Five Ways in Which Artistes Can Protect their Music and Advance in the Music Industry

    JN Group

    Despite being prolific creators of music, particularly in the form of reggae and dancehall, many Jamaican artistes lose out on the opportunity to earn fairly from their creations, because of a lack of understanding of the business of music.

    Speaking during a Reggae Month symposium organised by The Jamaica National Group in February, entertainment lawyer and owner of the firm Young Law, Ronald Young, implored artistes to learn the art of navigating the music business if they want to make money.

    “My job as an entertainment attorney is to teach you how to collect and protect your music income, to advise you on the legal rights and remedies you have in a negotiation or under a contract, with a goal of increasing your income and protecting you from losing it,” he said.

    The attorney, who has been practising for more than two decades, was a panellist at the recently concluded JN Group Talking Reggae Symposium.

    He also provided five valuable tips on how artistes can protect their music and advance in the music business.

    Be true to yourself

    “This means understanding who you are and what your strengths are as a creative. You may, for example, want to be a hard core dancehall artiste when you are a natural culture reggae singer,” he said, advising artistes to leverage “their strengths.”

    Understand your rights and revenue stream

    The former chairman of Jamaica Anti-Piracy Alliance also said artistes should learn about copyright and claimants.

    “Did you know that you own the copyright in a song automatically, once you write it on paper or type it on your phone and that registering it, is just a means of protection?” he asked.

    He added that while copyright refers to one’s original literary or musical works and performances, trademarks refer to the brand or logo that identifies you or your business.

    “Understand your rights as the creator of a song, performance or master recording, then learn how to turn your rights into income,” Mr Young suggested.

    He further pointed out that being the creator of a song is different from being the creator of a recording of that song, and if an artiste owns both rights, they can double their income

    Record and register your work

    “Whether you’re a songwriter, performer or producer, ensure you keep records of your work that reflect the title of the work, when it was created, any co-creators and its duration,” he recommended.

    He said once after that is done, the work should be registered with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office as a means of providing notice of who the creator is.

    Build an effective team

    Mr Young said that for artistes to seriously advance in the music business, they have to find a great manager who will in turn help them to find good PR agents, booking agents, distributors, a street team, social media managers and a good lawyer.

    “If you are the business then your team is your board of directors, there to guide you through high seas and low seas,” he said.

    Make good deals

    Finally, Mr Young said the first element of making a good deal is understanding one’s bargaining power.

    “You may be able to demand certain monies and rights as a top touring reggae artiste that you may not be able to demand as a newcomer. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Always look at the bigger picture,” he opined.

    However, he pointed out that whether an artiste, performer or producer is new or seasoned, they’ll be faced with contracts where they are to receive money from other parties from sales of their music and image, so they should ensure that they pay attention the certain key clauses and ensure that they are included in their contracts.

    Those clauses are: a duration clause, income clause, accounting clause, audit clause and an exit clause.

    He further explained that the duration clause outlines the tenure of the agreement; the income clause sets out the percentage of the money the creative is to receive; and the accounting clause shows sales and expenses incurred and how much money is to be received.

    The audit clause allows the artiste to use their auditor to examine the books and records of the other party.

    And finally, the exit clause allows the creative to exit the contract where the other party is incompetent, unresponsive or has seriously breached the contract.

    Mr Young cautioned that the entertainment industry is “treacherous”, but it can be the avenue through which many persons achieve their dreams.

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