Tag Archives: business

Taking Lightboxes to the Power of Awesome

We just added lightboxes to the site this week, a feature that has been sorely needed for quite some time now. While we finish tweaking and updating our pages with the new code, I thought I’d share some of the cool features of the Productiontrax.com Lightbox system, and how it can help you with your projects — whether you’re a customer or a contributor.

1. Save your favorites. Lightboxes help you organize your favorite royalty free items on Productiontrax into folders, projects, or whatever system works for you. You need to register to create a lightbox account first, and then just click “Create New Lightbox” to start making lightboxes. You can have different lightboxes for different purposes, ie: a Short Film Lightbox for your upcoming short, or a Client Preview Lightbox, for example. Then, to add a file to your lightboxes, just click on the little lightbulb next to any file listing on PT.

2. Custom Settings. On our lightboxes, you can set them to be private or public. A private lightbox requires a password to access, whereas a public lightbox can be seen without any password. You can also elect to hide the prices on any lightbox, which is handy for showing preview choices to your clients.

3. Embeddable in iFrames. That’s right. One of the most powerful features of our lightbox is that you can embed them in any website that supports iFrams — your personal site, your businesses’ client preview systems, your Facebook Pages. By utilizing a combination of embedding, public, and hide prices, you can create a seamless selection tool for your clients (approval/selection features coming soon). Or, if you show prices, you can offer royalty free music, sound effects, footage, or photos for sale right on your website, complete with streaming previews — very handy if you are a contributor or looking to expand your offerings.

4. Share with your friends, clients, and colleagues. We provide you with a custom URL for every lightbox, which you can share with your friends to make selecting your favorite items easier for groups and long-distance productions. A quick email feature is on its way.

Thinking of Going Exclusive? Don’t.

Thinking of going exclusive? Don’t. Exclusivity can be good for some, but for most, it’s just a bad decision. In this day and age, with all the economic uncertainty, it baffles me as to why anyone would go exclusive in anything, let alone their music licensing. Before you sign that agreement, make sure you consider the ramifications of your decision, by examining each of these points in detail, so that you don’t lose out in the long run.

1. Commission Rate Bait and Switch
Most libraries and marketplace sites offer a slightly higher commission rate if you go exclusive. Many offer between 50 and 60% as opposed to their normal 25-50%. While this seems like a good reason to go exclusive, many libraries will give you this higher rate as an introductory rate, and then lower it dramatically if your tracks don’t sell past a certain quota. Then, you’re tied into an exclusive contract and making far less money than you were originally promised.

You should diversify your sales channels for the same reason your diversify your investment portfolio. If one library tanks, or if sales patterns change, or you don’t perform as well on one, the others keep you in the game. Furthermore, you can make a higher average commission and gross income by spreading out, rather than selling in one place.

FACT: Productiontrax always pays 65% commissions on the prices YOU set.

2. Number of Sales vs. Price per Sale
Some libraries are notorious for setting low prices to gain a competitive edge. They then lock you in to exclusive contracts to sell your music for a few bucks (some as low as $1) a piece. Think about this for a second. They are giving out sync licenses (which most artists get paid THOUSANDS for) for less than $10. While they may sell more tracks (until their marketplace becomes so bloated with tracks that you might sell one a month…) your music is being devalued, and given away. You also have no control over the price of your music. The library you signed with can set any price they want, and some strategically price it just low enough that you can’t make your payout balance.

My advice, don’t sign an exclusivity agreement unless they guarantee a minimum price that you are comfortable with. Some smart copyright owners also ask for a minimum payout guarantee every month.

FACT: You control your pricing on Productiontrax. Period.

3. Hidden in the terms of service…
Read your contributor terms of service agreements carefully. Some libraries have started working with a companies like GoDigital and others to “track usage in and be appropriately compensated for internet streams”. These companies employ a technology that finds your music (that you already licensed out) in your customer’s projects. They then insert advertisements (or just claim copyright infringement) and collect revenue. This seems wonderful, until you realize that the contract you signed allows your library to keep 100% of any advertising revenue generated by your music.

Not only are you getting screwed there, with your library making tons of money without paying you a dime, but your customers are not getting what they paid for – and they are getting angry. See if they buy one of your songs again, knowing that YouTube is going to hijack their project.

FACT: Productiontrax never hides your royalties. We do not work with these “monitoring” companies, and we advocate for BOTH our clients (who are also your clients) and our artists.

4. Competition
Before going exclusive, ask yourself how big of a contributor base does the library you are signing with have? The larger the base, the harder it is for you to sell because there is more competition. That means more of the same sounding music, more choices, and lower chances of being selected. Think about it: a customer is on a huge community library with 1,000,000 artists. They look for a piece of dance music, and get your track among about 5,000 other options meeting their criteria. That gives you a 1 in 5,000 shot of selling your track to that customer. Might as well play the lottery with those odds.

If you diversify, you give yourself a greater chance of success because your music is in more places. If you are on 10 smaller libraries and each has, oh let’s say, 500 matching options for a given customer’s music search, you’ve just increased your chance of selling to 1/50.

Think about what you can do if you have 10 tracks in every category, on every site.

Diversification just makes more sense. Unless a library is making some very specific guarantees that you just can’t get anywhere else, always stay non-exclusive. This way, you stay in control of your financial future, and your hard work.

5 Tips for Promoting Your Music with Social Media

Social media has become the standard for promoting your music online. According to Alex Pham of the LA Times, “musicians who don’t take advantage of social networking tools will soon perish in the La Brea tar pits of old-school media.”

According to Pham, and a panel of social media rock-star experts, the five following tips can help you maximize your usage of social networks, and take your next album from bronze to platinum.

1. Be real. “It can’t just be about commerce. People want to connect with you and get to know you. They don’t want to connect with you if you’re just telling them to go buy your record. They don’t want you to be perfect, either. They want you to be real.” — Evan Greene, chief marketing officer, the Recording Academy

2. Pick a couple of services you like and focus on them. “There are so many services out there that trying to do everything and be everywhere is impossible. Play around with them. It’s okay to mess up. And don’t have a PR person handle your tweets. It should be all about having a real conversation with your fans.” — Kevin Rose, founder, Digg

3. Have something unique. “There’s so much already out there, and people have so little time that having something unique about yourself and your music can give you a competitive advantage. Figure out what’s unique about you and ask: What is the distilled message? It has to be something so remarkable that other people will have to share it.” — Pete Cashmore, founder, Mashable

4. Share things that you are most excited about. “Share things you find, love, hate and create. Share the things you’ve made, even if it’s not finished yet. That’s what makes it engaging.” — David Karp, founder, Tumblr

5. Embrace anarchy. “We had an event called the summit. A thousand people would participate and become part of the recording process. I got a Twitter message from someone in Iran who was frustrated they couldn’t come. We came up with a program that allowed them to sit at home and participate. It’s a world of chaos at times. But there are lessons. It’s a fertile ground for creativity.” — Jared Leto, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for the band 30 Seconds to Mars

Do you do these already? What else do you do to stay in touch with your fans and your customers?

Licensing Previews is Absurd and Just Bad Business

In this article, Greg Sandoval writes about the “plight” of todays artist when it comes to digital music sales:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/09/17/tech/cnettechnews/main5318276.shtml

In my personal opinion, performing rights societies are starting to overstep their bounds, trying to get more from an outdated business model, instead of adapting to the new market. Let’s go through this one point at a time, shall we?

“Songwriters, composers, and music publishers are making preparations to one day collect performance fees from Apple and other e-tailers for not just traditional music downloads but for downloads of films and TV shows as well. Those downloads contain music after all. “

Collecting performance fees from retailers is absurd. They already pay the copyright administrators to carry and sell your product in their sales commission/revenue split. The fees for music included as part of films and TV shows are included in synchronization contracts, and are negotiated at that time. It is ridiculous to charge the vendor of your finished product for your manufacturing costs. That would be like the grocery store that sells Kraft cheese having to pay Kraft’s dairy farmers. That is Kraft’s job. iTunes should not have to pay John Williams every time Star Wars: Episode 47 is downloaded from their store — they pay Lucas Films, and Lucas Films should be responsible for paying John Williams.

“These groups even want compensation for iTunes’ 30-second song samples.”

Charging music retailers a public performance fee for previews is absurd. It would be like charging a store that sells CDs every time a customer picks up a CD off the shelf to see who is on it before they decide to buy it. Currently, 30-second previews are covered by standard digital download mechanical licenses, and are a necessary part of selling the music online. People won’t buy a song unless they know what they are buying — just like I won’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on first. Charging music services for this will undercut digital music distribution in general and is bad business for an already suffering retail music industry. Like another blogger wrote: …”according to ASCAP/BMI’s logic Macy’s should have to pay Ralph Lauren money for people to try on clothes in their store.”

“But these royalty-collection groups say they’re at the bottom of the music-sector food chain and aren’t trying to gouge anyone. They say their livelihoods are threatened and wonder why movie studios, big recording companies, TV networks, and online retailers are allowed to profit from their work but they aren’t. ”
“We make 9.1 cents off a song sale and that means a whole lot of pennies have to add up before it becomes a bunch of money,” said Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters’ Guild of America. “Yesterday, I received a check for 2 cents. I’m not kidding. People think we’re making a fortune off the Web, but it’s a tiny amount. We need multiple revenue streams or this isn’t going to work.”

Articles like this make it sound like composers aren’t getting their fair share. And it is simply not true at all. Any composer who is good at what they do, and has successfully marketed their work, and intelligently structured their contracts, is making a living. And Rick Carnes?? Who has heard anything by Rick Carnes?? THAT is why he only got a check for 2 cents. HE HASN’T WRITTEN ANYTHING ANYONE LISTENS TO!!!! Look him up on ASCAP or BMI. So he’s written a few hundred tunes that no one has ever heard of. SO HAVE I. So have 95% of Americans in the shower. That doesn’t mean he deserves to pay his bills with his music. He simply has not met the demands of the music marketplace with his product. Sounds to me like he is asking for a bail out. Why don’t we try quoting a musician who is actually making music that is in demand by the public?

I agree with Potter’s position — songwriters ARE getting paid for their download — they are getting their mechanical fee, which is 9.1 cents per copy (which happens to be set by law), they are getting their sync license fee for video downloads (which is determined at contract negotiation).

“In 2005, ASCAP entered into a rate-court proceeding to set licensing fees for the music services of Yahoo, AOL, and RealNetworks. A U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York delivered a blow to composers and songwriters by ruling that downloading music from a Web store was not a music performance. On the other hand, the judge found that streaming music was subject to a performance fee.

“The songwriter gets a performance fee if the song is streamed without the video,” Carnes noted. “But if it is downloaded within an audio-visual work like a movie we don’t get a performance fee–same song, no money.”

Carnes is manipulating terms here, making it sound like the judge’s ruling was unfair. Songwriters don’t get performance fees from VHS or DVD sales either. No one complains about that! That’s because they get their mechanicals and sync fees, which they are (or should be) getting from downloads of those same movies. A download is a physical product sale, not a performance. Streaming is different than downloading. Streaming implies a real-time broadcast. In other words, if a download is a performance, then why am I still paying sales tax (tangible personal property tax) on a downloaded product? Artists have no right to collect a performance royalty for a product they are already being paid for. If the artists want more, they need to change the terms of the mechanical and sync payments. Change the mechanical fee to 15 cents a copy. Negotiate for better splits on sync rights. Don’t take it out on the consumer who has made you popular in the first place.

The moral of the story here is that ASCAP and BMI (and others), with all their good intentions to protect the intellectual property rights of their members, are now crossing the line and are further destroying the business of retail music, blaming it on technology, rather than embracing new media distribution channels. They are diminishing product availability, which hurts the two groups that ultimately pay the songwriters’ paychecks — the retailers and consumers.