Registering Instrumental Edits With Your PRO

Posted by Aaron Davison on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 Under: June 2012

Today's post is a guest post from the musician Aaron Saloman.  Aaron and I released a course together last week all about how to make money licensing stock music. I asked Aaron if he could write a guest post addressing one of the questions we've been getting a lot, which is the question of how to register different instrumental edits with your PRO.  Fortunately, Aaron said yes!

Take it away Aaron....

Hi everyone!

My name's Aaron Saloman. Last week, Aaron Davison and I released a course we collaborated on called "How to Make Money with Stock Music Libraries". It's been really great hearing from people who are finding the course helpful, and getting to check out music from other composers hoping to license through libraries the way I've been doing the last few years. Aaron D. asked me to write a guest blog to address one of the common follow-up questions I've been receiving, about registering tracks with your PRO (Performing Rights Organization).

If you've been following Aaron D.'s newsletter and blog, you'll remember this entry he posted just before we released the course, called "How to Turn One Song into Five". In it, he talks about one of the techniques I mention in the course: turning one track into 4, 5, 6, or more by creating useful edited versions of different lengths. In the course, we go into detail about how to approach this in your editing software, as well as what lengths people might be looking for in TV and advertising.

The thing is, what do you do with all these new tracks once you've made them? Are they new songs, and should you register them again with your PRO as such?

The answer is "yes and no".....or something like that.

As you may know if you've read a bit on the exciting (ahem) topic of copyright law, a recording contains two distinct copyrights: the song itself - that is to say, the chords and melody that make up the composition - as well as the "sound recording" - that is to say, one particular performance of that song preserved forever in one specific recording. PROs like ASCAP, BMI, and SOCAN concern themselves with the former - the song or composition, and the people who write and publish it.

By now you've probably realized that by making an edit, you've changed neither of these things. It's still the same song, and it's still the same recording, it's just playing for a different amount of time. Remember that radio edit of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? When you bought the album, there was an extended vamp on the distorted chords before the first verse, and the pre-chorus section ("hello, hello, hello, how low") lasted 8 measures. On the radio, both those sections were cut in half. Does that make it a different song or a different recording? Obviously not.

"But I'm not Nirvana", you might be saying to yourself. "What if a TV producer fills out a cue sheet with the wrong title? What if instead of writing 'Dark Scary Cue', they write 'Dark Scary Cue - 30 second edit'? Will my PRO gleefully keep my money in their bank account earning lots of interest while they laugh conspiratorially, and a stock music cue plays a diminished chord in the background.

OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. But you get my point.

PROs are usually pretty smart about this stuff, and they can figure out that the song is yours. In fact, they're usually happy to pay you even if the titles don't match. If there's any doubt, sometimes they'll even call you at home to confirm - I've received calls from SOCAN a couple times to check if a track was mine.

If you're still nervous about it, here's what you can do: most PROs have an "AKA" or "Alternate Title" field on their track registration forms. When you're registering your songs, feel free to write in all the edits ("Dark Scary Cue - 30 second edit", "Dark Scary Cue - 30s", etc, etc) as alternate titles. This is good insurance against oversights, and makes it easier for the PRO to process cue sheets as they come in and send you your money as quickly as possible.

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: None of what I just said applies in situations where a non-exclusive publisher re-titles your tracks. (We cover this concept in-depth in the course.) In that case, you would let the publisher handle registration of any new titles. If you listed them as "alt. titles" of your main tracks with your PRO, this would potentially remove the publisher from royalty participation and you would have a very annoyed publisher.

I hope all this info is helpful! We covered a lot of material in the course, and some of these concepts take time to wrap your head around - I know they did for me. If you have any questions, my Twitter and Facebook links are below. And of course, if you haven't checked out the "How to Make Money with Stock Music Libraries" master class yet, you can purchase it here:

Happy editing!

Aaron Saloman

In : June 2012 

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