Responses to comments: attorneys and indie

December 21, 2008

M: There is an incredible book entitled “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson that deals with the internet-age phenomenon of the shrinking “hits” and growing number of indie successes. If you’re interested in this topic, that book is a must-read.

Although there is a ton of competition in the music world (signed or unsigned), there are a many successful unsigned and indie artists, far too many to name here. Some go it alone, some sign unique deals with existing labels, and some start their own label. For example:

You may not know Joe Purdy, but this guy has reportedly sold 650,000 singles on iTunes, and he’s unsigned. According to topspin.com, Mr. Purdy bought himself a home and makes a great living, and hasn’t signed with a major. Since he’s independent, he retains the rights to the music and doesn’t have to share in the ways “signed” artists do, so he makes a LOT more per sale.

One Day As A Lion, Lyrics Born, and Tim Fite are some of the many artists signed to ANTI Records…I’ve heard their record contracts don’t look much like the typical record contract. With a free-thinking indie, the contractual timeline may be as short as one album (as opposed to, let’s say, seven). A short-term deal is a very appealing offer for the artist: if everything is working well, you CHOOSE to stay with the label. If it doesn’t work, you leave.

Ani Difranco has made a legendary career on her own for almost 20 years. By putting out her own records through her record label, Righteous Babe Records, she has been able to speak on topics that a major might be afraid to get behind, release records on her own schedule, and experiment with a variety of media and ideas that arguably work best outside the major label system.

Remember, the major labels may want you to think they’re the best (or the only) option, but the playing field is leveling out more every day. So, with all due respect, there is an untrue statement above: “it’s just not possible yet to make a good living being indie.” I’m happy to tell you: it absolutely is, and it’s getting even better.


Posted by MURRY (“Breaking Your Band”) – This guy, Nate, was talking about something funny that happened to his band…They had been selling their album through one of those websites…He said he Googled his band and found their album for sale on some random website for fifteen dollars, which is way more than it usually goes for…How do you protect against that sort of thing without the support of a label and its many lawyers?

M: Unfortunately, the only way I know of stopping that is to have an attorney send a “Cease And Desist” warning. It basically looks like this. http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/contract/cease.htm You can try to send the letter to them yourself, but generally a letter from an attorney will scare people more. And you should want to scare them as much as you can; what they’re doing is illegal.

If you think about it, if you’re planning on selling music, you’re probably going to run into these issues, so it might be a good idea to hire a music attorney (don’t hire a regular attorney, the music biz will be out of their realm of knowledge). I sent your post to our (Linkin Park’s) attorney, who responded with the following:

“Most bands come to us through other bands, agents, managers or business managers. A few find us on their own by looking at liner notes and stuff.  Attending music conferences is also a good way to network.  The AFM, ASCAP/BMI, etc. are also sources of information.”

mike

mike

33 Comments

  1. linkinladie328 on December 26, 2008 at 9:32 pm

  2. ShadowerLiltani on December 24, 2008 at 8:39 am

    That is GREAT that you mentioned the cease and desist. That works for non-musicians too, right? I know I might be straying away from music a tiny bit when I ask this, but, are there any dramatic differences between self-publishing a book and self-publishing an album? Cause if there aren’t, from one artist to another, what should I look out for in legal terms?

  3. pollawec on December 23, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    http://www.cdbaby.com the solution to the Major/Indie issue perhaps???

  4. NoMoreSorrowGirl on December 23, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    If you live in the U.S./U.K. go indie. If you live here in my country (Philippines) if your an indie after 2-3years your band members ended up selling donuts in the street. Why? Not enough funds…economy crisis you know!?…And if ever i were in a band and got an offer from a major i’ll gonna grab it…indie had too much risk…eventhough you had a sponsors…you don’t even know tomorrow they will going to say hey! i will not going to sponsor you anymore…that’s sucks!…But it doesn’t matter if your a major or indie…if ever my goal is to win a grammy and sit next to Britney Spears during awards night will it be possible i’ll go indie?

  5. Svetik on December 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Warner Music Group,Warner Bros.. they think only about themself,f*cking tory…they bad-help to LP+they delete ur site in YOUTUBE…its not a secret that youtube is source of diff. songs(as 4 me) and now we cant see u there…One thing that they need is money..how it can be like this?I can’t understand this…what about another things which make ppl happy?what’s wrong with this world??why if U dont have much money-U are outcast of society?fucking real live…if somebody can destroy this? and U are a part of this dirt..

    why dont you go out and become free,without Warn.Bros?if U dont have a contract on lifelong work on them,of course.Is it so hard?unreal hard?

  6. tpbarbosa on December 23, 2008 at 10:25 am

    In some cases I think go independent is better,but think,when you sing up with a major label they will “spread” your music in a easist way than what you’d do if you were independent.I mean how will you do musicvideos and put them to play in every channel?I don’t know.Sometimes I think it’s easier to have your band recognized and maybe more famous if you’re signed with a major label.Take Linkin Park as example,I know that in 98/99 the internet wasn’t so “important” to music industry,so you’re a huge band,your musicsvideos are being played almost all the channels,we’ve seen lost of magazines covers with LP pics and interviews I doubt I’d get it in the beginning if I started independent.

  7. NoFace on December 23, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Again, it always come back to how you value ‘success’. As a result of the so called celebrity culture, some people who want to get involved in the music industry or have an art related career tend to think ‘success’ as getting really big. I once have those same queries in my head. With the booming of internet and communication means, we have to revalue what we are aiming for as artists. I remember what you said and actually agree: art/music is the end, not the means to get to other targets.
    Just because we’re discussing this, I wonder if there’s a future for a free/indie Linkin Park. I notice that you have paid some attention to this lately, is this a sign? Can we have hope?

  8. nillp on December 22, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    there’s a girl here in brazil that became “famous” by posting her music at myspace..

    now she released a cd, but i don’t know if she signed with a major label or not.. and i really don’t like her, so whatever..

    anyway. really good to see that u keep in touch with ur fans. that’s pretty rare!

    have a great week. mk’nil :*

  9. MS_Ineedyou on December 22, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Could you help me with something Mike ? I’m only 15, but i have a voice like Aimee Lee(Evanescence) and i really want to get noticed . I know it’s not really in your area of expertise, but do you have any suggestions about getting noticed ? You always talk about how people get signed, i just want to get noticed ….:( I know you probably won’t read this, but i tried …
    —Brooke .

  10. KATHYxx on December 22, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    MIIIIIIIIIKEEEE

    thanks for the LPU christmas present first of all🙂

    Also appreciate you answering these questions. You are a big help

  11. cuz on December 22, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Being unsigned or indie gives a chance of having a choice. You can control everything on your own and decide what’s more important to you. I always loved art and music but having a contract with major is kind of scary to me. For me the most horrible thing related with being artist is fame. Losing your privacy is that thing that make me think “no, thanks, I don’t wanna go into that world”. I guess being unsigned / indie gives you more control over your life and much more privacy. And you can still be successful – you can do your art and walk on the street without security. And where’s more money and complicated contracts (major) there’s probably more fear. I’m happy the music biz is changing.

  12. MarishkaLP on December 22, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    you know a lot about being an independent musician and doing well in this point, so why don’t you, Linkin Park, try being indie? i think you’re prepared good enough, Mike, to lead this act of leaving Warner, especially after the latest news about the conflict between WB and YouTube. i don’t like the things WB do to you, LP, and it’s not just me who don’t like it.

  13. sandra on December 22, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    thanks for all the insides, mike! it’s always very interesting to read! so please carry on…😉

    i know this is pretty much off topic, but i still hope to get some thoughts of you on that as it’s a late-breaking topic…
    what do you think about the fact that Warner Music has just removed all the Youtube videos of the artist signed with them (including the ones by Linkin Park)?? thanks for your feedback!

    a wonderful christmas time to you, your family and the rest of the band!
    it surely was a fantastic LP year – 2 awesome concerts for me. can’t wait for more soon!🙂
    thanks for all the joy you guys are bringing to us and for always caring!

  14. Lvix on December 22, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks Mike, I really need this info… I am manager of a Hip-Hop Artist, he’s just a friend of mine… So no official manager on paper… And he has no label, only metrials at his home… And i couldn’t think about: Is this good enough? This Guy can make it?

  15. Madlen on December 22, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Talking about big labels can you give us some info about what happened with Warner Bros and Youtube?I personally love watching fan made Linkin Park videos and from what I’m hearing they might not be authorized there anymore…And btw I have a friend who signed a contract with a company called “Music Space” that are distributing music on the internet-you basically upload your music and if you get enough people who liked it they offer you a contract.Her contract is only for ring tones but they signed with her brother too and his contract is for an album which includes concerts and stuff…so I guess I can call that a little success even though “Music Space” aren’t a big label

  16. Elliot_aka_MC_Eli on December 22, 2008 at 11:38 am

    But mike, isn’t there some pro’s to having your music distributed that way as well? Even though, true you didn’t approve of your music being used that way… but doesn’t it get shared more, and more people start liking your music?

  17. murry on December 22, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Thanks! I’ll have to forward this response to my friend. Since they barely make money on their music in the first place, he was just laughing it off. But I guess if some random guy is profiting from it, my friend can, too, if he has the right legal protection.

  18. A_Warm_Place on December 22, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Thank you very much for responding!
    After reading your response it made me wonder what you define“successful”as?In my opinion success is not where you are right now,but rather where you want to be.A short term deal may bring you success for the moment,but 10 years from now one might wonder if it was worth it?Sure there are example of artists having long term indie success, but they are very still rare.As far as“making a good living”I didn’t necessarily mean financial,rather lifestyle in general.Is it worth giving up everything to live in a tour bus and play small clubs ,when you can get a real job with a more secure lifestyle?Comes down to what you define“success” as.

  19. Kalini on December 22, 2008 at 11:05 am

    I’ll repeat partly my comment for your post regarding JPKaukonen’s contract. According to me a new artist, who couldn’t establish his own record label, should try to negotiate a profitable contract with the record label. You actually confirm it in your post: “some sign unique deals with existing labels, and some start their own label”.There’s a huge competition not only between the artists, but between the companies, too. That’s why some companies have started offering short-term deals. Has your attorney advised you on your contract with WB? Thanks for the links! I’m impressed by Ani Difranco. I’d like to wish to you and the rest of LP a Merry Christmas! Krassie

  20. lucky_cat on December 22, 2008 at 10:38 am

    At first, it’s so cool you mentioned Ani Difranco! I am a fan since years and here I don’t know anyone who listen to her music … maybe she’s more popular in the U.S. ?!
    It’s a pleasure to see how you are helping the people here. Actually you asked your attorney … you have a heart of gold, Mike Shinoda!

  21. zahra on December 22, 2008 at 8:01 am

    WOW,,..well the thing i need to say about illegal downloading are that some countrys don’t sell American music (IRAN DOESN’T) sooo i don’t have any other choice ….like i downloaded M2M and after a year i went back to the US and i got the real thing just to support!!!! but at that the time i didn’t have a choice!! sooo try to understand fans like me!!!!…..and about the rest of ur answers…THERE GREAT!!…THANX……bye

  22. miKer0cks on December 22, 2008 at 5:56 am

    o.O great responces!!!😀 Your answers Mike are realy usefull thx🙂

  23. rockermeg on December 22, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Wow that’s some great advice
    I guess there are loads of ways to “make it” without major labels and people say its really hard to “make it” without being signed to someone like Warner Bros. or Roadrunner but if you compare it to actually getting signed by one of those labels; maybe it isn’t all that unrealistic.
    You have some strong opinions on this Mike…but Linkin Park are signed to what must be the biggest label out there, have you guys ever considered dropping off Warner Bros and just rolling with Machine Shop??? If not, why?
    All your answers are great! I’ll definitely bare this in mind…
    Seasons Greetings from the UK!
    xxx

  24. Gabry94LinkinParkfan23 on December 22, 2008 at 1:31 am

    wooow, cool. ty 4 the responses Mike. idk wat to say as usual xD byee Gabry

    waitin’ 4 xmas gift

  25. ThePrincess on December 21, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    When I read your posting today my eyes at once are directed to “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson part I have finish read this book and I correctly agree with you ..this book was indeed extraordinary… and apparently this book not only was aimed for the musician beginner but also for all the community elements who want to learn or selling their business by online..possibly i’m not a person who was involved in music business but apparently I receive many lessons today thank you mike…

  26. ninguem on December 21, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    mike, here where i live the record labels pays for tv and radio stations plays their artists songs and even win some award, we have to listen a lot o crap bands, which without this payment this bands will never plays in nowhere, while a lot of talented artists doesn’t have any chance to be famous, and here they build all new bands to sound like paramore/fall out boy, like a stupid product, and i want know your opinion about this, the paying to play in radios/tv and the manufacture of new artists to sounds all the same and taking their real essence

  27. Metal_Value on December 21, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    To be honest, my take on all this kinda comes down to the “What everyone else is doing” motive. In other words, I personally feel that all these unsigned bands you see around that are looking to be signed by a major record label, that mostly believe there are no other routes to success other than the big record companies, would actually start to explore and research more about these indie routes and being unsigned but successful if popular and successful bands they idolize actually start taking action themselves and move away and become independent with their music. The problem is that right now, really, being successful is “Major labeling”. But maybe that’ll change when major artists do…

  28. JohnLP89 on December 21, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Question about music industries:

    1st, Mike, just wanted to say that was a sign of a musician who is true to his fans.

    Can I ask you a question? This seems to be a very debatable topic among local bands.

    To “get big” do you take the punk mode of thinking and stay true to your music no matter what, and hope that you don’t need to change to get noticed. Is that what a label or independent contractor would want to see? Or do they want to see someone who develops a bit of a social imagination, and can step outside of what he likes to make music that the people want to see? Do they want to see someone who understands their music, or someone who understands the culture?

  29. Graffiti_revolution on December 21, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    hey mike…a funny thing to ask but would you and your friends(i like to think of it as friends first and then band mates)!!!!anyway…would LP draw out of warner bros. and go unsigned considering your major success and honestly a fucking shit huge fan base????would you be inspired by those other unsigned artists????if you guys had problems with WB or otherwise…..if you had to pull out right..would you guys go another label or just unsigned???im just curious.you know a lot of other bands/singers/anything would follow your foot steps.some…”hey LPs doing it maybe ill give it a shot.” others…..”hey LPs doing it i have to too.”(sumthing like thut…mostly the fans..).so would you? m/

  30. Hybr1d_7h3ory on December 21, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    This seems to be an never-ending discussion here on MS.com, but it is a very interesting topic. It is really neat to see how you (Mike) present the information and then let us form our own ideas, discuss, and even gets questions answered without you ever pressuring us to a certain conclusion. You really play the mediator card well my friend.
    On this topic I really feel that each band should do their research, look at the books Mike has referred you to, do a little Google-ing for yourself and do what feels right to you. I LONG for the day LP can finally drop WB and go under Machine Shop and use their full artistic license. I can only imagine the beast the lies within you guys.
    Hybr1d_7h3ory

  31. ManBearPig on December 21, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Ani Difranco is a great example of someone who can totally make it on their own. But as you are always careful to point out, there are pluses and minuses to that, and to signing with a major; it all depends on your ultimate end goal. As for illegal infringements and selling, I suppose this kind of rests in the realm of bootlegs. Someone on the LPU was mentioning how in a Taiwanese? CD shop they had a recording called LP Live in Nottingham selling as an actual release when, clearly, it’s not. People will always try to make money wherever they can, at any cost (bad pun).

    One question of my own: Any update to the art show you were planning on curating in lieu of (dies) at the end of January?

  32. lynndarwinharris on December 21, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    A major label does offer more protection on the legal side, but on the flip side they want more money from the record sales. A major label can give you more exposure and fame, but again they will want more money from your record sales. I don’t know. I write poetry (occasionally draw/paint) . I do not have any musical talents, just a moody writer (the longer I wait for the copyright office the more moody my writing becomes). However this topic does catch my attention. I think I will pick up the book “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson, just for my curiosity. Thanks for taking time to educate us.

  33. lp_fm_fan on December 21, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I heard of some musicians becoming somewhat famous without being signed but they usually find the fame a different way, I don’t remember their names. But it sometimes amazes me how they can be so famous. Mtv, helps loads, I think.

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