Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Production compensation webinar: Music Compensation

We attended another webinar from the the Dramatist Guild's Production Compensation Series on Thursday June 16th 2022. It's was an in-depth discussion on Music Compensation Rights. The webinar was lead by Ralph Sevush, with an expert panel of contributors including: Sean Flahaven, Jeanine Tesori, Kirsten Childs and Amy VonMacek. We asked April Alsup, our local music theater expert, to represent PAP (The Performing Arts Project) in the webinar.

The first major takeaway from this session was that as a member of the Dramatist Guild there are lots of  resources who are familiar with just about every aspect of the production compensation of Musical Theater works and they are willing to help whenever questions arise, but ultimately an agent and/or publisher should promote your works, manage your rights and they should always be working in your best interest.

Dramatist Guild Music Compensation Panel

There are a lot ways to supplement the music of a theatrical piece. Are you playing your original music live, are you getting played on the radio? Are your songs placed in a TV show, film or commercial that is being played on TV? Songwriters get paid for these types of public performances and PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) like ASCAP and BMI are an integral part of how the music industry get these types of public performances licensed, tracked and then royalties paid to songwriters.

Here's some terminology:

Mechanical rights are regulated federally. In copyright law a mechanical license is a license from the holder of a copyright of a composition or musical work, to another party to create a "cover song", reproduce, or sample a portion of the original composition. It applies to copyrighted works that aren't free, open or in the public domain.

Synchronization rights are the agreements between the owner of a copyrighted composition and the user. A synchronization license grants permission for a user to release the song in other media formats. This permission is also called sync rights and your terms and conditions are completely negotiable.

Grand rights are a type of music licensing that specifically cover the right to perform musical compositions within the context of a dramatic work. This includes stage performances such as musical theater, concert dance, and arrangements of music from a dramatic work.

The license agreements of major Performance Rights Organization (PRO)s such as ASCAP and BMI do not cover grand rights and exclude the usage of compositions within "dramatic" works. Unlike small rights, grand rights must be negotiated directly with the publisher or copyright holder of the composition. Grand rights also differ from sync licensing, the licensing of music to synchronize with video content in films, videos, videogames, etc. Small rights is a term used to cover performances of individual songs in a concert or cabaret-type setting.

Print rights (licenses) provide a significant form of income for interested parties, despite new technology and new revenue streams. Two major sheet music companies are Hal Leonard and Alfred. Sheet Music for commercial music is roughly 1% of an artists revenue, but for music theater composers it can be as much 10% of the music revenue.

Providing your music digitally tends to have a greater amount of piracy issues since the files are easily copied, but the panelist agreed there isn't much you can do about it. Also, they said it's not uncommon for a sheet music provider to give an upfront advance of $25,000 for a completed music score and to be weary of contract provisions that include recuperation costs.

So that's a quick recap of the Music Compensation webinar. If you have any questions don't hesitate to reach out to us. We're glad to help you any way we can.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Production compensation webinars from the Dramatist Guild

We've been participating in the production compensation webinars presented by the Dramatist Guild in New York City over the last few weeks. The discussions are lead by Ralph Sevush and include a variety of experts depending on the topics for each session. This series is very informative and is a real benefit of being a member of the Dramatist Guild. Our sense is there really isn't any blueprint for these sorts of financial matters, so the format is perfect. Ralph does a great job at identifying the topics for each session and then lets the experts share anecdotes and valuable insight from their experiences working in the real world; afterwards, a DG participant gathers questions of the online audience for further discussion. The sessions last several hours and are going on for the next month or so.

Production Compensation Part One: Advice for Theatre Writers on Commissions, Advances, Royalties from Theatrical Productions with Ralph Sevush, Lauren Gunderson, Diana Burbano and Roger Q. Mason
Production Compensation Part Two: Advice for Theatre Writers on Making Income from Subsidiary Markets with Ralph Sevush, Tonda Marton, Jason Cooper, Doug Wright, Don Zolidis, Amy VonMacek-DG
Just let us know if you have any questions! We're happy to talk with you about the theatrical production compensation topic and if we can't answer your questions we can reach out to our guild friends for more clarification. Remember there is far more we can do together than we could ever do on our own.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Using recorded music for theater shows

If you plan to use recorded music for a theatrical production, you'll need to pay royalties if the music is protected by copyright. There are several different scenarios for this; for example, you may need music for background ambiance in your lobby and/or as music tied to the performance itself

If you do this sort of thing you should probably get a general license from the organizations that represent the writers and publishers of the songs. The best-known organizations are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Industries).

General licensing is used by businesses like restaurants and retail stores for background music and if you use a lot of background music, it's usually cheaper to get the yearly license. Licensing organizations base the amount they charge for the performance licenses on the type of theater and its seating capacity.

You can can even license music from a particular composer or the entire catalog of all ASCAP or BMI composers, but you can't do it for just one or two songs. Recently, April Alsup added the music for her award winning musical "WYSIWYG" to the ASCAP catalog, so her songs are now available for theaters who have subscribed to the ASCAP catalog.

Permission to use recorded music with live stage performances involves what is called "synchronization rights." Those rights are handled by the publisher or an intermediary like the Harry Fox Agency and/or the National Music Publishers Association, the agency that represents most American music publishers. Just let us know if you need any help with any of this.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Give your music theater fans choice online

Getting your music theater soundtrack online has it's challenges. Many musical theatre projects don't even consider creating high quality commercial song soundtracks for the airwaves; and even if they do, navigating the infrastructure of online streaming services, radio, television and film is not for the faint of heart.

If your show doesn't have label affiliation you'll need to set one up with GS1-US. This can get you going on services like Spotify and only costs $30, but music theater fans use all sorts of different online streaming services. 

WYSIWYG Online Streaming Services
Online Streaming Services for WYSIWYG the Musical

To go to the next level we would advise that you join a PRO organization like ASCAP or BMI. Once you become a member you can register your works for a variety of additional online audio services and they'll handle the royalty distributions for you. It will also cover the bases for all your fans since there is such a wide selection of online streaming services out there.

Recently, April Alsup expanded the soundtrack for WYSIWYG to include; Spotify, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, Pretzel, Facebook and SoundCloud. So now we have the choice to hear our favorite WYSIWYG songs on a lot of different streaming services...just search for April Alsup and enjoy!  😀 🎧