A New Artist Checklist From SoundExchange

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In response to questions about what new artists should do to launch their careers and protect their creative output SoundExchange has put together a strong New Artist Checklist.  No matter how long a band has been around, there's probably at least one thing on this list that they've forgotten to do.

Read SoundExchange's New Artist Checklist and get started:

SoundExchange: New Artist Checklist


 Register your copyrights
Copyrights to your original creative works exist as soon as you fix the sounds or words or notes to a medium (written down or recorded). But to secure additional legal rights, you must register your copyrights with the US Copyright Office. Electronic registrations can be processed much more quickly than mailed registrations. Also, sound recording and music composition recordings can be registered together, which, if you own both, is cheaper than doing them separately.

 Draft an agreement between band members
In the glow of the creative process, it’s easy to forget to put things in writing. Write out an agreement in case issues come up at a later time (and they often do). The agreement should address the rights and responsibilities of the band members including who owns what percentage of the business, what property is owned or controlled by the business (including the band name, web site, and equipment) and who funds the bands and looks after its finances. Break out the percentage of ownership rights of each track – who wrote it? How will you split royalties? Discuss what will happen if band members depart, or new members join. Again, we suggest you consult a qualified attorney, to see if and when incorporation or a formal partnership would be recommended to help protect your assets. At any stage, it’s important to have some kind of written agreement in place.

 Trademark your name and logo
The US Patent and Trademark Office oversees trade and service marks. Make sure no one else owns the rights to your name and/or logo and if not, be sure to register it. It may be your only way to prevent someone from claiming he or she owned the name first, or claiming to be you later. Registrations can be made in different “classes” to cover recordings, live performances, merchandise and other classes, so make sure you cover the bases. Registration costs can add up in a hurry, but a band or artist name and brand may become one of your biggest assets, so it’s well worth it to protect it early.

 Form a company (or companies as necessary) for your label, songwriting/publishing, touring, merchandising, etc.)
It’s important to look at your work as a small business, not just a creative hobby, and to get all your legal protections in place. Forming a company, partnership, sole proprietorship or LLC and keeping separate financial records can help ensure that you’re compliant with taxes and can protect your interests. A consultation with an entertainment attorney and/or an accountant is strongly recommended.

 Pick a songwriting Performing Rights Organization and register – ASCAP, BMI or SESAC

If you’re a songwriter or publisher with a song copyright, you’re entitled to collect royalties from public performances of your musical compositions (for instance, the royalties that you are entitled to receive when the songs you wrote are played on the radio). ASCAP, BMI and SESAC take care of this kind of licensing, collect fees from them and pay them to you. They all cover the same copyright, so you only need to affiliate with one. Check out their websites and see which might be best for you.

 Register with SoundExchange

If you performed on and/or own the masters of a sound recording, you can collect royalties from anyone who streams that track digitally (webcasters, satellite or Internet radio, etc). SoundExchange is the only organization designated by the US government to collect and distribute these royalties, so register now to claim your money. It’s totally free.

 Arrange for Distribution
Set up an account for digital distribution with an aggregator like IODA, INgrooves, TuneCore, The Orchard or similar companies which allow you to make your music available to the public for digital downloading at popular sites like iTunes, Amazon and others. Be sure to properly enter all metadata accurately during this process since it will propagate everywhere after that. Understand the obligations, splits and commitments you make by entering into an agreement so that you know how it may limit other opportunities.

 Embed metadata about each track into each digital file

If a music service opens your file or pops in your CD, and sees ‘Track 1’ and ‘Artist Unknown,’ you could miss out on royalties. While services and webcasters are supposed to report all the tracks they play, they’re busy, and you need to make it as easy as possible. Many millions of dollars have been earmarked for “promo only,” “self-released” and “artist unknown.” Include, at the very least, the artist or group name, copyright holder or label name, and track and album titles, and the ISRC number, if available. Most mastering software includes the ability to embed this data, and online services are available.

 Buy/register your website address and social network domains

Start your online marketing and fan building by registering and creating your domain names. It’s common practice for vendors to buy up domains in hopes they’ll be able to jack up the price to sell them back to you when you need them, so pin down the names as soon as you can. Also, create your band’s official profiles on the various popular social networking and sharing sites such as MySpace
, Facebook, Twitter, iLike and YouTube.

 Check out organizations and associations which may benefit you

There are lots of groups out there doing great things for musicians. Not all of them will be right for you, but a few of them may be. Consider unions like the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represent a wide variety of musicians and performers, at all stages in their careers. Check out what groups like The Recording Academy and musicFIRST are doing to protect your work. There are also payment funds, including the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies and the AFM & AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which may have funds to offer for certain kinds of work you’ve done. Many regional and local organizations are also available, and many of these groups offer member benefits and discounts on services you may use. Educate yourself about all the associations which may be open to you, and find out what choices can help you advance your career.

 Build your web presence

Use your site and social network profiles to sell merchandise, display a photo gallery, and dispense news updates and tour events. Keep the information fresh and interesting. Cross-link and expand your social network communications to drive fans to your website. Consider periodic email or other mass-blasts to keep your audience informed. Be authentic and consistent.

 Get health and equipment insurance

You want to be able to rock on for years to come, so don’t take any risks. When you’re on the road or at gigs, equipment can disappear, so find affordable but adequate insurance. In addition to private companies, some labor unions and organizations, offer health plans, but do your research to find the right plan for you. Check out the Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT) program—a good place to start looking, and get some free advice

 Build your team and assign responsibilities (merchandi
sing, bookings, social media, accounting, licensing, publicity, email management, etc.)
Build your business by having the right helpers in place. Assign those tasks to the person or group best suited to them. Many online enhancements or replacements for hired help are available (SonicBids, CDBaby, TopSpin, ReverbNation, Rumblefish, FanBridge, Nimbit and others) which allow artists to take on many of these tasks themselves.

 Create great music!

There is no substitute for creative productivity. This is what artists do. So create often and let your audience know what you’ve been up to. It’ll take a lot of work, but before you know it, you could be living the dream.


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  1. Great list, but they forgot a crucial important element that ALL bands need…
    A web site is great – but not as good as a mobile web site.
    Find a company that will build you a mobile web site that enables you to sell your music, merchandise, and concert tickets, AND enables you to engage your fans for years to come via a better and more direct relationship than any other form of media or social web presence.
    IE: LEARN ABOUT MOBILE and get on board as soon as you can…
    This lesson needs to be learned by every band, manager, and label in existence…

  2. Danny Dee,
    If I were you — or any other band, manager, or label out there, I’d get in touch with the folks at Adva Mobile. They are by far the leaders in Mobile for the music industry and the Adva Mobile platform offers 50%-75% more features than any other I’ve seen.
    It’s important to note, we are not just talking about a short term, brand/sponsor based marketing operation here. These efforts do not engage the fan in an ongoing relationship. With short term text based campaigns, once the campaign is over — goodbye fan. Direct communications – yes — ongoing relationship – no.
    The Adva Mobile vision is an ongoing relationship between artist and fan based upon a regular, proactive “Constant Contact” – like program that drives fans to a media rich user experience, fan clubs and communities that feature mobile websites with rich graphics, links to video and music, monetization of content, merchandise and tickets, text and email blasts, social integration, analytics, mobile advertising, raffles, contests, voting, and so much more. Mobile can help develop and increase loyal fans that support the Artist and spend money.
    Companies offering a text based platform would be Mozes and Broadtexter.
    Good luck DD…

  3. under the section “Build your team,” none of the companies listed do publicity. we’re partners with nimbit and they refer clients who need publicity and radio promotion to us (www.powderfingerpromo.com) and we refer those in need of diy/online tools to them. they’re great people.
    good article, tho i think i’d start with the last point because none of the rest is going to matter if you don’t have great music.

  4. DD,
    I checked out Thumbplay & Mobbase…
    Thumbplay looks a lot like Myxer — a ringtone company. Ringtones are great, but they won’t engage your fan base and quite often there are legal issues — so be careful.
    Mobbase makes iPhone apps. The iPhone is great — but DD, you are going to want to reach more than 7% of the music fans out there. Make sure the mobile platform you use reaches ALL existing cell phones, not just the iPhone. Also, make sure the mobile platform you use is worldwide and can reach out to the entire planet — not just the US…
    DD, Japan did 33% of their entire GNP through mobile last year, Europe is not far behind, we are the last to the party in the US — but mobile is blowing up here faster than anything else right now, so — get on board.

  5. Another great post. I second the hype for Thumbplay & Mobbase. If you’re web savvy you can also use Google developer to help you build Android apps.

  6. um- I think this list is backwards. without the last point being sorted out, none of the rest matter. If you nail the last one, the rest will come. If you don’t, you definitely won’t be “living the dream.”

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