When the announcement was made about Apple Music, I was excited! Being in South Africa, Spotify isn't really an option and Dezzer is only slowly gaining a foothold. So the fact that I could get 3 months free and then only pay R60 bucks for all I can eat music-wise was pretty cool. Soon I would be able to have all my favorite music in my pocket and on the go. That Bob Marley song I haven't heard in a long time. No problem, tap, tap, that Big Daddy Kane song... there it is. the entire Beatles catalog, Motown, Queen, 2 Pac, Biggie, you name it and there it all was.
But then I tried to find Prince...
NOTHING! I looked again and there was one half of an album and a random single.
Confused, I did some quick research (Ok, Google search) and there was my answer. Tidal.
Apparently Prince had done a deal giving them the exclusive rights to his work. Surprised but also not really, because that is a rather Prince like thing of him to do. So there I sat with no Prince music and having to remember where I stacked all my Cd's. I must admit this was the first time I was even slightly tempted to sign-up to another streaming service. And I nearly did but then I stopped myself.
Because I realized one thing. It was inevitable that the music would find it's way out to the majority. Like a stream, to a river, to an ocean, you can't stop the natural flow of things forever. It will find its way out.
Then the sad day came hearing about Prince's untimely death. And I knew it would only be a matter of time before they had to open Pandora's box.
So I kept my eye on the news because I knew the day would come that his music would become available on other streaming services, it was inevitable. On the 2nd of November 2016, it was announced that Universal Music Publishing Group had secured the exclusive worldwide publishing rights for his catalog for an undisclosed amount.
Watching the story unfold has been interesting and here are three key lessons you can learn from it.
You need to have a vault of your own
As the story goes it was actually one of Prince's junior engineer's at the time, Susan Rogers, that realized that although Prince was making new music at a rapid rate, his music was scattered in different studios and cities across America. So what she did was convince him to have a central location and then she gathered all his material from all the different studios thus creating The Vault. Over the years Prince pimped it out and made sure it was heavily guarded, thus making it the stuff of legend. But the idea and philosophy was simple.
- Bring your entire catalog (every song and idea) together
- Protect it
- And keep creating and adding to it
Find the right avenues to exploit your work
In today's digital age there is really no reason why an artist needs to sign away their copyright ownership of a song. Even as an unknown artist, for a small fee you now have the ability to release your work on the same platform as Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake. With TuneCore and CD Baby it has made being an independent artist easier than ever by giving you access to tools and platforms that simply did not exist for non majors 20 years ago.
You need to remember that one of the reasons you probably started making music in the first place is so that it would be heard by as many people as possible. Reach them, and hopefully share a message that would impact their lives.
Include your catalog into your Will
Whether you have a spouse and kids or not, you need to realize that you are building an asset. And that asset if done correctly will long out live you. So for the sake of your fans, your children and your children's children, it is in your best interest to ensure that your prized possession of songs is well managed and taken care of long after you are gone.
It was reported that before he died Prince had pulled all his music from Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAP. Which in itself is crazy, but once again true to character. And I'm sure he had a plan of how he would track and manage it going forward as he certainly had the cash and resources at his disposal. But now with no written instruction going forward it leaves most music publishers scratching their heads.
I have heard it said that a man who understands legacy plants a tree knowing full well that he may never sit in its shade or eat of its fruit but that those that come after him will certainly see the rewards of his labour.