Many songwriters struggle to stay on top of the business aspect of their careers, while also maximizing their creative output. When complex legal agreements are added to the mix, it’s probably time to seek advice from an entertainment lawyer. Lucky for us, Edwards PC, Creative Law is one of our valued sponsors! Entertainment lawyer Byron Pascoe has a background in media production and business, and is here to answer our questions about how to protect our work and get paid.
Byron works with musicians and music companies to assist with record label agreements, publishing contracts, distribution deals, producer agreements, and band agreements.
- What types of services do you offer for independent musicians?
I help musicians understand and negotiate agreements they’re asked to sign, and prepare agreements they want others to sign.
- What are common mistakes that artists make when handling the legal aspects of their business? How can they be avoided?
Some common mistakes are signing agreements without understanding the details, and relying on the Internet too heavily for agreements that musicians want others to sign. The Internet has a ton of great information – including my blogs available on sites including http://edwardslaw.ca/legal-services/music-law/ ! Unfortunately, there are also a ton of music agreements online that people rely on, that may not be suitable for their individual needs.
I wrote this blog about the dangers of relying on agreements you find online – http://edwardslaw.ca/ask-a-lawyer-relying-on-recycling-precedents-no-big-deal-right/. To sum it up: Stop using agreements you find online!
- How can artists protect themselves from being taken advantage of in a business agreement?
Ask for help. Talk to other musicians. Hire a music lawyer. Read the agreement. Read it again. Try explaining it to others… See if you can explain it to others.
I wrote this blog about music agreement red flags – http://edwardslaw.ca/music-agreement-red-flags/
One of the most unfortunate ways that an artist can be taken advantage of, is if they are told one thing, and the agreement says something different. Also, unfortunately, sometimes artists are asked to give more rights than the other party needs to do what they promised they would do.
Also, just because someone asks you to sign an agreement, doesn’t mean you are obligated. It’s nice to be recognized, but don’t feel like the option of walking away isn’t on the table. It is.
Money is not the only element of the agreement. Other factors from control to credit are very important.
When I review agreements, I ask the musician why they want to do business with the other person or company. If that reason isn’t integrated into the agreement, it should be.
The most important way artists can protect themselves from being taken advantage of in a business agreement is to do their due diligence on the other person; to get as much information as possible to decide whether they want to do business with that person or company, regardless of the terms of the agreement.
- When is it time for an artist to call a lawyer?
When the artist is being asked to sign an agreement, or wants someone else to sign an agreement. For example, if you’re an artist and you want to clarify the terms of your arrangement with your band, manager, or producer.
Here are some blogs on those topics:
Band Agreements – http://edwardslaw.ca/the-band-agreement/
Producer Agreements – http://edwardslaw.ca/music-business-producer-agreement-edition/
Manager Agreements – http://edwardslaw.ca/music-management-agreements/
- With the rising ubiquity of music streaming, and diminishing revenue from physical sales and downloads, do you have any thoughts or advice on how songwriters can best monetize their work moving forward?
Try to get paid to perform your own songs live!
Ensure you’re signed up to receive funds from the different royalty organizations, either directly, or through an administration company.
There’s more than just SOCAN for the singer/songwriter who owns her own masters! For more information on what SOCAN covers, and what it does not cover, here’s a blog I wrote on that topic – http://www.edwardslaw.ca/socan
The more people who are performing the songs you write, whether on stage or as a recording, the greater likelihood of revenue from that composition.
The more people you write with and the more songs you write, on your own and with others, the greater likelihood of some of your songs finding an audience, which can lead to financial rewards among other value.
- Are there revenue streams that artists could be collecting, but often don’t know about?
In short… Yes.
As referred to above, SOCAN isn’t the only organization.
A good starting point is Re:Sound – http://www.resound.ca/ and the five organizations under its umbrella, including but not limited to MROC (http://musiciansrights.ca/en/) and CONNECT (http://connectmusic.ca/). Also, check out this chart on the CONNECT site – http://connectmusic.ca/members/membership-summary/royalties-fact-sheet.aspx
I wrote a blog about SoundExchange (http://edwardslaw.ca/soundexchange/) and will soon have blogs about other royalties.
- What do you enjoy about working in the Canadian music industry?
The diversity and the talent. There’s a lot of it.
I try to attend shows, and listen to albums that I wouldn’t normally think of listening to, to get a taste of the Canadian music landscape. It’s impossible to keep up!
If we can all encourage our friends and family to listen to new Canadian music, and attend at least one performance of a Canadian artist they’ve never heard of, we can start to better get the word out.