The FezGuys
A Trip In L.A.
[ No. 16 - February 1998 ]

Things That Are New

Apple Computers announced a profit!

"Los Angeles...he walks again by night." - The Firesign Theatre

In a pink meeting room in North Hollywood, the FezGuys sit on the floor in front of members of the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL), providing balance. Balance to the relaxed and informal chat of a highly-placed record company executive. Balance to a dense monologue by the director of legal affairs for a huge publishing rights organization. Balance to the confidant amiability of a senior lawyer in music publishing. Balance to the men who stand while they speak. We sit because everybody else is sitting.

In the past, we FezGuys have focused on addressing the concerns of independent musicians in the popular music world. It's evident that in our emerging online world, composers for TV and movies are applying the sometimes awkward lessons learned by pop music groups and their labels. But the environment is different from that of a band. The members of the SCL don't necessarily need the services of a record label. They're well-versed in the art of being independent contractors. When members negotiate a contract it's not necessary to start with an explanation of the usefulness of the Web. They know. They have email addresses and Web access. Most have websites. Most of the members own the publishing rights to most of their music. They're established artists within an industry that's ready to acknowledge the value of the Internet. And they benefit from the work of large publishing rights organizations that clear the path to online commerce. It's an exciting time for this group. This column is about and for these people, but the information is relevant to all.

Music for movies and television represents 20% to 40% of total publishing revenue (depending on who you ask). These composers were gathered in front of us and other speakers to learn more about the opportunities the Internet provides. Some wanted to know how their rights are being protected. Others simply wanted to be better informed about payment through online distribution. Everybody wanted to know how to get more work.

Providing music for television and movies is a highly evolved and very competitive market. Composers are, more often than not, offered contracts that do not include any rights to publishing. It's a one-time fee, take it or leave it. Many composers take it but they're not happy about the status quo. How can this unique community of established musicians benefit from the Internet?


Roger Bellon composes music for the "Highlander" television show. He hired a webmaster to create a comprehensive website about himself and his work, therefore marketing and retailing in one succinct package. He owns and manages his own publishing. An associate supervises manufacturing and distribution. People surfing for info about the "Highlander" series are directed to his site by search engines. In a text statement at his site, Mr. Bellon offers that taping the music from a television broadcast may be "free" but the sound is inferior to a CD of the material available by mail-order. He has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand albums and, due to thousands of requests, has just released a follow-up second volume.

Related Links

National Music Publishers' Association (and The Harry Fox Agency):
Society of Composers and Lyricists:
Roger Bellon's Bellchant Music:
Alf Clausen:

A word about piracy paranoia here. Many independent musicians know from experience that unauthorized distribution can actually assist in the marketing of their product. This free, word-of-mouth advertising always leads new fans back to you, the source. People who like your music want your music. If you provide access to your material, listeners will buy it from you. Be easy to find and simple to deal with. The rule of thumb concerning the protection of intellectual property rights is: protect yourself from copyright infringment by being the most accessable example your musical catalog. That way fans will think of you first. Not only because your music sounds better (on your carefully-crafted CD), but also because they want to support you. Your fans really do! Give your listeners that chance. For those rare situations where a fan-gone-greedy decides to reap profits from your material without permission, feel free to confront them, and expose them to the real fans. Never underestimate the effectiveness of peer pressure within a community to straighten people out. It's simpler than getting the law involved. New technologies in development (such as watermarking) make it even easy to track down those who take revenue from you.

Back to Mr. Bellon... His site has a variety of soundclips. These samples are delivered using HTTP buffering so as to avoid lofty streaming server costs (which might result in driving the price up for CDs available from the site). There is biographical information and lots of interesting tidbits about his work on the show, all delivered in a distinctly non-corporate setting. Cue sheets and relevant links are included. Mr. Bellon invites email, he clearly wants to know who his fans are. The CDs (cassettes are available too) are offered at $13.98US and he doesn't accept credit cards.

Mr. Bellon has taken the responsibility for his career beyond just writing the music. In return for his efforts he gets the satisfaction of running the show, the flexibility of making his own decisions and (happily) more money.

Alf Clausen composes and arranges the music for "The Simpsons", an animated television series. He has a smart-looking website that features a complete discography and credits list. He doesn't sell any physical product from the site but merely scanning the list will likely direct fans to other material which, if he is the copyright holder, will benefit him through increased retail sales in the traditional way. Where else can a rabid fan find out that Mr. Clausen orchestrated music for the movie "The Beastmaster"? The site is an excellent resource for people who appreciate his work.

Jay Chattaway, the composer for the television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation", related the story of an unauthorized posting of a complete song from the show that received over two million hits. Though obviously illegal, the posting prompted his publishers to actually print sheet music for the piece. The Internet made it rather obvious there was a market for this material. Mr. Chattaway's and his publishers revenue is thereby increased.

The point is made again: be the loudest voice of your song. Fans prefer to get the music from you. They will pay you money to do this. The Internet makes the exchange pretty straightforward. To give an example of how detailed and precise your listeners can be, observe the response below to a casual question, posted on an informal newsgroup, requesting information about the above-mentioned piece of music:

On 15 November Paul D. requested a post of Picard's flute song. The title you are looking for is "Star Trek -- The Inner Light" Composer: Jay Chattaway. Copyright 1995 Addax Music Co., Inc. Exclusive distributer of sheet music: Hal Leonard Corporation 7777 W. Bluemound Rd., P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213. Catalogue number HL00294018. UPC Code for Piano solo version: 73999 94018. Suggested retail US$3.95

That's pretty specific, isn't it? One could imagine a hefty fee charged by a data collection agency to provide a level of information that deep.


During the course of the panel discussion it was learned that publishing rights organizations intend to audit ISPs like Compuserve with the same fervor usually reserved for major labels. But the intention seems not to be about clamping down on the transfer of music. It appears the attitude "if you can't beat 'em - join 'em" has caused the giant rights organizations to request a dialog with webmasters about how a solution can be realized that is fair to all. We've been harsh critics of these self-described "collection societies" in the past and it's gratifying to hear them (at least) say they don't want to squash growth. The publishing organizations are willing to listen to the rank and file (that's us!) about Internet use and abuse. These organizations recognize that only by having the "willing cooperation" of webmasters using a "non-proprietary method" of tracking music can any kind of standard for online audio commerce be successful.

One practical way to make your voice heard is to negotiate your contracts with an eye to Internet distribution and promotion. It's interesting to note that mechanical royalties are currently set by the U.S. government at 6.95 cents per song. Synchronization rates (the price paid when setting a piece of music to a visual medium), however, are not set by congress. This gives you the ability to negotiate on a case-by-case basis. This ability opens the door to active participation that stimulates the growth of online distribution. Negotiate higher rates for those with more money, but consider offering a cut rate to those nervous about online use. Better you get the business (from which to grow) than a friend who "has a keyboard." Ask to retain your rights to the distribution of your music on the Internet. Hell, demand (or merely insist) your right to distribute and promote on the Web. When your opposite number flatly refuses, offer a comprimise. By now you have made your point. You are influencing the policies of the policy makers. You make a difference.

ASCAP currently defines every transmission of copyrighted music on the Internet as a "public performance." This definition feels overly broad. Are listening booths at Tower Records a "public performance?" Will a musician have the right to stream an audio performance of their own music? What happens if the musician includes a cover song in their set? When everyone on the Internet can potentially be a broadcaster is everyone expected to have a license for every single transfer of an audio file? How much power should an independent agency have over artistic output? We're all looking for an ethical and universally-accepted standard. It will take the willing cooperation of webmasters, writers and publishers to find a solution that makes sense to all. Unenforcable laws clog the already constipated judicial system and restrict artistic freedom. You have the power to influence these decisions. Taking the responsibility to choose a method of marketing and distributing your music on the Internet is your vote.

Letters To The FezGuys

To the FezGuys: When I have a Windows .wav file ready to go, how do I get it onto my www page as a .wav file, not real audio? Thanks a million, Steve

Dear Steve, We encourage you to convert that behemoth into a svelte (though perhaps not as high quality) compressed audio file suitable for streaming to people over modems. Yes, we're talking about RealAudio or MPEG3. However, we're here to help, so if you truly wish to make that WAV file available, it's as simple as uploading the file to your web site (probably through FTP-- make sure you transfer in raw data mode!) and then simply link it in as you would any other item: <A HREF="file.wav">My Wave File</A>. You might consider down-sampling it beforehand (perhaps to 11kHz 8bit mono) to make it a little quicker to download. We refer you to columns #3 (Jan '97) and #4 (Feb '97) entitled "Placing Your Song on the Web." They, like all our columns, are available at our web site <>.
-The FezGuys

May the Fez be with you!

We jump up and down when you get involved in the online community. Visit us at: <>.



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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