Friday, August 28, 2009



Jeremy Correia asks:

How does a company that does nothing more than publishing acquire the rights to the valuable asset? Where is the leverage? Why can't the songwriter make the same phone calls the publisher would for the usage of songs. Since the artist is most frequently the songwriter these days, and organizations like ASCAP collect the fees, what is the value in having the middle man? Can't the manager handle the publishing for the artist? Do you have any words of wisdom that may help me see the light? I have all of the tools necessary to open a publishing company tomorrow but I don't have any idea as to what a legitimate pitch would be to acquire copyrights.

Hartmann responds:

Please note this previous post on music publishing:

All that being said, as an entrepreneur you are precisely correct. I advise artists & managers to keep all income streams under their direct control. Publishing has always been the most lucrative part of the music industry and it is the only enduring asset for artists and songwriters. Acquisition of copyrights isn't just a matter of having a good pitch and a game plan. Its not rocket science either, and anybody can do it. Songwriters always love their tunes and it isn't easy to convince them to sign over their copyrights. I'm not the only one advising them not to sell.

The big leverage is money. Lacking investment there is little reason for songwriters to sign with a publisher, its just as easy to do-it-yourself. If you had a roster of writers, you might attract new writers by offering them associations with your veterans. An established company can always point to their track record and history of success to attract new writers. A new company hasn't much to offer. You are always fighting the gravity in the elevator imposed by the status-quo.

The publishing industry has lost considerable income as a result of diminished mechanical royalties from record sales. But, they have many other ways to go. The hottest outlet now is TV and Film where music is playing a stronger role than in recent decades. When a song is performed on American Idol, for example, the catalog for the original artist skyrockets. Every pitch has a "anti-pitch" so you can always ask. Many songwriters are starving and vulnerable to cash offers.

Your best shot at owning copyrights is to find a Band that has a great live act and offer them a management partnership whereby you are become an equal partner in all their activities. Then you can set up your own publishing and record company to exploit the records and merchandise at their gigs. As their partner and CEO of the LLC, or corporation, you can seek to place the controlled compositions, through music supervisors, on TV shows and movie soundtracks.

The only other option is to purchase songs directly from the writers. The problem here is 90% of the songs are not commercially viable, so you could end up with a catalog full of duds. If fans flock to a bands gigs there must be something about the songs that appeals to them. Rather than trust your personal taste, watch the audience. If they are screaming and yelling for more, they must be hearing something they like coming from the stage. If they buy the CD on site you have a business. If they pick up a t-shirt as well, you can bet they will be back, with their friends, for more.

No comments: