Vote for my SXSW 2017 Panels!

August 25th, 2016

I’m proud to be a part of three outstanding panel/event proposals for SXSW 2017.  Please help me out by voting and spreading the word!

Passport to Women in Music: A Global Review

Women in Music Meet Up

Sonic Connections: Making Music Globally

Sync licensing explained: read this before signing with a music library

June 25th, 2016

This post was first published by CD Baby’s DIY Musician Blog

What is a music library? And what does it have to do with sync licensing?

If you’re an independent artist, it’s very likely that you have been approached to sign a licensing agreement with a music library. Music libraries are companies that represent a large catalog of music for the purposes of securing synchronization licenses (aka “synch licenses” or “sync licenses”).

A synch license is needed whenever music is used within an audiovisual production such as a film, tv show, advertisement, video game, etc. Synch licenses can be a great way for artists to earn money from their music. Music libraries prefer to work with DIY artists, because DIY’ers usually own their recordings and compositions – you can read about the difference between sound recordings/masters and compositions/publishing here and here). Whether you’re working with a library or on your own, owning or administering 100% of your sound recordings and compositions makes securing a synch license easier.

How do music libraries structure their agreements?

The agreements offered by music libraries can come in many different flavors, starting with exclusivity. While these agreements can be exclusive, they’re often non-exclusive. “Exclusive” means that the music library is the only company allowed to represent your content for synch licensing and you may not enter into a similar agreement with another music licensing company.

Although restrictive, an exclusive arrangement allows the music library representing you to secure higher synch licensing fees, since your content cannot be licensed anywhere else. Given how big libraries’ catalogs are and that there aren’t upfront advances, most artists are reluctant to sign an exclusive deal.

“Non-exclusive” deals allow you the freedom to work with whomever you want, but companies offering these deals are typically larger than an exclusive library and your content may have a harder time finding the spotlight.

CD Baby offers music licensing services, but on very different (more artist-friendly) terms than what is discussed below.

Before signing with any kind of music library, here are 6 big points you should consider:

1. Know what you’re signing and what to ask for

This is a good rule of thumb for any agreement – really understand what you’re signing before you sign it. You should have an attorney experienced in music law review the agreement and explain it to you.

Typically, the terms offered by a music library are not very negotiable, but an experienced attorney will be able to identify deal points that could be reworked in your favor, particularly around what kinds of placements should require your approval, royalty splits, accounting and audit rights, and termination provisions (discussed more below). Most importantly, an attorney can explain the terms to you and discuss whether you want to enter into the agreement at all.

It makes sense that some companies aren’t open to negotiating agreements too much. They enter intothousands of these deals. It isn’t practicable to have a drawn out negotiation with every content provider and keep track of so many different terms. Some of these agreements are drafted with this in mind, and the terms are pretty fair and reasonable to the content provider.

However, a lot of these agreements have terms that are “non-negotiable” and really aren’t fair to the content provider, particularly around payments. Make sure your attorney explains to you what money you should be paid on, whether the company is taking any public performance royalties (discussed more below), and whether the splits are reasonable.

2. Understand what retitling is and how this will affect your royalties

Music libraries typically fall into two business models:

* They retain a percentage of the upfront licensing fee from placements

* They retain a percentage of the upfront licensing fee AND a percentage of the public performance royalties

Public performance royalties are the royalties collected by your performing rights organization (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC in the United States) for each public performance of your songs via the radio, tv, streaming services, and in venues such as a restaurants, bars, concert halls, etc.

When a song is placed in a TV show, these royalties add up and become quite lucrative (for example, an episode of a TV show that has licensed your music might air repeatedly, in different markets). With an exclusive administration or publishing deal, that administrator would administer the publisher’s share of public performance royalties (there is also the “writer’s share” of public performance royalties). Similarly, a music library may want to collect a share of your public performance royalties on placements that they get for you.

When you sign a non-exclusive agreement, you may have multiple parties wanting to collect public performance royalties on their specific placements only. The way to achieve this is by registering the song with the performing rights organization under a new title.

For example, let’s say I released a song called “I Love You” (catchy, right?), and I register it with my performing rights organization. I’ve also signed this song to XYZ Licensing Company, a music library. XYZ wants to collect public performance royalties only on a placement they made under a non-exclusive deal. In order to do this, they might register the same song with the performing rights organization as “I Love You_XYZ” and name themselves as the publisher.

Now that you understand why retitling happens, let’s discuss what it actually means for your work as a songwriter. Granted, these are going to be generalizations and all will depend on the terms of your agreement. It usually means that the licensing company collects royalties for those placements in perpetuity (forever). If these royalties are theirs to collect forever, this could impact the value of your publishing catalog in the future, if you enter into a traditional publishing or co-publishing deal.

It also causes confusion for music supervisors, studios, and the performing rights organizations when multiple parties are claiming ownership over the same work, which can often lead to content providers not receiving royalties they’re owed.

3. Blanket licensing vs. synch fees

One big downside to working with libraries that retitle is that they often don’t advocate and negotiate for synchronization fees.

Traditionally, a licensee (a person wanting to put music in their film, for example) would have to pay an upfront fee to both the master owner (the label or DIY artist usually) and publisher (the publishing company, administrator or DIY writer) to get permission to use the recording synchronized with their audiovisual production. The master owner and publisher aren’t required to grant this license, so the fee is negotiable. Synch fees can range from a couple hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even more depending on the placement and notoriety of the recording/artist.

In addition to synch fees, public performance royalties are also generated by synch licenses. If a music library practices retitling, the library will want to license as much music as they can to collect those public performance royalties from the retitled content. Also, negotiating fees for each license per-usage takes time and resources, and, for lesser-known music, the fees may not justify the efforts. As an alternative to per-usage licensing, many music libraries enter into blanket license agreements with studios and production companies.

Blanket license agreements usually include a flat fee (this can be annual, monthly, per project or another variation), or sometimes no fee at all, in exchange for the right to license an unlimited (or a generous amount, at least) of songs from a library’s catalog.

Often the libraries don’t pay the artists who own the songs any share of blanket license fees, even if their songs are placed by that company (I think this is a little sneaky)!

In this instance, libraries may keep 100% of the upfront blanket fees and get tons of their songs placed, generating significant performance royalties. The DIY artist who entered into a deal with such a library may not see any upfront blanket fees, but will receive public performance royalties from each placement. However, they are sharing those royalties with the library and often they’re a lot less than expected – placements that generate smaller amounts of royalties are just bonuses to libraries, because they are placing thousands and thousands of songs, which ultimately generates the bulk of their revenue.

4. Value your music, and license it accordingly

It makes sense to license certain types of music, like traditional “production music” (i.e., “stock music,” “library music”), under these types of deals. Recently, music libraries have put greater efforts into signing more DIY artists in the hopes of sourcing actual songs as this type of content is considered to be more “valuable” from a synch licensing perspective than production music – there’s greater potential for higher synch fees, branding opportunities, soundtrack options, etc.

If you’re going to work with a music library, make sure that you aren’t obligated to deliver your entire catalog, and then be picky about what you choose to submit. Instrumental versions of songs, particularly of older material, are a great example of content that may be better suited to license to a library. The top three songs off of your upcoming release… probably not. Value your music and be sure to craft a licensing strategy that reflects that value.

 5. Limit the number of non-exclusive licensing partners you work with

Non-exclusive deals seem great because they don’t restrict you from entering into other agreements, so why not enter into as many of them as possible and see which ones generate the most opportunities?While this may seem tempting, this approach is bound to backfire. When you have multiple companies representing the same songs, the music supervisors that are looking to license music may actually get pitched the same music (albeit probably under slightly different titles, to differentiate where they came from).

This can get very confusing for a supervisor and also annoying when they have to listen to the same song multiple times, especially if it wasn’t a good fit in the first place. This also is problematic for the licensing company, which is compensated based on the success of its efforts. Tracking where an initial pitch came from can be confusing. Moreover, if a supervisor wants to license your content they may engage all of the companies claiming to represent you and will opt for one that offers the lowest fee – you don’t want your music to undercut itself!

The better approach, if you’re entering into these type of agreements, is to look for different types of licensing partners. You want to make sure you have all potential licensing revenues streams covered, without the companies overlapping too much. For example, you could license your catalog to one library that places production music for TV shows, another that administers micro-licenses for YouTube and web-videos (like CD Baby offers through its partnership with Rumblefish), and another for more traditional placements in film, television and advertisements.

6. Think about the future

A critical consideration before entering into one of these agreements is how the arrangement might affect future opportunities that cross your path – for example, a traditional publishing or co-publishing agreement, with an advance (upfront money paid to you, in part as an incentive to sign with them).

If you’re in an exclusive agreement already, you will need to terminate that agreement before you can sign a new publishing agreement, even if the deal structure is different. If your existing agreement is non-exclusive, your new agreement will most likely be exclusive, so you’ll still need to terminate the existing agreement.

Termination isn’t always easy. Often, there is a small window every 1-2 years when you can give notice of your intent to terminate, effective as of the end of that year or two year period. So if you’ve missed that window, you have to wait another year or more. Some companies understand when the need to terminate arises and may let you out of the deal early, but it’s best to think of the terms of the agreement as being the rules you’ll have to live by.

Another issue with library agreements with respect to later opportunities is that they may actually discourage future deals. Particularly, as we discussed above in connection with retitling, a lot (and sometimes all!) of your publisher’s share of public performance royalties from these placements will be still collected by and administered by the library. This could potentially reduce the valuation of your catalog for a new publishing deal, which may mean lower advances and less interest.

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Overall, working with libraries can be a great opportunity – if you understand the terms and are selective about what music you submit. But if you sign an agreement without fully understanding the rights you’re giving up, you risk losing money, lowering the value of your music, and missing out on future opportunities.

CD Baby offers music licensing services on very different terms than those that are discussed above. For example, you can cancel licensing services with CD Baby at any time, and CD Baby never retitles or takes a portion of your public performance royalties. CD Baby also administers YouTube licensing, which is outside of the scope of most music library services.

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Wow – We’ve covered a lot here. I know this may be confusing and a ton of information to digest, but DIY artists are actually running a business. Even if you have great legal or other representation, it is important to understand for yourself how your deals are structured and the legal, business, and artistic risks and benefits of entering into them.

“Don’t Be a Jerk” – Podcast Interview by LeftFoot

May 12th, 2016

I was recently interviewed by LeftFoot, a podcast for professionals that shares resources and tips on developing new business and retaining clients.

Click here to listen to my episode “Don’t Be a Jerk” on iTunes.

Some of the takeaways:

Take a genuine interest: clients want their attorney to know who they are; what their interests are; so you represent those interests when you represent them

Be a connector: connect people with each other, with opportunities, think about others and help generate business for others through introductions and connections

Narrow in on the clients in your niche: be where they are; as a speaker or contributing content – when they need services they’ll think of you and your perspective

Important not to be a jerk: represent your clients zealously and firmly while treating the opposing party with respect

Opposing counsel is your peer: remain courteous; peer relationships follow you as long as you’re practicing in that region and practice area

Social media and providing content: creates an avenue with new audiences that wouldn’t be aware of your services otherwise

Be confident: and represent yourself in a way that is appealing to the type of people you want to work with; business development in professional services is different - they’re hiring you for you

Millennial, Mobile, Global: get involved within the community your trying to target, give back and you’ll form genuine relationships

Speaking at SXSW this Thursday, March 17 @ 5 pm

March 14th, 2016

It’s time for SXSW!

I’m gearing up for a busy week of events, meetings, panels, and shows.  My company Sparkplug, the community marketplace where musicians rent instruments and gear to and from each other, will also be out in full force, backlining shows ranging from unofficial showcases to large scale, official events.

First time at SXSW? Check out this article I wrote a couple years ago about how to maximize your SXSW experience.

And if you have a badge, please consider checking out the panel I will be speaking on:

Four Agreements Every Artist Needs to Understand

Thursday, March 17th, 5 – 6 pm.

Austin Convention Center, Room 17AB

Description:

If you’re an independent artist, songwriter, producer or manager, this panel is for you! Four prominent entertainment lawyers dig into the key contracts you need to understand to be successful: Management, Label, Publishing, and Band Member agreements. You will learn key terminology, negotiation points, and the pitfalls you need to look out for. If you are serious about your career, then this is a must-attend panel.

Happy holidays from JNS Law Offices!

December 24th, 2015

To all of my clients, colleagues, and friends:

Wishing you a festive holiday season and a productive, healthy, happy and creative new year!

All the best,

Jennifer

Panelist at SXSW Music 2016

December 22nd, 2015

I’m pleased to announce that I will be speaking at SXSW Music in March 2016 on the panel “Four Agreements Every Artist Needs to Understand.”  More details below. Time and date are still TBD.

Four Agreements Every Artist Needs to Understand

If you’re an independent artist, songwriter, producer or manager, this panel is for you! Four prominent entertainment lawyers dig into the key contracts you need to understand to be successful: Management, Label, Publishing, and Band Member agreements. You will learn key terminology, negotiation points, and the pitfalls you need to look out for. If you are serious about your career, then this is a must-attend panel.

Presenters

Deborah Newman at SXSW

MODERATOR

Deborah Newman

Founder

MusicStrat
Steve Gordon at SXSW

Steve Gordon

Atty

Steve Gordon Law
Robert Celestin at SXSW

Robert Celestin

Ent Lawyer

The Law Offices of Robert A Celestin
Wallace Collins at SXSW

Wallace Collins

Ent & IP Atty

Jennifer Newman Sharpe at SXSW

Jennifer Newman Sharpe

Atty

The Law Offices of Jennifer Newman Sharpe PLLC

Moderating Upcoming Panel: Syncing to Success – Placement Strategies, Monetization & Tools

October 12th, 2015

 

I’m pleased to announce that I will be moderating an upcoming Women in Music panel : Syncing to Success – Placement Strategies, Monetization & Tools.

WIM Presents: Syncing to Success – Placement Strategies, Monetization & Tools

Thursday, October 15, 2015 from 6:30 PM to 8:45 PM (EDT)

BMI
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007

RSVP

Free for WIM members; $15 for non-members. Join here.

Panel Description & Panelists:

Sync licensing is a primary revenue stream for many artists. With the advent of new business models and technologies, content owners can continue to generate revenue opportunities beyond just the original placement. During this panel we’ll examine the latest developments in synchronization licensing strategy, monetization, and technologies. Whether you’re an independent artist or a fledgling licensing company, panelists will delve into the strategies of pitching your music, creating partnerships, landing the actual placement, and monetizing your music beyond the placement. We will discuss innovative approaches to brand partnerships and strategic syncs as well as outline major deal terms, negotiation tactics, and potential red flags for both licensees and licensors.

MODERATOR:

Jennifer Newman Sharpe, Principal Attorney JNS Law Offices/Sparkplug

Bio:

Jennifer Newman Sharpe is an entertainment, intellectual property, and start up business attorney based in New York. She works closely with creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative clients to develop strategies and negotiate agreements in order to maximize their creative opportunities, and protect and leverage their creative works. Jennifer is also VP and General Counsel of the national organization Women in Music. She has spoken at numerous conferences and schools, including SXSW, New Music Seminar, and Rio Music Buzz. Jennifer is also co-founder and General Counsel of Sparkplug, the sharing economy marketplace where musicians rent their instruments, gear, and space to each other.

PANELISTS:

Christine Bilich, Music Supervisor & Creative Music Producer.

Bio:

Christine Bilich, girl group enthusiast and soundtrack junkie, studied Music Business at New York University. During her time at NYU she was lucky enough to intern for S-Curve Records, the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Columbia Records and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. After a brief stint on Wall Street, Christine returned to her true passion, joining EMI Music Publishing’s Strategic Marketing team and matching songs, writers and bands to brands like American Express, Old Navy,  & Nike. She then moved to EMIMP’s Product & Content team where she managed catalogue masters and acquisitions including recordings from Phil Spector, Fania Records, Blue Note Records and the Pointer Sisters. After EMIMP, Christine founded and developed the Creative Licensing department at Modern Works Music Publishing, building their client list from the ground up and establishing their synch licensing marketing program.  Additionally, she is responsible for signing writers/artists like YouTube sensations the Gregory Brothers, the Toni Braxton catalogue and upcoming indie hit-makers like Sun Club, Wild Child and Elizabeth & the Catapult. Most recently, Christine was one of two Music Producers at Saatchi & Saatchi producing original scores and music supervising for brands like Tide, Chase Freedom and Cheerios.

Charlotte Von Kotze, Music Supervisor, VICE Media

Bio:

Charlotte von Kotze is a Branded MusicSupervisor handling the music creative (existing and original music) and licensing needs of VIRTUE, an internal VICE MEDIA agency covering brand strategy, creative development, production, distribution, and research. Recent notable clients include AT&T, Anheuser Busch, Smirnoff, LG, Unilever, and Ray-Ban, to name a few. In 2015 VICE won a Cannes Silver Lion for Branded, as well as a Cannes Bronze Lion 2015 for Branded Content & Entertainment.

Prior to joining the VICE family in July 2014, Charlotte was working for the French Music Export Office in NY and on branded experiential events for the 25 year-old promoter Giant Step with artists such as Q-Tip, Gilles Peterson, Santigold, Diplo, or Empire of the Sun. A music lover at heart, she also used to be an indie promoter at local Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn venues.

Half French and German and Originally from Paris, Charlotte has been in NY since 2009.

Joel Jordan, Founder/CEO, Synchtank

Bio:

Joel T. Jordan is the founder and CEO of SynchTank, a Brooklyn and London based software company that  creates powerful cloud software to help rights holders maximize revenue, improve catalog management, and efficiently organize licensing and synchronization processes. SynchTank has over 100 clients across 5 continents, from top music publishers and record labels, to composers, distributors, managers, advertising agencies, film and TV production companies, and more, supporting some of the best-known catalogs and largest brands in the world. Over 25 years ago, Joel started a well-known punk and hardcore label with his identical twin brother,  releasing 7″ records out of his parents’ South Jersey basement. This later developed into a diversified master catalog and a prolific joint venture publishing company with Rykomusic. Today he continues to enthusiastically sign new artists to this publishing catalog, and runs his popular digital and vinyl-only indie labels.Joel still firmly sticks to the DIY ethos of his early years by enabling content creators and owners to be entirely self-reliant in the management, licensing and exploitation of their catalogs.

Jessica Sobhraj, Business Affairs, Rumblefish

Bio:

A 10 year veteran of the music industry, Jessica Sobhraj currently looks after business affairs for music micro-licensing pioneers Rumblefish, where she is responsible for strategic traditional licensing and sub-licensor opportunities. Previously, Ms. Sobhraj served as the Manager of Digital Content Licensing for performing rights organization SESAC. In her role at SESAC, Ms. Sobhraj analyzed SESAC’s proprietary data and licensing trends in order to improve the commercial success of SESAC’s affiliates. As a music licensing executive, Ms. Sobhraj has served as a Music Clearance Executive, Music Supervisor, and Music Consultant for various independent projects. Prior to joining SESAC, Ms. Sobhraj Co-Founded Sir Groovy, an online B2B music curation and sync licensing company that provides services to major media firms (BMG, Discovery Networks, ABC, FX, MSG, Viacom, and more) where she built, maintained, and pre-cleared an impressive network of content creators that spanned 90+ countries. Ms. Sobhraj also serves on the Board of Directors of Women In Music as the Co-Chair of Fundraising.

Panelist at Rio Music Buzz

September 9th, 2015

I’m thrilled to be attending and participating in Rio Music Buzz next week!

I will be giving a workshop with my Women in Music colleague and fellow attorney, Neeta Ragoowansi, on Doing Business with the United States: Practical Tips for International Companies.  We will be discussing legal, business, tax, immigration, and other issues to take into account when forming a new company in the U.S. or entering into agreements with U.S. companies.

I am also participating in a workshop with Women in Music, including fellow board member and President Neeta Ragoowansi, and board members Jessica Sobhraj (Rumblefish) and Liz Cimarelli (Nielsen).  We will speak with the local community about our organization, the possibility and next steps for forming a local chapter, and the issues and needs specific to Brazil in this area.

It should be an excellent week! I hope you can attend.

[And if you're a WIM member, check your inbox for a discount code to the conference.]

http://riomusicbuzz.com.br/en/#schedule

CD Baby Guest Post: Music Libraries Explained

August 6th, 2015

I recently wrote an article for CD Baby, explaining how music libraries work and some things to consider before signing with one.

Check it out here!

Speaking at New Music Seminar June 21

June 15th, 2015

I’m very excited to be speaking at New Music Seminar on Sunday, June 21st, 2015!  The panel is called: The Four Agreements: A Practice Guide to Music Success: Management, Label,

1:45 pm – 2:45 pm Crystal Ballroom: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Music Success: Management, Label, Publishing, and Internal Band Deal Agreements. To have a successful career you need to understand these four agreements. You will learn key terminology, negotiation points, what to look out for. Hear from managers, lawyers, booking agents, and publishers. If you are serious about your career, then this is a must-attend movement. Conductor: Debbie Newman, Esq. (Digital Music Consultation, MusicStrat) Players: Mike Mowery (CEO, Outerloop Management), Jennifer Newman Sharpe (Attorney, JNS Law Offices; WIM), Steve Gordon (Entertainment Attorney, Steve Gordon Law), Robert Celestin, Esq. (RAC Law Offices)