Reverbnation

7 Steps to Prepare for a Music Publisher

I’ve had songs with several publishers, from large instrumental libraries to publishers promising me Coke ads. I now write exclusively for pigFactory and get songs regularly placed in ads and on TV and movies (click here for a list of my placements).

I get quite a few emails asking me either how to find a publisher or how to know if someone who has contacted them is legitimate, so I assembled this list of ideas to explore:

1. Is your music ready?

This is so important. You need to critically listen to your music and ask yourself if it can realisitically be placed. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to include your music in a playlist with other successful music in your genre to see how it flows, both in sound quality and writing. If it sticks out like a sore thumb, focus on getting your music to a place where is stands the best chance of getting placements. You only get one chance to make a first impression!

2. Educate yourself!

It’s natural to get excited by the first publisher you encounter, but you could end up learning the hard way if you sign an agreement before learning the rules. It’s far better, if a little painful, to educate yourself in the field of publishing first. I recommend reading The New Songwriter’s Guide to Music Publishing by Randy Poe. It’s a lot to take in, but well worth your time. There are many other great books out there including Robin Fredrick’s Shortcut books – a great education in writing.

3. Google is your friend.

I’m always surprised when I get emails asking me things that are so easily found by using Google. Whether you’re looking for a publisher or want to know more about a specific one, Google them. But you have to look at all the info critically. If I believed everything I read on the internet I would never have ended up using Taxi which, by the way, is a great way to find a publisher. Other places that publishers put out a call for music on are Sonicbids, Broadjam and ReverbNation. There are others and these are all easily googleable.

4. Pick up the phone.

If you find yourself in the position of considering a certain publisher, talk to them. You can glean so much more from an actual conversation than from an email. This is the person who may be controlling your music, so it’s extremely important to have more than just a text relationship with them. Fifteen minutes on the phone can give you a feel for the person and company.

5. Use your gut.

Instincts are there for a reason. If you really want to sign an agreement but just don’t feel right about it, listen to that voice. These agreements can last a long time so it is worth holding out for the right person/company.

6. One song, one publisher.

Don’t sign the same song with more than one publisher, even if it’s a non-exclusive agreement. Music supervisors don’t like that. I have been told by both publishers and supervisors that if they get the same song from more than one publisher, they will not only pass on the song, but blacklist the songwriter (see #2). You can avoid this by writing a lot and having a bunch of songs to sign with different publishers to test the waters. I did this for a while before signing an exclusive agreement.

7. Find a lawyer.

If you find yourself with a contract to sign, find a good music lawyer. A recommendation is the best way to go. It may be expensive initially, but will most likely save you money and heartache down the line. It also gives you peace of mind because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll fall asleep reading the contract and may miss something.

Connecting with a publisher is a lot of hard work, but for those of us who are driven to make music, it’s worth it. Good luck!

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Digital Music Distribution – Simple?

I have another new album coming out and normally I would use Tunecore for my digital distribution. I have for all but one of my releases. I used CD Baby for my 2nd album to try something different.

But Tunecore’s recent 150% price hike on all new and existing album distribution has got me looking around at what others have to offer.

A Little Background

I wrote, recorded and produced a song a week for a year. During that year I released some download-only EPs. The at the end of the year I released an album with 13 of the best songs of the week. I also got some songs placed on TV that were neither on EPs or the album so I released them as singles.

So now I have 3 EPs and 4 singles from that project. At $49.99 per album (even a 4 song EP) and $29.99 per single, that’s a lot of money to pay every year for just over an album’s worth of songs. So I had to have a think.

Then, after being asked about releasing more of the songs of the week, I decided to take the best songs from the EPs, the singles and some never released songs, remix, rerecord and master them for Song of the Week 2. So 7 releases become one.

So that is why I started examining where to go for my distribution.

Tunecore’s Price Hike

My problem with Tuncore isn’t that is costs $49.99 per year to put up an new album. I think the price is reasonable for a new album. My problem is the price hike on existing albums. Albums that, over time, are likely to get less sales as the years progress. Albums, where the work to put them up has already been done. Albums that cost around a just a couple of dollars a year to host. It’s not is if we are allowed to modify or upgrade anything about the albums, yet they are costing us more.

They added new features like trending and widgets and bundled them together with the distribution but it feels a bit like they are saying “here’s a bunch of stuff you didn’t ask for, now you owe us more money”.

So the quandary for indie artists is that to take our business elsewhere means losing those precious stars, comments and ‘others that bought this bought…’. We need all the attention we can get.

By all means put up your prices for new business but don’t penalize old customers for something they can’t do anything about.

Attitude problem

And then there’s the attitude to those who were not overjoyed at the price hikes. I think they took take offence to the statement by CEO Jeff Price – “So we just said screw it, simpler is better”…  “Let’s give Tunecore customers all the things they asked for and not charge them for each and every new feature.” (from Digital Music News)

Simpler for Tunecore. I think customers would always prefer to chose what they are paying for. I have a feeling they paid for the development of these features and found that people weren’t as interested as they thought, so, as I said earlier, they have bundled them… for who’s convenience?

Distribution

But enough bitching. I still have the problem of who to distribute through. There seems to be 2 basic options. Pay a fee each year but pay no percentage of sales (Tunecore, Reverbnation) or pay a one time fee and pay a percentage of sales (around 10%) (CD Baby, Indie Pool). I did a little research and came up with this chart so I could see a comparison between many companies now offering music digital distribution. It’s not pretty but it’s as simple as I could make it. (click on the image to see in detail).

The Indie Artist Dilemma

Now if you’re a well known artist it’s a no brainer. Selling a lot means that you are way better off with paying the yearly fee and keeping all the sales. But for less well known indie artists then it’s a gamble. Especially if you have a lot of CDs out there. It adds up. But if I get a song on a TV show, which happens from time to time, then my potential sales make it worth paying the yearly fee. If not then which is my best bet.

What’s Next?

I totally get that it’s all business. I do. And if this was my first album I would most likely go with Tunecore. They have a great website, make it easy to get your albums on iTunes quickly and your money from sales is easy to withdraw. But I have a bad taste in my mouth and I think that there is one simple thing Tunecore could do to keep the indie artists happy, if they really want to… and Tunecore are all about keeping things simple, right?

Leave existing albums at the yearly price that they were originally signed up for. Simple and fair. Those albums require no more work, only the storage cost.

For this new album, Tunecore may still be my best option. I would be interested in other’s thought on this.

Reverbnation Widget Revelation

I signed up on Reverbnation ages ago and uploaded lots of music, acquired new fans, added old ones and then thought “now what?”. Then I just let it sit there and received my weekly stats and watched my popularity remain static in a declining wort of way.

I knew that Reverbnation was a useful thing but I knew I hadn’t worked out how to use it properly yet. I saw so many tweets about how great it was – although I am not a fan of automatically getting a website to tweet something generic like “Check out ……… on ……….”, which I see a lot of (although I think that is more a misunderstanding of how to make use of site, rather than problem with the site itself).

After a lot of thought and a few emails to the support people, I finally figured out how to get people to listen to me using Reverbnation while at the same time coming to my website, which is ultimately what I want.

I decided to use the customizable, embedable widget to play all my albums on my site. And I have to say they have the best music widgets. The choice of themes is tasteful but the best thing is that you can truly customize the size, which is great for me as I have some full length albums and a lot of EPS.

The reason for this blog is that after finally figuring how to use such a well thought of website, I got to meet the founder, Lou Plaia, this evening at the Dewey Beach Music Conference. I spoke to him about my issues and revelation and had a good conversation about the misconception of sites like Reverbnation. They are not fan sites but they really do serve a great purpose if you dig deep enough to make it work for you.

I am so happy with my new widgets and I hope that people visiting my site now find it easier to listen to my music.

www.helenaustin.com/music.html

I am going to try their gig widget next. So many widgets, so little time…