Last week, in the first part of this blog, I started talking about Administration – setting up systems for your songwriting business and the various information you need to keep track of. We talked about setting up folders for all the different aspects of your business.
In last week’s post I covered SONGS. If you missed it, you can read it here. This week I’ll be covering:
- copyright and PRO information
- waivers and clearances
- sync payments and royalties
COPYRIGHT AND PRO INFORMATION:
In order to collect performance royalties from songs, you have to sign up with a PRO (performing rights organization). In the U.S., you have a choice of three: ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.
HOWEVER, if you intend to actually get paid, you must not only sign up but also register all of your songs so that your PRO knows what songs to pay you on and how much to pay you. To register your song, simply log into their online portal and fill out the form. You’ll need to fill out the form for every song you want to register.
If you’re releasing your songs publicly, you might also want to copyright them with the U.S. Copyright Office. This can be done online at www.copyrightoffice.gov.
Once registered, keep track of all of this information in a folder on your hard drive. You should also hold onto the paper copies (or scan the docs into your computer).
If you co-write songs, it’s handy to have your co-writer’s contact information, publisher name/s and PRO numbers on file as well.
I put my co-writers’ publishing info into the Notes section under their contact info on my iPhone. My contacts are synced with my computer (and automatically backed up). This way all their data is nearby their contact info and I just have to go to one place to find everything I need.
Alternatively, you could create a spreadsheet and have all of your co-writers’ information in that one place.
WAIVERS AND CLEARANCES:
I explained clearances in a previous post, so check it out here if you need to review.
Create a document in Word or Text to keep track of clearances for a song. You might want to set up a template to save yourself some time.
Keep all of your waivers in a folder on your hard drive. Scan any hard copies and place those in there as well. Again, keep all of them in one place so they are easy to find when you need them.
This one can get unwieldy if you’re pitching your songs a lot.
There might be pitches to publishers, to music supervisors, to music reps, to other songwriters, to managers, to music services… the list goes on. And there might be multiple pitches for one song.
The simplest way to organize pitches, albeit a cumbersome one, is on an Excel or Pages doc. Yup – a basic spreadsheet. Or maybe a database program such as Filemaker Pro. There are other custom composer apps out there as well, but to start off you might just try a simple spreadsheet.
Some fields to populate your spreadsheet might be:
1. Song Title
3. Publisher Contact Info
3. Date Pitched
4. Music Need Description
5. Result of Pitch
6. Contract link (set-up an alias to link it to the file on your hard drive)
Any information you think will be relevant to your pitches should be included in your spreadsheet. Then just add all of your pitches to that one spreadsheet as you go.
Again, the point here is to have everything in one place so that you have easy access to all the info you need when you want to follow up on a pitch.
If you’re offered a licensing deal, you’ll get all the paperwork that comes with it. It’s important to take the time to look through the contract and seek counsel, if possible, to help you understand your rights.
Organize your contracts all together and keep them some place where you can refer back to them if need be. I suggest creating sub-folders on your computer for each publisher and then drag the corresponding contract and any important correspondence into that folder.
In addition, you might want to create a spreadsheet for all your publishing deals, so you can keep track of what’s what in one easy-to-locate and read document.
A very simple one might be populated like this:
1. Song Title
3. Publisher Contact Info
4. Exclusive or Non-Exclusive
5. Length of Agreement
6. Date of Expiration
Tailor it to your needs and wants. Save this document to your hard drive and update it regularly.
THE PAYMENTS AND ROYALTIES:
These will come digitally to your inbox or physically to your mailbox, whichever way you elect to receive them, usually quarterly. Again, it’s a good idea to set up a folder and keep track of everything money-related in that folder.
I’ll talk about the breakdown of royalties in a future post so keep a look out for that or subscribe here to get it sent to your inbox.
And if we’re talking about payments and royalties, then we need to talk about banking.
If you are receiving money for your compositions, either through CD sales, downloads, performances, streams, etc., then you’ll need to set up some sort of banking for it. Think about how you want to set up your “funnel” and where you want the money to go at the end of the day. It’s wise to get professional advice on how to set up your business. There are multiple ways to do it and varying degrees of liability.
Take the time to think through it. It will involve filling out forms with your local state and federal government and potentially having a professional do it for you.
If you’re making money, then you owe taxes. Consult with your tax professional so you keep in good stead with the government. And remember to take advantage of the write-offs that can offset some of your business costs.
So, you might be getting a whiff of an underlying theme here:
Be organized, have systems and be professional!
For creatives like us, this is usually the hardest aspect to get together… and the most annoying to have to deal with.
I get it. It’s way more fun to write songs, right?
But it’s necessary to be informed, organized and professional in your dealings.
Yes – write great songs… and lots of them. But think of yourself and conduct yourself as a business person. There’s a reason why they call it the music business!
O.k. I hope this helps you. If you have any questions or comments, leave a message in the Discussion section below.
And stay tuned for the next post of the series: THE MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT MUSIC LICENSING: ROYALTIES.
Want more tips on songwriting for film and t.v.? Purchase my e-book, How To Explode Your Income By Licensing Your Songs here.