Case Study – Rights Scenario (Music Law)

Randy Smackson, an A&R rep for Simon Towell’s American Idle Records (AI), has discovered his latest “diamond in the rough,” Kelly Tartson. After lengthy negotiations with Kelly’s manager, Paula Maddul, and their attorney, an agreement was reached. Kelly, a talented vocalist and also a prolific songwriter and producer of her own music, entered into an exclusive recording agreement with AI.

In order to get the recording deal, AI insisted that Kelly sign a co-publishing agreement with their publishing affiliate, Rip Off UR Music Publishing (Rip Off), under which Kelly must transfer 50 percent of all copyrights to compositions she creates during the term of the agreement to Rip Off. Under the co-publishing agreement Kelly will receive 75 percent of all income received by Rip Off from the exploitation of the compositions.

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Under the terms of her recording agreement, Kelly will receive the full statutory mechanical rate of $.091 per song for all recordings sold. A provision in the co-publishing agreement indicates that Kelly’s writing services are considered a work for hire. However, Kelly doesn’t receive a salary from Rip Off, and writes at her own pace, in her home studio, with no direction or input from Rip Off.

Suppose Kelly Tartson never signed with American Idle Records, but instead decided to make some recordings of songs which she wrote on her computer in her home studio.

Kelly wants to immediately upload the recordings to internet streaming services like SoundCloud, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, and others.

Kelly’s friend advises her to give you a call, because you’re taking a music business course at Berklee Online and might know about some of the terms she’s heard other musicians talking about, like master and composition copyrights, BMI, bundle of rights, etc.

Kelly gives you a call and asks you what to do to protect and exploit her rights in her compositions and recordings.

Based on the information you’ve learned thus far in the course, discuss how you would advise her, in three paragraphs not longer than eight sentences each. The first paragraph should deal with rights in the composition, the second should be about protecting her rights in the master recordings, and the third dealing with how to exploit the works.

Another option is to prepare and submit a video of your response in a mock call or meeting with Kelly. Keep the same organization in a three-part presentation. First talk about rights in the composition, then talk about protecting her rights in the master recordings, and then lastly talk about dealing with how to exploit the works.

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