The First Steps to Take as an Artist or Producer after Creating your Music
When you’re just starting out, it can be hard to find good information about the business of music. I know this because I was once a young upcoming artist myself, trying to make my way into a world of scams and misinformation. Now that I’ve been in and around the music business in various capacities over two decades and have made some mistakes myself, I want to help other artists avoid some of the hurdles if possible. This article is going to tell you the very first steps to make in the business after creating your music.
Registering your music with the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the official copyright office, so it’s important to register your music with them. If you don’t, then you risk losing out on royalties and other payments that should be going to you. Registering with the Library of Congress costs $35 per song (or album) and only takes a few minutes online. The good news is that registering with them will ensure that they register your music in every country where it matters: the United States, Europe (including the UK), Australia/New Zealand/Japan, etc.
Registering your music with ASCAP and BMI
Registering your music with ASCAP and BMI is an essential step in the process of getting paid for your work. ASCAP and BMI are the two largest performing rights organizations in the world, and they collect royalties on behalf of their members. You can register your songs at either one (or both), but it’s best to do it before you publish them because publishing makes registration mandatory. That way, when someone uses one of your songs publicly — like on Spotify or YouTube — you’ll get paid for it!
Registering your music with SESAC
If you are a performing artist, it’s important to register with SESAC. The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers is an organization that collects royalties for artists in the United States and Canada. If you don’t have a record deal, or if your independent imprint/label doesn’t handle these things for you (and most don’t), registering with SESAC allows them to collect royalties from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music on behalf of the artist. This registration is necessary even if you are not currently signed with any label or publisher: it ensures that even when an independent artist’s music goes viral and gets played thousands of times on the radio or streamed millions of times online, they will still receive compensation from those streams regardless of where they live geographically because every country has its own copyright laws regarding music publishing and ownership rights as well as ASCAP/BMI rates which vary depending on geographical location so one person may earn more money per stream than another depending on where they live geographically speaking — but regardless everyone that puts work in deserves some compensation!
Registering your songs at SoundExchange
SoundExchange is a non-profit organization that collects royalties from digital radio networks and webcasters. It’s the only organization that collects royalties for online digital radio spins. SoundExchange pays artists and labels their share of these royalties, which are then distributed to them by the performing rights organizations ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. The process of registering your songs at SoundExchange is simple: you just sign up on their website, upload your song information (song title/artist name) then wait until it has been processed (usually less than 24 hours). Once that’s done all you need to do is get your music heard and collect the royalty payouts! I did a more comprehensive and detailed review of SoundExchange in a previous article. If you’re interested, here’s the link to my previous article on SoundExchange to learn more about this process https://medium.com/@divinethought/a-comprehensive-guide-to-soundexchange-and-digital-performance-royalties-8c4ed403b38
Filing copyrights on every song you write or produce
You should file copyrights on every song you write. This is important for several reasons: Copyrights are the only way to protect your music from being stolen or used without permission. If someone wants to use your song in their work, they’ll need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright (which could be you). Filing a registration with the US Copyright Office helps establish ownership and gives anyone considering using your material confidence that there are no legal issues with doing so. Registering early means registering often! The sooner you have registered work with USCO (United States Copyright Office), or other local agencies in other countries where applicable, the better! Remember especially if multiple people worked together over long periods making changes throughout the production process, filing early is even more important because once again… we don’t want any surprises down the road due to a lackadaisical attitude towards filing paperwork correctly.
The only way to protect yourself as a musician is to properly register, file copyrights and publish every song you write
The only way to protect yourself as a musician is to properly register, file copyrights and publish every song you write. Register your music with the Library of Congress: As soon as you have created any original music, be it a demo or full-length album, you should register your songs with the US Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov. The cost is $35 per title (up to 10 titles), but if someone uses your work without permission this will provide proof of ownership so that they can’t just say “oh well it’s public domain.” You can also file for international protection through World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Register with ASCAP/BMI/SESAC: These organizations collect royalties when someone plays music on TV or radio stations — but only if they are registered artists! If an artist isn’t registered through one of these societies, they won’t get paid when their song gets played on various music platforms across the world, even if millions of people hear it! So sign up right away before your first gig. It’s free to register.
In conclusion, this has just been a quick write-up with just the basic 101 information you need to know as an artist. There is much more ground to cover with many more tips and tricks to learn as well as pitfalls to avoid that are learned as you gain tangible experience. The business can be difficult to navigate as an independent artist, but it’s worth it if you love doing it. Staying vigilant is key.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @ DivineThoughtTM for more content like this!