- Before signing any contract you MUST get independent professional legal advice from a specialist music business lawyer. Members of some of the associations or societies listed below may be entitled to limited free legal advice. For the UK, please use The Law Society link below for the “Media & Entertainment Lawyers” section on their web site. Unless you are involved in ‘theatre’ music or script writing for example, always specify that you want a music business lawyer when you approach any of them. Your typical High Street solicitor will not do.
- You do not need to *copyright your music or songs. Copyright is not something that you do but something that you actually OWN. You automatically own the copyright once you create an original work, make a physical and permanent ‘copy’ on paper, CD, PC, and tape etc, of the song you create. Paying a company or individual to register your copyright in a song is not recommended.
- To claim your copyright, make a copy of your created original work, put the copyright symbol © in front of your name on the document with all other vital information to support your claim (The chords? A melody clearly sang into your mobile phone then put on a CD?) and then post it to yourself by *registered mail* only. Keep the receipt in a safe place and DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN THE ENVELOPE when it arrives. If there is a copyright dispute later, your registered envelope will be opened in court to prove that on the date of POSTING your song existed and that you claim to have originated it, nothing else.
- If, say a guitarist or a keyboardist composes the chords to your melody and/or lyrics, he, or she will share in the joint copyright ownership in the song and be entitled to be credited as a songwriter too.
- Never ever let the people offering you any contract try to explain it to you or accept their advice – it’s a recipe for getting ripped off! It is your lawyer's job to explain things and advice you. There is a list below for contacting music business lawyers.
- There are two separate copyrights in a recorded work, the (1) song copyright which is owned by the writer/s and (2) the recording copyright which is owned by the producer and/or record company which can sometimes be fronted by one person. Do not confuse the two copyrights.
- Sampling: Taking a sample of somebody else's music that you use in your recording without permission from the copyright owners – the record company and the publisher *in advance* is an infringement of the copyright of the original creators and other rights owners. It is theft and claiming not to know that, or who the copyright owners are, is no excuse in law, or otherwise. That copyright info is on the record as “© Publisher’s Name” and is also obtainable from MCPS or PRS if you supply them with the artist’s name and song title etc or you can even Google the song title and the artist’s name.
- Writing a melody and/or a lyric for a song to any backing track for a producer in a studio and recording it there and then is not a good idea. Without having a song co-writing agreement before the recording, you leave yourself and your contribution to the song copyright open to abuse.
- You own the copyright in your own contribution to the song (the part you created) and you must not be bullied into signing it over to your co-writer/producer or anyone else. Instead, write your contribution while listening to the backing track *privately* and then register your copyright claim as described above, before doing any recording on a totally different day. An honest, knowledgeable and reasonable producer will understand. They should never have booked/arranged studio time without knowing *exactly* what your contribution would be beforehand and you will be left vulnerable.
- Pitching/tuning: Avoid (1) double tracking your lead vocal unless you are pitch perfect because any (other?) slight errors you make on the first ‘tracking’ will be only be added to by the second ‘tracking’. Also avoid using (2) pitch correction devices because you will look a total fool when a reputable record label needs to see/hear you sing in tune live on stage. Singing live to a backing track with another lead vocal/s (a double track) at an open mic’ etc is a definite no, no! It tells people that you probably have naff voice to hide.
- A production deal/agreement is virtually the just a recording contract offered by a producer, so be warned - seek advice from a specialist music business lawyer before signing ANYTHING.
* Copyright literally means the right to copy. It gives the copyright owner the legal authority to negotiate with others and after legal advice *beforehand*, to give permission in the form of a written contract (an assignment) for someone else to make copies of your work as a record, poem, musical greeting card and so on. As the creator of the original work, only you can decide who uses it, a publisher, say, for how much money (royalties), in which parts of the world (territory) they can use it and for how long (the term).
Read the first item above again.
Musicians’ Union (MU) www.musiciansunion.org.uk
Negotiates for and advises members – including singers
British Academy of Songwriters Composers and Authors (BASCA) www.basca.org.uk
Leading European composers/songwriters organisation. It also holds seminars and gives advice to members on copyright, precautions and sensible practices or etc.
Association of Professional Recording Services
Advises record producers, sound engineers and recording studios
Music Publishers Association (MPA) www.mpaonline.org.uk
Protection and promotion of music publishers
British Black Music (and Black Music Congress) www.britishblackmusic.com
Run by a university lecturer (MA Mus), the organisation offers certificated music business courses, holds seminars, sends regular newsletters and generally promotes the UK ‘black music’ sector.
Mechanical-Copyright protection Society (MCPS) www.mcps-prs-alliance.co.uk
Worldwide recorded music royalty collection agency for songwriters
and publishers, holds seminars etc.
British Music Rights www.bmr.org
Lobby organisation for MCPS, BACS, PRS and MPA
Performing Right Society (PRS) www.mcps-prs-alliance.co.uk
Broadcasted and publicly performed music royalty collection
agency for songwriters and publishers, holds seminars etc.
Association of Music Industry Accountants (AMIA)
Tel: 020 7535 1400
Music Managers Forum (MMF) www.musicmanagersforum.co.uk
Worldwide organisation of artist managers and management courses
Beyond the Will Smith Challenge (BTWSC) www.btwsc.com
Promotes social inclusion, positive lyrics, gives seminars,
music technology tuition
The Law Society www.lawsociety.org.uk
Represents lawyers from England and Wales. Also lists “Media
and Entertainment” lawyers among many.
Association of Independent Music (AIM) www.musicindie.org
A lobby group and adviser to UK independent labels and distributors
Agents Association (Gt. Britain) www.agents-uk.com
Entertainment Agent’s org.
American Society of Composers Authors &
Publishers (ASCAP) www.ascap.com
Broadcast Music Inc www.bmi.com
USA performing rights organisation – similar to PRS.
G MAG www.gmag.org.uk
A free on line magazine on black entertainment including music styles, reviews, interviews, heritage, books, fashion, dance etc. It is run by DJ Cameo, a female journalist, teacher and youth leader.
British Phonographic Industry (BPI) www.bpi.co.uk
UK major and independent record label organisation
Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL) www.ppluk.com
Represents record producers and recording artists
Note: Association of United Recording Artists (AURA) &
Performing Arts Media Rights Association (PAMRA) have merged
Video Performance Ltd (VPL) www.vpluk.com
Licences broadcasters etc for the use of music videos
Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) www.fact-uk.org.uk
Fights counterfeiting, copyright and trademark infringements
of film and music.
For entertainment directories covering studios, publishers, labels, photographers etc please check the sites of the following for both prices and content BEFORE making any purchases. PLUS MUSIC takes no responsibility for any of your actions as the list below simply lists some directories which may be available for purchase or reading at your local library and are not recommendations for you to purchase.
The White book www.whitebook.co.uk
Music Week Directory www.musicweekdirectory.com
International Showcase www.showcase-music.com
The Unsigned Guide www.theunsignedguide.com
- Disclaimer: The information above is kindly provided by Plus Music as a helpful guide to assist people who may be new to the music or recording industry. It is not a full list of all the societies or agencies in the UK entertainment business and may be updated periodically. Although every effort is made to present the information correctly, Plus Music takes no responsibility for any inaccuracy of the list or any summations or descriptions. It is your responsibility to verify the information with the appropriate solicitor, company or organisation listed.