All professional musical composers rely on copyright laws to protect their work, especially when they play personal compositions live in their performances. In many ways, each song is a commercial for artists who largely earn their living playing live gigs. Unscrupulous artists can easily steal a composition and spin it into their own work when a composition has not been copyrighted immediately. After all, there are only 12 notes on the musical scale.
The ownership is in the melody, and luckily, actual song scoring is not required in order to copyright a musical composition. An audio recording of the song with some type of time stamping will suffice. Song licensing is so important to any recording artist that it makes little sense to not join a licensing agency as a songwriter. It is free, can be accomplished online and is very important for artists who find success quickly.
The Importance of Licensing Registration
It is possible for any songwriter to file a composition directly with the U.S. Patent Office for a copyright issuance and publication rights. However, it is time-consuming and rather expensive when considering the options. New, independent songwriters and performing artists who play original music should first consider joining a music-licensing company, such as BMI, ASCAP or SESAC, that offers significant benefits for members. They even have group health-insurance plans available with other members at discount rates. But, the most important aspect of being licensed is that as soon as a composition is complete and published, the time stamping of the posting establishes ownership of the song. Once again, YouTube can be an excellent publication platform for the small-market artist wanting to claim their own material.
Know Your Licensing Agencies
Songs are normally not licensed through multiple agencies. BMI is specifically for broadcast music and is most popular with artists who have a significant amount of radio and internet airplay of their recordings. The Association of Screenwriters, Composers, Authors and Playwrights (ASCAP) is most popular for literary professionals. However, they also handle some recording artists as well with most of those being contracted recording artists. SESAC is designated specifically for spiritual and new-age music with a similar application for gospel songwriters and established artists alike. All three agencies will provide an excellent legal basis for any claim against another artist for infringing on your personal compositions. It is typically free to register as a songwriter, but publication companies will have a structured fee.
Marketing Your Act
Most performing songwriters earn their primary income by playing live shows. Many artists have their show dates lined up by an agent who keeps them busy while they’re on the road. The image of a musician as a nomad is very real. Those who perform original songs in their shows must make sure that a composition they are claiming as theirs is not already licensed by another writer, especially with respect to word composition. Melodies are largely interchangeable, but the application of the words to a melody makes it unique. But, timing is very important. It is essential to know you have not taken material from another artist because statutory damages can be collected in serious infringement situations. Your songs are your marketing devices, and there should be no confusion over copyrights or band trademarks.
How to Respond to a Copyright Conflict
In the contemporary music market of original independent artists, copyright infringement claims are not uncommon. This is especially true on digital platforms, like YouTube. Songwriters that are registered with BMI are actually members of an organization that maintains in-house legal teams that handle infringement claims, complete with an associated bank account for immediate funds transfer. SESAC is another licensing agency that provides the same benefits and protections for songwriters. If you find yourself in need of help because of copyright allegations, then speaking with a legal expert in the field can help you to understand the correct course of action. It is much better to be the copyright owner filing the complaint than the artist who must justify the recording and its use in generating income, which is what actually violates the infringement law. Fair use is still a defense in infringement claims.
All aspiring songwriters and performing artists should understand from the very beginning that they must protect their work immediately. Not every artist possesses creative abilities, but they might possess the ability to transpose a song quickly or have a similar idea where your work fits right in. The indie music industry is highly competitive, especially in urban markets where a significant number of fans can be garnered in a rapid fashion. Remember that protecting your work is vital to your success.
HearYou Digital Music Distribution was created by musicians for musicians. Getting your music out there can be confusing and costly. That is why we have teamed with a powerful team of professionals to help you distribute and promote your music.
HearYou offers a variety of promotional services, as well as copyright and publishing services. HearYou wants you to concentrate on YOUR job – making music.
We take great pride in our products. Because we are musicians ourselves, we understand how important your music is to you. We will do everything we can to show the same pride in your music as you do.