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Marketing your music to the USA (Page 2 of 4)
(c) 2002 Myles Wakeham

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Remember that the US is a highly competitive market for songs. There are thousands and thousands of songwriters, and they all pitch their material to the industry executives who make that all important decision on what songs get placed where. So if you are going to be in the running for a shot at the big time, you need to know how to be prepared and how to pitch your music. There are a number of terms that you should know and even if you think you know what these terms mean, read the descriptions. Often the understanding of the term in Australia doesn't mean that you understand them the same way as our friends on the other side of the Pacific.

Press Package: This is the overall package that you use to market yourself or your songs. Its a package containing three important elements - a demo tape, a photo and a biography. It could also contain a video tape if you are marketing a stage act and visual presence is important (note that video formats differ all over the world - ensure you have a NTSC tape produced for the US market).

Demo Tape: This is the tape that you use to contain the song or songs that you are trying to pitch. Often artists think of a demo as not having to be of high quality. In Hollywood, a demo tape is usually considered of "master quality". This is because of the thousands of tapes that are submitted to decision makers. They can't listen to all of them and typically give a demo about a 15 second shot before throwing it (literally) to the trash can. A bad quality tape doesn't even make the 15 second mark in most cases.

Press Photo: This is an 8 inch by 10 inch Black & White photo of the artist. If the pitch is for songs only, and the artist is not trying to market themselves as a performer, the photo is not as important, however for the most part its an expected part of a press package.

Biography: A biography is typically a one page "resume" for the artist. It is usually pretty hyped up and covers the artist's career, accomplishments, vision, direction, etc. It should be short and to the point.

OK, so we have the terms out of the way. Let's move on. I'll make a couple of assumptions. You have already written that killer song or songs. You have professionally recorded them (I mean in a recording studio, not on your 4 track at home) and you are ready to market it to the US. OK? So let's move on....

Copyright

Before we do anything let's make sure that you have all the legal stuff out of the way first. Before you worry about your demo tape, packaging, etc. let's make sure your songs are protected from those song sharks out there. You have to make sure you have US copyright on the songs.

The US is a different country to Australia and it has its own Copyright laws. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't offer you legal advice on this, but I can say that in the music industry it is generally accepted that copyright to a song is based on who can prove ownership of the song earlier than anyone else. That person is going to own the copyright. Now to prove ownership, the most commonly accepted method is through lodgement of a copy of the song, with the US Library of Congress. This is a huge library in Washington DC that specifically allows you to register your works with them. They have millions and millions of collected works and I believe are the biggest library of collected works in the world. You can lodge your material with them by filing a form, and providing a copy of your material on cassette tape. They charge a fee of $US 20.00 for each lodgement and return to you a certificate of the lodgement that is the essence of your copyright. To order the forms that you need, you can write to the Library of Congress at the following address:

Register of Copyrights
Library of Congress
Washington D.C. 20559
USA

Send a letter requesting a dozen Form PA's for starters. A Form PA is the standard form that you use for registering a copyrighted piece of music. You can also ask them to send you general information on registration of copyright in the US and they usually send out a nice information kit about it. Allow 6-8 weeks to receive something here. You are dealing with the US government. Oh, and don't forget to get that ZIP Code on there. The US Post Office won't deliver anything without a correct ZIP code these days.

 

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