Dream Big: Marie Farrar Knowles of SoundExchange

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

We polled industry experts for the March/April feature Dream Big: How To Succeed In Today’s Volatile Music Business. For those of you who really want to get ahead, here’s the full transcript of each interview, with lots of extra insights and advice.

Maria Farrar Knowles, VP, Communications at SoundExchange

I just recorded the best song I ever wrote. What’s the new model for getting my music heard?

The only thing we can speak to is the importance of SoundExchange in the rising digital landscape. From our perspective, digital music services are booming, and the latest numbers point to just that. In 2011, SoundExchange paid out an estimated $292 million in royalties to recording artists and record labels last year. That’s a jump of 17 percent from the previous year. In total, we’ve paid more than $900 million since SoundExchange formed.

Artists and labels absolutely should be taking advantage of these new digital revenue streams. In order to ensure you’re getting your share of SoundExchange royalties, you MUST register with us. It’s free, there’s no catch, no obligations, and it doesn’t stop you from giving your work away or offering it at other rates if you want. SoundExchange just covers the services that haven’t made other arrangements with you – like a “default” setting.

Should I sell it on iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify? What sort of cut will I get?

While we can’t provide specific recommendations on where to post your tracks, we recommend that after you post, you take advantage of those royalties register with SoundExchange.

When sound recordings are played on certain digital services, such as satellite radio, Internet radio, cable TV channels, or streamed as background music in some restaurants or stores, the artist who performed on that recording earns a royalty. So does the copyright owner, which may be a label, or an independent artist who owns his own masters. SoundExchange is the only nonprofit performance rights organization that has been appointed under Federal law to collect and distribute those royalties.

Remember, SoundExchange royalties are different than those you may receive from ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. This is an additional form of revenue, offered for the featured performer, background musicians and session players, and the owner of the masters (often, but not always, a label). There’s no conflict between signing up with SoundExchange and another performance rights organization (PRO).

What if only ten people buy it? Will I still get digital royalties via SoundExchange? How do I protect my recordings?

SoundExchange collects performance royalties from those internet radio, satellite radio and digital cable TV service that stream non-interactive music. We do not collect for interactive services like iTunes. With that said, you’d be amazed how many listeners may hear your song in a single day through the digital services we from which SoundExchange collects. It could be 10 or 10,000.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your recordings is to include all the relevant metadata on your tracks, so we can be sure all those little micro-payments can get matched up to your repertoire. You wouldn’t believe how much money we have set aside for “Label Unavailable” and “Unknown Artist.” While we often joke that you don’t join a rock band to have great metadata, having good metadata is probably one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you get paid for your work.

The response has been great but I haven’t been signed or picked up for a commercial — what’s my next move? Tour? Hire PR?

We often get questions about what new and up-and-coming artists should do to help launch their careers and protect their creative work. While we don’t deal directly in this arena, we do recommend new artists build their team and assign responsibilities for specifics such as merchandising, bookings, social media, accounting, licensing, publicity, email management, etc. Many online enhancements or replacements for hired help are available (SonicBids, CDBaby, TopSpin, ReverbNation, Rumblefish, FanBridge, Nimbit and others) which allow artists to take on many of these tasks themselves.

Also, the Internet is a powerful and free tool. We recommend new artists/bands use their site and social network profiles to sell merchandise, display a photo gallery, and dispense news updates and tour events. Cross-link and expand your social network communications to drive fans to your website.

These tips and more can be found on our New Artist Checklist.

Next: Kendel Ratley – Director of Marketing, Kickstarter

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