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Music Biz Resources
+ Episode Notes

In the third and final part of Season 4's Music Biz Series, Chris chats with Bart Herbison, Executive Director of NSAI (Nashville Songwriters' Association International). Scroll for our listening guide and resource list to go along with this episode, as well as our guide for Part 1 featuring Linda Edell Howard, entertainment attorney. As one of the places Chris recommends to check out first when you’re new in town, NSAI is more than just a place to network and get song feedback. They are songwriter advocates to the core. Listen on to learn how they were formed, what they do for the songwriting community (including their instrumental part in helping pass the MMA), and Bart’s advice for finding collaborators who are “headed north” - and how to find success alongside them.

Listen to the new episode here.

Learn more about NSAI here.

Scroll for our listening guide and resource list to go along with Parts 1 and 2 of the series, featuring Linda Edell Howard (entertainment attorney) and Kris Ahrend, CEO of the new MLC.

Music Biz Special Part 2:
Kris Ahrend, CEO of the MLC

"You’re entitled to know exactly how this works,

and you should ask questions" - Kris Ahrend


In this episode, you'll learn:

  • What exactly the MLC does and how to sign up

  • What royalties the MLC pays out versus what your PRO pays out

  • How mechanical royalties have changed to adapt to the streaming world

  • What royalty streams you should be getting paid from, and how to do it

  • + MORE

Show Notes / Questions Answered:

  • What does the MLC do? In Kris' own words, "Very simply, we are an organization that pays out money to songwriters and publishers. The right that we administer is the mechanical right, and we do that via a new blanket license that Congress created here in the US a couple years ago when they passed the Music Modernization Act. And that blanket license now allows digital audio services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon - to use any song that exists in the world, provided that they give the MLC a certain set of data and pay all the royalties that are due as set by statute, so that we can then distribute those out to the right people".

  • What’s the difference between what the MLC pays out and what my PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or GMR) pays out? Your PRO pays you a performance royalty, but the MLC pays out a mechanical royalty. You’re entitled to both of these from streaming.

  • What happens if I have a publishing deal - do I need to sign up? Short answer: it depends. Long answer: unlike performance royalties, mechanical royalties are not split into writer shares and publisher shares. That’s why with performance royalties, even with a publishing deal you still need to be affiliated with a PRO to directly collect your writer’s share. But if you are signed to a publisher that has the right to collect royalties on your behalf, you do not need to be a member of the MLC - unless you self-administer even a few of your songs.

  • How often does the MLC pay out? The MLC pays monthly to self-administered songwriters. If you’re with a publisher, it depends on your deal and how often they pay you.

  • How long will it take to get royalties from a stream? With your PRO royalties, it may be months and months later until you get your money. With the MLC, there’s a 75 day distribution cycle - so you’ll get paid relatively quickly.

  • Royalty Cheat Sheet: ​​There are 2 main royalty streams for writers of a composition, and 2 main royalty streams for performers who own their own masters / sound recordings. So if you release a song that you wrote and recorded yourself, there are 4 different ways to get paid.

  1. ​A PRO (composition performance royalty)

  2. The MLC (assuming you don't have a pub deal, composition mechanical royalty)

  3. The distribution royalties from whichever service you sign up for (sound recording mechanical royalty)]

  4. SoundExchange (sound recording performance royalty)

"If you see that things aren’t right, know that you can now fix it.

That’s what transparency is. It gives you the visibility to see what’s right,

and to see what’s wrong so you can fix it" - Kris Ahrend


Music Biz Special Part 1:
Linda Edell Howard, Entertainment Attorney

Listen to this episode here.

"Good contracts keep good friends" - Linda Edell Howard


In this episode, you'll learn:

  • What 360 deals are and why to avoid them

  • How to advocate for yourself in this industry and why it’s important

  • Things to look for and watch out for in your first publishing deal

  • What a typical first deal looks like and how to work in benefits for you besides just getting an advance (which is your OWN money)

  • What does “recoupable” mean (what gets charged back to your account?)

  • Being aware of your delivery requirement in a deal 

  • Benefits and value in a publishing deal

  • Why it’s important to find a song champion at your publishing company

  • What artist contracts look like today

  • How everything is negotiable if you’re prepared to walk away

  • Common splits between artists and record labels

  • How to reach out to your local Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts, non-profit organizations around the country that provide entertainment lawyer services pro bono

  • Why it’s important to make agreements among you and your collaborators

  • + MORE

Show Notes / Terminology:

  • You need a team - and the company itself is not your family. The people there are.

  • As a new songwriter, 3 things to be aware of in your first publishing deal:

    1. Publishers often ask for a Schedule A - but you don't have to hand over everything you’ve ever written. Make sure that they only pick songs they’re absolutely in love with and think they can do something with.

    2. In a typical first deal, you're giving away 100% of publishing, so what other commitments can you work into your deal? Maybe negotiate co-publishing for the passage of time, or changing what's recoupable (charged back to your account), etc. Whatever it may be, make sure you're making your deal better as you succeed.

    3. Be aware of your delivery requirements / minimum delivery - what do you have to do to get paid the amount they’ve agreed to pay you? How many songs a year you have to write is not as simple as it sounds - two-way cowrites only count for 50% of a song, etc. And, publishers can turn down a song and not accept it too.

  • What is "record and release"? Agreeing to having a number of 100% songs recorded and commercially released.

  • What is “suspension”? Getting stuck in a contract UNTIL your delivery requirements are met, even after your term is up and your advance runs out.

  • Common splits between artist and record labels now on the sound recording / master - usually 35-50% share of revenue, but depends on what stream of revenue.

  • What is the difference between personal managers and agents? Managers get a cut of everything that their client earns, no matter if they worked on it or not. Agents go out and get you jobs, gigs, deals, etc - and get paid on what they procure.

  • What does it mean to work on something “on spec”? In the sense of collaborating, investing in each other as partners and agreeing that you'll make money when the other partner makes money - NOT paying anything up front

"Everything is negotiable if you're prepared to walk away" - Linda Edell Howard

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