Jan 30 2011
The Kinks have trillions of great songs, and one of them is “The Moneygoround,” an acerbic tune railing against the injustices of the music industry. You’d be wise to check out all the lyrics, but here’s a particularly good excerpt:
Eyes down round and round let’s all sit and watch the moneygoround
Everyone take a little bit here and a little bit there
Do they all deserve money from a song that they’ve never heard?
They don’t know the tune and they don’t know the words
Bottom line: the music industry is brutal, and always has been, and complaining about the music industry has been around since that first savvy caveman invented the pan flute. It always seems to be the artists, of all people, who get exploited. But now there’s hope: It’s called SongTrust and it puts power back where it belongs: in the hands of the artist.
SongTrust allows songwriters to take control of their publishing and completely cut out the suits who’d normally stuff their pockets, cigar in mouth, cackling away. With Songtrust, an end-to-end song management platform, songwriters can 1) keep 100% of the rights to their songs, 2) have their songs licensed – and that’s where the real money’s at – while keeping 100% of the royalties, all while 3) not signing a long-term contract. So, rather than being locked into a Draconian agreement – and the examples in the industry are numerous – songwriters can opt out at any time.
So I took the tour. It laid out the complex and oftentimes costly song registration process – without coming across as patronizing. (That said, most musicians are stunted children; it’s necessary to talk down to them. I mean, have you seen how some of them live?) This is doubly-important once you realize that many musicians are also purists and don’t want to get soiled by the nitty-gritty of the industry. But they should; if not, someone else will make money off their work. SongTrust’s tools are visually stimulating as well. This is important. Most (all?) musicians are now creating their tunes on Garage Band or ProTools and are techy-savy. In line with this, SongTrust has a simple dashboard, listing registered songs, songwriters, and earnings, for example.
Songtrust works because it’s intelligently tapped into the zeitgeist of the digital music industry. Back in the day, artists primarily got paid through record sales and the occasional (and rare) publishing deal. This process was tightly regimented through a complex web of labels, publishing companies, distributors, etc. The Internet, of course, changed all that. Bands are empowered to control all levers of the music-making and distribution process. Some bands get famous overnight simply due to a catchy MP3 that went viral. Digital music platforms like itunes, BandCamp, and ReverbNation enable bands to distribute their tunes affordably. But make no mistake: it’s still the Wild West, and better technology doesn’t necessarily translate into greater revenues, or control, for the artist.
For starters, many artists simply aren’t registering their songs, and it’s no secret why: the process is cryptic and confusing. (As you can imagine, SongTrust is affiliated with the heavy-hitters of the publishing world: BMI, ASCAP, and others.) Due to this confusion, many artists shrug and say, “Ah, it’s no big deal,” only to come to regret it when they get 3,000 downloads in a day, or IKEA picks up the tune for a commercial. Which brings me to my next point and another valuable service SongTrust offers: music licensing. Licensing can be extremely lucrative. But let’s be honest – can a super-talented dude in his bedroom in Peoria really get his tune in the hand of some ad executive? Unlikely. But SongTrust can, and can hawk your tunes for licensing purposes through their Premium Membership.
SongTrust provides an all-in-one music publishing platform that cuts out the middlemen. All of this for less than $10 a month. Heck, do the math: as an artist, yearly fees will more than pay for itself with just one royalty check. And for SongTrust’s revenue stream, it’s simply a matter of scale. The number of bands and songs are seemingly infinite; even if a mere fraction sign up, they’ll surely thrive.
Which brings me back to the Kinks and the wonderful irony implicit in the digital music age. Thanks to platforms such as SongTrust, a super-talented dude in his bedroom in Peoria now can have more control over his own music than Ray Davis, Bob Dylan, or John Lennon did. Heck, look at John Fogerty: he was sued by his publisher for plagiarizing his own song! (whose rights, of course, he didn’t own.) And since complaining about the music industry goes hand-in-hand with the industry itself, it has to make you wonder: if SongTrust allows artists to register their songs, track their music, license the tunes, and easily manage their royalties, what will songwriters have to, y’know, complain about?