In the Thicke of things

By Barry Neil Shrum, Esq.

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams spent 2013 on the top of the charts with their hit Blurred Lines, but due to allegations of copyright infringement suit leveled by the children of legendary singer Marvin Gaye they also spent much of 2014 in a court proceedings.
And did they put on a show.

The saga began in early 2013, when the Gaye family approached its publisher, EMI April, about protecting Gaye’s 1977 hit, Got to Give it Up from what it perceived as infringement. The request put EMI between a rock and hard place, however, since the company is now owned by Sony/ATV, which manages both catalogs of songs. The company was reluctant to take any action.

The controversy has created a viral buzz on the Internet, which was fueled in part because Thicke admitted that Gaye was one of his childhood idols. He bought his first Gaye recording when he was only 8 years of age and has consistently maintained that Got to Give it Up was one of his favorite songs of all time. Rumors on the web also indicate that when he and Williams discussed the song, he encouraged Williams to make something that “sounded like” the Gaye song.

In view of the controversy, Thicke and Williams took preemptive action and filed for a declaratory judgment in August 2013 asking a Los Angeles district court to issue a ruling that their song Blurred Lines was not infringing, but rather was inspired by the sound of the late 70’s era of “funkadelic” music. In its response to their complaint, Gaye’s family filed a countersuit claiming that Thicke and Williams specifically infringed Got To Give It Up. The estate also named EMI-Sony/ATV as a defendant, claiming that it breached its fiduciary duty to them by refusing to resolve the conflict.

Each party brought out their best musicologists and mash-ups, but it was the deposition that got the best of Thicke, who consistently refused to listen to the comparison “mash up” played by the attorney, claiming that listening to minor chords over major chords was like “chalk on a [explitive] blackboard.” Read excerpts from the deposition here via The Hollywood Reporter. It produced gems like:

“Q: Were you present during the creation of ”Blurred Lines”?

Thicke: I was present. Obviously, I sang it. I had to be there.

Q: When the rhythm track was being created, were you there with Pharrell?

Thicke: To be honest, that’s the only part where — I was high on Vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio. So my recollection is when we made the song, I thought I wanted — I — I wanted to be more involved than I actually was by the time, nine months later, it became a huge hit and I wanted credit. So I started kind of convincing myself that I was a little more part of it than I was and I — because I didn’t want him — I wanted some credit for this big hit. But the reality is, is that Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song.”

Despite Thicke’s throwing Williams under the bus from a legal standpoint, and his poor composure during the writing of the song and deposition, the trial took a turn in his favor when the judge rejected a summary judgment motion filed by the Gaye family. The court felt that the elements of similarity between the two songs were only present in the audio recordings, but because submission copies under the 1909 Copyright Act, under which Gaye’s work fell, were required to be written lead sheets, the similarities were not as obvious. The judge denied summary judgment because there was insufficient evidence to prove that Thicke and Williams infringed. Despite the technicality, the two songs were found to be substantially similar and Thicke and Williams both admitted to having previously heard the work.

In January 2014, Sony/ATV settled its portion of the lawsuit with the Gaye estate, the terms of which are, of course, not public. As for the remaining claimes, plan on both parties pulling out all the stops for the trial, which is set for February 20th. The Gaye family will be seeking damages and Thicke and Williams will be hoping to only have to pay a licensing fee. Stay tuned to Law on the Row for more information as it becomes available.

Written by John Inniger, edited by BNS. John is a student at Belmont University’s Mike Curb School of Music.

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The Creative Spark

By Barry Neil Shrum, Esq.


You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

As it does every year, this new year marks a new beginning. I plan to continue my Twitter series entitled #creativity, so if you don’t already, follow me there @bshrum, or on any of the social networking platforms. However, I wanted to announce the series here and say a few words on the topic.

There is a trend in modern thinking to discount the significance, and even the possibility, of original thought. The movement is similar to the quo te from Proverbs that there is “nothing new under the sun.” In other words, people are basically saying that an original idea is not possible, since every idea has already been expressed. This idea stems from the corresponding line of thinking that all ideas should be free. If this is true, there is not room for creativity, thought, inspiration, invention and innovation. All such “new” ideas would, in fact, be in the zeitgeist already.

Obviously, I do not agree with this line of thought. I come from a family of creative thinkers and I know from experience that new thought can, and is, generated every day. Our own experience in society falsifies the notion that there is nothing new under the sun, as we see in American history a lineage of great, original thinkers and invention. The light bulb, the automobile, electricity, the assembly line, the telephone etc. etc. All of these innovations are based on sparks of creativity. As American author Jonah Lehrer says,

“Creativity is a spark. It can be excruciating when we’re rubbing two rocks together and getting nothing. And it can be intensely satisfying when the flame catches and a new idea sweeps around the world.”

This is a wonderful insight. It is most certainly difficult in most instances to spontaneously generate truly unique thoughts. There is a propensity in the Nashville songwriting community to attempt to “force” this spark by scheduling co-writing sessions with other like-minded songwriters. This sometime results in frequent complaints about the songs being produced and performed in Nashville, i.e., that they are “all alike.” What people are really saying is that many of the songs are not creative. So, while these co-writing sessions may occasionally produce some innovative ideas, it seems that more frequently the practice is a lot like “rubbing two rocks together” in an effort to create the spark, but actually producing a lot of similar songs.

So, the question is can a person actually do anything to foster the generation of new and creative ideas, or are well all destined to the world where there is “nothing new under the sun”? Research shows that there are certain practices which help the spontaneous generation of fresh and new ideas. I’ll share three of them:

The Inner Child

When we think of creativity, we can’t help but reminisce about the days when we were children. A child has not inhibitions or preconceived notions. To a young child, every experience is new and original. The child cannot help but want to paint, sculpt, draw, write, read and see the world in a new light.

It is that “inner child” that can help the creator generate new ideas. Think about this: why is that many great artists, no matter what the craft, often turn to substance use and abuse in times when they want to create? The reason is, of course, that using a mind altering vehicle often lowers inhibitions and “lowers our guard.” No, I’m not saying go out and tie on one in order to create your next great novel. What I am saying is that if you want to create new ideas, you have to see things from the perspective of a child. Stand on your head. Do somersaults. Perform some of your favorite childhood activities. Get in touch with you inner child and your creative juices will be stimulated.


Another way to get in touch in with your inner child is to just begin writing down any idea that pops in your head, without leaving any room for judging or evaluating the validity of those ideas. This process often puts you in touch with your subconscious thoughts that are frequently suppressed by our conscious mind, where all of our rules and safeguards exist. Original thinkers often talk about thinking all the times. They have very fluent and free flowing thoughts, producing a stream of ideas that are different and sometimes unusual to the less creative observer. But this is how they derive the practical and innovative ideas. Often times, the creative thinker will spend a lot of time “incubating” ideas. As the old expression goes, they “put in their pipe and smoke it.” They percolate the idea in their head until suddenly there is a moment of “eureka” and the idea comes out fully developed. This is the moment that some people feel they are being touched by inspiration, or being guided by their “muse.” The jury may still be out on that, but in reality the key for the creator is knowing how to find these moments of illumination and capture them, regardless of from where you believe they come.

The expression “a writer writes” reflects this concept. If you look at the journals of any great thinker – Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. – you will find scores of ideas that they did not develop. These great thinkers of the world captured their thoughts frequently. In our age of modernity, we have technologies that can assist in that tasks, but we must not lose sight of the important of writing things down as they occur. Keep a journal.


To the last point, some people believe that creativity is not a trait we inherit, but rather is a skill that is developed. That may just be something the non-creative people say, but the fact of the matter is that you CAN learn skills associated with the arts. A person can be taught to sculpt, paint, write songs or novel, etc. If Einstein had not known the “skills” of math, he would not have been able to capture his unique equation, E=mc2. His flash of insight may very well have faded into the moment, thereby changing the course of human history as we know it. My point is this: new, original and creative ideas must be captured and crafted in order to be innovative.

Once you have mastered the art of getting in touch with your inner child, brainstormed a flurry of ideas, and had your “eureka” moment of insight, you must have developed the skills necessary to capture it and put it down on paper. The art of “clothing,” or expressing the idea is a craft that must be honed and developed in order to achieve success, no matter what your area of creativity.

So, hopefully these musings of a lawyer on the subject of creativity inspire you to go out and create. Help me in my quest to stamp out this new trend in thinking that there are no new ideas. Go create some!

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Considering a new copyright law

By Barry Neil Shrum, Esq.

Is it time for Congress to draft a replacement for the 1976 Copyright Law? In point of fact, the law was drafted almost half a decade ago now and its last major amendment came in 1998 with the addition of the DMCA. Many argue that the advent of digital technology, driven of course by the ubiquitous Internet, makes the current iteration of the Progress Clause obsolete. Recently, in March 2014, the current Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, made just such a proposal to Congress, urging them to create “the next great copyright act.” You can read those remarks here. But contrary to that proposal, other advocates of the status quo point out that Congress has amended the current law to keep it up to date. In fact, Pallante acknowledged as much in her remarks when she said “[a]s a general matter, Congress introduces bills, directs studies, conducts hearings and discusses copyright policy on a fairly regular basis and has done so for two centuries.” Her push is a part of a coordinated movement with the House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) to leave a mark on copyright law. While I do not necessarily disagree with the Register of Copyrights that perhaps a consideration of a new consolidated law may be necessary to combine these various amendments, I am bothered by the fact that much of the urgency for a new law is driven by the various interested parties on the Internet who believe that just because a copyright finds its way into digital form, it is no longer protected and should be free for all to use, “mash up” or do whatever the hell they want to with it. These radical thinking individuals, such as The Pirate Bay, Lawrence Lessig, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others use heated rhetoric and emotional appeals to call for a lessening of the copyright protection that has made America the most idea-rich country in the world. While these illogical and emotional appeals are a good way to drum up support dollars and defeat well-meaning and good legislation such as SOPA, they do very little to advance the philosophical and legal debate and should not be the driving force behind our legislation, good or bad. Good emotional causes make for very bad law. These dramatic appeals for changing the copyright act are most often done with a lack of understanding as to its philosophical underpinnings, and often demonstrate ignorance of the business realities faced by those who create the arts and sciences, as well as the benefactors who support them. One of the things that bothered me most about Pallante’s remarks was the total absence of any discussion of these philosophical underpinning of the copyright construct. There was no discussion of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of our Constitution (the Progress Clause) or any reference to some of the chief architects of its current form, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Charles Pickney, just to name a few. It also worries me when Pallante suggests that the current term – Life + 75 – “is long and the length has consequences,” thereby questioning the validity of the Supreme Court’s proclamation to the contrary in Eldred v. Ashcroft. The latter, of course, is one of about a half a dozen cases the aforementioned anti-copyright advocates has levied against the law over the years. Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, summed it up well in an opinion piece for The Hill entitled “Protect rights of artist in new copyright law.” She said “Should Congress take on the challenge of updating the Copyright Act, it must do so guided by sound principles, and its deliberations must be based in reality rather than rhetoric.” At least Aistars points out that the principle of copyright law is driven by the fact that “protecting authors in in the public interest” and based on “stable property rights.” Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 gives Congress the right “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Madison and Jefferson debated the various components of this clause with some degree of fervor in their massive collection of actual correspondence, with Madison defending the idea that if our society gives up a monopoly (copyright) to creators, the value of that monopoly will generate the creation of widespread ideas that would ultimately reward society. There is no doubt that the equitable component that was bestowed upon authors and inventors the day the Congressional Congress approved the Progress Clause has created the America we know and love today through the wealth of new ideas and expressions that have been created in the form of books, music, films, visual arts, scholarly research and inventions. Without that value in the patent or copyright, there would be no Apple, no Microsoft, no IBM, no Ford, no Chevrolet . . . you get the point. This is the reward that Madison envisioned our society would gain by giving individuals control over their creations, a theory that Locke and others disseminated long before the new nation of America was conceived. As Aistars summarized in her article, “Ensuring that all creators retain the freedom of choice in determining how their creative work is used, disseminated and monetized is vital to protecting freedom of expression. Consent is at the heart of freedom, thus we must judge any proposed update by whether it prioritizes artists’ rights to have meaningful control over their creative work and livelihood.” The most important thing for Congress to consider if it picks up the gauntlet laid down by Ms. Pallante is this idea that society benefits by giving a monopoly to creators. Given an individual who has created a work of authorship stable property ownership in that work is the foundation of our great Country and is the primary goal of copyright. To take that away takes away one of our inherent and valuable Constitutional rights, even greater perhaps than our Freedom of Speech and Assembly. Any new proposal much cherish the rights of the creators that the current Copyright Act has created and retain the same privileges and advantages. The future of our Nation in the Internet Age depends on it.

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The Evolution of the Disney Princess Brand: Becoming the Best Selling Entertainment Licensor

By Barry Neil Shrum, Esq.


By Samantha Jervey*

When Walt Disney decided to personally license the image of Mickey Mouse in 1929, he had no idea that he would start a licensing revolution. In essence, they are in the business of “deliver[ing] innovative and engaging product experiences across thousands of categories from toys and apparel to books and fine art.”[3] That being so, character licensing plays a huge role in Disney’s business dealings, which thanks to Kay Kamen, is an area that the company is well versed in. Kay Kamen joined the Disney team in 1932 when he was appointed to take charge of Disney Licensing.[4] It was then that he set the standard for character licensing within the entertainment industry thereby making it possible for Disney to grow into the world’s largest licensor today.[5] Out of their vast set of properties, Disney owes much of their licensing success to the Disney Princess brand. The brand is a promising niche to marketers, in addition to having mass appeal to consumers, making it an attractive product to licensees all around. Furthermore, analytical licensing charts and merchandise sales trends suggest that the Disney Princess brand will forever be timeless in the eyes of little girls and women alike.

As a large company with such a wide range of licensable properties, Disney is responsible for keeping track of their character database in an orderly and functional fashion. They have done so by dividing their licensing unit into five
strategic brand priorities, one of which is Disney Princess and Disney Fairies. The Disney Princess brand first appeared as a cohesive collection under Andy Mooney when he was appointed as chairman of DCP in 2000.
[6] In its entirety, the Disney Princess royal court accounts for 11 princess characters that embody a rich legacy and a unique set of inner qualities and values.[7] The elite group includes Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Merida, Mulan, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Snow White and Tiana, each of whom serves as a role model to young women across the globe.[8] Families today love the traits that these women inspire among their daughters, “such as being spirited, graceful, smart, kind, compassionate, courageous, heroic, adventurous, passionate, confident, and brave.”[9] That being said, the brand is clearly marketed towards a target age group, although it has grown into something bigger than itself. Mary Beech, vice president and general manager of Global Studio Franchise Development, states how Disney is “hitting a key developmental pattern for little girls, ages 2 to 5.”[10] They are doing so through intricate storytelling and top-level character appeal, which in return, is stealing the hearts of little girls.[11] Furthermore, Disney’s understanding of who they are as a brand, along with marketing strategy, has helped to lay a foundation for their licensing success.

Seeing how the brand did not premiere as a cohesive collection until 2000, it did not take long for Disney Princess to conquer the licensing industry. Disney consistently ranks as Number 1 on most lists of global licensing, consistently generating worldwide revenues in the high 26-29 billion dollar range. As a reaffirmation of how well the company had been doing, in 2012, The Licensing Letter released their second annual list of “best-selling licensed entertainment merchandise” based on 2011 retail sales in North America.[12] The list accounted for many classic brands, including Star Wars and Sesame Street, with Disney Princess charting strong at number one.[13] In North American retail sales, the Princess brand made $1.6 billion, while reaching an
Princess_thumb.jpgimpressive $3 billion in global sales.
[14] These numbers were based on the sales of physical consumer goods alone and included “t-shirts, stationary, toys and electronics.”[15] Furthermore, it is important to note that this list did not take into account merchandise manufactured by the property owner, but solely licensed products “that outside manufacturers pay an average royalty of 8.7% of the wholesale cost to produce.”[16] Finally, the numbers also exclude licensing revenue from other powerful Disney brands such as Pooh ($1.09 Billion), Cars ($1.05 Billion), Toy Story ($685 Million), Disney Fairies ($435 Million), nor Disney’s subsidiary, Marvel Comics, which is reported separately and generally garners around 5 billion in worldwide sales, all of which also consistently rank in the top ten.

Disney’s success in licensing relies heavily on the demand of consumers, which is so great that manufacturers have no choice but to license their products in order to create supply. Ira Mayer, publisher and executive editor of the Licensing Letter, believes the reason that the Disney Princess is in such demand is that “there are surprisingly few girl properties like it [sic].”[17] In fact, product licensing is a fraction of Disney’s overall revenue, but that profit is due to its strong brand loyalty.[18] Because Disney’s properties, specifically those licensed by Disney Princess, are in such high demand, the company can afford to license its characters at “an above-average royalty of 15% or higher.”[19] This gives Disney Princess a rare advantage in the entertainment industry due to unrivaled product demand.

In addition to having high consumer value, the Disney Princess brand is more successful than most due to its adaptability in the market place. In truth, Disney Princess could probably license their properties in any market and still be successful, although the biggest licensing opportunities currently lie in the field of merchandise. Out of their assortment of licensed products, the brand encompasses, though is not limited to “toys, apparel, accessories, home décor, Kellydress_thumb.jpg consumer electronics, school supplies, and personal care.”[20] In addition to those lucrative products, they have found a niche within the wedding industry, such as with licensee Kirstie Kelly, who recently created a bridal collection inspired by the Disney Princess brand.[21] In fact, the company derives most of its product ideas from three core categories: dolls, role play, and books.[22] In Beech’s opinion, these three things are what have inspired growth into new markets, such as “live events and products for adults.”[23] Having this type of awareness and understanding of what consumers want has definitely helped Disney Princess stand out among their peers. They know exactly who their buyers are, along with what they are looking for in a product, and that is “style, sparkle and storytelling.”[24] In short, Disney Princess is not limited by age or expectation in the licensing world.

It is important to note that when you are a company as big as Disney, it is vital that you keep a watchful eye on the use of your properties to ensure their reputation. This is a lesson Disney learned the hard way in 2010 when they went to court to file a copyright and trademark infringement claim. In Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. Away Discount, Disney caught their Defendant in the act of making and selling unlicensed merchandise.[25] Though the relevant facts in the instant case were brief, the Plaintiff, Disney, did indeed “own the exclusive rights to a number of trademarks and copyrights” that the Defendants were found violating.[26] The properties that were infringed included Disney’s Disney Princess, Winnie the Pooh, as well as a number of other big licensing names for Disney.[27] What this illustrates is that Disney keeps a watchful eye on suspicious behavior involving their copyrights and trademarks. As one of the biggest licensors in the world, it is a necessity to do so. While recovering monies lost is always important, it more important to maintain the reputable brand name of your characters, which is something that Disney is avidly passionate about. After all, it would be a shame for an infringer to forfeit the magic and persona of the Disney Princess brand that many girls have grown to love worldwide.

In conclusion, Disney’s Disney Princess brand is well deserving of the title as the entertainment industry’s top merchandise licensor. They have poured much time and energy into establishing themselves as a reputable name and it is crazy to think that it all started with Walt licensing the image of Mickey Mouse himself. Since Andy Mooney’s decision to group the ladies under a brand umbrella, Disney Princess has reached success far beyond anyone’s imagination. There are no limits when it comes to licensing opportunities with these girls, which is what makes them such a rare and hot commodity. With every t-shirt, bedspread, doll, or wedding dress, Disney Princess leaves a magical imprint on the hearts of their consumers. That being so, come 10 to 20 years from now, the beautiful stories and lessons left behind by these princesses will live on far beyond their inception.


*Samantha Jervey is a student at Belmont University majoring in Entertainment Industry Studies with a minor in dance. This article was written as an assignment in Mr. Shrum’s Entertainment Law & Licensing class. Her passions include music, writing, learning, and helping others. Having attended high school at Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia, Samantha is dedicated to promoting the value of arts in education. She spends most of her time in the Nashville community looking for new ways to support and grow her knowledge of the entertainment industry.

[1] Disney Consumer Products, “About Us.” Accessed March 14, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Disney Princess Power. (2009). License! Global, 12(4), 40.

[7] Disney Consumer Products, “About Us.” Accessed March 14, 2014.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Disney Princess Power. (2009). License! Global, 12(4), 40.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Jenna Goudreau, Forbes, last modified September 17, 2012,

[13] Jenna Goudreau, Forbes, last modified September 17, 2012,

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Disney Princess Power. (2009). License! Global, 12(4), 40.

[21] Disney Princess Power. (2009). License! Global, 12(4), 40.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86119. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2014/03/23.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

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Logan Brill on an upward trajectory

By Barry Neil Shrum, Esq.


By Emily Fitzmaurice

Nashville is long overdue for a fresh songwriter like Logan Brill. Since Brill’s freshman release, Walking Wires debuted in late last year, this 22-year-old Knoxville native didn’t lose any momentum in the Country and Americana music scene, scoring tons of accolades from industry and press alike. For example, Brill’s Walking Wires was included in Ken Morton, Jr.’s blog, That Nashville Sound as one of the Top 10 albums of 2013. Brill postponed her education at Belmont University to pursue her dream of writing and performing, signing a publishing deal with Carnival Music midway through her first year there.

“[The album] was a long time coming,” comments Brill. “We’ve been picking really good song content for the last year and a half, songs that I either wrote in a time when they were really relevant to me or a song that I felt really connected to. We tried out a ton of different stuff. We thought each of the songs had something really special about it.”

With a writing style that has proven to be authentic and musically mature, this up and coming artist has made her mark in Nashville and shows no signs of slowing down. The 10-track album seamlessly blends country, blues and rootsy melodies that immediately grab the listener’s attention. As Morton says, “[Brill’s] sound is fresh and the lyrics are poignant. At only 22, her storytelling belies her age. The depth of the emotions conveyed through the performances relate well to her soulful voice, particularly when singing of loss and heartache.”

A perfect example of this is found in album’s opening song, “No Such Thing as Ghosts,” admittedly one of the favorites from the tracks. The song instantly places you in Brill’s inner world; reflecting on the haunting truth that love has a way of lingering. Then out of nowhere, Brill releases her rebellious side on the albums blues infused track, “Month of Bad Habits.” But ultimately,

Brill’s album ends with the beautifully honest song, “Fall off the Face of the Earth.” She begins and ends the song with the following lyrics:

“I think I’ll fall off the face of the earth and hope that I land on my feet. And pray that the distance will bring me redemption, even if it’s not what I deserve.”

These powerful words paired with an acoustically stripped down track allows Brill’s unbelievable talent to shine through the cracks, making this album nothing short of captivating.

Brill and her attorney, Barry Neil Shrum, have recently completed negotiating an Exclusive Recording Agreement with Carnival Records, the recording arm of the publishing unit, Carnival is owned and operated by renowned Nashville producer Frank Liddell, who is responsible for generating eleven number ones in the past decade. Carnival also boasts talented artists and songwriters such as David Nail, Gretchen Peters, Stoney LaRue and Mando Saenz.

Brill’s Carnival Records label mate and co-writing partner Saenz says, “Logan is not just a pretty voice. She has a very honest voice that touches people when they hear it.” I second that motion.

You will be able to hear songs off Brill’s debut album live this summer, as she is set to tour the country promoting ‘Walking Wires.’ I think it is safe we agree with The Chicago Sun-Times, when they stated, “Brill looks and sounds like she is up for the challenge of becoming one of country music’s brightest new stars.”

Be sure to follow Brill on twitter and check for tour updates on her website!

Emily Fitzmaurice is an associate and guest writer to Shrum & Associate’s. Fitzmaurice is also a talented singer/songwriter who is a fan of Logan Brill.

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Remi Harris: Why The Music Industry Needs To Be Fluent in Funder-Speak

By Jonathan Robinson

Getting funding for music seems to be an obsession at the moment, with the launch of several new schemes this year alone to provide loans, investment and grants to music companies for artist development, most recently Momentum Music.

But didn’t this all used to be so simple? Back-in-the-day (for me, that means the late 90’s, but feel free to reference the era of your choice), a band could not only sign with a major label or publisher, but also with a wide range of really tiny indie labels or managers, who could actually get an advance from an indie distributor against record sales, which would fund production and marketing costs.

I’ve started using the phrase ‘music’s intra-industry funding model’ to describe this system.

Intra-industry funding meant the ability to access funding via a wide variety of entry points all without leaving the music industry. That meant you were dealing with people who spoke the same language…who understood what ‘selling out Shepherd’s Bush Empire’ meant in a band’s trajectory, who could nod their heads sagely when you talked to them about ‘getting spot plays on Radio 1′, and who appreciated implicitly what that meant in terms of the credit or investment they could give you. Of course, it was never easy to get funding to launch a music career, but there were ways and means of doing it.

The intra-industry funding model is still with us, but rather shriveled. There are other ways of getting money, some of them new and promising, but now the language is awkward and unfamiliar to most of us. We’re blagging it, trying to translate terms like ‘exit strategies’, ‘enterprise finance guarantees’, ‘outputs’, ‘perks’ and ‘pledges’…

At the start of this year, I began writing a book about funding for the music industry. I was passionate about sharing my interest in this subject, and determined to create a reference for the thousands of companies and musicians who want to look for funding, and who would otherwise have to research this for themselves.

I’ve taken as a starting point my conversations with artists, managers, musicians, publishers and labels about getting money, interviewing the ones who are good at it – as well as talking to many funders. The guide is going to be a simple way of understanding how it all works, and which type of funding is going to be best for you personally.

One of the most important terms I have been explaining is the ‘trade-off’ between the funder and the person receiving the funding.

There has always been a trade-off between, say, a record label and an artist, whereby the artist gives up a certain amount of control over their rights and how their music is presented, in return for the investment and expertise they get from the record label. The dynamics of this, for good and bad, are well understood by people in the industry. We spend a lot of time trying to get a label for artists, and then managing that relationship.

I’ve increasingly realised that if we are looking for other sources of funding, maybe we need to spend as much effort on understanding and learning funders’ language as we do on our relationships within the music industry. You have to know who’s who in the funding world, and what they are looking to put money into.

My forthcoming guide to music funding covers six main areas: crowd-funding, borrowing, investment, grants, sponsorship and money from friends and family.

It talks about the trade-off that happens between the funder and the recipient, what it takes to attract money, and what you are expected to deliver, once you have taken the cash. It explains the motivations of the different funders clearly, and looks at how they are aligned (or clashing) with the motivations of the artist.

So in the future, the music industry will need to be fluent in funder-speak – it’s going to be the language that enables a diverse range of entry-points for new music to break through.

Remi Harris, Music Industry Consultant and author of our forthcoming guide on music industry funding.


Sept 2013: Music Industry Funding Guide | Oct 22 2013: Access To Finance Convention
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How to run a music crowdfunding campaign

Remi Harris: Gathering A Crowd – Running A Music Crowdfunding Campaign

By Jenny Tyler

Crowdfunding has become incredibly high-profile in the last year. Amanda Palmer became one the most well-known names associated with it, when she raised over a million dollars from donors using the Kickstarter platform in order to produce her album, art book and tour. Meanwhile, on the music-specialist crowdfunding site Pledge Music, Ginger Wildheart raised money from over 6000 ‘pledgers’ to record a triple album. 

Continuing A Tradition Of Public Subscription
It turns out that composers are well versed in having their work funded by public subscriptions and donations. A recent survey of BASCA members that asked how commissions are funded revealed that 48% of the 97 respondents had had a commission paid for from Individual Giving or Fundraising Schemes, so the tradition of public subscription as a way of funding composition is well embedded. A number of Orchestras run schemes that offer members of the public the opportunity to contribute to the commissioning of new classical work. The Royal Philharmonic Society, for example, was set up 200 years ago in order to be put on concerts paid for by members’ subscriptions, and has commissioned many new works including, famously, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Their fundraising for composers and performances of new work continues to this day. Another example is Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s Sound Investment program, which allows the public to purchase units of £150 towards the cost of commissioning new music, in return for benefits such as a named acknowledgement, an invitation to rehearsals or a chance to meet the composer.

Dr Gwendolyn Tietze, the group’s Director of Development says that the scheme has been highly successful, “We launched Sound Investment in 1991 with two aims: to raise money to be able to commission more composers; and to involve more people in the excitement of creating new work. So far, Sound Investment has helped us premiere 68 new works by a variety of emerging and established UK and international composers, raised over £300,000 for new commissions, and it has involved over 300 individual donors.”

This sort of innovation by commissioning organisations seems set to continue, with the announcement on May 9 that a consortium led by Sound and Music has been awarded a ‘Catalyst Grant’ by Arts Council England, to enable them to run trials involving crowd-funding to cultivate mid-level donors.

Some Media Writers have seen new opportunities from the rise of online crowdfunding, with independent film and video game makers able to use the technology to plug into an alternative source of money to put projects into production. Richard Jacques, an award-winning Media Writer has been asked to create music for the online trailers used to generate crowdfunding income, and says these platforms can work well to get interesting and more indie projects off the ground. Richard recommends keeping an eye on projects that are in development as a way of tapping into potential score-writing opportunities.

Independent Fundraising
Online crowdfunding platforms can also offer the individual composer or songwriter or small organisation the option of doing this sort of fundraising independently without having the infrastructure of a commissioning organisation or music publisher to financially support their writing. Websites such as Pledge Music, Indiegogo, Kickstarter, My Major Company and others are all geared up to connect individuals with music projects in need of funding. But how suitable are these platforms for the work of songwriters and composers? Certainly, one of the most obvious challenges is that most of the active crowdfunding campaigns for music online are being run by performers. The typical model is that supporters will be offered a physical or digital album and access to a live performance as a reward for their support, which may not be something that all writers can offer. Another issue is that in order to crowdfund you need a crowd. Writers who are also artists and have their own fan base are likely to have a ready-made group to approach, but others will find that this is something that has to be developed from scratch.

On the surface, crowdfunding sites may not seem like a natural home for writers and composers, but digging a little deeper, it is clear that there are advantages to them. One of the benefits of these sites is that they do allow more unusual and interesting projects to find their audience without necessarily appealing to the commercial mainstream. Projects can take almost any shape or style, giving huge scope for creativity in how the work is delivered. Writers may find that they get a refreshing amount of support from their contacts and enjoy the experience of a dialogue with their network and the public directly as they create their work.

Author Miranda Ward experienced these benefits when she crowd-funded the publication of her first book ‘F**k The Radio, We’ve Got Apple Juice: Essays on a rock ‘n’ roll band’. The book is a memoir based on her experiences as a freelance writer and her friendship with Oxford-based band Little Fish. The book explores the nature of success and creativity, through the story of the band. Miranda was supported by fans of the band, readers of her blog and the local music community in Oxford to write the book. There was demand for the book, which Miranda was able to demonstrate to the publisher Unbound, by getting grassroots financial support. Miranda remarked, “Fans of the band were prepared to throw their money at it and spread the word”. She warns, though, that independent fundraising does take a great deal of work, “I was really happy to do it, but it’s quite an exhausting process…I felt like I was a broken record constantly saying ‘support this thing’…and then you have to sit down and actually write it…I felt I had a responsibility to these people [who had pledged money]….it is a lot of investment on both sides”.

Life Cycle Of A Crowd-Funding Campaign
Crista Kende is a professional freelance Violist based in New York City. For over a decade she played on a viola on loan from a foundation, but when she completed her Masters at the conservatoire Julliard she had to find an instrument of her own. As she also has a job working at crowd-funding site Indiegogo, it was natural for her to turn to the platform to raise money for a world-class instrument to continue her career. Crista set out to raise US $ 24,000 over a 30-day campaign, and kindly shared some details of the process with The Works.

Speaking from her New York office, Crista says: “There was definitely a lot of planning, a few months (worth). I don’t think I understood the whole process until I did it for myself”. During the campaign she had to be very proactive about contacting people, publicising her campaign, updating her page and other social media and responding to queries, “It’s really like a part time job, spending a few hours per day – you work for it”, she says. This included reaching out to Viola and Classical Music groups on sites like Reddit, and contacting people on Twitter she thought would be able to publicise her campaign. She got a late boost from a mention on Norman Lebrecht’s widely read ‘Slipped Disc’ blog in the UK, and all of this helped her break out of her inner circle and reach strangers.

The kind of perks that Crista included in her campaign were carefully chosen so that she would be able to put the money raised towards the cost of the Viola, and not spend it on fulfilling the perks. She offered Viola lessons, a ‘Crista Channel’ where she would release one recording each month of Viola pieces performed on her new Viola and tickets to a recital amongst other benefits.

25% of the money was raised within the first week. Then there was a ‘lull’ in the middle weeks, which Indiegogo says most campaigns experience. 2 days from the end date, there was still $11,000 dollars to raise, but the target was reached by continually reminding people of the countdown to the deadline, which spurred some late funders into action. In the end, 188 different people contributed between $5 and $1500 to the campaign. Crista estimated that she already knew around 75% of the people who contributed– some were family members, but others were loosely connected to her, and people that she would not have approached for funding had it not been in the context of the campaign.

Crista’s primary tip is not to approach people feeling as if you are simply asking for money, the exercise needs to be treated as, “creating a market place for your services and finding a way to communicate with your audience on a different level”. She says that in her experience, “people are actually very interested”.

Classic Crowdfunding
A few examples of successful crowd-funding campaigns for classical music projects

Early Adopters
Over on this side of the Atlantic, and in a popular music genre, BASCA member Rob Flanagan of London band Some Velvet Morning used the French site My Major Label to raise £100,000 for the group’s second album. The three-piece write all of their music together, and had already released their own debut album and an EP, before launching their funding campaign in late 2010. The site offers members a chance to invest in projects with profits being split between the investors, the band and the record label. This campaign saw the majority of the money coming from investors hoping to make a return on a few hundred or few thousand pounds speculated on the band, and fans putting in smaller amounts. Fans and investors were offered copies of the album and other rewards such as T-shirts, studio visits, vinyl and artwork prints, depending on their level of investment. The money was raised within 6 weeks.

Rob says that the group’s good quality audio-visual material was important in winning the backing of investors on the site, “We got a synch in the trailer of a film called Kickass with one of our songs called ‘How To Start A Revolution’, and were allowed to use the footage for our video. I intercut the film footage with video of us performing, which ended up looking like a very high quality product”.

Some Velvet Morning also posted demo material online, telling fans that as each new fund-raising milestone was reached, another demo would be released. This helped to drive the campaign forward, with fans reinvesting or encouraging friends to back the campaign in order to hear the next demo. After a change of distributor and label personnel, the resulting album ‘Allies’ was released in Europe and online by My Major Company/Warner Music on May 13th 2013.

Within Reach

So crowdfunding is something that isn’t new, but the online platforms available put it into the reach of every songwriter, composer and author – whatever their genre or size of project. The crowdfunding platforms will offer support to you as you plan your campaign. Pledge Music, for example, can offer guidance on choosing the right funding target, using a ratio that look at online engagement with fans. They also offer advice on the right rewards to offer, and introductions to their partners who can help with publicity, manufacturing and fulfilment. Or there’s Indiegogo’s Customer Happiness team, which offer extensive online advice about how to organise a campaign. Ultimately, though, the best way to pick up some inspiration is to look at successful campaigns, so there are links to all the campaigns mentioned in this article listed below which might spark even greater use of crowdfunding for new music.

How They Did It…
Discover more about the campaigns highlighted in this blog:


Remi Harris, Music Industry Consultant and author of our forthcoming guide on music industry funding.

This article first appeared in issue 37 of The Works – the magazine of BASCA, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Reproduced by kind permission.


Sept 2013: Music Industry Funding Guide | Oct 22 2013: Access To Finance Convention
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How to be a professional musician.

By Jason Giroux

There is no doubt about it, music is fun- and it should be. For many, however, music is work. For these people music pays the bills, supports their livelihood, and puts food on their table. For these individuals who work in the music industry whether it be as performers, technicians, music teachers, managers, journalists, or marketers maintaining a level of professionalism is essential.

Debunking the Music Industry Myth

Music is often seen by the uninitiated as little more than entertainment. To the outsider or even amateur touring musician the level of hard work needed to succed is often not apparent which leads to an inaccurate view of the discipline involved with being successful in such a competitive field. Because of this many romanticize about having a career in the music industry and are unequipped to engage in the hard work and apply the determination needed to be successful.

With this in mind, if you are an inspiring professional musician or music industry professional you may want to keep a few simple things in mind to increase your chance of being successful by establishing yourself as a dedicated professional:

Shake the “Rock Star” Ego

This may have worked for Jim Morrison and Johnny Rotten, but the truth is that this is good way to shorten your career and lessen the number of people wanting to work with you. Just remember that you are an artist but you are also part of business, and that your business is dependent on others who can help you get ahead. Keep a Regular Schedule Working in the music industry means the potential to be exposed in a lot of late night activities. Of course this is obvious for performers but it applies to any other professionals in the industry as well. Be sure to keep a regular schedule and don’t partake in every late night party. When you do attend industry events remember to always remain professional.

Make Friends, Not Enemies

This may seem obvious but it is quite important and cannot be emphasized enough. Like many industries, the music industry can seem quite small and word gets out quick. If you are a music writer and publish inaccurate information, plagiarize, or don’t follow through with assignments word will spread quick throughout the blogosphere. Similarly, if you are a venue with a reputation for shorting your performers when it comes time to pay up at the end of the night or a music teacher that cancels too many lessons you will find that you will have a hard time being successful.

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If you have a expertise and/or a product or service in this area, please consider creating a free info-ad. The more informative your contribution, the better we can help with your business.

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