Doing the Pinch/Zoom/Pivot Dance

Liner Notes March 11, 2014

Are you ready to do the pinch/zoom/pivot dance? Your potential fans aren’t.

Find out all about the dance and how you can avoid it in this week’s 2 minute video.


In the USA mobile accounts for 15% of traffic to all websites. The Only Sky Artist site gets 36% of our traffic from mobile devices. We have some artists getting over 40% of their traffic from mobile devices.

It’s very important to consider how your fans view your website.

Do you have a responsive website?  Shout out below…

Why do Musicians Focus on SEO

Liner Notes March 4, 2014

So many musicians waste time focused on SEO. Stop spinning your wheels and focus on what will really move the needle.

See what I mean in this week’s video….

What are your thoughts on chasing SEO?  Shout out below…

Is Your Blog Hurting Your Website

Liner Notes February 25, 2014

When a new visitor lands on your home page what do they see? If it’s your blog you may be doing more harm than good.

See what I mean in this week’s video….

Do you agree or disagree with my blog theory?  Shout out below…

Registering Your Song with a PRO Doesn’t Protect Your Copyright

Why ASCAP and BMI don’t protect your rights as a songwriter

The music business has a lot of moving parts. So many acronyms get thrown around on a regular basis that even seasoned music veterans get confused about who does what.

That’s why you might be unsure about the differences between registering a copyright and registering with a PRO (performance rights organization).

Professor Pooch - Copyright vs PRORecently I called up David Spangenberg to get some insight. More commonly known as Professor Pooch, David has been a music business consultant, educator, mediator and contract specialist for almost 30 years.

Pooch explains it like this…

 “Copyright is to protect you, and a PRO is to pay you.”

Many musicians have the mistaken idea that registering with BMI protects a song from copyright infringement; or that registering a song with the government will ensure getting paid. Both ideas are wrong. “They are two separate animals. One has nothing to do with the other,” says Pooch.

The Purpose of a Copyright

According to the US Constitution, the purpose of copyright law is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Copyright defines who owns a tangible creation of intellectual property. Copyright applies to many other areas besides just music. All the following forms of authorship are covered under US Copyright Law:

  • Literary
  • Musical
  • Dramatic
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Derivative works
  • Compilations
  • Architectural works

You cannot copyright a word, title, phrase or idea. That includes your band name or album title. These items are governed by trademarks. You can learn more about the trademark process here.


As soon as you create a tangible version of a song (you write it down or you record it) it is automatically copyrighted to you as the author. But that’s only half the battle. Just because you know you created a song doesn’t mean the rest of the word does. That’s why you must register your new creation with the US Copyright office.

To register a work costs $35. You can register either a song or an entire album of songs for the same cost. Fill out form PA on the website. Once your registration is completed you will receive a date the song was registered and a registration number.

Pooch points out that this number is very important. “If you ever need to assign your publishing rights to another publisher, they will require your copyright registration number. It’s part of an assignment of copyright form.” The number is also used if you ever need to defend your creation in court.

So what exactly are you copyrighting when you register a song? “A song is lead melody and words,” says Pooch. You can’t copyright a riff, chord progression or drum beat as part of the song. A famous example is Andy Sumner’s guitar riff on Every Breathe You Take. Some would argue his guitar part makes the song, but Sting owns 100% of the copyright from that song. Andy is not happy.

Many songwriters have heard of the “poor mans’ copyright.” For years people have talked about mailing themselves a CD and not opening the contents when it arrives. The theory is the postmark will prove the recording was made before that date. The Professor got a little animated when I asked him about it. “Totally worthless! It’s an old wives’ tale. The only thing that protects you is”

Professor Pooch also wanted everyone to know that in addition to copyrighting the writing of a song, you can also copyright the recording of a song. “The song and the recording are separate animals. They are separate copyrights, they are separate forms of income and they are separate registrations.” If you’re an independent artist and you paid to record your song, then you own the copyright to that recording. To register a recording use form SR on the website.

It’s a good idea to own as much as you possibly can when it comes to your music. And having the copyright proves your ownership. Pooch preaches income for musicians. It’s his goal for musicians to make a passive income stream. “The idea of owning everything is to never give anything away or sell anything. You license it.” Great advice.

Here is another resource to help you learn about the copyright process.

The Purpose of a Performance Rights Organization

Logo_bmiThe purpose of a performance rights organization (PRO) is to provide intermediary functions, particularly the collection of royalties, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly. PROs such as BMI and ASCAP collect money on your behalf from radio, television and live performances of your song.

Of course the PRO takes a percentage of what they collect to cover their expenses and make a profit. But if you were to try to collect money from everyone who used your music individually it would take you untold hours. And you would miss out on a lot of income.


The first step to getting paid by a PRO is to sign up with one. The two most common organizations in the US are BMI and ASCAP. Everyone seems to have their favorite – kinda like Ford vs Chevy. BMI is free to join as a songwriter and ASCAP costs $75.

If you sign up as a publisher (more on that in a moment) BMI is either $150 or $250. The difference depends on how your company is structured. ASCAP is still $75.

It’s important to know that PROs are for songwriters and publishers. Pooch points out, “Artists and producers don’t sign up with PROs. If you don’t write the songs, you’re not involved with PROs, unless you own a publishing company.”

Once you sign up with an organization, it’s important to register your work with them. “Signing up with a PRO doesn’t automatically get you paid,” says Pooch. You need to tell them what songs you are releasing so they can enter you into their database and begin looking for those songs.

There are many factors that go into the amount of money each play of your song is worth. Radio is different than television. And a theme song on TV is different than background music. But once the PRO finds your song being used they will mail you a check quarterly (or semi-annually, when applicable) based on a complicated formula of venues and plays for live performances.

To get the most out of a PRO it’s important to sign up as both the songwriter and the publisher. Pooch recommends forming your own publishing company and hiring yourself as a songwriter. It may all sound complicated, but in the long run it’s the best way to get the most revenue from your creative works

Professor Pooch had one last bit of advice for independent artists. “There are so many ways to make money from songs. PROs are just airplay.” In his book, The Music Biz Book, he lists ten ways to make money from a song. Pooch suggests educating yourself about the business side of music to get the most you can for your efforts.

Professor Pooch - Copyright vs PRODavid Spangenberg, Professor Pooch, can be found at He specializes in helping artists and others with the business and contractual sides of music. Having lived the business, in almost every role, he offers real-world advice and services for independent artists and others.


Rock Your ReverbNation ‘More Info’ Box

Liner Notes February 18, 2014

I have many pet peeves, but the ReverbNation ‘More Info’ box is near the top of the list.

Most independent musicians put way too much information in this box.

This week we’ll look at some examples and show you what you should have in your info box instead.

On a side note, that’s 7 videos and I’ve managed to not repeat a shirt!!

How many icons do you have in your ReverbNation ‘More Info’ box?  Shout out below…

The Power of Focus in Promoting Your Music

Liner Notes February 11, 2014

Jennine and I have been watching the Olympics this week. While watching the ski jumping competition I flashed back to my childhood and the “Agony of Defeat” guy on Worldwide Sports.

He got me thinking about what it takes to be an Olympic champion. One of the key elements is focus.

So how can you use the power of focus to launch your music career?


What is the ONE thing you are going to focus on this week in your marketing?  Leave your answers below…

How a Musician Can Build an Email List

Liner Notes February 4, 2014

Last week I talked about the purpose of your band’s website. That sparked some questions about how to get someone on your email list.

What can a musician do to entice someone to sign up on their email list? People treat their email address like gold and don’t give it up easily. So what can an independent artist offer to overcome the resistance and get them on the list?

Here are some ideas….


What is the most original item you’ve seen offered for an email?  Leave your answers below…

What’s the Purpose of Your Band’s Website?

Liner Notes January 28, 2014

You’ve heard us talk about calls-to-action….probably more than once. lol 😉

It’s hard to get people to your website. It takes a lot of time, money and effort. Don’t let them just wander around when they get there. Have a plan.

So what should be the call-to-action of your website? What’s its job?

If you’re an independent artist or band then you should have only one answer. See if we agree by watching this short 2 minute marketing drill.


What is the purpose of your website today? If it’s not to gather emails will you change it?  Leave your answers below…

So You Really Want a Record Deal

Liner Notes January 21, 2014

We recently got the chance to watch Artifact, the new movie from Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars.

If you’ve ever wished for a record deal from a major label then you need to see this movie. It’s a great study in the new music business and how record companies are trying to adapt and evolve. Some would say they are making money at the expense of artists.

In this week’s video Neil shares what he got out of watching the movie and has some questions you might want to ask yourself as you watch it.


From the video:

Watch Artifact


What is more important to you – instant fame or controlling your music? Leave your answer below…

Liner Notes January 14, 2014 – Dealing with Multiple Calls-to-Action on Your Homepage

Have you ever wondered how to deal with different types of people visiting your website?

Reporters, bloggers, fans, super fans, and venues all have different agendas when they come to your website. How do you as an independent artist create a site that speaks to all of them?

In this week’s video I’ve got some tips on how to help all these folks, yet still stay true to the one page, one action rule. Plus I’ve got a sneak peek inside The Indie Bible, a great resource for independent artists to find press, venues and other resources.


From the video:

The Indie Bible


Leave your homepage address in the comments below. Jennine and I will look at your site and let you know what we think is your call-to-action.