Sunday, March 06, 2011


Four times in the last month have my music-related questions led me to dead ends, or frustrated me to the point of giving up (until the next wave of ambition hits).

I'm a member of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, which should more often than not be called 'Throwing Your Time Into a Black Hole if You're Not Famous Yet'. (TYTIBH-YNFY). Not quite true; I did make a couple bucks two years ago, but the rules have changed since then so now I won't be making anything until I reach a certain 'royalty limit'. I do register all my works with them, though, in the slim case that one piece might get played somewhere random that I don't know about (only slightly >0% right now).

Classical music 'business' with ASCAP is kind of a mess. It's easier if you have music on the radio, for example. X number of plays of your work, multiplied by a formula, = your royalties. But with classical music, someone, a literal person from the ASCAP team, has to happen to go to your concert and write down that you had a piece played, and then I imagine he or she takes it back to an Apple IIE somewhere and plunks in a composer's information, to see if you get any credits for your performance. Otherwise, you have to physically MAIL them copies of your concert programs, to prove that you exist. No printed program exists of your concert? TOO BAD.

Let's not even talk about the design of their registration pages, which really grosses me out. There's like, several font colors and sizes and graphic styles trying to vie for my eyes' attention! And it still manages to confuse me every time, or I end up composing something that is an exception to all the drop-down boxes you could possibly choose from.

This is sadly not even the part that frustrates me. Twice now I've sent ASCAP questions, and have received no response. There's a weird rule about not getting any royalties for having works performed in academic institutions. But what if one can rent out a college concert hall for one's own concert? I once asked this question, and did get an actual human response, but it said, "I don't know the answer to this, but let me forward your email to this guy whose job it is to handle this."
And then I got no response from guy #2. Way to go!

Any advice for me from the networld of readers out there?
I'll give myself some advice. 1. Take a deep breath. 2. Have a snack. 3. Keep working on music and don't worry about it right now.

I also want to know about copyright boundaries. I've written works that are sort of like cover songs (known as 'derivative' material, in copyright-speak), but also including original material. They're like arrangements, most of the original melody is there, but I've changed the underlying structures of the pieces. Where does a song's copyright end, and my material begin? I've emailed two copyright lawyers now, and big surprise, no response. Any music copyright lawyers out there willing to send me an email?

The 'industry' or whatever is constantly changing, I know, I know. I would almost go about my business in pleasant naivety about copyrights, royalties, stealing blatantly from pop musicians, if it weren't that I was trying to be one of the few better-informed artists out there. Maybe this is all part of the learning curve?

Lastly on my tirade about the minutiae of things that don't really matter right this second, are websites that make me sign in twice. ASCAP is one of them, and being able to add more funds to my phone through my phone company is another. Seriously you guys, I already signed in to see my balance, why do I need to sign in again to add to my balance? I don't. Game over. I win. I BIWIN.

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