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Dean Kay's Contribution to 'Charting a Career Path'
Excerpt from Tag It's Songwriters in the New Millennium
By MusicDish
(more articles from this author)
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Dean Kay
Founder & CEO, Demi Music Corp, and Board of Directors member, ASCAP

What Performing Rights Organizations Do

The MusicDish survey defines them as follows: "Performing Rights Organizations (PROs): provide a key administrative service for music users, who might otherwise need to deal directly with songwriters and composers to obtain the right to perform copyrighted music. PROs negotiate and establish contract, collect revenue, deduct overhead, and pay remaining amounts to songwriters and publishers." In what might be termed half a nutshell, the above is, indeed, what performing rights societies do.

Protecting Songwriters' Rights

From ASCAP's perspective, the other half of the nutshell contains the things we do to protect songwriters in the courts and in Washington along with the things we do to enhance the songwriters opportunities to succeed, to enjoy a better way of life and to be treated with the respect their special talents deserve.

A key element in protecting songwriter's rights and enhancing their well being is ASCAP's never ending commitment to educating the world that songwriting is a separate art form from performing - you can write songs without being a performer, but you can't perform if you don't have a song to sing!

It's a sad fact but no one who uses the fruits of a songwriters labors in commercial settings wants to pay anything for the right to do so. Those users who insist they are for "fair" compensation for songwriters must possess dictionaries that contain dramatically different definitions of the word "fair" than I find in mind. Nothing, or next to it, is how most users define 'fair.'

ASCAP, with its legally mandated right to bargain collectively on behalf of its members supported by its vigilance when it comes to collections and its willingness and wherewithal to defend creator's rights in the courts and in Congress, is constantly on guard and prepared to do battle, if need be, to insure that appropriate payments are made to writers and music publishers and that copyright laws are not undermined.

The Importance of Defending Copyright

Seeing as I've mentioned copyright laws, a quick word or two if I might. I am always distressed when I hear creators come down on the side of those who advocate the repeal or diminution of rights granted to creators under current copyright laws. The thinking usually goes something like this, "If the copyright laws are changed to make it easier for users to use my music, I will have a better chance of getting my music heard." The folly of that reasoning is that most attacks on the copyright law are instigated by those who want to reduce their financial obligations to songwriters by eviscerating the law that gives writers the right to be paid.

Creators should always be staunch supporters of strong copyright law and here's why: under the copyright law, if you own the copyright, you have the option to let users use your music for free if you think doing will give you some advantage. If you select that path, you also have the option, at any time during the copyright's life, to demand payment for your work.

If copyright laws are allowed to be diluted by users who don't want to pay you in the first place, you may never find yourself in the position of having the option of saying, "Now it's time for you to pony up the bucks."

As the digital age kicks in and as copyright becomes more of a subject of public debate, it is especially important for creators to take the time to understand copyright law, to realize that the law's purpose is to grant writers the right to expect others to treat the results of creative labor as the valuable property it truly is.

In the digital world where anyone can take your work without the slightest acknowledgment that you even exist, copyright law is what stands between the songwriter and the complete obliteration of his or her opportunity to earn a living.

For the complete contribution by Dean Kay, download
"Songwriters in the New Millennium: Charting a Career Path"

The authors of the report use the survey to identify what songwriters are and are not doing to further their career and discuss important points that songwriters should consider when mapping out their career.

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