On this episode Nick is sitting down with Erin M. Jacobson, one of the most renowned US attorneys specialized in music industry law. Erin was named Top Music Lawyer by Billboard and has been featured on Forbes Magazine, ABC and BBC networks. She serves on the board of directors for the Association of Independent Music Publishers and is the founder of the Indie Artist Resource, a place where independent artist can access affordable legal solutions and information on music law.
Tune in for an hour of discussion on Erin's career path, music industry law, copyrights, royalties, NFT's and Erin's book, “Don't Get Screwed: How to Protect Yourself as an Independent Musician.”
NICK SADLER: Welcome to The Label Machine series where we discuss with successful industry professionals, how artists and record labels market and sell their music. My name is Nick Sadler and today's guest is Erin Jacobson. Erin is an internationally recognized attorney with clients that include Grammy and Emmy Award winning artists. She was named top music lawyer by Billboard and has been featured in Forbes, Billboard magazine and on TV networks ABC and BBC, and serves on the board of directors for the Association of Independent Music Publishers. She is the author of the book, “Don't Get Screwed: How to Protect Yourself as an Independent Musician.” And as the founder of the Indie Artists Resource, a platform that allows a central location for the legal and business needs of independent musicians. She also has her finger on the pulse as a member of the Audio Engineering Society. And as a DJ on radio KSCR. Erin, how are you today?
ERIN M. JACOBSON: I'm good. How are you?
NS: Very good. Thanks.
EMJ: I will just let you know the DJ thing that was actually years ago. So that was, yeah, like when I first started in the industry, but it's always a part of me.
NS: Yeah. Well, I mean, to be honest, I don't think anybody I mean, I guess radio DJ, still, I think but with COVID. I don't think anybody's really DJ much these days.
EMJ: No, I mean, or you're in the studio by yourself. Or you're doing it remotely.
NS: Doing a twitch stream, it seems to be the one that most the artists I work with now. So first question I have for you: now, your title is Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. which I imagine means an esquire. So yes, what does that what does this mean? So I'm from the European side, so…
EMJ: Exactly, and it means something totally different.
NS: It's, exactly.
EMJ: So yeah, it's kind of funny. So in the United States, it means someone that is an attorney that's, you know, able to practice law in the United States. Um, so. Yeah, I mean, it's sort of like, you know, a doctor has like, MD at the end of their name or something. So it's like that. Um, but yeah, in England, it's actually a very old term. That means like a man of nobility. So I've had actually UK, like clients or colleagues, you know, business people say to me, like, why are you referring to yourself as a man? I'm like, No, no, it means something different here.
NS: Yeah. I mean, you know what, like, in today's climate, it could be a thing.
EMJ: Yeah, no, I'm, that it's for me. It's just the attorney designation.
NS: So and that is a and, you know, for our listeners, as well, we have lawyers in the UK and Europe, and we have attorneys in the US, which say…
EMJ: Like a solicitor in the UK, that would be the equivalent.
NS: That yes, a solicitor. Okay, so pretty standard. The first question I'm going to go in with well, so the second question, I'm going to go on with is where, where did you get where did you get started in the music industry to kind of where you got now? So you touched on, you're doing a bit of DJing as well, like, yeah, just talk us through a bit of history.
EMJ: Yeah, so I've always loved music have decided that the term for me was a professional appreciator of music, because I'm not a musician. But just even as a child, I've just always loved music always had my favorite artists that I was into. And I didn't know that there was anything to do in the music industry. Aside from being a musician, I had no idea about the business side of things until I got to college. And they had a music industry program. And so I took the introduction class, and then that explained, these are what manager This is what a manager does, this is what an agent does. Here's these things called copyrights and these contracts that these lawyers handle and and so I really liked the copyright and the contracts part of it. And really, it just kind of clicked for me and started also hearing all those stories about artists signing these deals that they were getting screwed because they didn't understand what they were signing. And I thought, Wow, that's a real job. I could go to law school, become a lawyer and actually represent music creators and you know, like protect them from these bad deals. And help them with their careers. And so I just never, like I made the decision. That's what I'm doing that job sounds awesome and never looked back after that. So that's when I also just kind of immersed myself in the whole music industry. So started DJing, I had independent bands on my radio show every week for in studio Live Set and interview and was promoting concerts on my college campus and then actually had a podcast after that, in between college and law school and then went to law school and focused all my classes, as many classes as I could on entertainment law course, there's required classes, you have to take two, but anytime that I got to choose, I would take an entertainment class and then graduated, passed the bar exam, which is the licensing exam here and opened my own law practice. And I've been doing that ever since. And then indie artists resource which is separate from my law practice, I started that because I was getting a lot of calls from independent musicians that were just not at the level in their career that they could hire an attorney, but they really still needed help, and they needed agreements and education and things like that. So that's why I started indie artists resource to provide this hub for independent musicians to get contract templates based, you know, for the most common types of contracts that they needed, and, you know, learn and all these different things. So, so they're two separate things, but both things that I love, so…
NS: Yeah, I mean, I discovered you from the indie artists resource as well. And first of all, I want to say like, it's quite a, I have to say, it's a very honorable thing to, you know, when you're, when you're at college, going, Hey, I can help out all these artists and like make and really help them out, especially on the legal side and making that your mission is, is amazing. And I'm sure there have been, I'm sure there are hundreds of artists that have very thankful that you chose that path. I did want to focus on the Indie Artist Resource, because I think it's an incredible service that you offer for artists. So, I mean, you touched briefly sort of what it does, but what are, the what are the sort of main activities of the company? And and I guess, how does it differ to hiring an attorney?
EMJ: So the main activities are, there are contract templates for the most needed contracts of independent independent musicians. And then there's educational materials. So that is, like videos and audio recordings and things that they can learn from and then writing my book was an extension of that, because there's so much misinformation out there about the different royalty streams and what copyright means and why you need to have one and all these different things. So that was the book was to really just kind of dispel those myths and condense the information that you really need to know and just put it out there in plain English short to the point way. And really just break it down. Like I have a whole chart and chapter about the different royalties and like this is what they are, this is when they get paid. This is who pays them to who this is how you collect it. So those are the main functions of indie artists resource, and then remind me this Oh, how's that different from an attorney? So, and when you hire an attorney, it's a personalized service that is customized to what you need. So if somebody is hiring me to draft an agreement for them, for example, um, you know, I'm drafting that language in the contract to fit exactly the situation that they might be in because everybody every situation is different. There might be different nuances and whatnot. The contracts on Indie Artist Resource are templates. So they're based on the contracts that I use in my practice, so they're really high quality, but it's a template so it can't be customized to every specific situation. So there's spots to fill in. That are the typical spots that get filled in such as royalties or payments or the party information or things like that. But, but you can't customize all the language if you have, you know, different variables.
NS: Yeah, and I guess as well like part of customizing it, as well as on behalf of your clients, you're going to be negotiating as well, like you're going back and forth, which is, which is a big part of what you do. So I guess it's not going to include that. And, and so if I'm on the, if I've downloaded something you said, you mentioned videos to do the videos, break down what the different clauses mean, as well? So, you know, if I do want to, if I do want to use one of these templates, and I'm new to this, as well as the videos that are going to sort of say, like, this is what this bit means, and this is how you fill it out?
EMJ: So the templates come with instructions. But there's, and I'm in the process of new videos for the site. But there's also a fine line that I have to walk there because it can't be interpreted that I'm giving people legal advice. There's disclaimers on everything on the site that you know, I'm not acting as your attorney. In this situation, you're downloading a template. So I can't say like, this is what you should put here.
NS: Yeah, I see what you mean.
EMJ: So yeah, so it is like one step removed, I'm providing a resource, you know, based on my education and skill, but I can't advise people how to use that.
NS: I guess read your book, read your book.
EMJ: And that, you know, that has a disclaimer, too. And, you know, just add that for the podcast here. Anything I say on the show is not legal advice, doesn't create an attorney-client relationship between me and anyone listening. It's informational and educational information. So, um, so yeah, I mean, the book provides a wealth of information. But again, it's educational. So it's not, you know, I'm not like giving a specific person advice, but it really, I mean, the thing with the book is that people kept saying to me, do you, you know, can have a book? Or can you recommend a book that really just breaks down all these basics, and explains, you know, publishing and copyright royalties, and etc. And while there are some really great books out there, I did not find one that really was at that foundational level. So again, that's why I wrote it, because then if you're reading one of the other really well known books that are great, you kind of already have that foundation of understanding. And then you can build upon it.
NS: I completely agree I, you know, there's that. As you know, I've got a book coming out in a month. And one of the chapters, one of the sections, I should say, is on copyright and royalties. And I probably that was 80% of my time was spent writing that part of the book, because I wanted, I just wanted to get it, I get the same thing, I get so many questions from artists, not understanding, I wanted to have this really concise, like, concise way of explaining a very, very complicated beast and, and we're at my, my kind of angle on it was that a lot of people because artists have become very international these days. You know, if you upload something in, it's on Apple Music and Spotify, right? You've got people in the US, you've got people in England, you've got people in Australia, New Zealand, everywhere. So your music has been released internationally. And there's a there's a lot of confusion about how the publishing and copyrights work in the different countries on either side of the Atlantic. And I and I hope that I've managed to explain what those differences are, as well. So I've got it, I've kind of, you know, deconstructed it and then said, like, this is what it's like, on the side. And this is what it's like, on this side. But it was so hard to write and, and, and it was so hard. Yeah, I mean, and I've got a I've got a friend who's a lawyer, you know, she looked over it and things like that… Honestly, I haven't read your book now. The only reason is because I didn't want to be what's the word swayed by other people? So I didn't read.
EMJ: When you're in creative mode. You kind of have to be in your own mode.
NS: Yeah. Like, yeah, I you know, Ari Herstand, he's got his book out as well. And I haven't read that either because I didn't want to be like that. It was like, I didn't want to be swayed. And half of it is also I didn't want to be like, maybe discouraged and gone. Oh, no, I haven't done this, or I haven't covered this. But, but yeah, now my books out, I'm going to, I'm going to start digesting a few more. So, I, you practice in California, you're based in LA. So what about the international artists that might come on your website? So for instance, I'm based here in London? Can I use these contracts as well? Like, what's it? Yeah, have you got a way that that can be changed? Talk me through that part of it.
EMJ: So again, they don't get changed based on where the person is that's purchasing them. They are drafted under California law. So anyone that uses them is subject to California law, if they use them. It's your, you know, it's whoever want is interested is their personal choice. You know, whether they're okay with that or not? I do, usually when I get international artists that send a question through the site of like, Can I use this or something? What I often recommend is, you know, maybe having it reviewed by a UK solicitor just to make sure that everything's, you know, compliant. But, you know, again, it's a personal choice I can I have to draft under California law, because that's where I'm licensed,
NS: And so for the listeners that what, that when you say it's drafted under California law, and that's what you're signing? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that means that should there be a dispute, it will be settled in the state of California?
EMJ: Right. So what caused it is the litigation vacation? It's nice. Yeah, it's nice. Here come visit la when you know, when everything's opening? Um, no, but yeah, again, that's what I mean. So it's, it's under the provisions of California law. And if there was a dispute, that's where he would be subject to, so you'd be flying out to? Yeah, and that might be cost prohibitive for people as well. Because if nobody's located there, you know, but again, like the resources there, so yeah. Available for anyone.
NS: So excellent resource for, you know, it's going to ask about what kind of level but you know, it's it's somebody who is, yeah, I guess, an independent and someone maybe at the beginning of the career, what about I'm an artist, and I need something a little bit more advanced? Like, is there a way of upscale like upscaling? I'm not sure if that's the right word. Working with you. How does that work?
EMJ: Yeah. I mean, if anybody wants to work with me, they just hired me through my regular law practice. So yeah, because again, that would go into that customized, you know, customized drafting, or custom advice or anything like that. So, yeah, so my website is the musicindustrylawyer.com. And if anybody needs anything that's, you know, specific to their situation, they would just reach out through there, rather than going through Indie Artist Resource.
NS: Gotcha. I'll make sure we put that link in the show.
EMJ: Make sure you have all of them.
NS: So protecting your music interests is important, such as copyrights. But how can be how can being legally protected, maximize your royalty streams that you get from Spotify and Apple Music? If at all?
EMJ: Well, I mean, it, it's kind of to the getting paid part is sort of two parts. So on the legal side, it's making sure you know, who's owning it. And then who's supposed to be paid? What so I mean, if you're, if it's an artist that's owning their own masters or hiring a producer or something like that, then it's clear, you know, maybe the artist owns the masters and maybe they have to pay the producer a certain percentage or, you know, or just making sure that they have the ownership and maybe they don't have to pay people percentage, I mean, depends what kind of deal we're talking about. But then also, you know, when doing a deal with the label, then it's, you know, what is the artist supposed to get paid? Usually, the label is going to own the Masters, not always, but usually. And then what is the artist supposed to get paid from that agreement, so it's really making it clear who owns what who's supposed to get paid what, because then that translates into how everything happens in real life. The second part of that is metadata. And making sure that the metadata is correct, because that's what the digital services are looking toward, to know because they're not going, Oh, well, this artist has to deal with this label. And so the labels paying the artists this percent, like, they don't know any of that, they just know, this is the artist, this is the master owner, whether it's the artist or a label, or whoever, and this is, you know, so we need to pay that person. So, and then, at that point, like, let's say it's an artist and a label, you know, then it's the artists making sure that the label is paying them what they're supposed to be paying them based on whatever's in the contract. So, I mean, the legal does dictate some of the metadata, but it's also kind of separate in that it becomes more of kind of a tech thing of making sure that all that data is attached to the files and things are registered properly. And that, that if there's any collection societies or anything like that, that those, the data is all correct, with all those different channels, because if the data is not correct, the money is not going to get paid out, to whoever is supposed to.
NS: So I guess the contract is almost like the jumping off point. So like, putting down there who owns what, what the percentages are, but then off the back of that, if I'm an artist, you're also going to be able to say, Hey, now you've got this down on paper, like, these are the different channels, you need to make sure you're registering, like, you know, with your publishing, these are the areas to make sure you're going to be getting all your royalties owed. Because you also got the education side of what you're doing as well, and explaining that to all the artists.
EMJ: Yeah, and I mean, that's, that part's not gonna necessarily be laid out in the contract, you know, company does register with, but some, you know, the company that's part of, sometimes it's their job, sometimes it's the the artist or the Songwriters job, depending on what royalty stream or society we're talking about. But in the cases where it's the company's job, there have been situations where the company doesn't do it, right. And so as an artist or songwriter, it benefits you to understand what should be registered or, or at least have a general idea. So that way, you can kind of have eyes on it and see whether something's hasn't been done, right. And it could be even within the artists team. For example, I had an artist come to me saying I know my new song is getting and this was like a known artist and said, I know my new song is getting airplay. And I'm not getting paid what I think I should be paid for my performance rights organization. And so I asked him which organization he was affiliated with, I looked it up. I mean, we were literally at an event, I looked this up on my phone, you know, while we were there. And I looked at it immediately, I said, Well, this is why you're not getting paid. It's not read, the registration was not done properly. It's missing information. And I said, Who did this? And he's like, Well, my manager did it. I'm like, well, your manager did it wrong.
NS: Ah, yeah…
EMJ: These I've had, you know, especially even if you're a person that has even a sort of maybe more common name as well. You know, I've had situations where there were, you know, two writers with the same name, and somebody registered under the other writers account. And so that person's like, just off collecting money that doesn't belong to them. And so it's often these little details, that that really can affect collection. And so I'm probably one of the few lawyers that actually really focuses on those things for my clients, and is always checking them and making sure that things are looking, you know, like they're supposed to and…
NS: In order.
EMJ: In order, yeah.
NS: I you know what, it's, it's funny, you mentioned the manager not doing it properly. It was some feedback I had from a label manager. And we were, he was talking about, like bits to focus on the book and stuff and he said, Oh, you should also put something in there about checking the credentials of managers, because there are so many out there just fans of music. And you know, they may be a bit of a talker, but they don't understand this, that the copyright side and publishing side, you know, my advice is always like, brush up on your copyright, and then ask them, ask them questions about, you know, how do I make sure my music is registered? And if a manager doesn't ask doesn't answer properly, don't work with them.
EMJ: Yeah, no, I mean, there's no credential, you know, for a manager. So it I mean, it could be anybody that calls themselves a manager. And, you know, oftentimes, it's not the manager doing copyright registration or that day to day kind of stuff. But a lot of times they are. And it's, yeah, I mean, it can be, it can be a problem, I had one situation where an artist told me Well, my manager told me to sign up with BMI because they're the largest publisher in the United States. And BMI is great. But it's a performance rights organization, it is not a publisher. And so these are, you know, so I had to just like put out, hold on everything and say, we are getting on a call, I'm going to explain all of this and what needs to be done.
EMJ: But you know, those are the kind of mistakes that thing that happens sometimes. And it's, it's just really unfortunate for the artists, especially if the artist doesn't know, you know, yeah, like, if you're an artist, and you educate yourself, then you know, like, well, the, the manager is not telling me the right thing. But if the artist doesn't know, either, they just believe whatever their manager tells them. And they don't realize that it's not that they're being led down the wrong path. And there's, you know, six other different royalty streams that they're not collecting, if they're self published, you know.
"There's no credential, you know, for a manager. So it I mean, it could be anybody that calls themselves a manager."
NS: So if you are a manager, and you're listening in go and get a copy of Don't Get Screwed: How To Protect Yourself As An Independent Musician, because we'll also explain everything to make sure that the artist you're looking after, gonna get screwed and make sure they get all the royalties.
EMJ: Yeah. And it's I mean, the even though the book is titled, for independent musicians, it's really it is it's for managers, it's for students learning about the music business, it's for, you know, anyone because again, it's just explaining all these foundational topics and in our business. So, yeah.
NS: So, hypothetical situation. What advice would you give to an artist that's agreed over email to release on an indie label? And they don't sign anything. And I know this happens a lot, right? Especially at the kind of like, low end delay level. Now, you know, years past, maybe the tracks that are done right on the underground, manager gets involved, and wants to say, Hey, we need to get all that paperwork and copyright in place. What's the best gameplay here to kind of to move that forward and put that in place?
EMJ: Well, it makes it a lot more difficult, because the whole reason why we have contracts is to clearly lay out what the relationship is between the parties. And in this case, that wasn't done.
NS: So, so let's, let's say, let's say just in an like, and how does this work legally, in the, in the email, it says, Hey, we're going to release your music when you split the royalties, 50/50. Net, you know, after we've taken off our, after taking off the expenses for the, you know, for the DJ promo say, and it's kind of that simple. Are they? Yeah, I guess, I guess who does anybody have the power in that? In that situation? Does the artist have the power? If the label decides to go? Well, you know, we've we're going to keep it in rights and the artists is what I want to have a licensing deal instead and, or if it just gets sticky as the artist able to have any legal standing to get the music taken down? Can the label just go? No, that was this is what agreed on email. Yeah, what what's your sort of take on that?
EMJ: Well, so in the United States, at least, copyright when you're transferring ownership of copyright, it has to be in writing, it has to be clear. So if the email didn't have, you know, clear language with that, then it's going to be more difficult for a third party to claim ownership. But, I mean, these are the type of situations that end up potentially, you know, either It gets into a negotiation at that point to try and work it out or it, you know, depending on who the parties are, it might end up in litigation. Or it might be, the label might be being very difficult about it. And if the artist does not have money to hire an attorney to fight it, then the artists is kind of at the mercy of the label or, you know, the label is potentially going to be blocked by the artists all the time. And it's going to be this situation where everybody keeps sending takedowns and, and different things, and then it's going to end up that nobody's going to get paid for those works. So yeah, I mean, there's that happens a lot also was split disputes with the songwriting when that wasn't agreed upon. And then everybody's like sending takedowns, because it wasn't, you know, I mean… And they're this and the and the companies, the streaming companies, and the collection societies will just go like we're not paying out anything until we have a definitive answer of who we're supposed to pay.
NS: So for the for the listeners explain what a split sheet is.
EMJ: So a split sheet is a pretty simple agreement, when you're co-writing with someone that just basically says, here's the song that we wrote on this date. And here are the people that are the writers of the songs and their percentages of what they are. And it can vary as to like whether everybody owns their own percentages, or whether they just, you know, one person is that I mean that they run the gamut. But I mean, at the very basic level, it's like these people wrote a song together, here are their percentages that they each own and that they can collect.
NS: So there's like, you got like two producers and a singer and a studio and they say, hey, we'll split the two producers, we'll take 25%, the singer who's done the top line, and most of the melodies is gonna take 50. And you write it on a piece of paper and agree to it essentially.
EMJ: Essentially, yeah, but and the thing with producers is a lot of time that doesn't get done. Because of the time. Yeah, well, because not only does it not always get done, which is co-writers who are not producers, but also the like, because with a producer, there's often a producer agreement that doesn't necessarily address songwriting, because songwriting is not traditionally a producer service. Um, so yeah, so people already think like, Oh, I have an agreement with the producer. And then they don't think that they need this additional split sheet to, you know, to cover that side of it. Because the composition side and the master recording side are two separate things. They're two separate copyrights, two separate ownerships, two separate royalty streams, everything, so…
NS: And, you know, I understand as well, like, you know, artists want to get into a studio and, you know, they want to have a vibe and see what kind of happens. But would you would you advise, even in those situations, if it's not going to be done at the beginning of the session, at least at the end, have that conversation, right then and there when the songs just being done? You know, even if it's a shared email or something, saying, Hey, this is what we agree to get the paperwork done later, it's going to solve a whole lot more headaches down the line.
EMJ: Yeah. So when the paperwork send later, it's like somebody, you know, people forget, people are like, you know, I really think I should have more than talked about or so yeah, I always advocate for doing the agreements up front, especially if we're talking about a producer situation studio, have the producer agreement done before you even start recording. And then as far as the split sheets, you know, sometimes it's hard to do those before the session, because you don't know, you know, who's gonna write what, while you're writing, but then do it at the end of the session. So have it there and be like, okay, we just wrote this song, and you did this. And so that's, you know, 25% I did this and that's whatever percent or so yeah, to do it at the time. And, and I know that, I mean, I get that a lot of like, Oh, it's awkward to bring it up and kills the vibe and get it out. But my answer to that is, first of all, you know, if you're professional, this is what professionals do. And secondly, if the other person's going to have a problem with that, they need to understand that this benefits them as much as it benefits us. So it shouldn't be like you're the bad guy. Because you want something written on paper. It benefits everybody.
NS: Yeah, I agree. Just be a professional. And that's always the answer. This is what professionals do. I thought you were a professional. Yeah, yeah, I'm a professional, cool, let’s sort it out now. So with, with record label deals, there is like you said, the label can own. And we're going to talk just talk about master the master copyrights on this, owning the copy the master copyrights forever, versus licensing the music. And you know, traditionally, it was owning it in perpetuity. And now there's licensing is a more popular agreement to have, because the artist essentially gets to keep the copyright. What's, what's your recommendation for a record label owner? And like, should they be going for perpetuity? Or do you say, hey, you should do licensing? It's a fair way of doing it. Now, what's your take on it?
EMJ: Yeah, I mean, it depends on the goals of the company always. Because, you know, some companies really want to be that artist friendly partner more than others do so. So it kind of depends on who the company is that I would be advising. But from a company standpoint, especially for record label, and record labels are basically built on owning the master assets. I mean, that is, I mean, if you take everything else away, that's what they have. So that's, you know, still the default for, I would say, the majority of labels. And that is why they're also so reluctant to give them back a lot of the time, because, again, this is what their business is based on is owning these masters. So yeah, I mean,
NS: If you're, if you're a label looking for like, I want to run a label for the next 50 years, then you're going to want to make sure you keep those masters for perpetuity. If you are maybe being more of a like you said, artist friendly label, and you're like concentrating more on the management side of things. And the label is just a way to facilitate that. You're more likely to say go the licensing deal.
EMJ: Yeah, I mean, an either, neither of those situations they can do either. But like, Yeah, I would say those are the more kind of typical mindsets of it. But there's still a lot of labels that even the label isn't their main focus, but they still try and own the Masters, because that's just how labels have traditionally worked. But yeah, I agree with you that there is, because artists can have more control, and they want more transparency, and there is more of a trend towards licensing, which, you know, is good for the artists, although if they're trying to license in perpetuity, it's like, well, how is not really that different everyone because the artists didn't get them back. So. And I have seen some labels trying to do that.
NS: I didn't think about that, license in perpetuity. It's like, do you still own the copyright? But yeah, you don't. But you're the one that like it has all the right, you know, the what some? So if you do a 10 year licensing deal, at the end of that 10 years, does that essentially mean that the rights automatically go back to the artist and the label must stop, like, take it down from Spotify? You know, an Apple Music? Or does it? Or does it just give the artists the option to take that off? And if they don't, it just kind of keeps rolling over? Like, what happens at the end of those licensing deals?
EMJ: Yeah, so it depends how it's drafted, because there can be different situations. But we'll just for purposes of this question, we'll just say that it just ends at the end of 10 years. So usually, there's a collection period. So the label will have, you know, a year 18 months, something like that, too, because of the income pipeline, they will have time to still collect on what was exploited during the term but then at that point, the rights will revert back to, to the artist, in which case, not necessarily that they usually have to be taken down but there's at least kind of a notification to whoever the payers are the streaming services or whoever that you know you now have to Pay this person, not this label, or you do label or whatever, you know, whatever has been done at that point, but yeah, I mean, the control reverts back to the artist in this example that the payments would start going through the artist. And again, there's different scenarios of what could happen if, if nobody just does, nobody doesn't. That's bad,
NS: If nobody does anything.
EMJ: If no one does anything. You know, the company will just keep on collecting because they'll be like, Whoa, you didn't, you know…
NS: You still getting 50% at the end of the day.
EMJ: So and that happens a lot. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I advocate for education so much, because there will be artists, or if it's a publishing deal with the songwriters, and they just won't realize that they actually have to do something when that term is ending. And so the company will be like, well, they didn't do anything to change the, you know, the payee or any you or, or tell us like, okay, you know, the deal’s done now.
NS: Oh, yeah.
EMJ: So yeah, the company will just maintain the status quo and keep collecting, as if the deal was still in place.
NS: Yeah, I think a lot of those contracts as well, they've got a thing saying unless you come to us, it's just Yeah, like you say, status quo, just keep going through. So what rookie mistakes or common problems do you see over and over again? What would be the number one?
EMJ: Yeah, I would say there's two. One is signing things without understanding what you're signing for. I'll make this into three. One is signing things without understanding what you're signing. Two is not doing any agreements, because you don't understand what you need to do with the agreements. And then three is lack of education, which kind of plays into the two that I just mentioned, because you don't understand either what you should do or not do. So yeah, I mean, there's a lot of people that sign things because they're excited to get offered a deal. And then they realize, like, Oh, this wasn't the thing that I signed. And then they want to try and get out of it. And sometimes they can, and many, oftentimes, they can't so and then, you know, or, like happen. So many times people just don't do anything because they don't understand what they need to do. They don't understand the agreements, they don't understand the rights involved. And then maybe they don't want to kill the vibe. Or they just think like, oh, it'll be cool. I know that guy, you know, he's fine. But it really the guy's a snake. Yeah. And when money starts coming in, cool, people sometimes get not cool. So yeah, so those are the end. That's, you know, again, why, why I try and put out all this educational stuff is to really, you know, at the very least understand the basics and understand a need a legal representative to help me with this. You know…
NS: What if someone's like, you know, I'm poor as artist, but I've been offered this deal. You know, and I'm like, lawyers, attorneys are expensive. I haven't got a dime to my name. You know, would your advice say, Look, just scrape and borrow to get to pay a lawyer to look at this? Or at least just get educated?
EMJ: Yeah. I would say, you know, what, I'm not saying this, because I'm a lawyer. Um, yeah, it's an investment in your career. And it's much more expensive to try and get out of something, or to be in something that's bad, where maybe your music isn't even being released, or it's like a really bad relationship, and then you're prevented from working with other people that actually could further your career. So spending, you know, a few $100 up front, to make sure that it's done right is going to save you a lot of money and a lot of headaches in the long run. Because again, especially if something would get to the point of litigation, I mean, you don't even file something in court without five figure some to start. So you know, so it can be very cost-prohibitive for a lot of people. So it really is a good investment to have it done right up front and know what you're doing and have somebody that's qualified to be assisting you with that and that means somebody that If it's a music deal, somebody that is experienced in doing music deals, not like your brother-in-law, that's some other, you know, a lawyer…
NS: A property lawyer. Yeah. Yeah, that's the worst.
EMJ: Because every area of law is different to has different nuances and custom and practice and, and music industry is very specific. Even between film and music industry, there's a lot of differences in how things are done. Yeah, so that's, that's that I mean, for if somebody really can't, you know, get some money together to do it, sometimes there are, like charities that do like, you know, free legal clinics, or sometimes, like schools have programs that where the students are like practicing, and their professors, you know, kind of watching over it and stuff. So it's not, I can't speak for any of them as to whether they're good or not good. But you know,
NS: It clearly that is better than doing nothing at all. Yeah, gotcha. So, if you are an artist listening, I always, you know, my big thing is, make sure you're investing in your career, it's, you know, you know, even whether you're doing investing your branding or advertising, so, put a few $100 aside for your legal, 100%. So I'm going to jump onto some sort of, some standard sort of music trend questions. So I know you can't speak about, you know, the clients that you work with, because you've got the confidentiality. But I know you have a lot of experience, you know, like, with what's going on in the music world? So for record sales at the moment, Where are you finding your artists’ most of the royalties are coming from like, is it Spotify? Is it iTunes, Amazon, vinyl, physical?
EMJ: Again, totally depends on who the client is and who their audiences. Because you know, as I'm sure, you know, like vinyl is kind of a big thing now, but not for a lot of artists. So it depends who the artist is, who their audiences what genre they're in, things like that for I would say, on average, the majority is coming through Spotify and YouTube. But which is kind of unfortunate, because the rates are so low compared to if they would have, if you would equate, you know, a million streams on Spotify to, you know, a million sales and the physical product or even a download, I mean, the money is so much different. So, it's, it's not like it's equivalent to what they could be making if certain formats were more popular as they used to be. But yeah, I would say in this very digital world, probably Spotify on YouTube, or on average, most consistently the biggest.
NS: YouTube royalties, are you saying?
EMJ: The ad revenue share, if they have, I mean, it depends. Again, you know, if, who owns the assets as well, so, because there is a whole like back end payment system.
"it's much more expensive to try and get out of something, or to be in something that's bad, where maybe your music isn't even being released, or it's like a really bad relationship, and then you're prevented from working with other people that actually could further your career. So spending, you know, a few $100 upfront, to make sure that it's done right is going to save you a lot of money and a lot of headaches in the long run."
NS: I know you did something recently on NFT's as well. What is I mean, I thought one thing about NFT's which is really exciting is the ability for essentially when the asset is sold on a percentage of that goes back to the main, you know, to the original copyright holder, which I think's really exciting. Yeah, do you? Do you see this as a fad? Or do you see this as something that is, is real and this is something that the music industry is going to adopt?
EMJ: Yeah, and the music industry is generally slow to adopt are historically slow to adopt new technologies. We would have been streaming a lot sooner I think, or at least embrace downloading a lot sooner. Like when that whole Napster thing came about years ago. Know the industry bought it instead of trying to work with it. So it really remains to be seen. I think there's so much hype right now that a lot of companies are at least looking into it. I feel like a lot of indie labels are really trying to determine whether they should release an NFT. Yeah, but the technology is so new, it really does remain to be seen as to whether it's going to be a fad or whether it's going to be a long lasting technology, we just don't know yet.
NS: Very early days. What is the major difference for driving sales at a major record label compared to a indie record label or a self releasing artist?
EMJ: Well, major labels generally have a lot more money behind them?
NS: Money is the short answer.
EMJ: Yeah, pretty much. Because I feel like a lot of what both would try to do is the same thing. I mean, you want people to listen, you want people to purchase, you want people to go to the shows, and buy the merch and all that stuff. But you know, the label has the money to put the promotion behind it, the label will, you know, be able to pay for independent promotion and get things on radio, which really I don't think is as dead as people say it is often. So I mean, that is still you know, if you're a top level artists, you know, radio is still important for getting your new single out there and all that kind of stuff, even though the you know, the fans will go to the digital channels to do that, but, but it's still an important medium and, and they'll be able to get, you know, the appearances and that kind of stuff. Whereas the you know, the more independent artists or self-released artists will have to really focus more on fan engagement and relationships, and, you know, maybe partnering with sites that can help them. And, you know, figuring out how to work the algorithms and all that kind of stuff, because they're not going to have all that money behind them, that the labels will have, they kind of have to go about it in a different way. But ultimately, the goal for both, you know, label releases and, and independent self-releases is the same as to be gaining fans getting as many plays and streams as possible, getting people to come to the shows, all those different things. So it's kind of like working with what you have, basically.
NS: You mentioned radio, is still being, is still relevant. Do you think blogs, music blogs are still relevant today?
EMJ: Um, I don't know if they're as relevant as they used to be. To be honest, I'm not really on those blogs. So I'm not because I'm busy working all day. But, um, I mean, so they might be, I know that they were really, really popular at one point, um, but I don't I don't know, if they still hold that same popularity, I feel like there's, I feel like play lists and things like that have sort of…
NS: Spotify playlists have taken over, haven’t they? Have you found? Have you found anything that works well, for your artists to, you know, to get on the bigger playlists on Spotify?
EMJ: Um, you know, again, I feel like it's really more of building that fan engagement. Because when you have streams on your own, and you have the social media numbers and stuff, like unfortunately, instead of artists development, our industry for new artists is so based on the numbers, but when you're but when you can cultivate those followers and those streaming numbers and all that you have a better chance of being noticed. So you can get on those playlists. So that's, I think, for the Indies, it's really that foundation of building the numbers so that you can get to the next level.
NS: Yeah, I mean, it's interesting. You're right. People do look at numbers. I mean, I do it as well. I'm guilty of it. As soon as, you know, someone's like, check this artist out. I listen to the music. And as I'm listening to the music, I'm just googling, you know, are they coming out? You know, I'm looking at the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, you know…
EMJ: Oh this one has 300 followers versus, oh, they have 300,000 followers!
NS: Yeah, exactly. Oh, I'd love to hear more. We aren't, we Yeah, I mean, and you know, I am guilty of that. But I do think now though, with Spotify. That the out of all the numbers that actually mean something that - because you can sort of almost fake it on Instagram or Facebook, or you can buy a lot of those numbers, you know, you can get sort of weird, you're right 100% you shouldn't do it. But I do know people do do that. Whereas Spotify, if you go on there, and you see how many monthly listeners they've got, Would you say that's a pretty clear indicator of how well an artist is doing?
EMJ: Yeah, well, I think that's, you know, again, like, buying fake followers does nothing for you, except the initial like, ooh, they have so many, but then, you know, anyone interested in signing new is going to realize that those are fake when they look into it. But having, you know, a, again, that that consistent and growing fan engagement and monthly listeners and that kind of stuff, that is building a fan base, and that's what labels want to see with artists is that fan base, because that translates to money. So that's what they like to see. So yeah, and I mean, even if you remain an independent self-released artists, you know, it doesn't matter. If you have a bunch of fake followers, it's not going to do anything for actually making you a living. Because they're just fake. But if you have, again, this fan base that you've built that will consistently support you, then that is the makings of, you know, a career potentially, or at least some ongoing income.
NS: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I wholeheartedly agree. And I discourage anybody from you know, buying, buying by, you know, buying followers or, you know, even guarantee, you know, where people there's a lot of seeing on Instagram popping up, guaranteeing Spotify streams. They're not they're just bots, they're bot farms.
EMJ: Yeah, anything but those bots, I mean, it's people are gonna find out, they're gonna know and it doesn't. Again, it doesn't do you really any good, because it's not, it's not a sustainable continuing source of income. And again, you know, somebody's looking to sign you, they're gonna figure it out. And then you're, you know, you just look like a phony. So yeah,
NS: Well, I know, the Spotify algorithms are getting better at picking them out. And I know, you know, artists, you there's some I've seen some reviews on some of these sites that claim it and they're like, don't do it. I lost. You know, I can't get Spotify cancel my account, said it was on bots. And that's it stuff. You know, you got to create a whole new artist name. Yeah. The rear sync deals. Have you found any ones? That that work? Or what works? Well, and, and Hollywood and LA at the moment?
EMJ: As far as what like, what they're looking for, or?
NS: Yeah, I guess nowadays? Yeah. I mean, I guess what? What are sync agents looking for at the moment? Yeah, what kind of music?
EMJ: I think right now, we're still kind of in that, like, new cover of old song kind of thing. There was like a ukulele trend for a while. So it's always kind of adapting what I've been seeing. At least on like television commercials and stuff. It's, yeah, again, like still kind of covers of older songs that are kind of more newer, more singer songwriter, ish. And then, you know, a lot of using like the older classic stuff. So, which is great for the older catalogs, because they need to keep earning money as well. And it's, it's not always like, you know, the major, major songs. I mean, sometimes it's smaller songs from known artists that, you know, that don't really get radio play, and people aren't streaming them so much anymore. But it really depends on the project, because every project is different. They're looking for different things. There's a lot of kind of, I think, still period, style music, because there's a lot of programs that are more like historical dramas or different, you know, take place in a different time period. And sometimes they want authentic music, and sometimes they want music that sounds like it's from that time period, but it's not as expensive as music from that time period. I think there's still quite a bit of that going on, but it's been, I don't know, it's kind of been all over the place. Lately, and you know, also a lot of because of the pandemic, a lot of shows that we're going into production got put on hold. And so I think some people were affected by that, some people were not. So it just depends.
NS: I think we're kind of we're coming to the end here. What is what? What does the future hold for you, Erin? And what does it hold for? The indie artists resource? Like, have you got any other new projects coming up?
EMJ: Yeah, well, Indie Artist Resource, there's going to be a lot more resources on the resource. So, yeah, we're in the process of a lot of really cool upgrades. And so stay tuned for that you can get on the mailing list. If you sign up on the mailing list, you'll get the 10 most the questions most asked by independent musicians with some answers and resources for that, which is FREE when you sign up. But yeah, so there's a lot of exciting stuff coming with that that's going to be I think, really just even more more benefit to independent musicians. And then, you know, as far as my practice, and just, you know, keep doing what I'm doing, you know, bigger and better.
NS: Well, yeah, we, I mean, there'll be links below here when you're listening to this to, to go to the Indie Resource.
EMJ: … my website is themusicindustrylawyer.com and Indie Artist Resource is at indieartistresource.com. And that also has links to my book, but my books also available on Amazon. If you just search for my name, or the title, Don't Get Screwed: How To Protect Yourself As An Independent Musician.
NS: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Erin. That was, yeah. very enlightening. And you're the first attorney I've had on the podcast.
EMJ: Thank you.
NS: So you're the best that I've had on the podcast!
EMJ: And, you know, happy to come back anytime. You know, there's more relevant topics that you need some, like someone with the legal background to talk about.
NS: Awesome. Well, thank you very much.
EMJ: Yeah. Thank you.