Archive for February, 2009


A note about publishing

February 20, 2009

I receive quite a few emails from artists on the topic of publishing.

Often, as in “Why do you ask for an artist’s publishing on a song if placed?”

Wow, that’s a great question.

And I know a bit of a sensitive/touchy one.

So let me start here.

Things in the music business are changing so much every day.

It’s a full-time job keeping up with contacts as people are getting laid off every day and new technologies like facebook, myspace and youtube are sprouting up every other day.

I actually have been one of the biggest proponents of spreading the “don’t give your publishing away” message. (It brings back horrific memories of meeting with a “music supervisor” who had worked on major feature films, who took me out to lunch, name dropped how she knew Jimmy Iovine and all these “important” people and was trying to talk me into giving her my band’s publishing simply because she was “well connected” – yikes. Scary! And to think this woman was “recommended” to me by an A&R “friend” of mine. Shady. Shady. Shady.)


As times change, so must we, as artists and business people, adapt to the changing environment.

Clearly, for most artists, getting signed to a major label and a major publisher is just not the way it’s gonna work anymore.

Major labels have downsized so much and new artists that used to come out of the box on a major and start selling 20,000-25,000 CDs a week are now lucky to sell 5,000-6,000 CDs a week.

Guess where that hits? The publishing area. Mechanicals are down. Way down. License fees are down. WAY down. Everyone is looking for a way to save a buck.

As studios are hit by the credit crunch, they are making less movies and having difficulty obtaining financing for new films. Even Dreamworks, which has, oh, I don’t know, a small director named Steven Spielberg….has had great difficulty in this climate obtaining financing for its future films.

TV networks are also being hit as advertisers like, oh, just about every major car company and just about every retail store and corporation are cutting back on their advertising spending.

So who does this affect?

Where does this hit?

The budgets of films. And TV shows.

And guess which budget is first to get downsized?

Sadly, you guessed it – the MUSIC budget!

Some music budgets have shrunk TO a third (not by 1/3 but TO 1/3) of what they used to be – and they are shrinking year after year.

Anyhow, why am I telling you all this?

Because it affects the up front license fees paid to artists – both big and small.

Artists like you.


Now, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Not at all.

The GOOD news is that more and more indie music is being licensed.

More than ever before.

I bet ASCAP and BMI are just overwhelmed these days with new artists and publishing company applications like never before.

So, the good news is, that while the fees are coming down and will likely stay down for some time, if not forever, there are more needs than ever for indie music.


Now what does this have to do with publishing?

And specifically you’re likely thinking to youself, “How does this affect the value of my publishing?”

Well, as you know, if you’re a songwriter and write your own material, either as a solo artist or with your bandmates, you can make money licensing your songs.

But how much money is your publishing worth?

Good question.

I always say – something is usually worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

How many offers have you had for your publishing?

By all means, if you’ve been signed to a major label before – or have a track record of licensing a lot of your songs – your publishing has value. Someone should pay you for it.

However, what if you’re, say, me, or one of the other 3 million indie artists on myspace. Or my cat. Or my aunt.

None of these people (or creatures) has ever licensed their music before.

I’m willing to bet most of these artists or bands have never sold more than a few hundred CDs, if that.

How much is my aunt’s publishing worth? Or any of the artists that release one of the, oh, I don’t know, roughly 50,000 CDs that comes out independently each year?


Now this is just my opinion but to me, that artist or band’s publishing isn’t worth anything.


Because the songs aren’t making any money.

And songs that aren’t making money, aren’t worth anything.

Sure, some artists get signed based on their “potential” – but if you’re one of those artists, you’d likely know it. Because you’d already have been signed to a major record deal or major publishing deal. Or something else would be going on with you or your songs.


So, you may ask, why do I ask for an artist’s publishing on a song, if (and only if) it is placed in a film/tv or other opportunity?

Well, simple economics.

I run a business.

And most artists pay $10 a month to get music listings.

$10 a month.

That’s $120 a year.

Most radio promoters charge $500-600 a week with a minimum 8 week campaign.

Most music publicists charge $2,000-3,000 a month with a minimum 3 month campaign.

I charge $10 a month or $120 a year, if that.

That’s why I ask for an artist’s publishing on a song – and only ONE song, if placed.

Because artists, so many artists, claim they are “poor” or “broke” – and that’s fine.

I’ve given up taking money on the front end to be fair to artists – and in exchange, am willing to take money or payment or ownership on the back end – and *only* if I place a song somewhere.

“Wow, what a great deal for me,” you should be thinking to yourself.

If you’re an artist, a songwriter, you should be writing songs every day.

Yes, every day.

The 2 artists I am working with now have each written over 100 songs.

100 songs.

They’ve both been signed to major labels before.

They are prolific.

One song out of a hundred should be no big deal.

At least, that’s how I would feel if I were an artist.

If I were an artist, I would GLADY give someone ownership of one of my songs (just one) if it helped launch my career, get me press, get me money! I’d still own the writer’s share of the song, don’t forget, and will get money when it airs on TV.

Plus, it’s just one song.

If I were a songwriter and licensed one song and had to give up the publishing, I would just go and write another song.


I am changing with the times.

And changing my business with the times.

It’s called adapting.

And it’s something we need to do.

And something YOU need to do these days if you want to survive.

After all – no one I know listens to 8 tracks, a lot of vinyl, cassettes tapes….and CDs are slowly but surely going away….

Publishing isn’t what it used to be.

No one is paying out major advances anymore. Certainly no one that I’ve heard.

In fact, I met with a “major” publishing company recently who told me they just signed a new artist for well, a very “small” amount of money. I think somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000. And I bet that for that money, the publisher will own every song that artist writes for pretty much the rest of their life. In fact, most publishing deals these days are for $15,000-$25,000 and often those deals are for artists that have a record deal already.

Gone are the days of million dollars advances. By labels or publishers.


So, why do I ask for the publishing on ONE song if it’s placed?

Because the license fees paid up front aren’t what they used to be. You’re lucky to get $1,000-$5,000 most of the time for a spot. And that’s after me pitching hundreds or thousands of songs and spending weeks, or months doing so.

And for the record, I’ve done the whole “work on commission and not own anything on the back end” and gotten screwed by artists. I have no interest in adding value to an artist’s publishing unless I’m 1) getting paid money up front to pitch their music and/or 2) have some vested interest in their career long-term.

Done the whole “work for free/cheap” thing. Several times. Not interested in doing it again.

It’s too much work to get even one song licensed these days without having some ownership of it.

And to me, if you’re an artist, write another song. It’s one song. If I get you a placement that raises you up from one of 3 million unknown artists on myspace to an artist with a song featured in a major tv show, movie, video game or ad, what’s the big deal? You can still sign away the publishing on every other song you’ve written; I’d just own the one song!


Hey, I’m open to suggestions on ways to work together.

To me, the “publishing ownership on one song IF placed” is more than fair for an artist is paying me a meesly $10 a month.

If you want to figure out another way to work together, I’m all ears.

If you’re making money from licensing your songs, hit me up with a proposal. I’m always open to a new business opportunity for artists that are already making money.

But the deal is what it is.
And it seems more than fair to me.

Oooh yet I get so many artists, who’ve never paid me one single penny, who cry and yell and scream and threaten to drag my name through the mud because what I’m doing is wrong, illegal or unethical. Wow, really?

To me, charging an artist thousands of dollars a month seems wrong, illegal and unethical. Yet every single radio promoter and music publicist I know does it. Hmmm….they’ll take your money and they will (or will they) do work for you? You gotta do your research to see who is actually performing for their client. And in fact, all too often I hear my publicist friends complain that their clients (musicians) have unrealistic expectations about what they can do for them – all the while being paid thousands of dollars a month.

And most radio promoters I know are scammers. They make up the charts and in one instance, a promoter didn’t even send out one single CD on the artist that hired them – but they fake reports and all looks good to the artist or client.

Wow, and here I am; I can’t even take an artist’s money if I don’t at least think they have some shot at scoring a film/tv placement, getting a label interested or getting some radio airplay. I can’t, in good conscience, do it. I just can’t.


It’s fine. I realize that as I become more successful, there will be 2 kinds of artists.

The artists that are happy for me. And are smart. And want to figure out a way to work together. Because these days all I seem to do is get invited to dinner by record label presidents or meetings with major publishing companies. And these artists, if not happy with the terms in my “standard” deal are smart, calm and collected and send me an email “Hey is there any other way we can work together?” and you know what? I usually try to find a way.

And the other artists? They get angry, call me names, threaten to write up reports of what a “scam” I am. That’s fine. Go ahead. Let your jealousy and bitterness rule your world and see how far that gets you. My attorney would be thrilled to have some libel and slander cases I’m sure.

It’s sad but these people haven’t realized that you get a lot more with honey and if they simply asked nicely, I would be more than happy to figure out a way to work with them.

However, what you can’t do is say “I have no money now AND I don’t want to give you any money or ownership later” and expect anyone will work for you.

Of course, this is the point at which they throw a fit and start badmouthing me and my company and that’s fine. It really just reflects poorly on them, not me.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep taking my dinners and lunches and getting offered jobs doing film/tv placement because I’m the hardest worker and “most persistent person” most people know….


If I were an artist and had no money, I’d GLADLY give someone the entire song if they got it placed in a major film, tv show, video game or ad campaign. Or, I’d hire someone to do promotion for me. Or, I’d do it myself.

I’ve worked for 10 years developing relationships with labels, film/tv, A&R, radio, etc. 10 years. I’ve given up more than you will ever know to be in the position I’m in.

So there you have it.

No one in life works for free. (No one good anyhow.)

If you don’t like it, that’s fine. You can simply unsubscribe from this list. No hard feelings. I won’t call you “cheap” or a “liar” or “unethical” or “shady” because you don’t want to pay me.

In fact, I dare anyone to find me someone who does film/tv placement AND gives out all the hundreds of articles of advice on the industry like I do. I do this because I want artists to be educated and informed and I don’t want you to be taken advantage of.

Things are changing in the music business at a very fast pace and I need to work with artists that are changing with the times.

There are no hard and fast rules in the music business anymore.

Look at how powerful Rolling Stone magazine used to be. Now I bet you most artists would prefer a feature on the myspace music page than the cover of most magazines.

It’s the wild west out there and either you adapt and change with the times, or you die.

I choose to change.

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

~Artist Management~Music Licensing~Music Publicity

“Anything worthwhile in life requires time, patience, and persistence.”
–Cheryl Richardson