Although laws have changed, and now you are not absolutely required to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, it is still a very good idea to do so. Your work can become a source of income and recognition for you, but not if someone else takes credit for it. When it comes to music, there are two kinds of copyright: PA and SR. PA stands for Performing Arts and refers to the lyrics, music and arrangement. SR stands for Sound Recording and refers to the actual recording made. If you release a CD, for example, you'll want to register both kinds of copyright. If you are just writing songs (or other musical compositions) and have not recorded them, just use the PA form. And if you are working with a producer or record label, by all means try to keep ownership of the PA rights to your songs. Often a label will try to negotiate these away from you. This means they will receive the royalties if your song is used by another artist or in a commercial.
To register, you simply need to contact the U.S. Copyright office (address below) and get the PA and SR forms. Fill out the forms, send in a disc with your music, a check for $30 with each form, and you are set to go. To save money, you can create a disc of all of your songs, call it Collected Works of (Your Name) and submit them together with one PA form (and only one payment!).
U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave.
S. E. Washington, D. C. 20559-6000
http://www.copyright.gov (their Web site also has FAQs and other good info)
DIY: How To Manage A Recording Project
by Laurel Isbister
You have the tunes, you have the fans, and you are ready to cut the tracks. Ask yourself the following questions: 1) What are my very best songs? 2) What style am I working in, and what studio would best fit that style? 3) Do I want a producer? If so, who is the very best producer I can afford? 4) Who do I know that could offer friendship, feedback and support during this time? Just like building a house, recording a record often takes longer and costs more money than you think it will. You need friends to keep you motivated.
If you are a band, you can think about picking one person to "manage" the project—giving deadlines, scheduling rehearsals and recording time. A lot of bands waste money in the studio because the arrangements are not set or the musicians are not prepared. Another consideration is that studio time usually comes in large chunks. Therefore, it's best to take advantage of this time and keep at it once things are rolling. Bring snacks and any other sustenance you need with you.
POLISHING IT UP—THE FINISHING STEPS
Releasing a CD also includes some final, "finishing" steps, so be sure to include time and money for these in your budget:
1) Mastering the record—when a record has been mixed to your satisfaction, it must be mastered by a professional who specializes in mastering. Without this step you risk sounding homemade and unprofessional.
2) Writing acknowledgements, liner notes and lyrics.
3) Choosing a company to duplicate or replicate your discs. Duplication is simply copying the music onto an existing blank disc. Replicating involves burning the digital sound tracks into the surface of the disk itself—more expensive and also more reliable.
4) You need someone (preferably with knowledge of the computer program Quark and/or other graphic design skills) to design the jacket and interface with the duplicators. Don't skimp on this step—it takes time and sometimes money, but it will be the "face" on your music—the thing that everyone sees first.
5) Make sure your songs and the recordings are copyrighted.
6) Plan your CD Release party with enough time to make absolutely sure you have the discs ready a few weeks ahead of the party.
IT'S A PAIN, BUT THERE'S NOTHING LIKE GETTING TO THE OTHER SIDE
The process is so involved that, sadly, many bands never get it done. Many artists will have a label or manager guide this process but listen: As long as you understand what you're getting into, you can set aside enough time, money and passion to make it happen. When the record is done, you will be on a whole new playing field, with your disc stocked in Be-Bop, ready to show the world your unique sound.
DIY: Dealing With The Media
by Brian Johnson
Want to know why the local media cover some musicians and not others? Is it that there is an in-crowd and an out-crowd? Are there payoffs and backroom deals? The answer is no, at least as far as local media are concerned. The radio stations and MTV fat cats might get payola, but we in the local media get crapola as far as kick-backs are concerned. Besides, we're much more interested in covering a diverse mix of both musicians and venues than we are in deciding who's been naughty or nice, musically speaking.
No, the local media covers some musicians and not others because some have their sh*t together, and others don't. Let me explain.
For one, if you want an event covered, give the publication a bare minimum of two weeks' notice. It takes time to assign writers and photographers and more time to make appointments. Calling the day before is pointless. Next, answer your damn phone. A number of musicians (who will remain nameless) were cut from this issue simply because they didn't respond to repeated requests for interviews and/or photographs. Finally, make sure photos of you or your group are readily available online, and some fuzzy 72 dpi, 30K photo really won't cut it. A photo that looks fine online may look like crap on the printed page. Under the strain of tight deadlines, the prize goes to the group with the 250 dpi, 300K photo.
DIY: How To Create A Press Kit
by Laurel Isbister
When you want to play music live, you will almost certainly be asked for your press kit. Some promoters prefer an electronic press kit (EPK), while others want a hard copy sent in the mail. If you don't have one yet, you might think that it's going to take a long time. But if you break it down into simple steps, you may surprise yourself at how easy it is.
1) An 8 x 10 black and white photo of yourself or your band. Must be high resolution—that is, very good image quality.
2) A disc with your music, can be a demo or a CD you have recently released.
3) Copies of any favorable press you have received—reviews, photos in the paper.
4) A bio of yourself and your band members.
5) A press release relating to your latest achievements.
If you are working electronically, this can all be sent by e-mail, posted on your Web site, or at a third-party provider site like MySpace.com or Sonicbids.com. If you are working with hard copy, put all this into a nice folder. Then, when you have made the initial contact with the person you will send it to, write a short personal note to them and include it with the folder when you mail them your kit. Finally, you need to be sure to labelyour kit, both on the outside and, preferably on the CD or music disc as well. Promoters need easy access to your e-mail or street address, phone number and Web site.
DIY: How To Create And Maintain A Presence On The Web
by Laurel Isbister
YOUR HAPPY INTERNET HOME
Just like a house or an apartment, a Web site has its own address, called a URL or a domain name. Most artists and bands have their own Web site, and they usually try to locate their site at so-and-so.com. For example, WoodenFinger.com, or LaurelIsbister.com. To see if the address you want is available go to a domain name site such as catalog.com and do a search to find out if someone else has already taken it. Once you find the right domain name, you need to register the name and pay for the use of it—usually a small annual fee. Yahoo.com in my experience charges reasonable rates and has a user-friendly interface.
Once you have your web address, you are ready to put your Web site up there. You have a few options: if you are already web savvy, you can simply build your own site. I know from personal experience that if you don't already know how to build a Web site, learning how can be trickier than it looks, especially if you are eager to include sound files and online retail to your site. You can hire a web designer, though this can be expensive.
One major disadvantage (at least for control freaks like me) of having a friend or Web firm do it for you is that you are no longer in control. For example, if you want to list a new event up there, you have to locate your designer and then wait for them to have the time to get around to posting it. This is the main reason I chose to build my own site at http://www.hostbaby.com They have Web page templates designed specifically for musicians. The templates are built so that you can also manage your fan list, add images and sound files, link easily to CDBaby.com for sales and also view stats on your Web traffic. No matter who builds your site, you should definitely be able to track how many people are coming to your Web site. And (does this go without saying?) your site should load quickly—nothing loses visitors faster.
OTHER FORMS OF WEB PRESENCE: SONICBIDS AND MYSPACE.COM
In addition to building a website, many musicians also maintain an online presence at Sonicbids.com or at MySpace.com. Both allow you to post photos, sound files, and other information, and both are used by promoters at music venues when they are searching for information on artists.
MySpace.com is a new format for Web interaction, and one if its unique features is that it allows you to have connections to other friends and MySpace users. You'll find many local musicians and bands have already taken advantage of this. MySpace is also free, whereas SonicBids charges a monthly fee.
In general, the more presence you have on the Web, the better. One great strategy to keep guests and search engines happy is to cross-link your site with other well-known sites, such as those of other musicians or organizations. And remember, if you add new content on a consistent basis, your visitors will keep coming back.
DIY: How To Book Your Own Show
by Scott Albert Johnson
Give me a choice between Chinese water torture and booking my own shows, and I'll have to get back to you with my decision. I'm sure most musicians would agree. But we make the calls and drop off the press kits anyway, because that's what performing artists do: perform. Until you can find someone who believes enough in you to take over all of the unglamorous legwork, you had better resign yourself to being your own number-one booster.
There's no mystery here. You need a press kit, with a listenable demo (it doesn't have to be a Sergeant Pepper's-caliber recording—just one that shows that you can deliver the goods) and a bio sheet. Mail or drop off the kit to venues where you think your music would go over well. Give them a few days, maybe a week, then follow up with a phone call. Persist.
Expect disappointments, and don't take them too personally. Nobody owes you a gig, and yet you need to believe that you deserve one. It's only that belief that will give you the confidence, patience, and intestinal fortitude to keep trying, not just for that first show but for all of the shows after that.