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Client Feature: Bad Owl Talks Building a Synch Business and Staying Connected Post-Covid

We recently spoke with Bad Owl, a boutique creative agency working in the synch space. Team members Megan Kinney, Dani Kraft, and Laura Payne share how they run a successful synch house in the time of covid, and founders Samuel Murphy and Peter Kastner share the company’s core values.

How did Bad Owl begin?

MK: Bad Owl got its start when Samuel Murphy and Peter Kastner were playing in a band together at Universal Studios. The company started out of their partnership.  Sam already had a few film credits under his belt and a large collection of orchestral music, so together, they built on that by working with other artists, developing their production skills on collaborations, and creating the Bad Owl brand. Then from there they pulled us in to support it.  I was drawn to Peter and Sam from the beginning for their production skills and how they approach making music.


LP: I used to work in a law firm where I represented Sam for his film scoring work, and then began representing Sam and Peter’s band, Karmic. So through that process we all became friends and from there I started doing all the legal work for getting Bad Owl started. A major aspect of the foundation of Bad Owl was taking control of Karmic’s sync rights, instead of dealing with third party sync agents, which became a really important choice to make as they continued to see more and more success in the synch sphere.

What challenges did you face in the beginning of the business?

LP: Our main challenge was that none of us had a good set of connections within the sync world. Peter had done some advertisements in Austria, but for the most part we were starting from scratch. So Dani hustled for that.

DK: It took a minute to learn the best way to reach out, send the right email, and how to approach people. A lot of trial and error there. Now it feels way more natural, and it helps a lot being able to share examples of past work that we've done. It's also fun because I think our music is so great, so it's exciting to share it. But, that initial struggle of “how do you approach someone” was major. There's been a lot of drafts, a lot of edits made to that process.

MK: Being artists first, in the beginning we were figuring out how to run and structure a business. I've learned so much from LP about all the documents you need in place to protect yourself as an artist.  We’ve also been figuring out how to take current industry standards and shift them so that agreements actually support the artist as much as possible. That's taken a lot of thought, time, and consideration from everybody, but it’s always worth it when we reach a great deal with friends. We’ve had negotiations go on for six months but when you finally land it, it really feels like forward movement.

What came easily from the start?

DK: The music.

What's the best way to get a music supervisor to listen to your tracks? 

LP: Being passionate about the music, even if it's just through email, versus in the “before-times” when we could actually meet people in person and have a personal connection.

MK: I’d say focusing on making the music the best and truest expression of what it's meant to be, and then finding the right people to pitch to.

DK: Yeah. And you don't need every supervisor to be in love with your music. Even just finding the few who do is really powerful. Those people will reach out and ask for tracks, and it becomes a great relationship.

What does a typical day look like, if one exists?

MK: We all have varying days. Some days I'm putting all my energy into creating music, but then I’ll get a pitch and I’ll have to totally switch gears. It all depends.

LP: Dani and I probably work the most closely together, in the “before-times”, we did a lot of in-person lunches, coffees, meetings with supervisors.  So these days we try and set up calls and zooms, as much as possible, and it is nice now that it doesn't matter whether or not you're in L.A. anymore. You can get to have a face-to-face meeting with anyone, no matter your location. Besides that, I'm always working on some kind of contract for an artist or for a license deal, that inevitably gets interrupted with some emergency brief that Dani and I pull together in a couple hours. 

DK: For me I’m always making a lot of playlists. Every day is a bit different. And now that we're expanding more into artist services and growth, there is a lot of coordination to do whenever a release is coming out. Making press sheets, trying to help our music get on more Spotify playlists, and then bringing in interns and managing other people, plus tackling briefs that come in, we always have a lot going on.

Have there been any major events or turning points in the company's history that have had a lasting impact or shaped how you work?

MK: Covid really threw a wrench in our system. Before it hit we were jammin’ with our day-to-day meetings, and then so many production houses just froze.  Everything was suddenly put on hold and all the briefs we were getting just stopped for a good while. But with that time we’ve worked to expand more into other services and taken more time to get into the nitty gritty of marketing campaigns.  We’ve worked to figure out what steps we need to take as the industry is shifting so dramatically. That was a turning point and a big period of expansion.

DK: Yeah, realizing that we can have revenue streams come from more than just synch, and expanding and creating our own visual content and imagery. 

If there was something you could go back and tell yourself when you were first starting the company, what would it be?

LP: The process of building this business is going to take time.

MK: Celebrate the little wins along the way. I think that we definitely do that already, but sometimes the connection you made a year ago or 10 years ago might serve you when you least expect it. Cultivating relationships and connecting with people around your shared passion for music is never a wasted effort. When you’re sending music to people, you never know when someone might remember that and get back to you. That should be an exciting thing even when it can feel slow in the beginning.

DK: It's great to talk to everyone really, not just the supervisors, because you just never know, people move around. You learn more working with many different types of people. 

LP: Yeah, I'm often thinking, “is this phone call or meeting really going to move us forward in some way”, but in our experience it's not that binary.  You never really know what could come of it.

DK: Also, I think people need to remember that just because your song wasn’t placed in a spot doesn't mean that the song wasn’t a good fit. It's still an awesome song. It happens, you just have to let it go and keep going.

MK: Always, always tell the former self keep going.

You guys are a mostly female-run company. Do you work with any other cool female-powered businesses?  

DK: We just did a project for Viacom where the executives we worked with were all women, which was super cool. There's also a lot of supervisors who are women that we talk to every day.

LP: Yeah we work with a lot of awesome, badass female supervisors. And our guys Sam and Peter are very supportive.

Any recent placements that you are especially proud of?

LP: One of Karmic’s tracks was in a docu-series called Equal that's going to be on HBO Max. It's about the fight for LGBTQ rights over the last century.  

PK: We placed a Karmic track in the end credits of an episode of The New Pope.

DK: My mom worked on a documentary called No Single Origin about a coffee shop run by refugees. It's a beautiful story, and they used a few of our tracks which came out perfectly. It was so emotional and impactful.

MK: Sam had a track in the trailer for the movie Just Mercy, which was such a powerful story. The track led you into the trailer and came out amazing. It’s exciting to see a song pull you into a story connected to a positive movement. We need that these days. You see how music can elevate a story and help something literally be heard better in the world. That’s always very fulfilling. 

What would you say are Bad Owl’s core values?

SM: I feel like our core value right now is based on growing as individuals so that we can grow as a team. Everyone is constantly trying to better themselves, learn, and then carry those principles into collaboration. I feel like that type of mindset is really helpful. We've realized that just from being on the same page more often during the week, touching base and talking about the music and what we're thinking about as far as the future is concerned we find great momentum. So I think growth individually, as people, as humans, but also as a business, what that means to grow as a business and the responsibilities that come with it as you get better. Our mantra is Beating Adversity Daily, Only With Love. 

PK: One of my favorite sayings is this: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

There are always people who inspire you. If you’re able to work and create with such people,  you’re golden. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to push each other to dig deep into our creative sources and ride this incredible wave of the ever changing music world. The music business is the most bizarre phenomenon. It’s literally changing every year. It’s unpredictable and we’ve gotten pretty good at adjusting to the currents. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2020
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A Music Professional’s Guide to TikTok

We’ve compiled all the information a music professional needs to know about TikTok, the short-form video sharing platform that’s become a major player in the music industry.

The Rise of TikTok

TikTok is currently the leading platform for short-form mobile video and one of the most downloaded apps in the world with over 800 million active users. 

The app allows users to upload 15-second videos, and set them to music from TikTok’s library of songs. TikTok’s “Sound Selection” page provides users with discovery tools like genre playlists and “Hashtag Challenges” that guide video creators in exploring music and trends. TikTok has described its role with the music industry as “a music discovery springboard for viral hits”.

Over the past few years, TikTok has secured deals with most major distributors and labels. Merlin, a global agency that represents tens of thousands of independent music labels and hundreds of thousands of artists, signed with TikTok at the beginning of the year. Since then, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music, the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), and indie music distributor UnitedMasters have all signed agreements with TikTok, among many others.  

An additional dimension to TikTok’s music dealings came with the launch of sister company, Resso, a music streaming app that combines social media functions with music, and draws its music catalog from TikTok. The app, which stands as a direct competitor to current industry leaders Spotify and Apple Music, allows users to create playlists, lyric posters, and animated visuals to share across social media channels. The platform also lets artists build profiles, create posts using their song lyrics, promote songs, and interact with users directly.

Royalties and Exposure

Labels and TikTok have grown into a partnership of mutual benefit; TikTok maintains its library with all the latest releases, while rights owners gladly comply, given the unprecedented opportunity of going viral.

TikTok pays out royalties on a quarterly basis and earnings are based on the number of videos a track is used in. TikTok royalties do not account for how many times the video is streamed. Each label or distributor has their own deal in place with TikTok that determines how much of the revenue will be paid to their artists for each use in the app.

Artists must note that to collect royalties, the TikTok video needs to use the snippet of your song that was delivered to the app by your distributor, so every artist must unequivocally work with a signed TikTok distributor. TikTok maintains a hardline stance in their terms and conditions against paying out royalties for user uploaded audio.

In the absence of live music, online music discovery and the ability to attract listeners is what’s driving the conversation across the industry. Both new and old tracks have been at the center of viral sensations on TikTok, resulting in massive cross-platform streaming numbers. Spotify has followed suit with their own emphasis on music discovery by providing a new feature that allows artists to “boost” certain material, prompting the Spotify algorithm to serve it to listeners more often, in exchange for a reduced royalty rate.

On October 22, TikTok launched a weekly listening session called “Watermarked” where artists preview new music to fans directly within the app. Every Thursday at 11:30 p.m. ET, a different featured artist hosts the program via TikTokLIVE, sharing new material of theirs before it hits streaming services at midnight and answering questions posed by fans in the comments.

Friday, 20 November 2020
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New Site Features: Registration Contact Selector, Metadata Checkup, and Claim Exports

We recently launched three powerful new site features to optimize your workflow and strengthen your music business.

User Registration Contact Selector

Our new Contact Selector field lets libraries provide site registrants with an option selector for which department their registration request should be received by. 

Previously, all login registration requests were received by the same email(s), as designated in the admin panel. Now, companies have the option of including a contact selector drop down on their login request form. Site administrators can customize the name of the contact selector field and each contact option, then set which team member(s) should receive the registration request based on the registrant’s section.  

For example, each option in the drop down can be named to display a different media format, or level of service needed. Depending on the registrant’s selection, a registration email may be received by a music supervision team, a sales representative, marketing analysts, composers, or any combination of the above. Ensure new clients get in touch with the right team member for immediate, specialized attention without any extra steps or unnecessary buffers.

This addition builds on a wide array of tools for formatting the information request form for login registration. Configure registration requests to be auto-approved, or to require manual approval. Use a standard text field to collect basic information, a text box to collect more detailed information, a multiple choice drop down or phone number formatted entry field, and set whether each of these fields should be mandatory or optional.

Metadata Checkup: Writer and Publisher Fields

We’ve launched a new page in the admin panel called “Metadata Checkup” where site administrators can make sure their metadata is up to best standards and practices.

The checkup tool currently assists sites in streamlining their writer and publisher metadata into our PRO formatted interested party fields. Sites using outdated metadata will feature tools on their metadata checkup page to seamlessly shift their old data into PRO compliant formatting. Sites that have properly formatted metadata will display a message confirming that no changes are necessary.

This advancement means that old, singular “composers” and “publishing” fields no longer need to be manually maintained. Instead, site administrators can now select for their admin panel metadata exports to include singular “writers” and “publishers” fields that each collect all relevant party names and create a composite field for the export. The deletion of these deprecated fields and automation of this data means half the manpower spent maintaining it, and guaranteed PRO compliance to save even more time when registering tracks.

Streamline your PRO registrations and royalty collection in over 70 territories by opting into global publishing administration with SourceAudio Collect.

Export YouTube Claim Data

The Youtube Content ID claim panel now features a CSV data export tool. 

The new claims export tool provides site admins with a new level of control over their data by allowing them to download claims and all relevant information into a CSV spreadsheet. This spreadsheet contains the date and time of the creation of the claim, YouTube codes to identify the claim, video and channel information, and relevant track metadata including writers and publishers.

To export a CSV claims spreadsheet, click the Export Claims button in the top right corner of the claims panel, specify the date window to export claims for, and click to export.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming launch of our latest revenue-generating program, ClaimFreeMusic, an opt-in library service for social media licensing. Participants earn passive quarterly income as we market and license their music for use on social media– coming soon!

Friday, 13 November 2020
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Neighboring Rights: Everything You Need to Know in 2020

Neighboring rights have long been a point of confusion for many musicians, but they’re really very simple! Neighboring rights are public performance royalties due for the use of a given sound recording. These royalties are due to the performers and master recording owners of a track, but too often this money is left unclaimed.

Royalties from neighboring rights add up to more than two billion dollars annually, topping $2.6 billion in 2019, so today it’s more important than ever for works to be properly registered so that entitled parties can collect on this essential income source.

The Basics

Neighboring rights, sometimes called “related rights”, get their name in reference to how the sound recording copyright “neighbors” the composition copyright. You may often hear this sound recording copyright referred to as the “master” or referenced as ℗, while composition copyrights are often referred to as the “song”, the “publishing”, or referenced as ©. 

These two pieces of intellectual property that exist in a track each have their own separate royalty streams. The PROs around the world pay out public performance royalties for the use of a composition, while neighboring rights societies pay out public performance royalties for the use of a sound recording. 

Payout Breakdown

Payments originate from the digital broadcasters and, in most countries besides the U.S. (more on that below), terrestrial broadcasts that are obligated to make a master-use statutory royalty payment of about $0.002 for every play. This money is paid directly to their country’s neighboring rights organization, who in turn pays out to the registered entitled parties for that track. 

The U.S. neighboring rights society, SoundExchange, has shared the following breakdown of how they distribute master-use royalties.

  • 45% gets paid to the featured artist or artists (the parties advertised as the artist for that track)
  • 5% gets paid to non-featured artists through organizations like the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and SAG-AFTRA
  • 50% gets paid to the owner of the recording

This means that if you are an independent musician self-releasing your music, under US copyright law you are entitled to both the artist and the rights holder shares.  Even if you work with a label or distribution service, SoundExchange is obligated by law to pay the featured artists’ portion directly to the artist, so it’s critical that recording artists register themselves directly on SoundExchange to avoid leaving money on the table, even if they’re on a label.

Differing Policies Around the World

For reasons that have long been disputed, the U.S. has remained one of only a small handful of countries around the world that does not pay out royalties on traditional, terrestrial neighboring rights. It was only in 2003 with the foundation of SoundExchange that U.S. performers and master recording owners began to see any compensation for the use of their sound recordings as digital neighboring rights came into play.

Digital Neighboring Rights
· Internet radio (like Pandora)
· Satellite radio (like SiriusXM) 
· Other webcasters
· Audio-only digital music
programming via residential
televisions using cable or
satellite television providers
Terrestrial Neighboring Rights
· AM/FM radio (terrestrial radio)
· Other television usage
· Plays in live venues


In addition to the US not paying out on their domestic terrestrial plays, the reciprocal is also true: American performers and master recording owners are not entitled to master-use neighboring rights royalties when their tracks get terrestrial air-time in other countries. 

There have been efforts in the U.S. to instate statutory terrestrial master-use royalty payments such as the “Fair Play Fair Pay” act in 2017. The act made it all the way to U.S. congress, but to date no such legislation has been passed to put the U.S. among the many countries that do pay out master-use royalties on terrestrial uses.


Registration with your country’s neighboring rights organization is always free. Talk to your label to be sure you’re collecting all your entitled royalties, or get started registering your self-released material by
acquiring International Standard Recording Codes needed to identify your tracks for master-use royalty payments.

Friday, 6 November 2020
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Superior Searchability: Search Optimization

In our first search feature, we broke down the many search tools available to front end site users. Now, here’s an inside look at the powerful tools that site admins can use to create a great search experience for anyone browsing their library.

Above All: Metadata

Metadata is the backbone of all track searches (minus Sonic Search). When a search entry is run, the system looks for matches across all metadata; so to ensure a great track is appearing often on your clients' searches, fill it out with thorough, comprehensive metadata that contains all the terms you want the track to match to. The more of that track’s metadata matches the search, the higher it will rank in the results, and hidden fields let you keep all your metadata optimization tucked under the hood. 

To view a ranking of the most commonly run searches on your site over a daily, weekly, monthly, or all time basis, visit the Search Trends section in the statistics panel.

Label Weighting

Label weighting makes it easy to get your best material to consistently appear higher on searches. Use the label weighting tool to assign each label a value from 0 to 10, the higher the number, the higher that tracks from that label will rank on searches. This gradient system is great for dialing in the absolute perfect settings to best service your users’ searches.

Featuring Material

Featuring is the best way to bring attention to your very best material. Featuring tracks, albums, artists, labels, composers, or catalogs brings those listings to the top of any list where they would otherwise appear in the middle of the list. For example, when you head to your albums page, the featured albums will always appear at the top. When you run a track search, the featured tracks that match that entry will always appear at the top. You can even set the order of the different items you’ve featured so that your absolute favorite shows up first, followed by the next best, etc. 

Comments

A music supervisor is looking to capture a feeling in their soundtrack, but how are they supposed to know where to skip to in a track to find that perfect moment? Admins can add time-stamped comments to their tracks and point out key moments in the cue. Comments appear as markers along the tracks’ waveform and expand as the song hits those marks, or just hover over any marker to expand the comment and read the text.


Site Layout

In addition to the search tools described above, a great site layout can do wonders to streamline the search process. Easily set site pages that display listings of artists, composers, catalogs, labels, genres, tracks, or published playlists. Build an inviting landing page with the SourceAudio homepage builder, or create a custom page with HTML, CSS, or with our easy to use tools that don’t require any coding at all. Read more about setting up your site’s layout in our recent post, Site Configurations for Any Business Model.

Want to get your tracks into a music buyer’s library, showing up on searches run by production studios, trailer houses, and music supervisors? Check out The Buyer Network, Sub-Publishing, and Networking Online.

Friday, 30 October 2020
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