Everyone knows that hit albums, chart singles, movies, television
series and commercials are the major moneymakers for songwriters
and recording artists. But there's a lot more to the music
industry and how you earn money than just the more obvious
"big ticket" items.
Three of the many other areas that generate income (sometimes
substantial) are the use of songs with commemorative plates
and other collectibles, as part of musical telephones and
as performed by mechanical singing fish.
Limited Edition Collectibles
The commemorative plate, rendering, statue, sculpture or other
collectible (such as a hand painted porcelain egg) represent
a growing market and opportunity for songwriters and music
publishers since many of these items include a digital music
or musical voice chip which allows the buyer to play a particular
song which in some way relates to the subject matter of the
The price of these collectibles range from $50 to over $200
and, when music is used, the collectible usually relates in
some manner to a particular solo performer or group (e.g.,
Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, etc.) or to a motion
picture which has a well known musical theme or song score
(e.g., The Wizard Of Oz).
Some examples of this genre are a crystal domed porcelain
sculpture of the Beatles that plays "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band," Frank Sinatra hand painted dolls containing
excerpts of the singer performing "Witchcraft" and "My Way,"
a porcelain clear domed sculpture of Marilyn Monroe that contains
a digital sound chip of the actress singing "Diamonds Are
A Girl's Best Friend", a crystal-clear domed structure of
Elvis Presley with Graceland in the background that plays
"Love Me Tender", a Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz musical
portrait doll that features an excerpt from Judy Garland's
classic version of "Over The Rainbow" and an heirloom collector
plate featuring Patsy Cline singing her hit "Crazy."
When a music publisher licenses a composition to the company
producing the collectible, the term of rights is usually for
a limited period, (e.g., for 7 years) or for a set period
with an option (e.g., 4 years with an option on the part of
the collectible company to extend the term of the license
for an additional 3 years). The per collectible royalty is
many times based on the U.S. statutory rate for sales in the
United States (but such can be negotiated higher) with a larger
royalty for sales in countries outside the United States since
the mechanical rate in foreign countries is usually higher
than that in the
United States (e.g., 13¢ to 15¢). One can also negotiate
a graduated rate in the United States to reflect increases
in the statutory rate or upon commencement of the option period
(e.g., 7.55¢ during the initial period and 9¢ for the option
There are a number of special telephones on the market which
play your favorite song in place of the normal ring when someone
calls. One such example is a singing Elvis Presley telephone
which has a replica of Elvis in a gold lamÈ suit holding a
guitar on the base of the telephone. When the phone rings,
the replica begins to dance while the song "Hound Dog" is
heard. There is also a demo button which you can push to see
and hear the performance without waiting for someone to call.
Another example is an Elvis phone which plays "Jailhouse Rock".
Since this type of use is an audio reproduction, licensing
is many times handled on the basis of the statutory mechanical
rate per composition per telephone but such rates can be negotiated
Another interesting use of music is in connection with the
mechanical fish that turns its head and sings a well known
song. One example is a big mouth bass mounted on a wall plaque
which sings such compositions as the Bobby McFerrin written
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" and the more appropriate "Take Me
To The River". There are a number of variations in this area
but most are currently battery operated which can be activated
either by a motion sensor or by a manually operated push button.
Licenses are many times issued at the statutory mechanical
rate or higher for the territory of the United States with
increased rates for a worldwide license.
Considering that thousands of these items are sold every
year, the royalties earned can sometimes be as good as a gold