Protect Your Music Without A Budget
Let's talk about your music from a legal standpoint. You're a new artist, thinking about putting music out but have you thought about the legalities involved with protecting your content? Now before you think "hold on this is way too deep for me, I just want to make music!" don't get put off just yet. It might seem like a step too far for someone who is just starting out but it really isn't. Consider this, you start writing songs, maybe with a friend or co-writer and the songs eventually take off and you get a bit of attention from labels, management, promoters etc. It all gets a bit murky as to who owns what and who controls the content.
This is where a small bit of understanding before-hand can really change things and avoid a costly situation. But how do you get the legal side in shape without much money? Below are a few suggestions as to how artists can keep their music in check with the law, preventing any damaging lawsuits or encounters on the behalf of any clients, musicians, brands or corporations.
The D.I.Y Route
Register Your Composition
Easy, simple and straightforward. Artists in the early stages of their career should get on board with registering with various organisations such us PRS, PPL & Sentric. By signing up with these platforms an artist can start earning money straight away. You won't be earning huge amounts (£6 a gig is achievable) but you're legally earning money for your work. What's great about this option is that once you're registered with one of these organisations your music can be traced back to a certain date/time and you have proof that the composition is yours.
Sharing Is Caring
Once you're up and running with PRS etc, get your music out there on platforms like Spotify. What this does is makes it increasingly difficult for someone else to steal your music but it also spreads the word about your music. The way music is heading is so discovery-based, i your music isn't out there and not available to consumers it's rare that people will take interest in you. Sharing your music on streaming platforms can back up your claim to the creation of said music (providing you've taken the appropriate steps with PRS/PPL) while at the same time do wonders for your branding and outreach.
Not to be taken lightly. Keep everything written. Why? Emails keep dates and times and record conversations between people and although they can be fabricated they're a good start to showing evidence in your favour. Working with a friend on a song-writing project? Keeping the conversation in an email could help any future legal issues. Some artists even go as far as writing a 'journal' for each writing-session and emailing it to themselves after the session. Keeping things documented and in a good order is a good step towards showing responsibility for your work.
Here's a great one - make sure you pay for things. As soon as someone else pays for something they can take credit. It's a very harsh lesson to learn but if someone pays for recording time or hiring an instrument or hiring writing space, they can technically lay a claim to whatever is produced from said resources. Make it clear what you're doing with your money. If someone 'gives' you money, make sure you both understand it's a loan rather than someone paying for space/instrument/time and so on. Furthermore, keep all payments documented, even in an email form with the email's built-in time-stamp.
Assemble A Team
Once more, this might sound harder than it actually is. You might think that getting a lawyer to cover your music will cost big bucks but you'll find that some companies will do the work on a commission basis. Some artists will pay 20% to their manager, 5% to their accountant and 5% to their lawyer. It's not as rare as you might think and if you find the right solicitors to work with you could potentially strike a similar deal. Having a good team around you makes the world of difference. Someone who has legal knowledge from a good background should add momentum to your campaign by dealing with the legal side of things and add value to their service through their network too.
Below is a list of (UK-based) law firms who deal with musicians and creative projects.
The above are a couple of ways artists without a big budget or even without a budget at all can get their music legally above-board. It can be done and it's not as scary as you might think.
I'll leave you with one more piece of advice given to us in the past - know what you do. Find your audience and tend to them. Make smart decisions before you start.
Getting your content to a good legal standing is something none of us should ignore and as it turns out it's not as hard as we once thought.