Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thoughts on the music business...

I have been doing a lot of research to try and learn more about producing a DVD that has, in one case, a movie on it for retail release, and in another case, the one I will talk most about here today, a music DVD containing a local band playing an old rock song which will include an audio and video performance.

What has haunted me is being ethical. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead is alleged to have stated: "Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil." And to back that up, As I have been out learning the area around me, I happen to take the back way into Treman State Park outside of Ithaca, NY, along Thomas Road, and when one gets to the entry point, a little cottage of a house is there, and on the mailbox is a Deadhead sticker, and a Princeton University sticker. This sticks with me when I think about this DVD disk effort I am involved in.

I made a pretty good three camera shoot of a local rock band in July of 2013. I volunteered to do this. I paid to rent a stills camera since I didn't have one at the time. I paid for another camera person to be present and shooting, and used the third camera as a lock down head on shot of the stage and band.

The band was nice enough to allow me to do the recording. And I was provided space at the sound booth to record and plugin for electricity.

I am not going to write more about the production itself on purpose. The blog today is about dealing with royalties and copyright and how difficult I have found it to get an answer on a direction to take, so ultimately I am not going to end up making a choice, that results in choosing the lesser of two evils.

I made a youtube video, click here to view and listen to it, which are primarily my picks of the music I wanted to edit from the event. I have every intent of putting the whole event together as a "feature" length piece, but I also have an interest in creating a DVD of one single song. I am already getting a request for a BluRay disk of the whole event by one of the band members. He has asked twice now for it. I have replied that ethically it is not correct for me to simply hand off a copy of the show as it is someone else's copyrighted music the band performed, and for him to be patient as I go through the learning curve of royalty fees and copyright, and heading towards making a DVD/BluRay disk for possible retail sale.

The first leg of this trip was doing a Google and finding this blog (here is another take on the same discussion by the same blogger (Click Here) that addresses for the indie music maker two available companies that make it possible for retail of downloads and other types of media. The discussion the blogger addresses is which of the two companies is better for the indie music maker to utilize for their own ends. You make music, you want to make a buck off of it, he gives his input on which of the two seem better.

Again though, I don't find what I am looking for. How to take a video recording of a band doing someone else's famous song (Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin), and turn it into a DVD Blue Ray for retail, and pay appropriate royalty fees to the original artists (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and btw there is a lawsuit against Led Zepp as of the date of this writing because a band of the same era called Spirit used the same chords in one of their songs (Taurus), and now believe they are entitled to royalty fees as a result, Such is not uncommon in the world, people want their due if they believe they are entitled to it, from industry to industry it occurs over and over.

And you want to be an artist?

In hindsight I'd recommend you become a chemical engineer, it pays better, and the hours are a lot less difficult or it seems that way to me.

The most recent email request from the same band member who now ramps up the energy a little, and at the same time downgrades what he termed in a previous email as "nice work" down to a "home video". The idea being to get me to make a BluRay disk for him so he can have it to play, and copy to give to family and friends. And then the problem begins, if I do this for him, I have to do so for everyone else.

Which is what I suspected would happen when I started this, project. I also keep thinking back to my project management class and recall that conflict is a good thing, and I should expect it to get worse, not better, until the end of the project and the end product is finally available, or discarded.

My next effort at research I found the Harry Fox agency. Let me add to this one of my professors in college was Ron Morriseau. He sat on the 17 member commission that formed the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, CPB, aka PBS. When they created that entity they basically lifted the Pacifica model and made it their own, and gave it to the American public. I LOVED having him as a professor. I was relentless about asking questions, and he always gave me answers.

I worked briefly for KPFA, which is Pacifica. Its in Berkeley, CA. Amazing facilities, and people dedicated to an interesting mission. The mission is the reward, if you are wealthy you probably can afford to work there, if you are not wealthy and can work there you will meet amazing people and learn a lot about what isn't in the mainstream media.

From Professor Morriseau I got the term "needle drop fee." This term has been updated into several new terms, a mechanical fee, a synchronization fee, and some others.

And lo and behold I find the Harry Fox Agency. And in that website I find a database called Songfile. From what I have researched this is the company that accepts fees for limited runs of copies of copyrighted music.

  Except that...

Except that they don't do anything that will be a commercial, retail, run. Instead, in reading from the HFA website I believe what I learn is that for a commercially available BluRay disk of a band doing someone else's copyrighted music, you have to go back to the original publisher. So I find a Google image of the original publisher and it is Superhype Music.

A Google of this takes me to the ASCAP website. I have been there before years ago to license my own website for video playback capability. Click here if you wish to visit my website. (No it isn't there presently for reasons this entry in my blog won't go into).

In the ASCAP website it essentially says if you want to do a video you don't need to pay them a royalty fee, just pay the sync fee, and they give the Harry Fox Agency as the collector for this fee.


Breathe a little.

In doing all this research I also learn an interesting little project management formula about trust. Trust equals rapport times competence all over level of risk. This formula can be applied to many areas of anything you may do. Relationships, Facebook posts, etc...

So now I have ASCAP, and I have the Harry Fox agency. And I have my sister-in-law who is an intellectual property attorney, I ask her about HFA, she has never heard of them. Her line of business may preclude her from having ever heard of the Harry Fox Agency.

I emailed ASCAP. And received an email back saying my question is being forwarded to another person, I presume one who is better equipped to answer my question of: What is the royalty fee that has to be paid/accommodated in order to create a BluRay disk/DVD of a local band performing Stairway to Heaven? A limited run of about 200 disks.

And here is another issue. Even if I get an answer from this new person with ASCAP, who is to say I have the CORRECT answer to this question?

There isn't a guidebook on the net that answers this in a nice, easy to follow set of instructions.

Maybe this blog will have the answer someday, and I can get on with making a DVD.

I will keep you posted.


In the meantime...

I have recently created these two videos for the Doritos Crash the Superbowl Contest, please view them, and share them if at all possible as I hope to win this contest, thanks in advance (the rockets red glare video was rejected, no fireworks allowed):

HEY.  ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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