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Hi. I am new here...

My friend and I are thinking of starting an indie label. However, since both of us are new to this area we are still looking at various technical and legal stuff...

Since we are thinking of doing mostly compilation series I am thinking we will also need to license musics from some other music labels. I read that you need both master and mechanical licenses to use the licensed songs in the compilation. Also, when the label ask for a proposal when licensing musics what does it mean? I am thinking it is more of a detail stuff like number of discs, number of tracks per disc, places the compilation will be release on etc?...

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DonnyThompson Fri, 11/24/2017 - 12:17

And to underscore Dave's sage advice ...
Make sure it's an attorney who is very well skilled and experienced in music and entertainment law.
Not just "any" attorney will do. You're not necessarily bound by your country for advice; for example, if your goal was to ultimately distribute to countries like the US, or Canada, you could retain an attorney from L.A., NYC, Nashville, or Toronto, Montreal, etc. , But only for advice. Foreign attorneys won't be able to represent you for litigation. They are bound by the Bar Association for the regions they work in, though there are lawyers who can cover multiple states (or provinces). If your main goal is to distribute or do most of your business in your own country, you'll want council that is knowledgeable in the laws of the country you reside in.
Entertainment and Music Law are very specialized forms of law. You don't want just any lawyer.

DonnyThompson Sat, 11/25/2017 - 04:22

The thing about using an entertainment or music law attorney for this, is that it covers all your bases. Music law is incredibly complex... there are many of us here who are veterans of the music biz, but I think I could safely speak for all of us and say that we aren't the ones you should be talking to about this. I'm not trying to be evasive ... but you want someone on your side who is covering every last little detail... because it's so very often those little, seemingly unimportant details that will come back to bite you, and cause you the most financial pain.
You don't want to try to do this yourself, because you'll miss something, and that "something" could end up costing you your bank account, your house, your entire business, all your assets. It's likely not going to be cheap to have an attorney handle this for you... but the money you spend for that pro counsel will guarantee that it's done right, and that you are protected against personal loss.

paulears Sat, 11/25/2017 - 08:58

Donny - I'm actually quite intrigued by the US situation. Here in the UK, we have loads of independent record companies and our system, even though we complain about it, is fairly straightforward once you work out the system, and we don't really have the need of expensive legal advice. We have three organisations who represent our kinds of rights, and people join as producer or user members - theres MCPS too, who deal with the mechanical licences and look after DJs and stuff - but they represent the vast majority of the music in use here. I'm currently sorting out the music for a season of theatre shows - pantomime. 88 shows with lots of popular music, but often re-written lyrics, and in truth it isn't too bad to do, and then I simply record the entire show - the exact one will be told to me with little notice, and this goes off for inspection and the final calculations to be done. Our system here is similar to yours in general but we don't have this concept of fair use - which you often find mentioned in US rights issues. Here, if you consume it, you pay.

What is the main reason for using the lawyers? Are rights in the US not standard and fixed? Using samples from famous songs in new compositions is quite straightforward but doing it without rights clearance very expensive sometimes. It's not unknown here for unofficial use to result in the real owner getting 100% of the money, rather than a percentage.

DonnyThompson Sun, 11/26/2017 - 03:51

The reason that attorneys became involved to the degree that they were, is because the music business was full of sharks that would take everything you had - or try to.
I was once on the verge of a record deal, back in the late 80's, with a fairly big Indie label out of NYC; the contract was quite complex, and being a musician and not a student of law, I decided to have an entertainment attorney look at the contract for me, just to be safe. As it turned out, there was a section, written with complexity ( intentionally I'm sure) that stipulated that, if a certain number of albums were not sold, that I could have been held personally responsible for the money spent to produce, distribute and market the record. They could have taken all my assets - savings, my home, etc.
So it became necessary to get attorneys involved to protect one's self, as well as to go after revenues earned that companies don't want to pay.
Licensing has become a bit easier as the years have passed, as people have gotten more hip to the process, and agencies like Harry Fox, who, for a percentage, will help you license music for some things.
But there are still times where contract language gets to be very complex, and it's best to have it looked at to protect yourself. ;)