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Retitling

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There is a lot of controversy about the practice of retitling music by music libraries that offer non-exclusive deals. Retitling allows the composer to place their music with many companies thus widening the opportunities for getting their music heard and thus sold. Some think this “de-values” ones music while others think it’s unethical or possibly illegal.

151 thoughts on “Retitling”

  1. Rob, not sure who Yadgyu is but I just thought someone really needed to bring some clarity to the issues of copyright, non-exclusive libraries, and performing rights organizations.

    Did you know that many independent musicians are not registered with a PRO? The reason this is true is because they sell their music directly to fans. They do not expect their music to be played on the radio or used for film and TV synchronization. If a band does not expect to collect royalties, the band does not need a PRO. But that band would definitely hold and control the copyright to their work. I am not sure how iTunes works, but there are many other websites where musicians sell their songs and collect money.

    Licensing music is different from selling CDs, mp3s, etc. Many musicians that try to license music for the first time have to figure out what a PRO does and how to join. Not all musicians have a CAE/IPI number. Once they become writers with a PRO, they can then license their songs through libraries. Also, those musicians can become publishers as well. They can assign publishing rights to the songs they have written and directly license songs to different companies. This is how musicians can collect writers’ royalties and publishers’ royalties from songs. Also, musicians that directly negotiate with a company to license music will be more likely to receive a synchronization fee. These fees are direct payments, meaning that they are exclusive from royalty payments.

    In the end, music libraries are technically not necessary for musicians to license music. But many libraries have established clients who they license music to. The better libraries know how to pitch songs. This is why many musicians choose to work with libraries.

    I can break down the nitty-gritty between non-exclusive and exclusive libraries if anyone is interested.

    Reply
    • @ Nameless,

      Oh, sheesh… Where to start?

      Grab a cup o’ cocoa, this may take awhile…

      How about a quote from copyright law: “…Publication of a work can affect the limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner that are set forth in the law…”

      (1) Re-titling is NOT the same as sub-publishing. A sub-publisher simply collects on the publisher’s behalf in various foreign (non-U.S.) territories. Titles are not changed (except when lyrics are translated into the language of a specific country, at which time, whoever translates the lyrics gets a piece of the derivative copyright, which is then separately registered. This way, the foreign translator/lyricist gets paid only for their participation in the translated [not original] work). It gets more convoluted with mechanicals, sheet music, etc., but the gist is that for a specific WORK, the sub-publisher collects on the publisher’s behalf. The sub-publisher can charge anywhere from 10%-50% of collected fees, but the usual range is 15%-25%. There is NO actual ownership implied or contracted. It is merely collecting outside of one’s PRO’s jurisdiction, for a specific period of time. Major publishers generally have offices in the larger foreign markets to handle such things; the indie folks have to do more legwork to get local sub-publishing deals.

      (2) Libraries are collecting on revenue streams from ONE work with ONE copyright — and usually, from ONE master attached to the ONE work. Each re-titled piece is given implied and/or contractual “ownership” to that specific title. As such, there is a portion of the composer’s bundle of rights being assigned to a specific company IN PERPETUITY. It doesn’t matter if there is a reversion clause for the work itself. The library will continue to receive back-end monies IN PERPETUITY to the title with them. That means when “Midget Western” airs at 3am on basic cable 10 years from now, they’ll still be making money off your “Tiny Town Hoe Down, Part Deux” — a title they no longer represent, and which they probably played (or paid) no part in creating. It doesn’t matter what you call the work, it is still a part of the original copyright. Giving up these various portions (which generally add up to more than 100%) is, IMHO, a potential recipe for future disaster, despite the libraries’ admonition that it’s how they track the income from their efforts and keep things tidy for bookkeeping. With today’s technology, and more and more folks starting to use the kinds of watermarking I beta tested over 12 years ago, what we find is that such recognition tech brings up as many titles attached to a specific sound file as are out in circulation. It makes it quite difficult to correctly and quickly ascertain exactly what was used where and is being played or broadcast by whom. There are already libraries out there having hissy fits, each claiming that particular uses are THEIRS and not the other library(ies) that may also be repping the same track/composition for the same projects.

      (3) In the U.S., since one can simply inform their PRO that they are choosing to direct license works for a particular venue, project, etc., it makes NO sense NOT to register said compositions with a PRO. Why? Because there are ways to track uses of compositions & recordings digitally, and this often uncovers unlicensed uses of material. You may not be actively seeking to license your work for film, TV, etc., but it doesn’t mean that someone who desires to use your work might not do so without obtaining a license from you. Without some sort of PRO registration, you may be losing out on substantial income. When we (and a major library which was also beta testing a specific watermarking system) got our PRO statements, we both discovered that the digital reports for the same period confirmed a 15%-20% UNDER-reporting of uses of our works. That often happens because a supervisor had a CD sitting on their desk and the editor of a show picked it up, thinking it was okay to use. Sometimes they just don’t care; sometimes they simply think they won’t get caught. But heck, one library got seats in some luxury boxes for various sporting events as a “mea culpa” — and we were also invited to attend — when several such unlicensed uses were uncovered via the watermarking system. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Whatever the circumstances, protection is paramount — from registration of copyright, to licensing, to merchandising, to physical product (CDs), to downloads.

      (4) Yes, it is true that as soon as a work is created in any tangible form, it is automatically copyrighted. Before one can bring any lawsuit to court, however, a formal registration is REQUIRED to show proof of ownership to that work. So a word to those who think sending an envelope to themselves (often referred to as a “poor man’s copyright”), or a date stamp on a computer file or whatever is sufficient proof, think again. This is from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, during a conversation with counsel at the U.S. Copyright Office, as well as several high-profile, intellectual property attorneys.

      (5) Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can go online and register as a writer with ASCAP or BMI. They make it pretty easy. There’s no really good reason NOT to do it. SESAC is by invitation only, so don’t bother unless a SESAC writer or publisher has put your name forward to them, or SESAC has actively sought you out.

      (6) If one is registering as a writer with ASCAP, and planning on licensing music for any sort of film, TV, ad work, etc., then it’s worth plunking down the $35 for registering a publishing entity as well. Why? ASCAP won’t pay publishing performance rights royalties to the writer for self-published works (who, unless they’ve assigned their publishing to someone else does own that publishing). BMI, on the other hand, WILL allow a writer to be noted as “author published” on cue sheets and WILL pay the publishing side of royalties directly to the writer. To obtain a BMI publishing entity requires payment of a heftier fee, but since they’ll pay the writer both sides of their royalties without one, unless you have a substantial catalogue making a lot of money, you may not feel the need to obtain a publishing entity until you’ve got a better cash flow.

      (7) CAE/IPI numbers are assigned when registering. A CAE number simply identifies the rights holder. The IPI number identifies the work. No big deal. Not brain surgery. Nothing mysterious. These registrations should not be a stop for anyone who can read and write at a junior high school level.

      (8) “…musicians that [sic] directly negotiate with a company to license music will be more likely to receive a synchronization fee” HUH?!? While a composer may receive a higher percentage of a sync (and/or master rights) fee when licensing their work directly to a project, anyone who signs a non-exclusive deal that precludes them from sharing in such sync/master rights fees isn’t cooking on all burners or a bit desperate to get their music placed, IMO. Please remember, too, that a synchronization fee is paid for use of the composition ONLY. A master rights fee is paid for the use of a specific recording of a particular composition. If the rights holder is the same for both sides, a combination license may be issued, but the two parts are still separate.

      I know all the arguments for re-titling, I simply happen to disagree with them. Others do not. My viewpoint has ALWAYS been that NO library should be taking your back-end for compositions and/or tracks you’ve created on your own dime. Period. Ever. If a library/song plugger takes up to half of any up-front sync/master license fees generated by their efforts, that’s more than fair — but it should be the beginning and end of the financial involvement for any licensed use. A piece of your hide forever is not fair to the creator of the work and its recording of it (let’s not forget the recording in all of this). Now, if an library pays you a substantial fee to create a specific work, then assumes all or part of the costs associated with recording it (an exclusive buyout or exclusive partial buyout), then there would be a valid argument for partial — or maybe even full ownership by the library. Remember — in a sub-publishing situation, the sub-publisher merely receives a fee for the work they do — just the way a CPA would get a fee for doing your taxes or an agent would get a percentage of the total amount you’re paid for a gig they’ve secured on your behalf. Why should a non-exclusive library that paid nothing for the work or recording to be created be any different? An actor’s agent doesn’t share in any of the residuals paid directly to the actor. Why should a library get a cut of your performance rights royalties? It amounts to the same thing.

      So that’s where I’m coming from, Nameless. Despite what others may say, it IS about the composer’s intellectual property rights and safeguarding them — not just for now, but for the future as well.

      For questions regarding specific music licensing terms, may I suggest a look at:
      http://www.musicsupervisor.com/information/glossary

      For more about sound recognition technology:
      http://www.filmmusicmag.com/?p=3314
      http://www.filmmusicmag.com/?p=3052

      And you can download a copy of a writeup on various music library models here:
      http://macmusicmagic.com/MusicLibraryModel.MMM.pdf

      Cheers!
      Gael

      Reply
      • Hi Gael,

        MichaelL — the lawyer — here. I do not disagree for the most part with your legal analysis or your analysis regarding PROs. As always, you’ve done your homework.

        All I ask is that you consider that vast number of writers who will never enter your world — the folks writing in bedrooms and basements around the world, and selling tracks online for $35. See my response to Pat above.

        You are giving solid and valid “A-list” advice that does not apply many many people on this forum. As a result, they may confuse their world with yours and be afraid to take advantage of what may be their best, or only, opportunities to make money writing music.

        Cheers,

        Michael

        Reply
        • Yes, I am the bedroom writer who may never enter that world though I would like to. For the forseeable future, I don’t see me quite good enough to be at that level that affords me a place in some of these ethical debates about retitling etc.(and so far not many others see me that good either yet. lol)
          I have to get what I can get.

          Reply
      • Gael!!!

        You’re awesome…That is all!!!

        Glad I came back to this discussion!!! FINALLY, someone who understands my side of things!!!

        Reply
  2. Oontz, can I share the truth with you? I am not here to fight, but you and many other people do not understand what a copyright is. A copyright is the ownership of a piece of work. A person owns a song as soon as it is created. A person can sign away the rights to that song or temporarily assign that song to another party.

    Registering a song with a PRO technically has nothing to do with a copyright. I can register a song with a PRO and get paid royalties from it if I choose to. But I am not obligated to do so. Many composers do not choose to deal with PROs because they do not care about royalties. If I make a song, I can sell it and license it myself. I do not need to register with a music library or publisher. Since I own the composition, I can assign the rights in any manner I choose.

    Non-exclusive libraries only seek to make royalty income from the assignment of a track. They cannot legally claim ownership unless a composer gives them ownership. They only have rights to make royalties from the name that they retitle the composition and sound recording as. If the same song is licensed to a company by another library or directly from the composer, the first library would make no royalties from that composition. Meanwhile, the composer would get 50% of royalties from the song (writer’s share) if he had the song with another library. If he licensed it directly, he would get 100% of royalties (50% from writer’s share + 50% from publisher’s share).

    I know that re-titling is an emotional subject here. But people here tend to let their emotions get in the way of the truth. The truth is that a re-titled song has nothing to do with the copyright. How does BMI or ASCAP know that you truly created a song you registered? Some scoundrel could easily find my songs, retitle them, name himself as a writer and/or publisher, register the songs with a PRO, and get paid royalties. I would have to make the determination of whether or not I was being credited for my work. I could just as well make 100 songs and say Oontz Oontz wrote them, register him as a co- writer and sign those songs with a library. It would be silly but I could technically do that.

    Reply
        • Hi Pat,

          When it comes to retitling, you need to place things into perspective.

          First, you must understand that Gael, with all due respect, represents a narrow portion of the market, specifically, the Hollywood music supervisor higher end market. And I do mean all due respect. She knows what she’s doing.

          But, like everything else in this world there are different levels at which things happen There’s the NBA, and then there’s hoops in the local park.

          Gael is in the equivalent of the NBA. My only criticism of her advice is that it ignores all of the other levels at which things happen in this business.

          So — excluding feature films, television shows and network ads — there are untold numbers of people around the globe who use music for all sorts things from corporate videos to music on hold — one might say the equivalent of hoops in the park. Many libraries, particularly the royalty free libraries, cater to this level of production. These libraries provide income from direct sales of your tracks. Retitling doesn’t really matter so much at this level.

          In Gael’s world the stakes are much higher, so retitling may be an issue. I say MAY be an issue because everyone is different. Gael’s response the ENW above seems focused on the inconvenience and confusion caused by picking music based on its title alone. Obviously, however, this does not bother everyone to the same degree.

          As a former music editor, I would say that’s a bit like judging a book by it’s cover. I would look beyond the title to the description and the instrumentation before giving a listen. That said, I would also decide within 10 to 15 seconds if I was going to use the piece.

          Gael has stated in previous posts that sometimes a piece of music may sit on her shelf for years until the right opportunity comes along. That’s all well and good. But, unless you’re earning a living some other way you could starve while you wait for that to happen.

          Also, you need to determine what kind of music we are talking about. Gael and many others speak of “songs.” Yes, many film and television sound tracks are “song” based, or prominently feature songs with lyrics at some point. If you are writing corporate instrumental or other non-song, non-Hollywood tracks tracks you are not in that world. And you need to understand how to make money in your world.

          The best advice that I can give you is to understand where Gael is coming from. Understand the opportunities that exist outside her frame of reference. Understand yourself –that is understand your strengths and your limitations.

          The vast majority of writers will never work at Gael’s level. To eliminate all of the other possibilities in the hope that you will catch the brass ring will only do you a disservice.

          One IMPORTANT caveat:I am speaking to people who want to write production music. If you are an artist, and you only work in one genre, say singer-sonwriter, perhaps not so much.

          Reply
          • Hi MichaelL,
            Thanks for your interesting post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts . I like your NBA analogy.
            At this stage for me, I am exploring all options available to me which aren’t that many being new and not as professional as others who may enjoy a much wider range of options. Since this is pretty new to me, most of what I read is from those with more experience and expertise than I have in this field. I respect the opinions of people like Gael, who is very knowledgeable and very helpful. I enjoy reading what many here have to say but I also realize that like doctors and lawyers, experts have their own informed opinions yet sometimes disagree. For now, I just have to write as much music as possible and send it out to has many sources as possible who will accept it until I have better options.

          • Pat,

            I would never tell anyone to limit their dreams. But, I recall what you’ve said previously about your time-frame, training etc. I’ve also listened to your tracks.

            Only you can determine when someone is giving advice that may not apply to you. It is not one size fits all in this business.

            But, based upon your situation, I say it’s OK to dream big, but don’t limit your options waiting for lightning to strike.

            Michael

          • Thanks MichaelL.
            One of my problems is not being really sure what my options really are for what I do. I don’t have a pulse on what may be my niche. I’m hoping the feedback I get will give me a little more insight into where I might fit in all this if I have a chance at fitting at all.
            I just ordered Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV: 114 Tips for Writing, Recording, & Pitching in Today’s Hottest Market” by Robin Frederick and will also purchase some music production tutorials to get my production chops up.
            More importantly, I realize that I need to start writing the way composers who write for libraries write. Trying to keep an open mind here which I’m beginning to realize is essential.

          • @ MichaelL,

            With all due respect, you couldn’t be more off-base about me and the “world(s)” in which I work and have worked.

            I do NOT play in the exalted sandboxes in which Karyn Rachtman or Kathy Nelson (or even TV’s Alex Patsavas) of the supervision world build their castles. They’re in the supervisory “NBA” ilk of which you speak. I’ve played everywhere from the run-down, neighborhood playground to the developmental league; from the high school gym to the major university arena. But don’t confuse any of that with Staples Center [even the Clippers ;)], despite the casts that may have appeared in the projects on which I’ve worked. Many highly-respected actors work on VERY low-budget features and/or cable films or documentaries if they believe in the message/cause the project represents.

            I’ve worked mostly on indie projects, whether it’s film or TV, and have a substantial amount of experience in dealing with so-called “production music” libraries — the good, the bad and the mediocre. I know that world and the music in it. Big budget folks can toss around the big bucks to get whatever they want without much (or any) compromise. Supervisors in the indie arena have to be really creative to get good product for not a lot of money.

            I have stitched together complete film scores using production music when the filmmakers didn’t have enough money to hire a composer. I’ve licensed orchestral pieces for video game trailers and put music into live corporate/industrial events and wedding videos and direct licensing for retail outlets. Yes, I’ve also worked on some decently budgeted films. It doesn’t put me onto the A-list, however — if it had, I wouldn’t be driving a 15-year-old car. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It also doesn’t mean I don’t aspire to supervising larger-budget features and/or TV shows, which is where I feel I have a lot in common with the production music and/or TV show composers who want to score films, or a writer who pens articles for a magazine, but is concurrently working on his/her “Great American Novel.”

            If you will look more carefully, you’ll see that I most often refer to a work as a “composition” and use “song” only as it specifically pertains to a SONG (such as is the case when a song may sit on my shelf for a long time because it has lyrics which are scene/mood specific). So while the song-centric approach may apply to some, it certain does not apply to me. If that were the case, score and production music composers wouldn’t come to me for advice, or to present their concerns and interests in the world-wide intellectual property arena.

            I know many disagree with the one work, one recording, exclusive approach. I can’t change that opinion, or the non-exclusive, re-titling production music business models working within the narrow legal confines in which they operate — any more than I can change the ones which ask for money up-front to listen to a composer’s work. There’s a sucker born every minute, as the old saying goes. I can, however, present what I feel is in the best interest of the composer seeking to protect themselves and their work in this ever-changing music world.

            I would hazard a guess that there aren’t many on this (or any other composer’s list) who want to spend their entire career writing production library music that is so generic that it could be spread around from library to library without many supervisors and/or editors ever recognizing that they’d heard a specific work from several sources. I don’t think any composer truly wants to write forgettable music. Just as with the adept in any profession, good composers aspire to much more, and I am proceeding on that supposition when I state my opinions.

            Who doesn’t want to share in a $25K-$40K+ license fee (and/or any resulting back-end) for that amazing, bombastic orchestral & choral piece for a major motion picture trailer? Trust me on this… the vast majority of those are not coming from a generic production music library, but directly from the composers or from exclusive libraries which have often paid a bundle for the creation of the work and its recording of it.

            The reality is that in the entertainment world, only a very small percentage in all the surrounding professions get to play with the big boys. Most composers won’t get to reap the benefits of that world, or even the rungs just below it. It doesn’t mean, however, that they should be settling for a $10-$50 license fee because they’ve dumped their best work into a mediocre library — when they could get it into a terrific library that garners much more for licensing the same piece for the same type of use.

            Case in point? A major TV network’s flagship show had a licensed music budget of $100K per episode [don’t ask how I found that out… I have my sources ;)]. A particular episode in which a client had placed a piece had three cues (all instrumental) licensed in it: one at $10K, and one at ONE DOLLAR — similar sounds, similar uses. The network was balking at his $6K fee until I mentioned what I had learned. They backed down, paid the $6K and there was really a negligible difference in instrumentation and quality amongst the three cues.

            The powers-that-be want what they want when they want it, and if they think they can get you to give it to them for free, they’ll ask (and DO). Don’t be the one to blanketly give them the opportunity to devalue your work and pay practically nothing because you’ve put your best music into a less than stellar production music library (yeah, there are good ones, but some truly suck, and most are no better than ho-hum).

            Why put yourself into a spot where your music is the one being paid the $1 license fee? Be pickier about where your music is stashed and what you get from its use. That’s what this list is about — sharing personal experiences you’ve had with the various libraries so other composers can see what works best for their specific situation.

            The major point I’m trying to make is that your work has VALUE, and the more you dilute that value by making the same work available in multiple places — throwing the pasta plate at the wall to see what sticks and where — the less appetizing that food (music) is going to be.

            Forget the ethics. Forget the potential for future litigation. Forget the possible loss of all or part of your copyright if laws change.

            Think about the value of the work itself.

            If you’re writing stuff for wedding videos, fine. Get the top dollar you can get for that KIND of music. Write & record for the specific marketplaces. This way your best work gets put forth for the best/better opportunities and your lesser work (we all have ’em) gets presented for the “quick buck” situations. Just don’t go spreading the same manure around at each level of the marketplace and expect somehow it’ll smell better because the budget’s higher or the library’s bigger, badder and more well-funded than the littler ones.

            If your absolute goal as a composer is to write a bunch of music to stuff into production music libraries and get placed into 500 wedding videos a year at $10 a pop (half of which will probably end up in your pocket) and another 100 industrials/corporate functions/videos at $50 a pop, more power to you.

            I hardly think that is what most composers wish for their respective careers. It may be a stepping-stone, but it’s been my experience that the majority of the creative and talented minds generally seek much higher ground.

            Cheers!
            Gael

          • That 15 year old car is a mercedes isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I apologize for lumping everyone in LA onto the A-List.

            I hear everything you’re saying. No, I don’t aspire to do corporate videos. Left those days behind years ago. I’ve had four theme “songs” running in syndication for 10 years. No, nothing major.

            But, this business is overcrowded because everybody and his uncle with a computer and a soft synth wants to license music. My only point is that the non-exclusive route at $20 a pop might be the best they can do, or it might help pay the bills while they are waiting for something better. For a lot of these writers it’s just a hobby –extra cash.

            Thanks again for taking the time to provide a long and detailed answer.

            Michael

          • Oh man….there goes my image of the Hollywood A-list.

            Another myth shattered and flushed down the tubes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I do not understand where Gael is coming from. Songs are re-titled so that a music library can collect revenue from the publisher’s share of the work. Every non-exclusive library I have signed with states that they take no ownership of the copyright. Even some deals with exclusive libraries state that they take ownership for a specified amount of time. The copyright can revert back to the original creator after a certain period of time.

    Re-titling is the legal equivalent to sub-publishing. Many major publishers work with sub-publishers all around the world to get songs placed in foreign markets. It is cheaper for publishers to let a local compnay do the footwork and give that sub-publisher a piece of the revenue. The writer of the song would still get royalties for writing the song. The only case in which a writer would not get any royalties is if the deal was a work-for-hire deal. With that kind of deal, the creator legally gives the company the rights to the song. The company takes full control of the song, becoming the writer and the publisher.

    Reply
    • Please ask art to kindly delete your post. It’s filled to the brim with dangerously inaccurate information that can be detrimental to young composers, or composers who don’t know any better.

      Reply
  4. Hi,

    I have been told that to retitle songs could lead to issues and legal nightmares. Has anyone encountered issues with this?

    Reply
    • Only if you have it exclusively in one library and retitled non-exclusively in another. Of course that’s unlawful, but I bet it happens. Actually it happened unintentionally with me. Fortunately the retitle, non-exclusive library gave it up without a fight. And the exclusive library was sympathetic with my honest mistake.

      Good to keep solid records of what library has what tracks. Can get complicated when dealing with hundreds of tracks and several libraries (some exclusive, and some not).

      Reply
      • I’ve always wondered tho…wouldn’t this cause issues with copyrights? Since the song is retitled, could it be possible that the copyright could be ruled null and void if there was ever a court case?

        Reply
        • Being copyrighted has nothing to do with being registered with the Library of Congress. Your music is automatically copyrighted when you create it and put it into tangible form (CD, manuscript, cassette, etc).

          Music libraries generally don’t concern themselves with copyright registrations. There’s normally a clause in their contracts dealing with that issue (placing the writer solely responsible that the intellectual property is his/her own creation).

          I believe you can add alternate titles on a copyright registration if it concerns you.

          Reply
          • As the owner of a work you can file amendments to your copyrights for whatever reasons — whether it’s to add alternate titles, additional material, etc.

            As you said, the copyright registration to a work is completely different than PRO registration. There is a bundle of rights associated with a copyright that doesn’t exist with a PRO registration of a title. What is still murky, however, is how retitling could eventually affect ownership of that work.

            Libraries don’t re-register a retitled work with the U.S. Copyright Office because to do so would be official fraud since they don’t own any part of the copyright to the WORK or the RECORDING of it. Their “ownership,” so to speak, is ephemeral at best, and based on contract, not ownership — yet the “in perpetuity” rights to their title as registered with the PROs implies some sort of ownership — AND they get to profit from the royalties on that title forever, even beyond the term of their representation of the work under that title. They register the new title with the PROs because that is how libraries make their money — from taking part ownership in something that is not even part of the copyright (the title) in contractual form.

            Are heads spinning yet?

            Every title registered with a PRO that is a retitling of an existing work registered with them (under another title) fraudulently inflates their catalogue. Part of the formula determining how much a broadcaster, venue or restaurant has to pay each year for their blanket license is partially determined by the PRO’s catalogue size. If the number of works is far less than the actual number of TITLES, that means the PRO is also a party to the fraud (albeit “unknowingly” even though they KNOW retitling works is a rampant practice). What happens if a major network decides to sue a PRO for fraud because they don’t want to pay the rising blanket license fees and question how the PRO is determining the actual size of their catalogue? Anyone want to be part of that mess?

            You own your stuff. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. If you contractually obligate yourself to something make sure you’ve covered your patootie. Think ahead. Think of the ethics involved, not just how to skate the fine line of legalese — since laws can change. It you stick with the ethical approach then when loopholes are closed with any new legislation, you haven’t lost a thing.

          • @ Pat,

            Currently, re-titling is an ethical issue, not necessarily a legal one… although, according to a number of VERY astute legal minds, some who have litigated major copyright and intellectual property cases, by engaging in re-titling a composer could be setting him/herself up for future legal issues, including the potential loss of ownership to their copyright(s). It all depends on when the issue comes before the courts, and who brings the suit against whom. It could very well be those paying blanket license fees (fees which are at least partially determined by the size of a PRO’s catalogue — catalogues which are being artificially inflated by numerous re-titled compositions — as opposed to a certain number of actual WORKS).

            I tend to think that erring on the side of caution in protecting my rights in perpetuity is far wiser than putting them in jeopardy. Others disagree. So be it.

            Cheers!
            Gael

          • Gael,

            EXACTLY! which is why TV production blanket license fees are going down the tubes. Production companies/networks are sick and tired of paying three or four times for 1 piece of intellectual property that has three or four “titles” spread among many “libraries”

          • Gael:
            I’ve received a contract from a library. Their version of a re-title is to add a numerical code as a prefix to the unchanged title.

            Your title remains the same but it might affect searches for your original title.

            I’d be curious about your opinion of re-titling in this fashion.

            Thanks,

            ENW

          • @ ENW,

            Put yourself in the supervisor’s shoes… If I have several tracks which have come up in a genre search for a spot and I get the following titles popping up with a little “play” button beside each, which do you think I’m gonna listen to first, and which ones may never even get a cursory glance?

            (1) HCN – Hip Hop
            (2) 54637892 Hip Hot Caramel Night
            (3) Hip Hot Caramel Night
            (4) HCN – 76253892
            (5) Hip Hop Jam

            We’re visceral creatures. When we first use a library’s search engine or flash drive or whatever, we put in the words that best describe what we’re seeking. Once titles start popping up, we then look at the titles to see what grabs us.

            Trust me… numerical titles and abbreviated titles tend to tick us off because we have to click on every title just to find out that it doesn’t fit the bill for what we need. At least when we have some sort of reasonable title that piques our interest we can zero in on a handful instead of a huge lineup.

            Cheers!
            Gael

          • I can see how that could be annoying but at the same time,in general, wouldn’t most supervisors already be aware of the retitling policies of the libraries they choose to deal with?

          • Pat,

            Even if the supe knows it’s a retitle library, which titles out of Gael’s list look appealing? I know instantly which ones I’d click play and which ones I’d ignore.

          • I agree with you the one without the numbers looks better and I’m sure there are supervisors who don’t like it but at the same time if retitling was a business model that wasn’t working overall for the libraries that chose to use it, we wouldn’t be discussing it. They’d simply be out of business.That is my motivation at least to getting started and using them to get the biggest bang for the buck with the few songs I have. I’m not so much thinking how the supervisors are looking at the title and whether or not they may like the looks of my song with a number in front of it as I am focusing on the fact that it must be working for the libraries that do it and are staying in business. I’m not making a case for retitling per se, I’m just making a case for me using the model that already exists that seems to work for the library and therefore working for writers.

          • I doubt the practice of retitling will come to an end anytime in the near future. It’s big business. I think that’s just wishful thinking from the exclusive library camp. The exclusive libraries would love to eliminate their competition through the manipulating of legalities.

            I think if it ever becomes a legal issue, it will be side-stepped by the retitlers by not registering copyrights with the Library of Congress. As a matter of fact; most of my tracks playing on TV aren’t registered.

          • @Doubtful: Just to be clear re-title libraries do not (or should not) “register” a title with the Library Of Congress (did you mean Copyright Office) as you stated. That would be illegal.

          • What Art said. ๐Ÿ™‚

            Registering a re-title with the U.S. Copyright Office would be considered official fraud, in that the re-titling library does not, with their limited contract with the composer (copyright holder), have ownership of the entire bundle of rights which comes with a copyright. They are contractually sharing in a specific income stream from a specific TITLE (not work), which is only a portion of that bundle of rights, and for now, a contractual issue existing in-between the cracks.

            Floe characterized the practice of re-titling quite astutely as a “loophole” in the system. Whether that loophole is eventually closed, or whether any future litigation puts either the library and/or the composer at risk is still to be determined.

            To use a baseball analogy…

            You often hear managers talking to the press after a disappointing loss that appears to be the direct result of a bad call (or 2 or 3) by an umpire (or 2 or 3). Rarely does the manager blame the loss on the umps. Instead, the mantra seems to go “We didn’t score enough runs.” Basically, regardless of the circumstances one cannot control, you do the best you can and rack up the runs so that no matter how bad the call(s) may be, your team still wins because it scored more runs than your opponent.

            I liken that to the issue of creating music for libraries… Write & record more music.

            Put specific pieces in specific exclusive libraries, or into non-exclusive catalogues/clearinghouses that don’t re-title. This way, no matter what happens eventually in the courts or what legislation is put into place, your music rights are pristine and not subject to interpretation.

            Cheers!
            Gael

          • “Put specific pieces in specific exclusive libraries, or into non-exclusive catalogues/clearinghouses that don’t re-title. ”

            @Gael, I think we’ve found common ground. When I’ve referred to the thousands of producers of corporate videos and other lower end non-broadcast productions and argued that composers should be able to sell their work non-exclusively, I was referring to the non-exclusive model above.

            I’ve been advocating for the little guy, who will never make it in your world, which is not the non-exclusive model above. The model also seems to be profitable for composers outside the US.

            When we banter back and forth, I don’t want to dismiss any writer who is not working solely in the exclusive world. The only causes writers Nameless to rightly perceive the library business as elitist.

            Cheers,

            Michael

  5. “What good is a song if it isn’t generating any revenue?” – Yadgyu

    How about just the pleasure of composing and listening…Sounds like your passion is in making money, not music.

    That mentality epitomizes what the Music Industry is turning into.

    Reply
    • Why are you on a site about making money from musical compositions if you are not interested in making money from musical compositions? Sounds a bit kooky to me. But to each his own.

      Money isn’t everything, right? Keep telling that to yourself.

      Reply

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