Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Question of the Day - May 5, 2009



Caroline Galambos asks:

What do you think about the electronic dance music scene and the music itself? I have been listening to electronica music for about a decade now and all of a sudden the scene is blowing up. Rappers and hip hop artists are using electronic dance music and mixing it with their own songs. Do the DJs get royalties from these rappers who are making millions off of their original beats?

Hartmann responds:

I love electronica! The next big thing is always attached to a dance movement and the emergence of a superstar. Electronica started as a grassroots phenomenon that was primarily presented in "rave" record parties. These underground events were often spontaneous and presented in unlikely venues. This was partially due to the heavy drug component and fear of police intrusion. Ecstasy was often the fuel that drove these marathon dance orgies. This kept the promotion out of the mainstream media and a fan had to "find out" where it was happening. Ubiquitous cell phones and texting has provided a quick and "free" form of promotion. Like all major music cycles Electronica was waiting for a star to emerge who could demonstrate original music, of high quality, to drive the growth of the fan base. That catalytic ingredient came with the rise of LADY GAGA who has become the most powerful voice in popular music. She has it all, sexual heat, dancing skill, beauty, a smooth vocal delivery and great material well produced. Her dynamic videos have proved to be an important ingredient in her success. The charisma she projects and her performance style have made her the most important new artist in a decade. She has dethroned Madonna as the first lady of dance music. She is one of the few artists on the charts with a platinum selling album. I have been predicting the arrival of just such a force for several years. Now that she is here and flourishing you can bet that many more artists will follow in the tail of her comet. If a major new music trend results, it could be the thing that saves the record business. This would require that the fans choose to buy the music rather than steal it. As far as royalties are concerned, the authors and publishers of original copyrighted songs are entitled to mechanical royalties on all records sold. The laws are very specific when it comes to sampling and records produced under the compulsory license law. The DJs are not entitled to royalties just for playing other people's music. However, everything is negotiable and if you are a superstar DJ pulling large crowds to live events it is possible that artists, songwriters and publishers might share income streams with you, if asked. They might even chase you down and beg you to play their records. The laws are well defined and specific so if you are using other peoples music it might be good to consult a music attorney to determine who owns the rights in any given situation. There is a software program coming that will allow you to click on a sample and go straight to a purchase point for the original record. Artists are likely to embrace this kind of promotional value and be lenient about the use of their original music in the DJ forum. It is not unlike the way radio airplay was coveted in the postmodern era. However, if records are being sold artists, record companies, songwriters and publishers will use the law to protect their equities. ASCAP and BMI usually collect percentages of box office receipts for events where music is used. These monies, may not be song specific and usually go into a general fund that is distributed to the most popular songwriters and publishing sources. There is no doubt that electronica has exploded and now it all depends on how big it gets and how long it lasts. That is up to the fans.

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