Music, books, and personal thoughts on life

Background info on record labels

This information comes from my friend Claes in Denmark.  He has been in the music industry longer than I have been alive!  It’s a bit of an insight behind the scenes in some record labels.

The whole things starts by getting a demo together!!! Not easy… a band can’t afford to hire a studio. They generally do what’s termed a home recording. A crazy example: Years ago, Disneyland After Dark went to Mega Records in Copenhagen, Denmark, and presented what was recorded on a Dictaphone placed on the floor of their rehearsal room.  The sound was horrific. Claes insisted signing this punk rock band and they’re still active.  However, he had to deal with Disney, they were threatening a court case, unless their name got changed.
They changed it to D-A-D right away and they’re the very first #1 rock band in Denmark.  A manager won’t deliver anything at all to the label.  It is generally the band doing the leg-work. They will start honing in on that would understand their music and be enthusiastic right
A typical record label boss is crazy, unpredictable, dictatorial, but still willing and occasionally listen to a crew’s advice. He or she has to be forcibly on top of every major decision, especially those having to do with costs!  The daily nitty-gritty is handled by the crew. Anyone making stupid decisions is fired right away.  A boss is always supervising meetings with lawyers about contracts.
A RC wants to sell TONS of records.  That’s the only aim and all about conquering the whole planet!  Some bands are let loose, do whatever you want. Others are under constant control and have to follow orders.  A producer is along the same lines and gets a royalty share! Plus wanting to impose his or her own sound.
Lawyers play a very major role in having to deal with a lot of stuff. Few are versed in music business, as already delineated. They’re however useful for contracts about investements and handling expenses. In Mega’s case, they were in theory to supervise artist and license deals, but rarely did.
Record labels abroad have fit their OWN markets to sell tons of records! They might well have opinions as to what’s a single for their territory. What’ll work in Japan might not be what works in Europe or the USA.
When composing a song, there are royalties due to composers for recordings plus radio, TV and live performances.  There are copyright societies collecting everything and then passing income on to for example societies in Sweden, after taking a share for themselves. They also deal with plagiary and non-approved illicit uses of songs.  Most countries have two copyright societies: one for what’s called mechanical reproduction (records sold) and the other one dealing with the rest. In the US: American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers(ASCAP) for mechanicals and Broadcast Music International (BMI) for performances on radio, TV, vids and live. The split of it all is 1/3rd to each of the composers / authors / publishers. Any cover version is also a copyright matter as no royalty is paid to band members.
Unless we’re talking about a multinational company covering the entire planet, a smaller label, like Mega, licences rights to record labels abroad for what’s called a “territory”.  An international label has a head office somewhere trying to convince local territories to release the band’s albums and singles; not easy even though a head office has,in theory, dictatorial powers. Local head offices decide on their own whether to promote or not. The implication for a band is “Why are we not released/ promoted in X country?”.
Who’s laughing all the way to the bank?
RL/publishers and the band. To some extent also manager, lawyers and tour promoters… and not to forget banks!


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