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Showing posts with label Music Business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music Business. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 January 2018


Beyond knowing the art of business, you need to know the particular business that you are into. 

Every business or trade has keys and it is important that as the set man over the business, you must learn those keys and know them.

Give your business what it takes to make it work. Don’t just give your best. You must know your business thoroughly. 

Check the history, future and present trends in your industry. You must stay informed and constantly keep abreast of the facts of your business.


Case study: The Nigerian Music Industry

+ What are the current popular songs?
+ Which artistes or musicians won music awards in the recently concluded AFRIMA awards?
Which music videos are reigning?
+ Which music schools are available in Lagos?
+ As a musician, how can you capture your audience’s attention?
+ How many music collecting society do we have in Nigeria? What are their names?
+ As a music publisher, how will I make profit
+ How do I make profit as a musician?
+ What are the current challenges in the music industry?
+ Do scandals affect the careers of music artists? Etc.


Study the lives of two or more players in your industry. Find out the secret of their success, their mistakes and how to avoid them.

I will love to read your comments.

Friday, 22 December 2017


  • The most important function of a music publisher is to promote songs to licensees (record label executives, independent music artistes, music producers, music supervisors, advertising companies, telecommunication companies, etc) to help get your music re-recorded by a music artiste or used be in films, etc.
  • A good music publisher will have contacts and experience allowing her to promote songs to the maximum number of potential licensees and negotiate good terms for their use unlike if you as an independent songwriter do the running around by yourself.
  • A good publisher will also stay on top of industry developments and actively seek out new sources of income. Without access to industry contacts, publications and experience, an independent songwriter may be unable to place music with licensees at favorable terms. It is most likely that you will be cheated.
  • All these different kinds of licenses and royalties require that the publisher creates, receive and review a lot of paperwork consisting of various contracts, forms and royalty statements. All of these contracts  are complex in nature. Forgetting about or making an error on a form or contract can mean a loss of royalties for you and your heirs.
  • The music publisher will also ensure that a cue sheet, listing every song used in the film has been provided to the performing rights societies, allowing the writers and publishers to receive additional royalties each time the film is broadcast on television or cable channels. 
  • After the music publisher negotiates a license, he collects the fee from the licensee, keeps the publisher's share (usually 50%) and forwards the rest to the songwriter or heir at the end of each royalty period (usually every six months). The task of collecting royalties from a large number of licensees and forwarding the correct percentages to the correct writers and heirs, can be labor and paperwork-intensive. If a particular licensee doesn't pay the agreed-upon fee, a publisher may have an attorney or specialized collections person on staff to go after them. An individual songwriter will not have the knowledge and resources to do these.
  • A music publisher also has foreign affiliates to collect royalties on foreign uses. For example, a TV show or film produced in one country may eventually be shown on cable channels in many different countries. Foreign affiliates are better equipped than the songwriter or original publisher to become aware of such uses and ensure that the proper royalties are paid. The foreign affiliates collect royalties in their territories, keep their cuts, then forward the royalties to the Nigerian publisher, who keeps a cut and pays the songwriter the balance.
  • Another reason to have a publisher is that many potential licensees don't want to deal with individual songwriters. For example, if you called up Kiss Daniel's record label and said "I just wrote a song and I will like Kiss Daniel to sing it."Just like that? I doubt they will be interested. Even if G-Worldwide Entertainment agrees to use your song, you will certainly not get the best deal without a music publisher. 
In my next blog, I will explain what it means for a song to be in the public domain.

I remain musically yours,

DJ Irawo


Monday, 11 December 2017


In my last blog, I introduced the music publishing topic. Today, I will explain how songwriters and music publishers make money from music.

Licensing of music can be likened to the renting out of music like the way we used to borrow movies from the video club. 

The songwriter/music publisher owns the rights to the song but are lending it out to interested parties in the music for which the music publisher collects a license fee and royalties with respect to this music.

Below are the following ways and their explanations are below;

The following are ways by which a songwriter can make money from his or her song; 


Mechanical licensing is the licensing of copyrighted musical compositions for use on CDs, records, tapes and certain digital formats.

A song writer is entitled to receive a compulsory mechanical license fee when ever his/her song is used in a mechanized fashion. 

This means that when a songwriter writes a song for a record label or an independent music artiste, the songwriter/publisher will collect an amount of money from one CD sold and from online downloads from streaming companies. This can be fixed at say, N50 for every CD sold and for every download on ITunes, Spotify, Yahoo music, etc. 

Mechanical Royalties are generated from album sales and digital download sales. 

For example, if an artiste manufactures 1,000 CDs and only 500 copies of the music CD is sold, the songwriter is entitled to a percentage of all the 1,000 copies of the CD. It does not matter if the music artiste sells everything or not.
This is how it is done in advanced countries where the actual number of CD sales or digital downloads is known.

In Nigeria where we do not have accurate statistics of album sales and digital downloads. So, a music publisher like me will collect a fixed amount of mechanical royalty up to about N5m (depending on the caliber of the musician; it could be more), the remaining will be collected in form of other types of royalties.

As a songwriter/publisher, you are owed a royalty whenever your compositions are performed “in public.” This includes:

  • Song play on terrestrial radio 
  • Usage on network and cable TV 
  • Song play on online radio

A popular song can earn thousands and sometimes millions of Naira for the songwriter through the collection of performance royalties.

Performance royalties are collected from radio and TV broadcasters, etc. by the Performing Rights Organizations in Nigeria namely;

  • The Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON)
  • The Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN)

These performance rights organizations negotiate blanket licenses with all those who use music for profit on radio, TV, commercials, in clubs, etc
Performance Rights Organizations monitor radio and television broadcasts and pay publishers/songwriters based on projected uses of a song. 

Performance royalties pertain to the money songwriters earn from radio airplay, television, music services and live performances.


Synchronization Licenses are licenses issued to have music used in film, television, commercials, music videos, etc.

A songwriter earns money from songs placed in TV or Film from the Synch licensing fee paid up front by the film maker or executive producer.

These Synchronization license fees and royalties are generated by songwriters by licensing their songs to be used in TV, Films, commercials, etc.

Synch typically means licensing the right to record the music or songs in synch with the pictures of film or TV movies, etc. The songwriter/publisher is paid a negotiated fee to use the song in the movie.

Note that a sync license gives the license holder the right to only RE-RECORD a song for use in a media project. 

For example, if the song will be sung by one of the characters (actor/actress) in a film, a sync license will be issued.

For example, If Spiff in the sit-com, The Johnsons, sings Yemi Alade’s Johnny, a synch license will be issued by the music publisher to Africa Magic.

A master license gives the license holder the right to use a pre-existing recording of that song in a media project. This means that a song will be used in a film exactly the way it was sung by the music performer and a master license will be issued to the executive film producer. This type of license costs more.

For example, if Wiz Kid’s Ojuelegba is played in a party scene in a movie/drama, etc, a master license is issued by the music publisher to the producer of that film.

It is important to understand the difference between and a master license and a synch license if you’re trying to get your songs in film or TV. 

A master license is obtained from the person who owns the recording (in other words, owns the master). Often time master licenses are obtained from the record labels.


If someone wants to use a drumbeat, sound bite or any other portion of a song you have written and recorded, they must first get your permission and then also pay you royalties for its use.

Both copyright holders (the owner of the master recording and the songwriter/publisher) are owed money when an artiste uses a sample from another artiste’s original work.

For example, before I produced the sample of Oritsefemi's Double Wahala, I sought permission from him via his manager.

Assuming that I was able to promote that song at that time and it was played on the radio several times and the video of the same song was played on TV, COSON or MSCN will collect royalties from the radio, TV and other performance venues and give the royalties made from this song to Ortisefemi.

If we listen to this song carefully, we will know that Double Wahala is not Oritsefemi's orignal composition. he sampled Fela Anikulapo's Double Wahala song even though he added his own lyrics too.

So, for a proper splitting of the royalties from the Double Wahala song, Fela Anikulapo's estate will receive half of the royalties from this song.

I will not receive any royalty from this song because I did not add any significant part to the song. I simply copied the lyrics with my talking drum.

This is how the sampling license works.


As the songwriter/publisher, you are paid whenever your composition is duplicated in print form, including sheet music, lead sheets, books, etc.


Songwriters/ Publishers can also enter into a foreign music licensing agreement with a foreign record company and earn revenue. 

With a foreign agreement, you authorize a foreign record company to duplicate and sell copies of existing masters.

A songwriter can earn foreign royalties as a result of entering into a foreign licensing agreement with an overseas record company or music publishing company.


Equally important, songwriters and producers can generate revenue by licensing their music to be placed in video games. 

When submitting your music to video game developers directly, remember that certain games require certain types of music to compliment the action on screen.

Try to find out exactly what mood the developer is looking for and what games they are working on before submitting your music. 

The role of your music is to enhance the gamer’s experience while they interact with the art on screen; it’s not supposed to take center stage.

The more your intention lay in assisting the overall artistic vision of the project and not so much on just landing a placement, the more likely the video game music supervisors will want to work with you.



Songwriters can make money from ringtones. Ringtones are provided by tele-communication company. You can negotiate with them to have your song used as a ringtone or have a music publisher represent you.
In my next blog, I will write about why you need a music publisher and the meaning of music in public domain.

I am musically yours,

DJ Irawo

Saturday, 9 December 2017


“Music publishing is the owning and exploiting of songs in the form of musical copyrights.” – Randall Wixen.

In most aspects of life, “exploitation” is a bad thing but in the music industry, exploiting a musical copyright is very, very good!

Music publishing is the business of turning songs into money; money that can be an additional income especially if you are also a performing artiste. 

Songwriting and producing is the act of creating the music. Publishing is the act of looking at that musical creation and thinking of the various revenue outlets for it.

Let me break it down. A song consists of two parts namely the;

  • Lyrics 
  • Composition

The lyrics are the words of a song and the composition is the melody of that song. 

A music publisher can deal separately with a lyricist and a composer. 

A lyricist may write the words of a song and may not be talented enough to provide the melody to that song. A music publisher can help with providing the melody to that song if she is musically advanced or the lyricist can collaborate with other songwriters to create a song.
A composer could be a music producer or an instrumentalist who creates an original composition on his or her musical instrument such as the drums, piano, violin, guitar, etc. Yes, the music publisher works with composers of this nature.

Now, there are some people who are vast in the writing of lyrics and in music compositions. This kind of person is known as the songwriter.

This songwriter will go to a music studio to record his or her song with a music producer. Only a song with a melody provided by the songwriter can be understood by the music producer. 
After the song has been mastered and mixed, the songwriter sends it to the music publisher for listening. If she likes it, she will invite you for a meeting to discuss the profit sharing ratio and other business matters. If you agree with these details, she will collect your details, give you a contract to sign and add your song to her music catalogue for marketing to users of music.

In music publishing, the songwriter is different from the music artiste usually known as the performer.

In advanced countries like the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, etc, music publishing is in operation and properly structured. Simple song lyrics that we take for granted and sing anyhow in our movies, radio, etc, are paid for in advanced countries.

The song “Happy Birthday To You” which is owned by Warner Chapell Publishing and written by two sisters, Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, generates about $5000 per day ($2 million per year) in publishing royalties. 

The company insists that one cannot sing the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics for profit without paying royalties. This includes its use in film, television, radio, anywhere open to the public or even among a group where a substantial number of those in attendance are not family or friends of whoever is performing the song. 

However, effective from January 1, 2017, the music and lyrics of the Happy Birthday song have now entered into public domain. In a future post, I will explain what public domain means.

Many times, when we hear popular foreign music on the radio and television, we are quick to assume that the popular artiste that you see performing a song in a music video is the writer of that song. Usually, this is not the case. 

Music artistes like Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Celine Dion, Rihanna, Beyonce, etc have had their songs written by songwriters.

Performing music artistes can also write songs for other music artistes

For example; R. Kelly wrote, I Look Up To You and it was performed by Whitney Houston. He also wrote Back And Forth and Age Ain’t Nothing But A Thing, performed by Aaliyah; Platinum, performed by Snoop Dog, etc. This means that as a performing musician, I can also write songs for other music artistes/musicians just like Runtown wrote a song for Davido.

Read about the songs that Davido bought from other performing  music artistes

Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” was a mega hit. But the person who truly made money off this song was the songwriter Dolly Parton. 

Singer/Songwriter, The Dream, stated that he earned about $15 Million in publishing royalties for writing the song Umbrella for Rihanna. 

Chris Brown has also written songs for other music artistes like; Rihanna, Bad Girl; Fat Joe, Another Round, etc.


Solo Songwriters

A single person may write a song just like in the above examples or R. Kelly,The Dream. Michael Jackson and Chris Brown wrote most of their own songs.

Other examples of solo song writers who do not perform their music but write for music artistes are; Neil Ellwood Peart born September 12, 1952, is a Canadian-American musician and author, best known as the drummer and primary lyricist for the rock band Rush.

Bernie Taupin wrote most of Elton John’s songs.


Multiple Songwriters

Many hit songs have been written by more than one songwriter; collaboration, a case of two heads is better than one.

I do not know whether Nigerian songwriters who feature each other on their songs have such music publishing arrangements in place. This is necessary, for songwriters to earn money and for the music industry to grow.

The song, Irreplaceable, performed by Beyonce, was written by six (6) people; Shaffer  Smith (Ne-Yo), Tor Erik Hermansen, Mikkel, S. Eriksen, Espen Lind, Amund Bjørklund  with a little collaboration from Beyoncé.

I Have Nothing, performed by Whitney Houston was written by two (2) people; David Foster
Linda Thompson

End Of The Road, performed by Boyz II Men, was written by three (3) people; Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons.

So, one hit song can be written by up to twenty people. Having a seasoned music publisher will help you monitor and account for performance fees and royalties associated with that song.

The following are the ways by which songwriters can make money from their song;

Mechanical royalties
Performance royalties
• Licenses for synchronization
• Licenses for sampling
• Print rights for sheet music
I will explain each in detail in my next blog.


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