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Had a real nice phone call with John Buckman, the owner of Magnatune tonight regarding my various concerns expressed in this blog entry.

I probably can’t remember everything we talked about, but I now know that Magnatune is trying very enthusiastically to promote itself and the artists on the label, hence the 50/50 split and the 5 year deal. The 50/50 split is both philisophical (ie. it’s a partnership between label and artist) and to cover costs. The 5 year deal is mostly to make sure that when Magnatune prints up compilations and merchandise that the artists don’t yank permission away from them, rendering all of that stuff worthless. Which seems pretty understandable to me. He did say something about modifying the contract to 1 year either from now on or upon the artist’s request, I can’t remember due to being partially brain dead.

He told me they’re most likely going to put a list of the latest promotional/marketing events and items online so that while nothing will be guaranteed contractually, the fussy worried artists like me can have a better understanding of what’s been going on in Magnatune promotion-wise and understand the situation a bit better and why you’re agreeing to some of the things you’re agreeing to. I think that’s a pretty good idea.

John explained the Creative Commons to me a bit and I think I feel slightly less confused. I at least got the impression he understands it and that it’s somehow useful in licensing, so that seems all right by me.

He confirmed the concerns about the non-exclusive deal keeping artists from signing an exclusive deal but added two very good points: a) Major labels are very accustomed to not owning the previous recordings of artists. Like Nirvana and Sub Pop, etc. and b) Unlike indie labels, Magnatune doesn’t own the songs of the artist, the artist has just licensed those particular recordings to them for a period of time. So if for some reason you can’t work something out with Magnatune and the major label, you’re within your rights to re-record the album and then you have exclusive control over that recording. With an indie, they own the songs and you are total-E boned.

Anyhow, I’m sure there was more and I hope I didn’t get any of the things he said wrong. Basically in a nutshell: John seemed like a real good guy with a lot of cool ideas and a passion for what he’s doing. I’m really looking forward to being on board and helping out in any way I can. Also he and his wife said nice things about my music and anyone who likes my music is OK by me.

Posted on - December 15, 2003 [at] 2:57 am by Brad
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5 Comments on this post

ken on More On Magnatune
December 15, 2003 at 4:26 am

I’m not so sure about the indie label owning the copyright to the song itself. Generally speaking, when you put out an album on a label they own the copyright to the sound recording, but not the song itself. That’s yours. Maybe they have a publishing interest in it, but as far as I know you are still allowed to re-record it ad nauseum. ÃŽt’s called compulsory licensing. That’s what ensures that any big hit can be turned into muzak whether the original artist approves or not.

Brad on More On Magnatune
December 15, 2003 at 11:31 am

Ah, maybe I messed that part up. I probably should have taken notes. There was some notable difference in that area that sounded pretty reasonable and logical to me at the time though.

victor on More On Magnatune
December 15, 2003 at 12:03 pm

The vast majority of deals including signing away the rights to your songs to a publisher — typically an arm of the record company. The deals usually call for the songwriter(s) to get 50% of the back-end take but that’s before the lawyers, A&R folk, agents and others literally write themselves into the deal so that 50% becomes much less.

Either way you (the songwriter) give up the rights to the song forever — that is: they never revert back to you.

Compulsory licensing only means you can re-record your own song (and perform it at bar mitzvahs) without asking permission from the owner of the song — which is not you. If it is you, the major label will demand to buy it from you.

I also talked to John about this last night and the only real point being: when a major buys out an artist from an indie it typically includes publishing rights and since MagnaTune isn’t in that business it’s even less of an issue. (At least that’s my understanding of it.)

When you sign with a major label you give up all rights to all your music, the content and performances typically for eternity, even after they stop manufacturing, distributing and promoting your music. This is not a worst-case scenario or a tale of a deal gone bad — it’s the way they do business every day.

Shannon on More On Magnatune
December 16, 2003 at 11:25 am

Anyone who gives up their publishing is a complete and total moron, in my opinion. Not that I have major labels knocking my door down — or indie labels for that matter — but I’d *never* sign a deal that required I give up my publishing. I know for a fact that it’s entirely possible to sign a deal without signing your publishing away, and for songwriters, I can’t imagine how any deal that required giving that up would make ANY sense.

victor on More On Magnatune
December 16, 2003 at 3:35 pm

Shannon: I agree 100%.

(..and I have no clue why folks like you, brad and scott aren’t having your doors beaten down. I’ve bought lots of music in the last two years that doesn’t come close the quality you guys exhibit over and over again.)

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