‘All I wanna do is play and write music, I love the purity of being able to express moods,communicate ideas and spread love through the art of music. I particularly love the power of the groove. When I sit at the back of the stage and just play a simple beat, and I see the funk expressed through the peoples automatic head nods, and feet bouncing. Then begins the amazing communication between crowd and band. There is a pure and intimate scene shared. I want to do nothing else, but play music. I live and eat for spreading the power of the groove’ Brett Leboff – August 2003
The quote above is one of my diary entries when I was playing drums full time. I had just finished
music college and previous to that had been playing music pretty much full time for 3 years.
How many musicians can relate to the quote? I read it back and it makes me feel extremely
nostalgic. What happened to the innocent drummer that just liked to groove with and for the people.
Well, one day he rested the spliff in the ashtray leaned back and realised an extremely potent thought
and one that would eventually lead him down a road that he would have never predicted.
I have been in management for 9 years now. The main reason – back then that drummer realised
‘I am a full time musician and I have very little money, I earn mainly cash and I have to be careful
that I stash enough in the bank to pay my rent and bills, I teach a bit and they pay my money into
the bank which helps the rent thing. Then obviously I need a few beers and some recreational time,
so gotta make sure I have some cash for that. Plus, new sticks, a few records and the odd new
hat. Money in – money out, being rung up to play gigs for money – HOLD ON, WTF – I AM IN
BUSINESS! SHIIIIIIIIIIIT. But, I hate BUSINESS, isn’t that what wankers in Pin stripe suits talk
about all day long….BUSINESS???/ I ain’t one of them. I play drums, smoke a bit of dope and when
I do my Friday lunch time Jazz gig, I have a beer in between the 12pm and 1.30pm set. I can’t be in
Yes, and this was the beginning of a journey. Once this realisation kicked in, I studied very
carefully musicians attitudes, managers and booking agents that I met and very quickly realised that
although it was the furthest place from my mind at the time, if I wanted to eat from my art, then I
had to look at this like I was a business.
Now, you get lots of different types of businesses and you don’t have to think of yourself as some
kind of nasty globalised industry just because you realise that you have to manage your finances
so you can eat and pay rent. You can still have a heart and you can still be a decent human being.
It’s just I wanted to be a musician partly to avoid all the bullshit of the ‘normal’ world and now after
learning the drums since the age of 11 and only ever dreaming of being a pro musician all my life,
so I don’t have to be ‘normal’, I learn about this! What a bomb shell!
So, after a time of deep discovery, and speaking to all my musician friends (some who were playing
big high profile sessions with massive bands and getting totally ripped off) I realised how rife this
feeling was amongst the talented musos surrounding me. No one wanted to admit it, no one wanted
to face up to it. ‘Guys, hello!’ There are people selling their skills and the people employing them
are …..hardcore business! But, they wear jeans, they smile and use greetings like ‘hello mate!’ So,
they are probably quite sound and have my best interests at heart!
The penny dropped and my passion was drawn out. I had a thirst to learn about this so called ‘Music
Business’ and went and trained with a music industry lawyer for 2 years, who was a good friend
and also a great Jazz Bass player (he had unfortunately suffered tendinitis as he passed out of
Music College with a 2:1 in Jazz and so decided to go and do a law conversion.) We hung out and
when I told him my passion and said I want to manage bands because, I wanted to help musicians
understand the music business, he accused me of not having a clue what I was doing. An accusation
I was not to deny! I didn’t have a bloody clue! He took me under his wing and taught me a huge
We set up Monumental Management Ltd together and he trained me in all things music business.
It has been a massive journey of learning and realising that not only that if you are in a band, you
are in business. But, because of the smoke screen of casual communication, and hippy greetings,
that we are actually caught up in a business that can be far more shockingly hard core than you first
My passion is bridging the gap between musician and businessman. I try and explain to our bands
why business people act in a certain way. I try and promote to the businessman that Artists are
not a commodity and should be treated with care and respect. I try and recall how bloody hard it
is to be a musician to constantly have the energy to go from shit gig to good gig, to bad writing
session to silly wanker that didn’t turn up to writing session, from great dynamics and sold outs
shows, to writing block and groove shock, to your friends asking you eight times a day ‘how’s the
band going?’ ‘Fuck off just because you chose to be an accountant and you have a BMW, a solid
relationship and mortgage’. Yep, it is a bloody hard life and what is amazing is we do it for the joy,
not for the cash.
We have always specialised in niche music, we don’t sign acts that we think are gonna fly on Radio
1. we sign acts with positivity, passion and flare, people that smile and have blind faith that they are
doing what they are meant to be doing and love it.
There are so many 3 letter words in the music industry, maybe because some bastard corporate
executive was being condescending and decided our fait back in the 1960′s.
In order to do this I will turn to the one subject that many musicians know little about, but quite
often could be their biggest income stream and that is Publishing.
Ok, when you make a track in the studio there are two kinds of rights for that one track. There
are rights in the Sound Recording, let’s call them Master Rights and then there are rights in the
publishing they are called Publishing Rights.
Publishing started back when sheet music was developed. You could sell a song on sheet music
that had been published in the same way as a book. Then when recordings started being made and
pressed onto 78s and then eventually Vinyl, a standard had to be agreed. You could now own the
same song on a record and on sheet music. Surely that means that the song and the sound are both
of immense value.
My Song = Master Rights 50% + Publishing Rights 50%
Ok, we have that. Now, let’s understand the ownership of those rights.
Whoever ‘made arrangements to record the sound recording’ – this generally means whoever paid
for the thing. In most cases this will either be you or a record label.
So, now here are where the questions arise. Let’s break into an example scenario to explain.
Lets’s say I am in a 4 piece band – Keys, Bass, Drums and Guitar. The keys player is the lyric writer
the rest of us come up with the music equally. (If we just take Publishing rights here, although they
are 50% of the track, let’s look at the Publishing rights on their own in which case, seeing them as
100%. ) Traditionally speaking the lyric writer would get half, so, 50% of the publishing rights. So,
that would mean that the rest of the publishing, 50% would get split equally amongst the rest of the
One thing for you to consider, a fact…one of the biggest cause of bands splitting up once they have
made the leap to being professional is an unequal split of Publishing rights. Something for you to
consider. I am not saying you are doomed if you do not split your publishing equally. If you do
not, you must feel that the person who does write the lyrics is so extra talented that they make the
band so much better than it would be – to be precise 50% of the publishing rights better! This is
something for you to talk about amongst yourselves. In my experience, unless someone has brought
a complete song to the table ie. Lyrics and melody, then it is extremely hard to consider who’s
responsible for creating the final cut and on that basis you may decide to admit that the song would
not exist in it’s form if everyone that was in the room when it was created may have given to that
song and therefore it gets split equally amongst all of the contributors….Your decision, but make
it a fair one! If in doubt, I would talk to someone from outside the band who everyone in the band
respects to help make a fair decision.
Now, how do you actually get paid for this?
Well, if you have heard of PRS for Music (Performing Rights Society), they are the guys that
collect publishing money. Radio stations, TV, shops, cafes, bars, clubs, gig venues all pay the PRS
a yearly subscription payment. The PRS then distribute this to songwriters that have registered
with them on their system. How do they work out how much to pay bands? Well, they take random
samples of tunes being played in these places and they give you a pay out on the basis of the
supposed popularity of your music!
Yes, it seems ridiculous, but it is an extremely complicated scenario of trying to collect this money,
at least there is some kind of system. There is definitely a silver lining for bands such as yourselves
as well. This is that there is another PRS payment due to bands and that is when you play live.
You are due 3% of ticket sales split amongst any other bands playing. That goes for a club venue
to festival gigs. Across the board if you are a member of the PRS and you make sure that you
register on their online system, details of the gig you played, with a set list, then you will get money
allocated to you. (You have to have registered details of all of those tracks first. i.e. Name, track
length, writers with percentages.). It is important at this stage to say that you as individuals must
all actually register separately with the PRS with your personal percentages from each of the song
MCPS, used to be a separate society but is now part of PRS for Music. The MCPS payments are
concerned with the Mechanical rights in the songs. Every time a record company manufactures
a CD or sells a track on a digital download it has to pay a percentage to the PRS which then gets
passed onto the writers. For manufacture of a CD it is 8.5% of the price that the CD gets bought
from the distributor by the retailer. This is referred to as PPD (Published Price to Dealer). Which
is normally between £5-£6.50 (then the shops sell for £10, 12.99 etc. and that is how they make
their profit) Incidentally the distributor normally charges whoever is selling them the CD a 20% of
PPD fee. On digital the percentage of MCPS payment is 6% of the net receipts that the label would
collect from each track which is around 50p per track to the major label and about 38p per track for
an indie label. YES!!! That’s right, Major labels have a sneaky deal whereby they get more money
per track back from the iTunes of this world. The excuse is that they have more tracks going to
the download stores and therefore administration per track ingested by the download store is less,
because there are more tracks coming from the same source. Well, I say…Whatever! These Major
labels are heading quickly towards B Minor…(The saddest key of all!)
Ok, there is another society you should be aware of and that is PPL. These guys collect money
from broadcast for Performers not writers. That means anyone playing music on a track that gets
broadcast. This includes producers and re mixers. The way you register for PPL is by ringing them
up and requesting them to send you a form their number is at the end of this article.
The only confusing thing on their very short joining form is that it asks you about territory
ii) collect the whole world excluding the UK
You want them to collect worldwide for you. So you actually select ii) when I asked them why, they
explained that they already collect for the UK automatically, so they are asking whether you want
them to collect from the rest of the world or not! I know, weird, I didn’t help them come up with the
phrasing of this genius question!
They also ask on their form for all song recordings you have played on.
Once you have filled out the forms and sent them back you will get a letter with a login and
password so you can access their online system and see when they have collected money for
you. Their yearly cut off is in July, so, for example, if you join in February, you will not find any
additions to your account until after July. If your tunes are going to be on any radio or TV you need
to join the PPL. Even if you think that they will not be, still join, you never know and it is potential
income for you.
The important thing to remember about these services is that they are all automated, so, they will
only collect money on songs that you have registered with them. So, make sure every time there is
another new tune being played that you register it with both of them.
PPL also distribute a portion to record companies that release the sound recordings.
The reason why you would sign a publishing deal is because they don’t only deal with the PRS for
you which can be quite an annoying process. They will also seek Synchronisation opportunities
(Syncs for short). A Sync is your tune on a TV advert, used in a film or computer game. Every time
the TV advert of film is broadcast you would be due a payment by the PRS and PPL. For computer
games it is obviously more difficult. You would not receive money every time someone plays the
game. Really the joy of getting your tune in a computer game is the exposure. Though you may well
receive a fee for them using your track.
Famously TV, film and computer games used to pay huge amounts of money for your tunes. Now,
that fee has dropped substantially. Some film and TV production companies will still pay large
amounts. Many computer game companies will not, arguing that the exposure of being in their
game has massive repercussions for the act involved, given the repetitive nature of computer game
I can’t emphasise enough that you make sure you sort out signing some kind of agreement between
you and other band members concerning splits for songs as you write them and go through
everything written to date and agree on splits. This issue will never go away and the quicker you
decide on this with each other and write it down and sign, the easier it is to separate this from your
emotional relationships. Don’t let it go, as long as you wish to be a pro band, it is an issue that will
come back to haunt you. If you sort it now and every time you write a song, it is done and you won’t
get stressed and lose sleep over what could be difficult but necessary conversations.
Then it is paramount that you keep your records with the societies up to date. Even at the stage you
are at, there is good money to be collected, certainly from live gigs from the PRS and it will only
go up and up. You may be surprised how much you end up getting from these societies. You know
what a struggle it is, do not pass up a genuine income stream which may help you buy equipment,
pay your rent or even buy a few celebratory band beers.
I hope this has been a helpful article in dissemination of difficult music industry practice. Please, I
urge you to join the societies and make sure you keep on top of registering songs properly.
See you around…It’s nearly festival time isn’t it?
If you are an independent artist and have your own record label you should look at joining AIM www.musicindie.com
You can get a form from PPL by ringing their performers services Performer Services
T: 020 7534 1234