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What we learned at Electronic Music: Rights & Royalties

Tip Published Friday 14 June 2019
Sydney Electronic Music: Rights & Royalties

With a truly expert panel on hand at the recent Sydney Electronic Music: Rights & Royalties event, moderated by APRA AMCOS Innovation & Electronic Music Specialist Frank Rodi, an array of topics was earnestly discussed -- from YouTube cover versions to the nature of publishing deals. For those who couldn’t attend, here’s a recap.

Why an electronic music focused event?
Karen Hamilton (120 Publishing) simply stated: "Electronic producers are so often working on their own, which can mean not as much knowledge transferred as there would be in a band with multiple members."

“It can be a grey area”
Stems can get passed around and files transferred, and as Nick Littlemore (PNAU, Empire of the Sun) found out, those stems can find their way into another work from time to time, as was the case with the PNAU song Baby and the release Changes by Faul & Wad Ad which used the a capella portion of the original. The publishers and lawyers sorted that out, but as Nick noted in these cases, even when it works to your advantage, “It can be a grey area with this stuff.”

Release your versions
This leads to Nick’s advice to release a song’s variations – acoustic, instrumental, remixes et al. Register your work, release it and own it. Should it get sampled or re-worked, having your original work out there is helping you assert your rights. Or in Nick’s words: “It doesn’t matter if some kid in Belgium samples your work, don’t do anything about it until it makes money. But register it and release it.”

Cover versions?
Kate Haddock of Banki Haddock Fiora explained cover versions and who can create them. Well, once you have released something, someone else can release a cover via statutory licence. “You have limited control over covers once music is released,” explained Kate, but you can assert your moral rights if you don’t like the cover, which is a fairly untested assertion. But, remember, the rights holder is being paid via a statutory licence. For example on YouTube, audio recognition software is used to identify those covers and the related rights holders. APRA AMCOS Head of Revenue Richard Mallett explained that YouTube provides the files of what's being watched to APRA AMCOS.

Plus, there a research team at APRA AMCOS that looks into the videos reported as unidentifiable.

Song Splits
In a perfect world, people go into a studio and openly discuss proposed song splits and amicably agree on shares at the end of a session. But, alas, we don’t live in that world. TMRW's John Ferris advises to try to come to agreement as early on as you can – before a session starts if possible, or agree to be equals. Nick had the same sentiment: “The music business is a long game,” and even splits help people to get along.

Why Publishers?
Karen from 120 Publishing talked about what publishers can do for writers. “We earn a percentage of your royalties, so it’s in our best interest to help our writers earn royalties,” and explained how publishers work with writers to develop opportunities via sync, new music uses, and collaborations, while also helping you with important business administration.

Playing live? Submit your setlists.
If you are playing live, it is vital that you submit your setlists – both international and for AUS/NZ. Nick said, “There is money there for you if you played – beyond the fee and the merch.” Read about overseas performance reports and domestic performance reports (due 31 July).

And remember, to earn your public performance royalties for composition and sound:
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