Music + Tech Special: Publishing Administration/Copyright/Royalties

“Independent songwriters and even professional songwriters need to think like they are their own publisher.” — Robert Clement, Songspace

The Songspace team. (Top row, l to r) Roman Alvarado, Robert Clement. (Bottom row, l to r) Clint Daniel, Molly Balies, Challey Legg, Sally, Chris Igoe, Per Ohrstrom, Darren Briggs. Photo courtesy Songspace

Keeping track of one’s song catalog, proper royalty payouts, songwriting splits, etc., is a job so taxing it can send even the most obsessive data hound to the madhouse. Fortunately, these apps and services can do the lion’s share of the work for you.

Songtrust

(songtrust.com)

Named a Billboard magazine Top 10 Music Start-Up, Songtrust is a cloud-based music publishing royalty collection service that offers assistance to songwriters, publishers and others who own or administer musical compositions, collecting royalties on more than 1 million copyrights for over 100,000 songwriters and 15,000 publishers. In addition to writers and publishers, Songtrust’s clients include B2B partners like The Orchard and CD Baby. Songtrust provides an advanced and effective technology platform that helps simplify music rights management, including the administration of music publishing assets, performing rights, and digital licensing.

Among other services, Songtrust helps international touring artists collect performance royalties for their international gigs through its setlists tool, which saves copies of every setlist and searches YouTube for potential performance videos after the list is submitted. Songtrust goes above and beyond YouTube’s Content ID melody matching to make sure artists and writers are getting the maximum royalties, using proprietary YouTube monitoring tools to keep an eye out for song usage within videos across YouTube. Clients also earn more money faster with Songtrust’s quarterly accounting and an established international collection network. Songtrust has eliminated almost all sub-publishers by going direct to over 42 societies covering over 95 percent of income generating territories.

Many U.S. songwriters who sell their music internationally, but are not signed to a publishing company with representation abroad, often become “lost” writers and lose their mechanical royalties. Saving those lost royalties from what the company calls the “black box,” Songtrust helps track unclaimed royalties for which a publisher or writer is named but cannot be traced by a collection society. Songtrust also offers fast song registration, and in the case of songs that are already registered with a PRO, the company assists with importation of those songs from BMI or ASCAP, as well as with collection of domestic mechanical royalties.

With a truly global reach, Songtrust represents such names as Kendrick Lamar, blink-182, Julión Álvarez y su Norteño Banda and Demi Lovato. Publishing today is more complex than ever, but Songtrust, launched in 2011 by Downtown Music Publishing, provides efficient and accountable royalty collection service in over 50 major music markets worldwide. — RICK MOORE

Songspace

(songspace.com)

The creative process can be a time-consuming and disorganized undertaking. Audio files of demos and alternate takes can litter your hard drive, varying lyric sheets might be mixed up or even lost and collaborators may be working with out-of-date information. Songspace aims to make all those issues disappear.

Combining the interface and features of services like Google Drive, Dropbox and iTunes, Songspace is all about organization, collaboration and cataloging. Songwriters are able to upload drafts and finalized versions of songs to the service with all their corresponding credit, lyric and release information, as well as any other notes about the material. This keeps all the various versions organized in one place to clear up any confusion about which draft is which.

From there, songwriters share the cuts with prospective creative and business collaborators. By working on either the desktop site or the service’s mobile app, they will be able to track who sees, listens to and/or downloads their material. This helps keep collaborators held to deadlines and see where they stand on reviewing your pitches.

“Independent songwriters and even professional songwriters need to think like they are their own publisher,” Songspace CEO Robert Clement says. “Songwriters need to be able to pitch their own music, present their song catalog professionally, manage and access of all their song meta-data — like a publisher does. Simple things like keeping track of all your recordings and versions (from the high-res masters to their iPhone demos) alongside your lyrics, writer splits within an interface to listen, organize, tag your songs, send and track pitch-history is essential. So if anyone is looking to license your music or music like yours, you can find or pitch it professionally in seconds.”

On the professional side, Songspace has all the features streamlined for larger operations, as well. Independent publishers including Kobalt, Big Deal Music Group, Downtown Music Publishing, Notting Hill, SubPop, Reservoir-Media, Round Hill Music, Warner Chappell and Words & Music all use the service to keep their artists’ catalogs organized.

Furthermore, Songspace’s structure helps keep track of songwriters’ publishing info, which in turn leads to a more streamlined transfer process once a songwriter signs with a publisher.

While Songspace has some big clients, independent songwriters can utilize the service to learn what it takes to kickstart their publishing relationships at little to no cost.

“The idea for Songspace came about while I was the former co-publisher of American Songwriter,” Clement says. “The initial goal was aimed at giving those who own or create music better tools to market and manage their song catalogs professionally. Yet we knew the everyday aspiring artist and even professional songwriter has to save every penny — furthermore, music publishers don’t have budget laying around to invest in building creative workflow systems … Anyone can give Songspace a test-drive or use the tools for free until they are comfortable paying for the more professional features or their catalog gets to a size where they must invest in a system.”

He adds, “I don’t think being a musician or songwriter is about getting ahead in the digital age, it’s about understanding music publishing and using tools that make self-publishing easier.” — JOHN CONNOR COULSTON

Songtradr

(songtradr.com)

With representatives in its Santa Monica home office, the UK, and Asia, Songtradr is a global licensing platform that has come to represent more than 100,000 artists in only two years.

“The Songtradr platform is a non-exclusive platform allowing musicians to maintain ownership and control over their rights,” said founder and CEO Paul Wiltshire, a producer and songwriter himself who moved to California from Melbourne, Australia to start the company. “Typically, music libraries, agents and labels representing catalogs seek exclusivity and a high percentage of fees and royalties from the music creators. Using Songtradr, you maintain complete freedom to do what you want with your music and keep 100 percent of your royalty income while paying smaller fees. Further, Songtradr is compatible with any rights owner, including competing music libraries as well as publishers and labels.”

While artistic expression is what music is supposed to be about, the freedom that comes with financial success helps make more music creation possible, and Songtradr is in business to help make that freedom a reality by exploring today’s numerous income streams for artists and writers. “Songtradr is a 21st-century solution for independent artists to monetize their music across almost every possible digital vertical,” Wiltshire said, “from sync licensing — TV, film, trailers, advertisements and other media — to overhead radio — in-store, in-flight music — to distribution to all major streaming platforms.

Songtradr has a robust content management solution, which provides musicians with tools that improve the way they present their music, while giving them access to opportunities historically limited to gatekeepers and large institutions. Songtradr’s ultimate goal is to provide a one-stop solution for content management and monetization for artists/songwriters, with our main monetization focus being sync licensing.” The company also recently introduced a new tool to the platform that allows music consumers to tip the artists they’re listening to online.

With an expert staff and an impressive board of advisors, Wiltshire said that “Songtradr’s core philosophy is that we need to empower musicians with the tools they need to reach their goals, while maintaining control of their rights. To break down walls, and democratize access for all.” — RICK MOORE

Royalty Exchange

(royaltyexchange.com)

Royalty Exchange helps artists finance their careers by connecting them with private investors. With the way the music industry has evolved, it can take a very long time for artists to receive the money they need for their work. It is for this very same reason that Royalty Exchange has attracted so many interested investors. In this symbiotic relationship, investors are given a chance to diversify their portfolio with a safe, flexible and long-term stream of money. In turn, they can provide a songwriter with the more immediate finances they require to further their careers.

“One of the great things about royalties is that they are hopefully a lifelong revenue stream,” said Anthony Bruno, director of communications for Royalty Exchange.

Through Royalty Exchange, artists offer investors a percentage of their catalog’s royalties. When an artist registers with the service, they can talk to the team at Royalty Exchange about what kind of project they need money to fulfill — a new studio, an album, promotion, or more. Then, Royalty Exchange will suggest a percentage to auction off in order for the artist to access the amount they need. The best part for artists is that investors are typically looking for a long-term passive investment — they are not interested in career management or creative decision-making.

According to Bruno, the company has over 22,000 investors registered and has held over 200 successful auctions since 2015. Royalty Exchange has even already raised $12 million for songwriters through auctions on their platform. — SARA SCANNELL

TuneCore

(tunecore.com)

TuneCore aims to be an all-inclusive service for songwriters venturing into the digital marketplace. The service has been around since 2005, with Nine Inch Nails and the Pixies’ Frank Black among the artists who have utilized the service to distribute their music and collect royalties. TuneCore’s bread-and-butter is its distribution services, which have led to artists collectively collecting nearly $1 billion from download and streaming revenue alone.

TuneCore provides access to all the major digital platforms, and its analytical data helps artists keep track of how much they are earning and what demographics are listening to their music.

“Getting music heard by as many people in as many places is the core of any musician’s business and that is what TuneCore does best,” TuneCore CEO Scott Ackerman says. “With over 150 digital music partners globally, artists using TuneCore can reach listeners all over the world.”

These have been particularly fruitful features for Canadian hip-hop artist Mikal George (also known as Mouse Sucks), who uses TuneCore to get his music on Spotify and examine his analytical data.

“The reporting tools in TuneCore are great for artists to not only keep track of how much their songs are generating but also to see the demographics that are gravitating to the songs they upload,” George says. “My song ‘Jumping’ was added to Spotify’s ‘Fresh Finds’ playlist after I uploaded my album, and that has no doubt given me a few more ears.”

However, the company also puts an emphasis on their publishing administration services. They want to cut out all the paperwork and red tape involved in the songwriting process in order to keep creators focused on their craft. TuneCore works with collection societies BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and SOCAN to secure your rightful performance royalties. They also seek out mechanical rights from downloads and streams, print rights, synchronization rights and ringtone revenue.

Sync and master licensing is another focal point for TuneCore. The service has a team that actively searches for compositions to promote to music supervisors looking for songs to place in films, TV shows, video games and commercials. TuneCore sends out regular updates with new content to these industry professionals, but they also have a personalized portal that music supervisors can search through by genre or keyword. This keeps the possibility of songwriters’ compositions being licensed even if TuneCore doesn’t promote them.

This digital edge on the publishing process makes TuneCore a top choice for leaping into the digital era of songwriting. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen the music industry evolve so much,” Ackerman says. “Most importantly, the gates have been opened, offering so many new opportunities for artists to get their music out. At TuneCore, we provide artists with a full suite of tools that allows them to build their career in a way that is right for them.” — JOHN CONNOR COULSTON

Audiam

(audiam.com)

Audiam collects interactive streaming mechanical royalties — a potential stream of revenue many songwriters aren’t even aware they’re missing from royalty checks. Audiam CEO Jeff Price, who also founded digital music distribution service TuneCore, knew songwriter’s weren’t being fairly compensated, so he committed his career to changing that. Not only has Audiam helped thousands of songwriters recover unpaid royalties, but it has also helped spur the national dialogue around fair artistic payment.

Audiam has allowed songwriters to keep track of and ensure payment from interactive streaming programs like YouTube and Spotify — a task that, without Audiam’s help, likely wouldn’t be feasible. Audiam has created an incredibly complicated algorithm to find unlicensed and uncompensated use of its clients’ music.

“We take these massive statements that have hundreds of millions of lines. Each line of the statement is a different sound recording,” Price says. “We’ll go through this list of sound recordings for the thousands of people we represent and we’ll look to see if there are sound recordings they are not getting paid on.”

With Audiam, an artist can log in and see a list of every sound recording that has generated money in the last month. Not only can they see the amount each recording is generating, but also how much each is generating on which platform. The website has helped recover revenue for artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica and Bob Dylan. Dylan, with Audiam’s help, discovered he wasn’t receiving payment for 800 of his releases. — SARA SCANNELL