Be damned -publish. On releasing stuff

After a  quick exchange with a mate earlier in which I referred to myself as an anorak and he responded, signing off as geek, I thought may be it was time to just log some of this stuff.

Our little exchange was about bar codes (hardly the sexiest of topics). So this is all about ‘releasing’ stuff and, more to the point, self- releasing stuff. I’m going to slide by the question of why I might want to do this. After all, what makes me think anyone would want to listen to it, let alone pay good money for it – no I’m going to move straight on to the boring stuff. That’s a blog for another day.

So there I was. A bit of studio time, eight tracks which is a fair summary of what the band sound like, and the decision; “I’m going to make this available, its not just a private document”

Then the questions start in my mind… how do I do this (beyond the obvious just pay someone to reproduce some CDs). The complications are that half the material is original, three tracks are definitely other people’s compositions and one takes a theme (20th century long dead composer) and mangles it (well its a jazz album!) I know I don’t own the copyright to all of those.. I’m not even sure what that means. That’s before I start thinking about “.. if I want anyone beyond people who come to our gigs to be able to get hold of the album, how do they get it and how do they know about it?”

Well if there’s a step by step guide anywhere, in plain English, I’ve not found it. So – this is the first in a short of series of what I’ve done. Its not out there yet, but I’ve got a launch gig booked (April 3rd) so something better be available! So there’ll be  few milestones.

As I write this tonight, I’m waiting for the final artwork to come back, and then its all systems go for the digital distribution and replication of the CDs.

After much surfing when I thought about this, I realised there were a few things I was really unclear about: what do I need to do to legally produce some CDs with other people’s musics on. What is the difference beteen PRS, MCSP, PPL… I didn’t get it. Actually..what is a record label? Do I become one just by calling myself one?

In the end, I resolved most of my questions by ringing MCPS up and just asking them what I needed to do to release in physical format and digital. They were great.

The first, most important distinction I realised, was between the composition (tune/ song) and the sound recording of it. Herbie Hancock is clearly identified as the composer of his music. I own the rights to our recorded performance of one his tunes. If I want to make a CD of the recording, I need a license from MCPS to make a physical copy (CD in this case) of my recording of someone else’s composition. How much it cost depends on the length of the song and how many I plan to make .  MCPS then pay the royalties to the composer (or whoever has published it on their behalf). Well, that turns out to be easy. You just apply for one (if you get confused, ring them up!). They send it, once you’ve paid, to whoever is making the CDs. For the three tracks on my album which aren’t mine the cost will be just over  £100. So far so good.That takes care of the copyright on the compositions.

Interestingly if I was just going to do it just digitally and it was going on one of the big sites (ITunes, Napster etc), I wouldn’t need a license. That’s because those sites have a blanket license apparently. BUT, if I put it on my own site, even its only streaming, a license is needed (technically – I wonder who is checking!) All very weird – who would know this stuff.

Back to the CD: If that was all I wanted to do , reproducing a CD and selling it at gigs or to anyone who asks or maybe through my website or myspace,  and so long as my mates in the band are happy that we’ve settled any obligations I have to them then there are no further legal complications. ( To do it through your website, a webby person can easily set you up a ‘buy now’ button on a webpage which takes you to a PayPal page. You would have to post stuff off ….. just like ebay)  . But… I wonder how you do get it on ITunes? what about distributing it a bit further?

Next blog then will be on digital damnation, registering a label and more….


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