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So you want to be in a rock band?: Licensing your music to sell

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | November 12th, 2007

Being an independent act, or being newly signed to a major label, there are a number of artist-oriented affiliations at your disposal, and to become successful they are essential. Not only are there organizations that will assist you in protecting your art, but there are musician unions whose purpose is to promote and protect your rights as an artist. The latter form of associations go so far as to “attempt” to professionalize music as a career offering legal council, retirement pensions, and tour support.

The Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA)

Overview: The Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) acts as a negotiating representative for Canadian music publishers who are interested in licensing their material for usage in CD compilation projects (mechanical licensing), films, television, commercials and other audio-visual opportunities (synchronization licensing). However, CMRRA does NOT research licensing opportunities for you, they merely assist with negotiating fair licensing rates of your music once you have secured the licensing opportunities.

Moreover, CMRRA ensures that you will receive your entitled licensing percentages, whereas if you issue licensing agreements to various companies independent on a licensing agency such as that of CMRRA, there is no way to guarantee that these companies will actually a) pay you the agreed upon amount per song b) pay you your percentage of accrued royalties from sales/airplay.

Fees: As one could expect of most standard agencies in the entertainment industry, CMRRA takes a cut (six — 10 per cent) of each licensing rate they negotiate on your behalf as their commission, but aside from their percentage, there is no membership fee and the agreement is non-exclusive.

Critique: This service will only be helpful to those interested in licensing their music for use in commercials, movies, TV etc, but again just as with royalty collection from SOCAN, earning a lot of money through this means is not that easy. However, if you manage to get a song picked up by a major car or computer company who regularly buys advertising time in which your song is featured, you'll be rolling in the dough!

I've been a member with CMRRA for just over a year now, and I have not used their service. I prefer (as I have my own lawyer, and a strong background in business) to negotiate my own licensing agreements.

Additionally, indie artists tend to be offered several non-paying licensing opportunities that are truly beneficial in terms of the exposure they provide, and in such a case being a member with CMRRA wouldn't be advantageous.

The Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA)

Overview: The Canadian Organization of Campus Activities represents both the post-secondary schools seeking entertainment acts to bring to their college/university for special occasions such as orientation week, and the entertainment acts themselves (musicians, variety/comedy troupes, DJs etc) both independent, and those represented by booking agents.

COCA hosts several showcase conferences, both on a regional and national level in a given year in which representatives from each school are invited to see selected acts perform. The showcase acts are selected through an adjudication process in which only the acts which are gaining momentum in the industry and/or are seen as groups that have a wide range of appeal are typically booked. The idea here is to allow showcase acts to demonstrate their abilities to whom could be considered potential future employers. Usually favourable acts from these showcases end up doing campus tours.

Fees: In order to have access to any of COCA's services, a talent group must first become an associate member which costs $275 + G.S.T./year. This membership entitles the group to a listing in the membership directory and buyer's guide, a subscription to COCA notes, and eligibility to perform at showcases. A website link on COCA's official site can be purchased for an additional $25 + G.S.T.

In order to appear as a showcasing artist at one of COCA's events, an act/individual must first apply through Sonicbids ($30 USD + G.S.T.). This fee is non-refundable, even if your act is NOT selected. If your act is selected to perform, there is an additional showcasing fee of $200 + G.S.T plus a mandatory booth booking fee of $250 + G.S.T.

Critique: Though this process is expensive, if it worked as it is outlined in theory, it could be worth it in the long haul. However, from both observation and personal experience, I can tell you that the majority of the acts booked for campus tours are already represented by one of the two major booking agencies in Canada: SL Feldman & Associates or The Agency Group, and usually these acts are NOT the selected performers from COCA's conferences.

Lastly, while the college/university crowd may be appropriate for singer/songwriter types or mainstream rock acts, acts such as the ones in my genre of hard rock tend to appeal to a younger demographic.

So, in the event you are considering a COCA membership for its showcase conference opportunities, make sure you consider whether your genre will work in the college/university scene.
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