Clubhouse Beat Battles: Are Your Beats Safe?
One of the impacts of the pandemic has been the rise in popularity of the Clubhouse app, with its drop-in audio chat format giving aspiring hip-hop artists an opportunity to connect. But are you beats safe on the platform?
Guest post by Attorney David Idokogi
Thinking of dropping into the next Clubhouse Beat Battle for a chance to play some [insert fire emojis] for Drake? Or sticking with the indie route and starting your own room to link with local musicians? Whichever Bandersnatch adventure you take, if you’re brave enough to put your talents on front street, you should be smart enough to protect them as well.
It’s the year 2020 of our lord and a global pandemic is raging without us. We haven’t been to a live show in almost a year, and we’ve been forced to watch beloved hip-hop lyricists (with the exception of Lil Pimp) endorse the orange man. And although he gives off Oompa Loompa vibes, I can’t say that I feel like we’ve won the golden ticket. We’re truly on the set of Black Mirror.
Albeit concerts and club appearances have been put on hold, artists have been able to remain present and keep the culture entertained during quarantine whether it’s with a quasi-radio broadcast on IG Live or historical Verzuz battles. Recently, the Clubhouse (CH) app gained some approval with the hip-hop community as another way for artists to connect. With drop-in audio chats, CH almost feels like you’re attending a virtual, yet lit, discussion panel. But these panels are usually impromptu with moderators like The Game and Meek Mill who allow some attendees to fully exercise their First Amendment freedom of speech – making the topics rather unpredictable.
But aside from the normal discussions, other CH rooms host mini showcases for up-and-coming artists to play songs and beats. Hip-hop super producers Boi-1da and Cardo Got Wings host the weekly Clubhouse Beat Battle where rappers Drake and 21 Savage have been known to attend. In a weekly battle, budding producers compete against each other by playing select beats for attendees while the guest judges vote on a winner. What happens next is God’s plan. One beat battle led to Lophiile getting a placement on a Giveon track. Producer Loudy Luna played her beats while Drake attended, and it led to him following her on Instagram.
If you’re thinking of pulling up to a showcase, remember that other members of the audience can hear your work and may attempt to steal your beat. You should always make sure that your work is legally protected before playing it for an audience. Here are some important legal considerations:
What’s a copyright? A copyright is the legal protection of an idea (put in a tangible form) or another tangible piece of art. A copyright gives the owner of the idea or art the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or make a derivative of the art. As the holder of the copyright, you can license your work out to others, or assign the rights mentioned earlier.
What about music?
Music requires a copyright. To give you the skinny, a song consists of two parts: the song recording or “master” and the underlying composition. The master is generally the final product – what you would hear on the radio or on a Spotify playlist. The underlying composition is broken up between the lyrics and the beat (think of the beat as musical notes). There is a separate copyright for both the master and the composition and as a producer, it is paramount that you understand which part of the song you own, what percentage, and how you can get your coins.
Can someone take my beat?
The good thing about U.S. copyright law is that, as soon as you make a tangible copy of your idea, you’re an author and you have a copyright. So, once you make the beat, or write down the lyrics (text, record them, etc.) you have a copyright. However, if you think someone copied your work, before you can file a suit you must register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. And at this point, it would behoove you to seek out the assistance of an entertainment attorney (I took you as far as I could). But if you plan to showcase your work, it might be a best practice to register it as soon as possible.
Another helpful tool to keep in mind is CH’s Community Guidelines. In its ‘Rules’ section, the Guidelines explicitly state: “You may not transcribe, record, or otherwise reproduce and/or share information obtained in Clubhouse without prior permission.” This should provide reassurance to anybody on the app, but especially musicians. The developers have recently instituted a ‘Music Mode’ that optimizes the audio for musical performances. They’ve also added a ‘warning toast’ that shows up to warn you if someone is screen recording. Big kudos to the developers for this artist-friendly approach.
All in all, CH looks like a great opportunity for anybody serious about their craft and who wants to take it to the next level.
Stay safe, stay dangerous.
David Idokogi is a Philadelphia-based corporate attorney. He currently works as an associate attorney at a top 50 U.S. law firm where he focuses primarily on corporate matters. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @exhibit.d.
NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available in this article is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, take, or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read in this article.