HOOLIGAN BLOGS

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Location: Adairville, Kentucky, United States

I'm a songwriter and social commentator who sees things a little bit differently from most--and that's a good thing. You can email me at jdindiepub@yahoo.com

Sunday, November 05, 2006

WHEN SHOULD A SONGWRITER FILE FOR COPYRIGHT PROTECTION?

Lyrics and songs are copyrighted (legally speaking) as soon as they are fixed into a tangible format, such as written down onto paper or recorded onto a CD.

The writer doesn't actually need to register a work at the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library Of Congress ( http://www.copyright.gov/ ) in order to own a copyright. Registering the work(s) makes proving copyright ownership much easier in a court of law when there are disputes. If you are concerned about someone ripping off your material, by all means copyright as soon as you feel your work is finished.

A copyright notice should be written as follows in order to claim a work as yours: "© (Date and/or year)(Your Name) (All Rights Reserved)." For phonorecords of sound recordings the "C" in a circle is replaced with a "P" in a circle.

A "Poor Man's" copyright ( mailing your material to yourself in an envelope which you keep as dated proof) is not going to hold up in court, so I would advise against doing this. The bottom line is, copyrighting through the U.S. Copyright office affords you the best means of proof.

Whether you have just one lyric or song, or a collection, you can copyright individually or as a "Collection Of Works" for the same $45.00 fee. Copyrighting individually, however, affords the artist more protection than copyrighting material as a part of a collection. Click on the link above to visit the Library Of Congress' information base to discover the differences in copyright protection.

For practical purposes, a songwriter should only file for copyright protection after final production of the demo, when you are satisfied completely that the song is finished--not before changes and tweaks are made necessitating copyright amendments.

Songs are rarely stolen; what may happen more often is that a song idea may be stolen, and a new--possibly better song--will be written based upon your idea. This is not uncommon, and industry pros are known to exploit great song ideas. That's their bread and butter.

Unfortunately, song ideas are not copyrightable, so keep your project as quiet as possible until you've recorded the song, and then, by all means--register your copyright!

APPROACHING MUSIC PUBLISHERS

First thing's first--never mass-mail your songs hoping one will stick to the wall, especially unsolicited. You need to have communicated with someone working for the intended target, or the target himself or herself.

The best way of targeting a prospective publisher is to familiarize yourself with the people who that publisher has been working with, and what sort of material that publisher is looking for. Many industry books publish directories of publishers. Read the trade books, get a list of publishers and begin to correspond with them. A couple of great resource books are, "Song Writer's Market" (Writer's Digest Books) and "Recording Industry Sourcebook" (Thompson).

No one likes spam, and sending unsolicited material is spam. I know that many publishers greatly respect someone who takes the time and effort to arrange a face-to-face meeting about your songs, and will very likely allot you some time to go over the material.

You may only get a few decent opportunities to speak to a publisher in person, but such opportunities are golden. Ask questions about the business side of the industry while you're there and try to put yourself in their shoes, then act accordingly.

Don't cheat yourself out of an opportunity by taking the business end lightly. You should understand that, like any business venture, these publishers aren't into wasting time prospecting for gold in a pile of mush. Publisher's garbage cans (known as the round file) are usually full of unsolicited, unopened submissions.

Come ready to provide a listening history and success rate for your song. Did it get lots of spins on Website X, for instance? That's valuable data. Was it frequently purchased or downloaded? Even more valuable! Was it performed and received well by throngs of eager teens who clawed at your trousers while you performed?

The music industry is a tight network of interconnected specialists doing one another favors, and at the same time exploiting opportunities successfully. If you present yourself as the next big thing, they're either going to laugh, ignore you or ask you to back that statement up with empirically provable data.

If you can back that up and impress a publisher, manager, artist and repertoire (A&R) guy or a performing artist, you might just have a shot at advancing your career as a songwriter. Get your ducks all in a pretty row, and good luck.