Most writers don’t really understand copyright.
There are many young musicians and budding composers out there, unaware of how valuable copyright is and how important it can be in their lives, creatively and financially. In addition, there is this misguided belief that creatives don’t really need to worry about it. ‘I’ll find someone who can look after my administration, paperwork, registrations and copyright protection’. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome: The Publishers’. OK, so I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t get into what I really think about publishers and how, in many cases, I have compared them to Axe Murderers or Thieving Opportunists. Needless to say, this is something I can explore in another unbiased blog. For now, I want to explain how I see copyright and how valuable it is for the songwriter, composer, lyricist and musician.
If you open a Bank account and deposit an amount of cash therein, you have choices of what you can do with it. You can leave it there, invest it, share it, distribute it, borrow against it, give it away and, if you’re careless or desperate, have it stolen. The same applies to copyright. As soon as you write something, whether it be a lyric or a tune, you own 100% of that work. It has a value. It’s something with which you can trade. But first you have to protect that copyright. This is where organisations like PRS and other collection societies around the world come in. You don’t need anyone to do this for you. You can simply join, register your works, and your copyright is safe.
Should you choose to involve anyone else, including publishers, you have the choice to agree on how much you are prepared to give them and then discuss what they will do to help you get exposure on your valuable work.
There was an agreement, in days gone by, between writers and publishers that the default was always 50/50. Sadly, this still exists in Production Music Libraries. This is one of the reasons we at TOPLINE don’t want to be publishers.
But now, in most cases, there are more grown up and possibly less greedy approaches to take a fair percentage and agree a course of action as to how the works can be mutually exploited. Of course, there is always the advance option where money is offered up front and paid back on future royalties, sort of like a Bank offering a loan. But again, in most cases, advances from Publishers are recouped at a ridiculous and unrealistic rate of interest often referred to as ‘perceived costs!’. Enough already about Publishers!
Imagine a blank piece of paper, a clean session, no notes or chords written but with the possibility that you’re only three minutes away from you biggest hit song, it’s vital that you protect your property in the same way you would by securing your cash in the bank.
Copyright is the new Currency; believe this and don’t bury your head in the sand thinking that it’s someone else’s responsibility to look after it. You have the control, the ability, the tools and, in time, the knowledge of how valuable this will be.
One very famous music writer, when asked about his debts and financial responsibilities, quoted: “I think I’ll be Ok; I’ve underpinned everything with my Copyright.” Great way of describing this. Every piece you write is like tangible currency. It’ll help you pay your bills as well as sustain creative fulfilment and getting royalties is probably one of the best things you’ll ever experience as a writer, composer, lyricist or musician – kerching!! – as we used to say when the cheques came bouncing through the letterbox.
And remember your copyright exceeds you by 75 years. So after you’ve shuffled off and penned your last epic hit, your copyright inheritance will be there for your children and your children’s children.
Copyright is the new Currency, treasure it, invest in it, look after it, own it!