BMI: Bringing Musicians Income With New "Live" Program

It’s no secret these are tough times for the music industry. Musicians, labels and songwriters alike are struggling to make ends meet in a devastating financial climate that’s only made worse by the accessibility of illegal downloads. But the minds behind performing rights organization BMI introduced a program last week designed to help. BMI Live allows performing songwriters to submit their set lists from live performances and actually get paid for it. With the tagline From soundcheck to royalty check, Live promises to pay out royalties to both headliners and opening acts.

In a press release from the company, BMI Senior Vice President of Repertoire and Licensing Mike O’Neill says the program will help musicians at all stages in their careers, regardless of the size of the stage they are on. Small venues and clubs are the lifeblood for songwriters and bands, he explains. These venues support live, local music as well as touring artists, and are the cradle of tomorrow’s stars. We’re committed to helping songwriters get paid for their music in these venues, which provide a vital stage for their music.

Royalty payments have always been a classic rich get richer scenario, with BMI and other performing rights organizations writing big checks to artists who already garner significant radio play. While smaller acts have always been able to register with BMI, the new initiative should help them to actually reap the benefits offered by the organization.

According to BMI, the Live program is as easy as five simple steps: Join, Login, Perform, Report, Get Paid. It sounds easy, and it is. Artists will be able to enter their performance information as frequently or infrequently as they wish, and payments will be doled out quarterly beginning in June 2011. There’s even an incentive for eco-friendly artists: BMI says it will offer direct deposit into artists’ accounts, and will issue paperless bank statements.

If you’re looking for more info about BMI Live, check out the program’s Web site here.

Next Big Nashville 2010: That’s a Wrap!

Next Big Nashville began with a whimper. Five years later it’s exploded into a full-blown rebel yell.

Gone are the days when a few honky tonks served as an excuse for local musicians to do sound check and dust off their amps. This year, over forty percent of the 150+ bands that performed at some 15 venues between September 29th-October 2nd were from outside of Nashville, double from last year.

By Steve Cross. Courtesy of Next Big Nashville

And forget about calling this a country event”Jack White all but abolished Nashville’s reputation as strictly a place for hick hooks and chords when he moved to town. Rockers, rappers, punks and alts were all right at home here in Music City.

Spotlight seekers came in hopes of ripping a page from say, the Jamey Johnson or Cage the Elephant success stories”good examples of the fest’s ability to get unsigned artists record deals and national attention.

Not that national attention was lacking. Headline acts such as Yeasayer and Washed Out, regulars on the tour circuit, were on the scene. ASCAP and BMI both held big bashes. Even local yokel Vince Gill popped up.

The Worsties Live at The Rutledge. By Brad Butcher. Courtesy of Next Big Nashville

The parties this year were the best I’ve seen yet, recalled Jesse Worstell, lead guitarist of OurStage’s own  The Worsties. They provided a great opportunity for Nashville artists to mix it up with industry folk from around the globe. The Worsties, a ska/punk Nashville-based band, were part of the Music City Unsigned showcase at one of NBN’s key venues, The Rutledge.

Jack White’s Third Man Records, 12th & Porter and The Basement were several other key venues this year for showcase events. One band that played The Basement, Madi Diaz, a folk pop duo, emerged with some strong street buzz.

We had a great show this year, recalled lead singer Madi Diaz. We loved getting to see our out-of-town friends without having to go…well, out of town. Bring ˜em all to Nashville!’

Madi Diaz live at The Basement Nashville. By Steve Cross. Courtesy Next Big Nashville

After this year, that may no longer be a problem, now that the NBN Leadership, Music Digital Media Summit, is part of NBN. This was the first year the two events were held concurrent.

A-list speakers were not in short supply. Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, drew a crowd. Yet, the most tweeted about event seemed to be the Q&A with Kings of Leon band member Caleb Followill.

NBN co-founder Jason Moon Wilkins said he’s already looking at ways to expand on the education aspect next year. It’s just one more way to make NBN a must for the brightest minds and most exciting acts out there.

By Neal Webster Turnage

Neal Webster Turnage is a Los Angeles writer whose work appears frequently in many national and international consumer magazines.

Generation DIY: Get Your Music In The Pictures!

Lights! Camera! Action! Remember when we were younger and believed that those words were the biggest part of filming a movie, commercial, or TV series? Now that we’re older, we know there are many more factors involved in the production of such projects, especially when it comes to soundtracks. This week’s Generation DIY is all about music supervision and ways you can get your music into new films, commercials and TV episodes that are currently in production.

First things first, when it comes to getting your music placed it is important to have it mastered professionally. This is the big leagues we’re talking about. Music placement not only means a relatively generous payout but also equals worldwide promotion, so don’t give these music supervisors basement recordings. A minimal searchs for music supervisors yields many useful sites. One that I’ve referred to before is Music Supervisor Guide, which has listings for many hot TV shows as well as video games, movies and advertising (Note: you have to sign up and pay in order to use). If you do plan on paying for a Web site, then I’d suggest joining BMI, SESAC or ASCAP and license your music through these organizations.  Since they have good reputations behind them, you will be able to land some better opportunities, but again, this is the big league so make sure you are ready.

If you are looking to do it all on your own, as all of us DIYers do, then pick up some books on the subject and interview some music supervisors to get a better idea of what you need to do to make that connection. One contact I made through my travels was David Weiss and David Hnatiuk who wrote and published the book Music Supervision: The Complete Guide To Selecting Music For Movies, TV, Games & New Media. This is a great book to pick up to get a better understanding on how this industry works and what music supervisors are looking for. Be sure to check out their Web site to learn more about this great group.

Hopefully some of this information gets the wheels turning and pushes you in the right direction. As always, I want to hear your suggestions, comments, success stories and anything else that you would like to share.

This is YOUR year. Let’s make it count.

Generation DIY: Cover Songs 101

The other week I attended the New Found Glory/Saves The Day concert at the House of Blues in Boston, MA. Being a fan of both artists since their inception, I’ve collected the entirety of their respective discographies. New Found Glory put out an EP in 2000 called From the Screen to Your Stereo which consisted of 7 cover tracks of national artists used in motion pictures (in 2007 they released the follow-up album From the Screen to Your Stereo II ¦ clever huh?). In the history of music, many bands have recorded and released covers of their favorite artists, or of songs that they believed the public would enjoy (something played on Top 40 to gain more recognition in most cases). So, in this week’s “Generation DIY,” I’d like to talk about the process of covering a song and the legality behind doing so.


Writing and performing music is rewarding enough without ever making a dime. . . right?
Eff, no! If you’re like most serious musicians, you want to be able to support yourself solely on your music. Sure, chances are you’re not going to be on a yacht popping bottles of Cristal anytime soon, but you can at least start making some decent money (and get great exposure) by copywriting and licensing your music.

If that sounds like a lot of paperwork, rest assured it’s not. There are several huge organizations who will handle the whole business end of tracking your music and making sure you get paid anytime one of your songs is played in a public medium. All you have to do is register with one of the three performing rights organizations in the U.S. ”ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. All are similar in that they work as middlemen between you (the artist) and the organization interested in licensing your music (television and radio stations and networks, websites, ringtones and ringbacks, satellite audio services like XM and Sirius, nightclubs, discos, hotels, bars, restaurants and other venues, digital jukeboxes and live concerts).

Getting yourself in a position to make money off your music is easy. Here are the steps:

¢ Register with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. You can do this online for a $50 fee typically. All three disburse royalties quarterly.

¢ Register with Nielson Soundscan. It’s free, and allows you to track the sales of your hard-copy products (provided you put the Soundscan bar code on your packaging.) Each time your CD, DVD, etc., is scanned, the sale is logged by both Nielson and ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, so you’re sure to get paid.

Seems simple, right? Well, it is. And you can keep track of all your royalties online so you know what to expect when paytime comes around. Even if you’re not making enough to buy a house in the Hollywood Hills, you might be able to at least pay your electric bill. And that’s a start.