By Deborah Fairchild
Maybe they don’t always think of it this way, but professional musicians essentially are entrepreneurs, running a business even as they write songs, record music, or perform in public.
They were running a business before the pandemic, they were running a business through the pandemic as they struggled to continue their art remotely, and they will continue to run a business as they emerge into whatever new music world awaits them post-pandemic.
Sure, musicians make music for the love of doing it, but they also need to fiercely protect what they produce lest someone else collect royalties that rightfully belong to them.
Dolly Parton knows something about this. Back in the 1970s, Elvis Presley wanted to record a cover of her song “I Will Always Love You.” As you might imagine, Dolly was bursting with excitement, but only momentarily. Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, revealed that there was a catch. Elvis would record the song, but only if Dolly turned over half the publishing rights.
No chance, she said, and to this day she still collects all the songwriting royalties from the song, including from the 1990s Whitney Houston version.
At least Elvis and the Colonel wanted to make a deal with Dolly, even though she would have come out on the short end if she had agreed. Many musicians lose out completely because their credits were never properly recorded to begin with, so their contributions go unrecognized and unrewarded.
As the music industry evolved during the pandemic, remote recording became more of a trend. That made it perhaps more important than ever that everyone who creates music should have a streamlined way to ensure that their credits are accurate and their files are safe at every stage of the creative process.
Today, whether musicians are back in a studio or still practicing their artistry remotely from home, they need to continue to make sure careful documentation is kept of what they write and record, and that the documentation is safely stored.
Unfortunately, efforts to store recording files and credit notes are at times haphazard, leaving some musicians and songwriters to learn too late that their hard work went unrecognized and uncredited.
The bottom line is that without accurate credits, you cannot be paid for your participation in any project.
One mistake people often make in the collecting and storing process is waiting until after the fact to compile the credits, which creates the risk that someone’s contribution will be left out.
The best way to manage the nightmare of file and credit management is to collect the information at the time you are creating, whether you are writing a song or making a recording. If there is a process in place to easily collect files and credits from the beginning of a project, the chances of inaccurate credits or missing files decrease drastically.
I’m certain that when most people listen to music, they think mainly about the performer. But lots of people can be involved in a project, whether it’s a performer, songwriter, producer, or engineer, and all of them should want to ensure that their credits are accurately submitted at the session-level.
After all, sometimes those credits can end up being worth millions.
Just ask Dolly Parton.
About Deborah Fairchild
Deborah Fairchild, president of VEVA Sound (www.vevasound.com), started her career with the company as an archival engineer in 2004. In the past 16 years, she has risen to lead the company in all facets of the business. She has grown VEVA into a global entity servicing major labels in North America and Europe, establishing offices in New York, Los Angeles, and London in addition to the company’s headquarters in Nashville. Fairchild has kept VEVA at the forefront of technology and continues to evolve and adapt VEVA’s services and technology to assist the needs of their extensive client base. She advises many label executives, producers, engineers, and artists seeking archival and asset management solutions.