Why The Violin Is The Ultimate Instrument.

Violins in an orchestra
Violinists in an orchestra

Quick, which instrument first pops into your head when you hear the term classical music?

The violin, right?

That’s definitely the instrument I think of first. And I am pretty sure most people would be the same.

Why is that?

This, I don’t know. But I do know that the violin is inextricably linked with classical music. Those two just go together.

Part of it may be that the violin is not really used for other types of music. Of course, it is used in bluegrass music and similar genres, as a fiddle. As we all know, a fiddle is just a violin. Apart from that, it isn’t really used much. I guess it’s used in mariachi music and some other Latin styles, but that’s about it. Apart, of course, from it’s resurgence in EDM.

Also, when we think of the greatest classical instrumentalists in the world, it’s usually a violinist, right? Sure, there are a few famous cellists and famous players of other instruments, but it seems that being able to play the violin makes you more famous than any other instrument.

When we think of ridiculously expensive instruments, we also think of the violin. Now obviously, if you’re just buying a beginner’s violin, then it will be cheaper than the beginner’s versions of other instruments, like the piano or the drums or a keyboard, etc. But when you think of the most expensive instruments in the world, those are violins, aren’t they?

In fact, most of my friends whose parents put them into music classes, were learning to play the violin. The piano was number two, but the violin always seemed to be number one.

Woman playing violin
A violinist in concert

In movies, when you have a musical prodigy, what instrument does he or she play? You guessed it, the violin. Something about this instrument just makes it seem more refined, more difficult to play, more beautiful sounding when played right. Is any of this true?

Truthfully, I’m not sure. Personally, I prefer the sound of many other instruments to that of the violin. That said, few instruments add as much mood to a great classical piece. In fact, without the violin, I don’t think classical music could exist. That said, you could say the same for the piano.

This is the reason I called the violin the ultimate instrument. It’s not really, but it does have that image in our society, doesn’t it? It kind of makes you wonder where that started. How did the violin gain such a reputation?

Is it really that much more difficult to learn than other instruments? I would say it isn’t. It definitely requires a delicate touch, but there are other instruments that are just as difficult, right? I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong about that.

Again, imagine yourself as a musical prodigy on stage playing for a huge crowd of worshipers. Which instrument are you playing? Almost certainly, it is the violin. That’s because of the words I used above: “musical prodigy.” If I had use the words “rock God”, you would have pictured yourself with a guitar. Perhaps the violin is to classical music what the guitar is to rock music.

If you’re just starting out and looking to get into classical music, you’re probably thinking of getting one of those beginners violins, but is this the best solution? Sure, the violin is more prestigious, but making a name for yourself is much more difficult, since you’re competing with all of the world’s musical prodigies. If you choose a less popular instrument, the competition is much less intimidating and you have a much better chance of rising to the top.

That’s something to consider.

While the violin seems like the coolest classical instrument to play, if you are looking to advance your career, it may not be the best choice. Getting a seat in an orchestra is much more difficult for a violinist than it would be for a flutist or anyone who doesn’t play the violin, really. It is this last fact, more than anything else, that really illustrates my point. The violin is the ultimate instrument for classical music.

Classical music used in EDM

EDM is an abbreviation for electronic dance music which entails a wide range of electronic bass beat music genres mainly produced for festivals and night clubs. The foundation of electronic dance music is a combination of beats and lyrics from different genres to produce a unique hybrid. In fact, electronic dance music borrows from across many genres including techno and classical music.

Sheet music from MozartClassical music is not well understood by most people and has been perceived as a complex genre that demands cognitive analysis to understand and relate to in a sublime emotional perspective. The sublime appeal of classical music makes a top candidate for electronic dance music. In reality, innovative music DJs have sampled widely celebrated renaissance renditions of classical music and mixed these records with rococo and romantic compositions to produce a unique taste of club hopping music.

For instance, literature enthusiasts will recount the popular 1876 Edvard Grieg’s classic music hit song “In the hall of the Mountain King” that was adopted for the Peer Gynt play by Henrik Ibsen. This hit song has been improvised and worked into electronic dance music to a breathtaking refinement. It is among the most popular pieces of classical music that has proven how fine and entertaining classical music is. It also presents us with a chance to appreciate classical music at a deeper level and validate its authenticity.

This is not the only example of classical music used in EDM. On the contrary, Mozart’s iconic music has been welcomed and largely incorporated into electronic dance music mixes. The most renowned piece of Mozart’s music is the Requiem Mass, which was partially completed by Franz Xaver Sussmayr. Ideally, the use of classical music in electronic dance music uplifts it by putting it in front of massive audiences. If you are not familiar or deeply interested in classical music, you will definitely go digging deeper into the remixed versions of classical music after listening to its electronic versions due to its high quality and appeal.

Renowned American composer and icon Samuel Osborne Barber II made the case for classical music and its use in electronic dance music through his collaboration with Dj Tiesto. His adagio for strings was converted into string orchestra and mixed into an unidentifiable form of modernist classical music by Dj Tiesto. This highlight shines the spotlight on the uniqueness and evolution of classical music as it blends with other genres and modernist variations.

Perhaps, the climax of classical music used in EDM is the popular Moonlight Sonata composition by Beethoven. This masterpiece is among the most renowned piano piece that predominantly features the classical music hall of fame. It was produced in 1801 and it is still relevant in the 21st century wherein it has been mixed into trance dance format. It is widely enjoyed by party goers in full moon beach clubs.

The pieces of classical music used in EDM have made interesting music libraries that are thrilling to listen to whether in a discotheque or at home in front of your fireplace. It is definitely a unique taste of music that blends naturally with other genres.

The 5 Best Tools For Composing Music

Introduction

For all aspiring musicians and even the seasoned ones, it is common knowledge that there is a lot that goes into composing a piece of captivating music. While good vocals is necessary, the role of composing tools simply cannot be over-emphasized. In this article, we shall discuss some of the best tools for composing music, with a view to educating you on what you need to look out for before you go for your next rendition.

Cornets

cornetCornets are commonly confused with trumpets though they are fundamentally different. Cornets are divided into various categories depending on the kind of music they are used to compose. The Soprano cornet is used as a dressing over the top of an ensemble and may also be used as an absolute laser beam though in the latter case, it will depend on how it is scored. There is also the other variety known as the Repiano cornet hose function is to double instruments that often do not project well. It may also used to perform exposed passages and is a common inclusion in bands.

Horns

hornsLike Cornets, horns are sub-divided depending on their roles. The most common one is the flugelhorn which is common in jazz compositions. The flugelhorn is mainly used to compose solo passages. The Tenor Horn is classified in the middle range of the ensemble. It is often used as a solo instrument, serving the same role as a viola and in most cases, written in conjunction with baritones especially when used as a section. Lastly, we have the baritone and though commonly confused with the Euphonium, it appears to resemble the Tenor Horns in the brass band. However, it is operated in the same way as a Euphonium and often scored as a Euphonium double.

The Trombone

tromboneThe trombone is especially used to compose quick packages that require some degree of soloist capabilities. Commonly used in jazz roles, the trombone has proven to be one of the most difficult tools to use in composing music due to the slide mechanism required. The bass trombone which is a slight variation of the trombone is used in situations where the composer wishes to explore various depths of the Bass while still retaining the strength of their music.

Tuba

tubaThe tuba has often been referred to as the bedrock of an ensemble, the very groundwork upon which it relies. Tubas are classified into 2 different categories namely the E-flat and the B-flat. The former kind is mostly used for solo passages while the latter kind works best for sustained tones. Because of this versatility, the tuba forms a fundamental part of a brass band and may be used to carry out the various levels of music composition such as chord building and dove tailing.

The Euphonium

euphoniumThe Euphonium is yet another inseparable part of the bass brand. One of the reasons why many music composers prefer this tool is due to the fact that it can be doubled with almost anything to achieve great results. It especially excels in soloist compositions and due to its great range, it is a favorite for cutting through an ensemble. It is also worth mentioning that since it is considered to be closely related to the tuba, it can also be added where a strong sound consistency is required.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I like Jason Robert Brown

Jason Robert Brown is a 46 year-old student of composition from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Two of his biggest influences in music are Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Sunday in the Park with George. Had it not been for these two, Jason would have joined a rock band.

composer jason robert brown
Photo provided by the Huntington Theater Company.

Jason’s first job as a teenager was delivering pizza. Let’s just say it does not go well for everyone. His first theatrical job was as a director for Cole, a musical revue for Cole Porter. This took place at Elmwood Playhouse, Nyack, New York. He directed this aged 15 years old.

He owes his success as a composer to never settling down to one thing, even at an early age. He was always pushy and aggressive and never settled down for anything. Always knew and felt he could do more in any situation. This is a great attribute for anyone to emulate.

Jason’s landmark productions include: Honeymoon in Vegas, which was performed at the Nederland Theatre in 2015, The Bridges of Madison County, which played at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in 2014, 13, which he produced in 2008, The Last Five years which premiered in 2001 in Broadway and then featured as a film in 2015. The story of this last composition was based on his failed marriage to his first wife.

Why Jason inspires me is that despite some failures in life, he has learnt to enjoy the moment. He appreciates that his shows get done and are well accepted, and he gets a lot of joy when he sees how people are enjoying his music. He is currently married to a composer wife, and together with their two daughters, live in New York.

Failure is a word that is not in Jason’s vocabulary. Over the years as he writes his music, he has learned that with all the family and societal obligations he has, he has to five his all to ensure that the music he writes gets accepted and continues to earn him more money. For a long time he didn’t think he was doing the right thing, but as years went on and from the successes he has encountered, he is convinced that he took the right path.

Jason has earned a number of accolades along the way. He has won the Tony Awards for best original score for Parade and the Bridges of Madison County and another Tony for orchestration for Bridges of Madison County. He also won a Drama Desk Award for outstanding music for Parade, The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County and a Drama Desk Award for outstanding lyrics for The Last Five Years. This is an amazing feat for someone so young.

Jason is a composer who loves to play and sing his own music. He is currently working on a new musical and his best advice to people is “Be Yourself”. People have got to like you for what you are, this is very important and an inspiration. Another inspiration from Jason is that he always works with people who are better than him, that way he will improve himself to become a better person. Very inspiring.

To learn more about Jason Robert Brown, check out his website.

 

Vinyl Is The Best Way To Listen To Classical Music

Introduction

The music industry has undergone major changes over the years since the transition from traditional vinyl recording technology to digital compact discs took center stage. The music industry has largely shifted to digital media and rendered vinyl record players quite dismal in the market today. However, there are still few classical music artists and record labels that still produce vinyl records of their music. These exceptions are notably sensational although their releases are quite limited.

Vinyl Uses Lossless High quality Audio Compression Technology

A classic turntable record player
These traditional record players go hand in hand with classical music

Vinyl has been historically a high quality and preferable medium of recording and listening to music than any digital format because of its integrity, which comes from it lossless file compression process. The file compression used with vinyl records escaped the “loudness problem” which is associated with artificial sound engineering to make a track record louder than its natural recording and tone. In the process of audio compression, the music produced in digital formats is subject to irreversible audio compression in an attempt to make it small in size for it to be recorded on limited storage space in mobile devices and other portable devices. This kind of compression results in storage economics in which storage space is saved at the expense of quality. This results in airy synthetic audio recording instead of original artistic voice.

If you are savvy in discerning acoustic quality and integrity, you can tell that artistic integrity is lost and the sound quality of digitally recorded music comes out as airy and noisy. On the other hand, the vinyl lossless audio compression delivers acoustic integrity by recording the natural artistic voice of a singer to yield a warm, well-balanced mahogany-rich sound that is both heartwarming and soothing. Technically, vinyl is a lossless format, which is free of any form of sound distortion and comes with the depth and texture of the artist’s voice, which ascertains that vinyl is the best way to listen to classical music. Conversely, digital media formats such as MP3s are prone to the problem of distortion which is due to sound engineering of the natural audio voice to make it fancy or louder. Apparently, this distortion make music unpleasant to listen to since the depth and texture of the original audio has been lost during the irreversible (degrading) audio compression process.

Vinyl Supports High Frequency Range

If you love listening to symphonies, it is easy to appreciate that classical acoustic recordings sound clear and quite warm on a hi-fi since the base of this music is string quartets whose pitch is primarily jazz combos. Therefore, it is technically a broad frequency piece of music which is well matched with the vinyl technology. In actual fact, this is the chief reason why vinyl records are physically wide. There surface area easily accommodates and renders classical music into a wide range frequency to achieve harmony for symphonies, therefore vinyl is the best way to listen to classical music.

This is quite impossible with the MP3 digital format because it has a limited frequency, which limits the recording and output of natural acoustic recording.

Both mainstream and small independent record labels appreciate the difference in sound quality between vinyl records and digital formats. Consequently, they are popular for stocking vinyl records of music from great artists to lesser known classical musicians for music enthusiasts who appreciate that vinyl is the best way to listen to classical music.

Stephan Moccio – A Distinguished Composer

Stephan Moccio is an exceptionally gifted composer who has deployed the full range of his dynamic skills to promote contemporary music. He is also a gifted songwriter, recording artist, and pianist. Moccio was born on 20 October 1972 in St. Catharines, Ontario. He is widely considered as one of the most innovative and highly prolific composers alive today.

composer desk during break
This composer is taking a break.

Moccio’s style of composition reveals the influences of a variety of genres including jazz, classical, hip hop, dance, and blues. His outstanding skills are clearly manifest in the many songs that he has co-written including “Wrecking Ball” and “A New Day Has Come” for Miley Cyrus and Celine Dion respectively.

His capacity to compose, produce, and sing are some of the unique strengths that endear him to his admirers. Besides, he has demonstrated the willingness to work with other people in the vast industry with the objective of expanding the overall experience of contemporary music. In all respects, he remains a leading light in the development of art and music.

Background

Moccio joined The University of Western Ontario after high school and graduated with Bachelor of Arts in composition and piano performance. His main interest after graduation was the development of his professional career. At the age of 22, Moccio was engaged with Sony/ATV on a publishing deal that also saw him work as a session musician, composer, and in-house producer.

In various occasions, Moccio would play in hotel lounges and in various Toronto jazz clubs. A lot of his time would be spent in Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville on writing sessions. It was here that he wrote many songs for famous artists who acknowledged his special talents and passion.

Moccio’s Impact on Television Programs

Moccio began working for various television programs in 1996 in the areas of writing, performing, and producing some of the highly popular shows such as Camilla Scot Show. Other television shows that engaged his skills include House and Home (1998) and ETalk (2008). However, his real skills would be revealed in music composition.

Later in 2003, Moccio decided to concentrate on his own publishing form, Sing Little Penguin where he worked on a lot of solo projects and collaborations. One of his most successful collaborations was with Sarah Brightman on the popular single, “What You Never Know.” Moccio combined his rare talents with the skills of his peers to give the collaborations a remarkable appeal.

Awards

Moccio was nominated for Grammy and Academy Awards because of his illustrious efforts in the advancement of music. His willingness to explore new possibilities in the field of music is what wins him the overwhelming support that he continues to enjoy across the board. Moccio’s energy and commitment to the growth of music reflect his desire to connect with wider audiences.

When he is not composing, singing, or producing music, Moccio is passionate about sports and often finds ways in which his talent in music might contribute to the development of sports. He has composed various theme songs for broadcasts. Ultimately, this renowned composer has contributed immensely to the flourishing of music.

Some Old PCA Content Resurrected

Table of Contents

 

Historic Meeting at ASCAP

More than one hundred composers, producers and publishers of ad, promo and library music filled the ASCAP cafeteria on Friday, May 8th, and delivered to ASCAP a clear and united message: “We will no longer tolerate the discriminatory policies of ASCAP.”

Composer and PCA Director Doug Wood began the meeting by noting with surprise that not one of ASCAP’s Board of Directors was available to be at the meeting. He reiterated the themes of the meeting – that the Board must rescind the 10% Cap placed on ad and promo music, and that the Pop Premium must be abolished. He called for the end of ASCAP’s use of the word “incidental” to describe ad and promo music, and urged the commercial music community to work together to accomplish these goals.

Al Wallace, ASCAP’s Chief Operating Officer, asked everyone to respect ASCAP’s request that the meeting not be taped. He said that ASCAP wanted everyone at the meeting to be able to speak freely, without concern that inadvertent or unintentional remarks or comments taken out of context could be used in a negative way. With the room packed to the edges with witnesses to the proceedings, there was little dissent from the audience.

Wallace then explained in detail how the recent processing error had occurred, and how ASCAP was initially unaware of the magnitude of the problem. He apologized for ASCAP’s mistake, and made it clear that ASCAP was trying to fix the problem as quickly as possible. He also announced that ASCAP would stop using the word “incidental” to describe ad and promo music.

Ross Charap, ASCAP’s Director of Legal Affairs, described the legal history which had resulted in the 10% Cap being imposed. (ASCAP was careful to use the word “fund” instead of “cap” to describe the pool of money being set aside for ad and promo music, but did not deny that the purpose of the cap was to limit the amount of money paid for these performances.) He also described the effects of the per-program license on ASCAP and its members.

Peter Boyle, ASCAP’s Chief Economist, explained how the distribution of royalties had changed in the past year due to the per-program license and ASCAP’s “follow-the-dollar” principle. He also forecast what the approximate distributions for ad and promo music would be during the next year (down slightly).

Mark Morgenstern, ASCAP’s Director of New Media told of ASCAP’s plans for the future, including it’s leading role in international registration and utilization of ISWC codes. He said ASCAP was actively looking at encoding systems.

Finally, Al Wallace introduced Phil Crosland, ASCAP’s new head of marketing, who floated the idea of calling ad and promo music “CPA Music.” This was met with mixed reactions from the group, some of whom suggested that “CAP Music” might be more appropriate under the circumstances.

Wallace then announced that ASCAP intends to hold a meeting on the West Coast to discuss these issues, possibly May 19th. He also suggested that the commercial music community form a committee to meet on a regular basis directly with representatives from the ASCAP Board of Directors.

At that point, it became clear that the group was restless, and the meeting was opened up for questions. Over the next 90 minutes, ASCAP was grilled by attendees who demonstrated their clear understanding of the issues and the depth of their frustration with ASCAP. Here are a few highlights:

In response to a question about the Pop Premium, ASCAP claimed that “qualified works” (hit songs and old standards with at least 25,000 featured performances in the ASCAP Survey) were more valuable to the repertoire than original jingles or library music, and therefore deserved to be awarded extra weighting. They were unable to explain why all other ad, promo and library composers and publishers should pay for the extra weighting, or why the synch license wasn’t the proper vehicle for determining the value of the music.

In response to questions about the 10% Cap, ASCAP claimed that it was a Judge who had said ad and promo music was not worth as much as other music, and that the Board was only acting in accordance with value decisions established by the Court. Attendees scoffed, reminding ASCAP that in placing a value on ad and promo music, the Judge had relied on information supplied by ASCAP which showed that little of ASCAP’s distributions were going for ad and promo music. The Court has always maintained that setting the value for different kinds of performances is the responsibility of the ASCAP Board of Directors.

Mike Dowdle from Non-Stop Music released a study which he had undertaken with Dain Blair from Groove Addicts showing that an overwhelming percentage of music on daytime and prime time television was ad and promo music. The figures ranged from 36% up to almost 90% depending on the time of day.

These figures were consistent with a chart passed out by Doug Wood which showed the percentage of ASCAP revenues derived from advertising (100%), the percentage of TV music which is ad and promo music (68.5%) and the percentage of royalties received by ad and promo composers and publishers (about 7%). The chart also showed the relative value ASCAP ascribes to feature, theme, background and jingle performances (100% down to 3%) and the same performances as weighted by the PRS (absolutely equal, paid on a durational basis only.)

ASCAP was reminded that its failure to properly pay composers and publishers of new music in the past had resulted in the local broadcasters being very successful in licensing this music directly, costing ASCAP up to $20 million every year. ASCAP was warned that if it did not change the policies on ad and promo music quickly, the pressure for this music to be licensed directly would become impossible for composers and publishers to resist, resulting in further (and permanent) erosion of ASCAP income.

Meeting attendees repeatedly and eloquently voiced their frustration with ASCAP, emphasizing that ad and promo composers and publishers were sick and tired of being treated as second class citizens of ASCAP, and that the policies which ASCAP was using to discriminate against them would not be tolerated. The meeting was adjourned at 1:00pm.

Approximately thirty attendees met later at SESAC Headquarters to hear about recent developments regarding Aris MusiCode and to discuss in general terms the relationship which ad, promo and library composers and publishers might develop with SESAC.

Composer Scott Schreer who is affiliated with Aris Technologies, showed a short video about MusiCode, and demonstrated the new technology. He answered questions about how Aris could help ad, promo and library composers and publishers. SESAC has signed up with Aris to use the system to track performances, and plans to have decoders in most of the top markets by the end of December.

SESAC co-owner Freddie Gershon and President Bill Velez emphasized that SESAC was very willing to establish a dialogue with the commercial music community, but that more information about the value of performances of ad and promo music was needed. Everyone agreed that using ASCAP’s data would be pointless, and that a priority of the industry should be to determine more accurately what the music is actually worth.

Gershon reminded the audience that SESAC was a for-profit company unencumbered by Consent Decrees, and that decisions at SESAC were made based only on practical business considerations. He said it was not necessarily SESAC’s desire to have every single composer or publisher of ad and promo music, but there was a “critical mass” of ad, promo and library copyrights which SESAC would need to be able to bargain successfully with broadcasters for payment of significant license fees.

It was decided that the same group formed to meet with the members of the ASCAP Board might also meet with SESAC to further explore the possibilities of working together.

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PCA Lobbies for ISWC

The ISWC, or International Standard Works Code, was developed as part of the Common Information System project by CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers. The ISWC allows a universal registration for all copyrighted musical works, establishes standards and guidelines for issuing the codes, and authorizes certain PROs to issue codes to others.

The adoption of the ISWC would eliminate the duplication of effort required for every local sub-publisher to re-register compositions with his local performing rights organization. It would also streamline the distribution of royalties, and cut administrative costs.

Although there is little doubt that adoption of the ISWC would greatly benefit all composers and their publishers, some PROs are exhibiting considerable resistance to change. For one thing, every PRO has its own way to handle registrations, and the adoption of the ISWC would obviously require changes. Second, it removes one of the ways in which some foreign PROs are able to camouflage their royalty-reduction activities.

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Digital Watermarking

Can you imagine actually being paid for every broadcast performance of your music anywhere in the world? It’s been the dream of composers and publishers for many years, and recently there has been a flurry of activity among companies developing the technologies to make this dream a reality. It now appears that we are closer than previously thought.

MusiCode, developed by Aris Technologies, appears to represent a breakthrough in digital watermarking technology. In very simplistic terms, MusiCode uses a modulation technology to add several channels of digital code directly on top of the analog audio signal. The code, which is applied in real time during the mastering process (or any subsequent step in production) can subsequently be detected, captured and identified using the proprietary decoder.

As with any technology which uses part of the audio spectrum to store data, there is the question of audibility. Aris acknowledges that if the code is audible or alters the audio signal perceptibly, the technology won’t be accepted by composers and producers. According to Aris, audio engineers who have conducted field tests with MusiCode have been unable to distinguish material with the code from material without.

Another watermarking technology developed by Solano uses spread-spectrum technology. This system is being used by Liquid Audio for watermarking music sent over the internet. However, according to experts, systems using spread spectrum technology have a more difficult time detecting music when there is other sound present (such as voice over or sound effects.)

The applications for digital watermarking are significant. Besides allowing performing rights organizations to drastically improve their identification of music, watermarking can be used to reduce piracy, and eventually to carry song identification which consumers could access with the next generation of radios with text.

Technologies such as MusiCode could revolutionize the way royalties for public performance are paid, increasing reliability while reducing costs. The performing rights organizations are cautiously examining the new technology, and CISAC is currently conducting a bake-off among competing technologies and developing standards for coding protocols. As the industry coalesces around standards and procedures for digital watermarking, it will be interesting to see who lines up in opposition to the new technology, and to examine their motives.

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Why you don’t always get paid by ASCAP

Under the terms of a 1960 Consent Decree (an agreement between ASCAP and the Justice Department as to how ASCAP will operate), ASCAP is required to distribute royalties based on scientifically designed surveys of performances. These surveys are either on a census basis (where every performance is counted) or on a sample basis (where selected hours from selected stations are monitored, and captured performances are counted.)

A census of performances (a complete count) is conducted for the three major television networks, the major cable channels, and in local television for all syndicated shows and movies. However, commercials, promos, station IDs and PSA’s on local television and cable are not counted on a census basis – they are sampled, as is everything on radio.

The amount of sampling and the stations and hours to be sampled is determined by an independent consultant to ASCAP, taking into account the fees paid by licensees in each medium and the cost/benefit ratio of the sampling process. To prevent contamination of the data, no one knows in advance which stations will be surveyed, or at what time. The results of the surveys determine how royalties from those stations will be distributed.

Many composers hear their music on television or radio and wait to be paid by ASCAP. However, unless performances are picked up in the Society’s survey, ASCAP cannot legally pay any royalties, even if you have proof that your music was broadcast at other times by that same station.

Of course, even if your music is broadcast and is included in the sample, you still need to be sure the music is properly registered with ASCAP, and that ASCAP gets a copy of any information you have regarding performances of the commercial (especially play schedules, ISCI codes, first lines of copy, etc.). For more information on advertising and promo music at ASCAP, call Wendy Hopkinson at (212) 621-6111.

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BMI’s Secret Guarantee System

Many BMI-affiliated composers may not be aware that paying royalties for logged performances isn’t the only way BMI compensates some of its writers and publishers. BMI’s little-known system of “guarantees” helps level the playing field for some publishers and composers when reliable performance information is not always available.

Although the guarantee system was originally designed only for publishers, it has been expanded in recent years to include some, but not all, composers. Guarantees are negotiated based on information provided by the publishers, who are required by BMI not to disclose any details of the existence or amount of any guarantees. If, during the year, the guarantee amount is exceeded by the actual royalties, the additional amount is paid. If it is not, the balance is written off and a new guarantee is negotiated.

In a letter to BMI chief Frances Preston, PCA Director Doug Wood requested that BMI makes its guarantee system public, make the payment criteria clear and fair to all its affiliates, and require that eligible composers always receive half of any guarantee. Ms. Preston has responded that BMI is always willing to meet with any writer or publisher who believes their earnings are not reflecting performance activity, but cautions that some composers work as independent contractors or create music on a “work for hire” basis which would disqualify them from participation in the BMI guarantee system. (Those who sign “work-for-hire” agreements with library publishers, take note!)

While we applaud BMI for finding innovative ways to pay for performances, we are concerned about a performing rights organization running a payment system outside of its normal distribution channels and requiring confidentiality from its affiliates. There is the obvious potential for abuse, and all BMI affiliates who are not receiving guarantee payments are paying for those who are. We hope BMI will make the guarantee system known to all, and protect the interests of all its affiliates, be they publishers or writers.

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