24 per ringtone (in the U.S.) and a percentage of gross revenue (outside the U.S.).
13. Public Performance Royalty for a Ringtone/Ringback Tone
In addition to the royalty generated in the purchase of a ringtone/ringback tone, a songwriter royalty is owed from the public performance that occurs when someone plays the tone outside of the U.S. Once again, the telecoms and music service need to pay up, and the rate is determined by a one-to-one negotiation.
Exhausted from reading this but ready to get the money you’re owed from the use of your compositions? That’s the right attitude! When you get a publishing deal with a publishing administrator, the publishing administrator will license and collect for you worldwide all of the royalties that should be coming to you, the songwriter, and nobody else. It’s a good idea to get in the know now, because as the music industry landscape keeps evolving, there’s no doubt you’ll soon have more royalties to collect.
~ Jamie Purpora, Contributor
President of Music Publishing Administration at TuneCore
What Is Publishing ?
Music Publishing refers to royalties generated from you music being used in live performances, TV and film, video games, etc. In order to collect your publishing royalties you will need to sign up to a PRO (Performance Rights Organization).
What Is A PRO?
Performance Rights Organizations (or as they’re commonly known in the industry, PROs) help songwriters, composers and artists collect performance royalties. They exist all over the world and are designed to pay local performance royalties to copyright owners wherever they are.
Performance royalties are paid to the copyright holder whenever a composition is performed publicly – recorded or live, on radio, television, digital outlets, concerts, and other music services. PROs are not responsible for collecting the mechanical royalties that are generated when a song is purchased, downloaded or streamed.
Think of registering your compositions with a PRO (in the United States, your options are ASCAP, BMI or SESAC) as your initial, ‘bare-minimum’ foray into covering your music publishing basics.
Black Box Royalties?
Services like Songtrust. help you collect what is called black box royalties. Black Box are unclaimed royalties for which a publisher or writer is named but cannot be traced by a collection society. Writers who are owed royalties but cannot be found are often referred to as "lost" writers. Many US songwriters who sell their music internationally but are not signed to a publishing company with representation abroad, often become "lost" writers and lose their mechanical royalties.
According to one article by Songtrust, "One common way unallocated royalties are managed is by reallocating them to the society’s top earners, based on market share-- this means that your hard earned money could go to any number of millionaires, from Taylor Swift to Drake! While that’s most common, there are other ways your unallocated royalties are distributed, but the takeaway here is this: if you don’t register your songs or yourself correctly, your hard earned royalties could go to creators that never participated in your work at all".
Sign up with Songtrsut by clicking here ($100 one time sign up fee)
Digital Performance Royalties?
Digital performance royalties are another for of revenue generated form your music which can be collecting with a service called Soundexchange (View Video below to find out more about Soundexchange)
Step 7 (Copyright your music)
Copyrighting your music is vital to ensure that no one can still your creative idea and or song. A Music Copyright is a bundle of separate exclusive rights. When you copyright songs, you have the right to: Make and distribute copies of the song on sheet music, records, tapes, CDs and certain digital media. You also have the exclusive right to make and distribute the first sound recording of the song
Song Copyright Law Basics
You can copyright music, copyright lyrics, or copyright both. You may copyright a new song or a new version or arrangement of an existing song.
The song must be your original work, meaning that it must have been created by you and must show some minimal amount of creativity.
You can’t copyright a song title or a chord progression. If you make an audio recording of your song, you may copyright in the sound recording in addition to your copyright in the song itself.
A music copyright is actually a bundle of separate exclusive rights. When you copyright songs, you have the right to:
How to Copyright a Song
Copyrighting a song isn't difficult, but it does require you to follow some important steps.
Step 1: Record Your Song in a “Tangible Medium”
Your song isn’t eligible for copyright protection if it’s just a tune you’re humming in your head, a melody you play on the piano, or a set of lyrics that you haven’t written down. Before you can get copyright protection, you must record your song in some way – typically either in written form or on a taped or digital sound recording.
Step 2: Register for an Account at the U.S. Copyright Office Website
You can also register a copyright by mail, but electronic registrations are cheaper and can be processed much more quickly. You can register electronically even if you plan to mail a copy of your work to the copyright office.
To register for an account, go to www.copyright.gov and click on “register a copyright.” Then click on “log into eCO” and you’ll be taken to a screen where you can log in or register as a user.
Step 3: Fill out the Copyright Registration Application
Once you have signed up for an online account, you can access and fill out online copyright registration forms. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions.
If you choose to register your copyright by mail, you must complete a paper application using Form PA.
Step 4: Pay the Registration Fee
You can pay the copyright registration fee online with a credit or debit card, an ACH transfer, or a copyright office deposit account. If you register by mail, you can send the fee by check or money order.
Starting May 1, 2014, basic registration fees range from $35 for an online registration of one work with a single author to $85 for a paper registration.
Step 5: Submit a Copy of Your Song
You may mail copies of your song in paper form or as an audio recording. You may also be eligible to upload your song digitally. The copyright office website describes the number and type of copies you must submit for both published and unpublished songs.
Step 6: Wait for Your Registration to Be Processed
Processing times for copyright registrations can vary, but in general, it takes three to five months to process an electronic registration and seven to 10 months to process an application by mail.
When you register a song copyright, you take an important step toward protecting your intellectual property. Registration is not difficult or expensive, but you do need to carefully follow the copyright office instructions for filling out the forms and submitting copies of your work.
Go be an artist!
Thank you for reading this blog post and I hope it help you learn some basic knowledge for your music journey. the most important thing when it comes to being an artist, is to have fun throughout the entire music making process. If you do this one thing you will always enjoy being an artist.