Do you have a Music Lawyer?

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  • #5937 Reply

    I’m still new at this, so I have to ask: Do you have a Music Lawyer? If yes, how did you go about getting one? How about a manager? My husband seems to think I’m spinning my wheels going through music libraries, although I am optimistic (most days). I’ve just started a great book called “All you need to know about the Music Business” by Donald S. Passman – someone here recommended this book and I love it! I just wanted to check it against reality! Also, since I do best at writing from my heart, I primarily focus on one type of music and no plans to perform live. So, does this put me in a position of not needing managers and agencies? I appreciate your feedback!

    #5954 Reply

    Hi Cari, I’d say the fewer middlemen/middlewomen (?) the better! What service could an agent/manager provide to you? What is it that you think you need help with? Is it getting you in touch with libraries, is it going through all the legalese or filling out meta data? ūüėČ

    #5959 Reply

    Hi Cari,

    As you probably know, I am a lawyer and a composer (not in that order). Without getting into a complicated explanation about the differences between, lawyers, agents and managers, I would ask the same questions as Ulla. ¬†If you came to me, my first question would be, “what do you want to accomplish?”¬†The answer to this question would let me know if you have realistic expectations about the business. A lot of the anger and frustration that composers vent here comes from not having realistic expectations in the first place.

    >My husband seems to think I’m spinning my wheels going through music libraries, although I am optimistic (most days)<

    “Going through music libraries”….to get where? ¬†Earning a living? Selling CD’s? Selling downloads (e.g. itunes, CDbaby)? Custom scoring..films, video games????

    > Also, since I do best at writing from my heart, I primarily focus on one type of music and no plans to perform live.<

    Writing one type of music, unfortunately is (possibly, not always) a problem in the library business, but not necessarily for the licensing business. To succeed as a library composer you really need to be able to create what Mark Lewis calls a “large volume of work.” ¬†My opinion, and that of some others here, is that you really need a catalog of 1000 or more cues in order to make a living wage composing¬†library music. In my opinion, and based upon the success of others, e.g. Mark Petrie, John Mazzei, etc, you should write in a number of different styles.

    To that, I would add that a library writer  should write keeping in mind what is usable. Listen to the music in a variety of TV shows and ads, e.g. drama, reality, news, etc. Background music on CSI is different than Desparate Housewives, is different than  Jersey Shore, is different than an ad for Pampers. Listen to the music in radio ads. Focus on what gets used, and think about why.

    Licensing can be a different animal. A one-style writer can have success via a licensing if their style is popular or trendy, and meets the needs of end users…at the moment. Moby would be an example of a one-style writer, who achieved great success through licensing. Unfortunately, styles come and go so, you need to make hay while the sun shines. He did.

    I’ve listened to your music. It’s very lovely. But…it is very esoteric. It would most likely be labeled “new age.” ¬†The “good” news, is that unlike crowded genres, such as hip-hop and dubstep, your competition is limited in comparison. The “bad” news is that the sync market for that style is also comparatively small, as it’s heyday was in the early to mid 1990’s. Hiring a lawyer, agent or manager will not change that reality.

    Thus, depending on what your goals are, you are not necessarily “spinning your wheels.” You may be achieving what can be done with your style, at this point in time¬†(things change). Think of how that style gets used. I recently heard an ad for an “all-natuaral” sunscreen product that has, what I’ll call, a “new age-like” underscore. But, it’s more “new age-like” than new age (which raises a whole different discussion regarding the differences between writing in a genre and writing in a “style” for media. There is a distinction).

    I would give you a more specific opinion, but I cannot do that without knowing what your goals are. If you just want to write from the heart, and sell your music to people who will listen to it, you may want to consider going the CDbaby, itunes etc, digital artist route. However, you have to be prepared to promote yourself to achieve any success,in any arena. You may spend more than you make.

    If you want to be a library composer my advice, for what it’s worth, would be:

    1) Buy the best equipment and sounds that you can afford (if not using live players)

    2) Write in more than one style (but know your limitations)

    3) Write every day, whether you want to or not. (Inspiration is for amateurs)

    4) Be prolific.¬†Unless lightning strikes (e.g. Mind Heist), you need 1000 to 1500 cues to make what many people would consider a living. Everyone’s needs vary.¬†

    5) Have an attorney to review contracts for you. It’s easy to get burned!

    6) Work hard to raise your game, and learn from everything you do (including mistakes).

    Some general thoughts (not judgements).

    Library music is the domain 0f professional composers, who write on a daily basis and produce a large volume of consistently usable work.

    Licensing¬†, as distinguished from library music, is more “artist” focused. As such, the opportunities may rise and fall with the artist’s popularity…potentially a strike while the iron is hot situation.

    Donald Passman’s book, All You Need to Know About the Music Business, is good, but may be more geared to performing and recording artists.

    Music Money and Success, by Jeff and Todd Brabec (both entertainment attorneys) is also very good.

    I hope that gives you some food for thought.

    All the best,




    #7641 Reply

    @MichaelL, fanstastic advice, thank you for this.

    #7647 Reply


    I have to chime in with Michael 100%

    and now my two cents:

    in reading what Michael wrote I had the following thought

    why not experiment and add elements of dub step and / or hip hop to your new age style compositions?

    and last

    you can get loads of ideas on you tube they have great how to vids on getting certain sounds look up their Pro- Tools channels and how to mixing and production videos they can be a great recourse not only for honing and developing you production chops but also for getting some interesting ideas and updated sounds


    #7651 Reply
    Mark Lewis

    Hi Cari-

    I have two comments to add to Michael’s great overview of your situation. Since I have personal interactions with your catalog I can verify that Michael is spot on with his assessment of your very specific style of composing. It really only appeals to a very limited audience.

    My two bits…
    1. You are simultaneously trying to hit both the CD Baby / Orchard Music / iTunes / Amazon $0.99 download market and the $49.95 licensing market with the exact same catalog. I would suggest you pick one and stick with it as doing both causes lots of problems.

    2. Maybe try and market your music catalog as relaxation / meditation music and go directly after the yoga studios and massage therapists out there who need soothing background music in their studios.
    Pick an audience / market and then start promoting yourself. Start a twitter account, a facebook page and a soundcloud account, let people know about your music. Give away samples of your music so people keep coming back. You have to build awareness then figure out how to monetize.

    I won’t beat a dead horse by reiterating that you definitely don’t need a lawyer or an agent or a manager (oops, I just did). Please do not get suckered into wasting your money because some book told you that hiring expensive middlemen is the only way to be successful in the music business.
    There are no magic bullets, it’s simply hard work and persistence.


    #7707 Reply

    Another newbie here. I’d like to explore something Mark Lewis said above.

    Mark, you said:

    “You are simultaneously trying to hit both the CD Baby / Orchard Music / iTunes / Amazon $0.99 download market and the $49.95 licensing market with the exact same catalog. I would suggest you pick one and stick with it as doing both causes lots of problems.”

    Can you elaborate a bit on this? I play in an indie rock band that has been haphazardly submitting music to libraries for a couple years now (we’ve made a few hundred bucks with AudioSparx but have¬†had zero income from MusicDealers, YookaMusic, Mainstream Music, or AudioSocket). We also have all of our catalog available for digital sale at the usual sites (CD Baby, I-Tunes, Amazon, etc.).

    Looking forward to your thoughts on this,

    Matt Kite
    The Whole Bolivian Army

    #7710 Reply

    Sure, here are two good reasons to keep your catalogs separate.
    When you submit your music catalog to Orchard Music and CD Baby those companies will then take your music and enter it into the Youtube ContentID system to monetize your music when it is used on Youtube.
    This is all fine if you are an indie band trying to promote your band and are making sales of your music directly to your fans.

    The problem comes in when you legally license your music to someone to use in their video on Youtube. This customer has just paid you for the right to legally use your music in their video content. If your music is registered with CD Baby their video will be immediately hit with a copyright flag saying that they are using music that does not belong to them. Ads will be placed on top of their videos and their youtube account gets shut down to the opportunity to monetize the video creator’s content.
    I can tell you from past experience over the last 4 years that customers absolutely hate it when this happens to their video content and their chance to earn revenue from their creations especially when they have just paid the composer $49.95 for this exact situation not to happen.
    These issues cause many legal problems and business issues for the music libraries distributing your music.

    The other issue is that once a customer finds your piece of music on a music licensing website they might also do a search for that track name to see if they can get a better deal on a different website. If they find your $49.95 track available for $0.99 on iTunes what is to stop them from just purchasing it on iTunes and using it in their commercial project?


    Hope this helps.

    #7714 Reply

    My understanding of the CDbaby youtube content ID arrangement is that it is “opt-in”.. ¬†After reading about the youtube program on the MLR, I chose to not opt-in, when CDBaby announced their program. I’ll double check.

    I have two new age CD’s and a smooth jazz CD in digital distribution through CDBaby. But I also have some of that music in libraries. I wouldn’t want it in the youtube content ID system, for the reasons that you mention. If it is, I’ll have it removed.

    With respect to searching for a better deal, that sounds like an instance where the composer should do alternate titles, which is perfectly legit, under US copyright law. (this is not to be confused with re-titling as it is practiced by some libraries).



    #7719 Reply

    Thanks for getting back with your thoughts, Mark, and thank you, Michael, for adding yours.

    Michael is correct about CD Baby. We opted out as soon as we learned that AudioSparx, though non-exclusive, doesn’t like its artists to be affiliated with Rumblefish, which is the company that partners with CD Baby to handle their licensing, including the YouTube deals.

    Regarding your second point, Mark, I could be naive here, but wouldn’t someone who’s willing to pay a licensing fee know better than to simply buy a track on Amazon and then try to use it on their video? Most people who go to the trouble to do things legally know the difference between merely buying music to listen to it and buying it to license it. Or maybe I’m wrong.


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