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Interviewed by Michael Laskow

Bobby Borg
Music supervisor Frank Palazzolo (right) seems to be enjoying the way fellow music supervisor Mason Cooper is explain why knowing the business side of the music business is so important.

Panelists: Music Supervisors Mason Cooper and Frank Palazzolo

Moderator: Michael Laskow

Audience Member: Can you please explain what the phrase “one-stop” means in the context of the music industry? At last year’s Road Rally, you did a great presentation Frank. You kept mentioning things should ideally be “one-stop.” Can you please explain that in some detail, and tell me if I need my music to be one stop, and what I need to do to accomplish that.

Frank: Yeah, “one-stop” means that you own the master recording and the copyright... When we have to clear a song and license a song, there are two rights we need: the underlying song—the lyric, the melody, the music, the underlying song copyright, and the recording of it. So if you wrote a song and you recorded it and then Michael did a version—he did a version and I did a version—we always have to go to you for the song, but the master would be owned by whoever recorded it. So there are two rights: one-stop is when you own both, so we call you and say, “Who owns the master; who owns the publishing?” And also, if you wrote it with three other people, until you sign publishing over... Publishing is like real estate; until you sign it over, you have not transferred copyright to anybody. So if you have two writers, that song is a 50/50 song. You might own 100% of the recording, if you paid for it and that’s the agreement, but the song is co-written and co-owned. So then we have to go to two people to get the song side. So one-stop is where you own both sides. So we are making one phone call and you speak for 100% of both sides.

Mason: Now, if you have multiple writers, you can enter into an agreement with your other writers that would give you permission to administrate and sign off on their share.

Frank: A one-stop basically means that we don’t have to go to anybody else to license the master or to license the publishing, no matter how many writers are involved.

Mason: So, if you wrote a song with Michael, you’d say, “Hey, Michael, do you agree...?” and maybe do a little napkin agreement or a formal ... whatever you want.

Frank: I email. Keep it in an email so you have a paper trail.

Mason: Yeah, an email that says, “You license it and I’ll agree to whatever you say.” You know, “Pay me my share, but you are authorized to sign a license on behalf of everybody.” We only have to call you. One person – one stop!

Audience Member: Does that change? Like, let’s say my music is forwarded, and I was the one-stop person, and then somebody produces it or uses it in a commercial or a movie, would that change at that point?

"A one-stop basically means that we don’t have to go to anybody else to license the master or to license the publishing no matter how many writers are involved."Frank Palazzolo

Frank: You always own your music. Sync licensing has nothing to do with ownership unless they put the words, “buy-out” in the language. Or they say, “I’m gonna give you this money, and you’re gonna give me your music to keep.”

Mason: And you’d better get a lot of money for a buy-out. Here’s a question that people haven’t asked for a while, but it does come up and people wonder this: You own your music. When we license it, it’s non-exclusive and you’re not giving ownership. Non-exclusive means if I license it for a show, I have no rights to use it for anything other than that show. You are giving permission to use it. You own it, you can also go to Frank and he can license it for his show.

Frank: We’re renting your music; we’re not owning it. Some people are like, “Well, if you use my song, I can’t do anything else with it.” Why not? We just have permission to use it for this one purpose – for this scene in this show. We don’t own it; we have no other rights.

I’m gonna interject something. I’m really glad you asked that question, and I can answer with more of a proclamation. Anyway, TAXI runs a lot of listings that say, “XYZ needed for non-exclusive direct-to-supervisor pitch.” And some of our members will call up and go, “Oh my God, it’s non-exclusive.” Because they are very aware of all the brouhaha over non-exclusive libraries. They don’t understand the context that you just mentioned—that when you guys use it, it’s inherently non-exclusive. It doesn’t mean it goes into a non-exclusive library. It just means you are “renting” it for that one purpose, and the creator is free to license it to other people and projects as well. So I’m really glad you brought that up!

Mason: I will tell you this, and why this is very beneficial for you [audience members] to be here. Some of the hardest people for us to work with are naïve, innocent, independent, new people that have fear. I license and everything’s great, but at the very end it’s like, “I’m in Iowa and I talked to my buddy who’s a real estate attorney and he said that you need to change this and put the words non-exclusive in there.” Well, it’s de facto non-exclusive, because it says in there that we have to use it in these limited times. This is all we have the right, so it’s redundant. But I have no problem—I’ll put in non-exclusive. But the fear-base... You are learning the knowledge here at the Road Rally, which hopefully can lower the fear level. Nobody in this industry is going to steal your song; they’re not going to use it without licensing it; they’re not going to license it without paying for it. Legitimate, credible people aren’t going to, because those are our jobs on the line; that’s our industry on the line. We can’t use your song unless we get a license and follow through on whatever the license terms are.

Frank: That’s true. If a working music supervisor comes to you to license your music, just assume that what they are doing is appropriate and proper and that they are not taking advantage of you. Because we are not in the game to try to steal from you guys, we don’t need to steal from you guys. And what are we gonna steal? Five hundred bucks? It’s not gonna make any sense...

"Some of the hardest people for us to work with are naïve, innocent, independent, new people that have fear."Mason Cooper

You’re not gonna gamble an entire career on a $500 song...

Mason: If you’re an artist who hasn’t had any syncs before, you don’t know the game, and you haven’t had a radio hit, you didn’t have a $100,000 that you just got had robbed out from under you. It’s a difference of a $1,000 or $2,000.

Frank: And the other thing is, we are not going to own your song or steal it or use it, or whatever it is. The other thing is—I’ve said this to a few people here, and I don’t remember if I said it in any of my other talks up here—but don’t get upset. There was a thing on Facebook a year ago by some writer that went around the industry that said, “I’m offended—how dare they. They want to use my song for $100. They’re ripping me off.” It was this whole, big brouhaha. Guess what? If I tell you I have 13 cents for you, it’s probably because I don’t have 14 cents, I only have 13 cents left. So, (A), don’t be offended by that, and (B), the reason you shouldn’t be offended is that you own it. You get to say, “Yeah, thanks for the 13-cent offer, but no.” And my answer is gonna be, “I get it. I like your song, but it’s all I have. I understand it. I’m not gonna get upset at you for saying no.” We are all wearing our big-boy pants. So don’t get offended with our budgets. We do wish you could make more money; we wish we had huge budgets. I work on fairly limited-budget projects. If somebody said to me, “Can you work on one of those $100 million budgets with unlimited money for music,” I’m like, “Yeah, with both hands tied behind my back.” “Hi, can I use your music, and I have an unlimited budget.” That’s easy.

Again, I’m so glad you brought this stuff up. I’m gonna tell this story. I’m sure half the people in the room have heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. It’s all about the lack of professional experience quotient some people have.

One day we were working with [music supervisor] John Houlihan on the Bruce Willis movie Looper. He ran a listing with TAXI for an old-timey country song for a diner scene. We forwarded something to him, he liked it, he wanted to license it. We told him we would reach out to the gentleman and do a little pre-clearing for him. We called the guy up. He lived in Nebraska, and the call went like this: “Hi, this is Michael Laskow from TAXI, and we’ve got a Bruce Willis movie and they want to license your song for $5,000.”

“License? Why do I need a license?” He thought we meant like a driver’s license or a hunting license, and he had to pay $5,000 to us! So he says, “I already paid you people $300.”

So I said, “No, sir, we’re trying to get you a check. All you need to do is sign a very short, simple, straight-forward agreement. You’ll retain all the ownership of your song, you are basically renting it to this Bruce Willis movie, and you get $5,000. And you’ll get stuff on the back end if it goes to TV.”

“License? What the hell do I need a license for. Besides, I’m on my combine; I can’t do anything until I’m done in this field.” He lost the $5,000, because he just didn’t know any better.

Frank: It’s a super-simple process. This is a business, so once you are done doing your art—unless you have a manager—you have to take a second just to learn the business. To remember to get your splits right; know who owns what in the song. Don’t let us ask you and you go, “Oh, I think he did this, and I think we did that. And, oh, our singer, we never paid her. We never even discussed that.” Know the business, then when you’re done, make sure you get it up on BMI or on ASCAP or on SESAC. Don’t just let it float, because if you get it in a show, you are not entitled to royalties after that, because nobody is tracking your music. So don’t forget that. The art is great, but...

"We’re renting your music; we’re not owning it. We just have permission to use it for this purpose – for this scene in this show."Frank Palazzolo

Mason: And on the splits, by the way—again, legal hat on here—if you think, “Well, I had three writers, and I kind of did like 60% of it, and they should split the other 40%.” If you don’t have that in a written agreement—again, whether it’s a napkin or an email or a formal agreement—you should have a very simple form that says, “These are the splits. We agree these are the splits,” and you all sign it. Otherwise, a judge will say, “There are three writers, it’s a third/third/third.” That’s the default.

So remember, memories are short, and it just doesn’t matter that you have 70% of the song and they have 30% of the song, until it makes a lot of money, and then they think that they have 50% of the song. Don’t wait until later—get your splits figured out on the front end. It’s the hardest thing to do when you’re in a writing session to go, “OK, what are we splitting here.” I personally, as a long-time publishing executive, I think everything is an even split if you are in the room writing. You don’t count words, you don’t count notes. Now, if somebody just says, “Here’s a title,” or “Here’s a piece of something,” and then they go away, then it’s a discussion. But whatever it is, if you guys agree on it, and the co-writers agree on it, that’s what it is. But, man, don’t chase it down after, because if we want to use it and you’re like, “Well, I think I have...,” and then the numbers all of a sudden add up to us for 97%, guess what—next.

Audience Member: You just touched on something I was gonna ask, and it had to do with, do I need to be a member of ASCAP or BMI?

Frank: Yeah, you should be a member of one of the three PROs.

Audience Member: So that needs to be accomplished before I send a song to you?

Frank: I would recommend it. It’s kind of like somebody tells you that you’re about to have the main montage on the season finale of a TV show, and you didn’t think to put it up on Spotify and iTunes. It’s like you’re throwing money away by not having it registered.

Mason: Because when we do our licenses, we do synchronization licenses—licensing. A mechanical license is the old mechanical pressing of a record. That’s for albums and all that. Synchronization is when you are synchronizing audio to video, so we do a sync license. If you are not a member of a performance-rights organization that our networks have agreements with on the performance side of things, I’ve had to change some of my agreements and my syncs are now sync and performance. Because if you say you don’t belong to a PRO... You don’t have to join a PRO—legally, you don’t have to. You can track your own performances. You’re not going to make a dime, but you have the right to do that.

I think the only network I know that isn’t affiliated with the PROs is ESPN. They’re not affiliated and registered, so all of their licenses say, “You are granting us the right to perform your song.” The license is a synchronization-and-performance thing. So I have kind of started defaulting to putting that in just because some of the indie people haven’t affiliated. Affiliate! It makes it all easier, and you’ll make more money.

Somebody told me a great scam. The guy didn’t join a PRO, he got an international sync, and then he took a trip to Europe and wrote it off on taxes saying he was tracking down the money. [laughter]

Frank: You’re an artist, you can write anything off. But also, you don’t want to not register your song with a PRO, and then you become informed, “Oh my God, I have five songs that were on shows that were repeatedly running, on like MTV shows. How much money I am missing out on?” And then you back track and try to ask people to change cue sheets and stuff like that. It will be mayhem, they will hate you. They will not be cool with it at all!