MUBUTV Insider Podcast Episode Transcript
Ritch Esra: Verginie thank you very much for joining us, we really appreciate it
Virginie Berger: Thank you very much for the invitation
Ritch Esra: I want to ask, when in your life did you know that the music business would be your professional career path
Virginie Berger: When I was 3 years old maybe, My father was crazy about music, is still crazy about music so I started to listen to music with him and we would go to concerts actually. So since I was a kid I want to work in the music industry but not like I mean, I would have loved to be a rockstar but I'm not and I don't have the voice or you know everything so I'm not frustrated. I don't work in the music industry because you know I want you to be a rockstar but since I was 13 I decided that I wanted to be a manager actually, because of the movie, do you remember “The Rose” with Janis Joplin or Bett Midler…
Ritch Esra: I was kind of modeled after Janis but starred Bett Midler. I remember that movie very well.
Virginie Berger: yeah so since I was a kid
Ritch Esra: Yeah, alright, wonderful!
Eric Knight: Verginie, can you tell us a little bit about what song trust is and what it does
Verginie Berger: So Songtrust is a publishing administrator. Which means that Songtrust is like a middleman between the artists, or writers, composers, or the publisher and rights organization. So our job is to make sure that our clients will be able to collect everywhere, so in the world all rights. So that's really our job because sometimes composers or the writers or publishers don't really understand how to interact with rights organizations ASCAP or BMI in the US, UHSM or GMA in Europe and you have to get registered with those rights organizations and you have to understand what you do with them. So our role is to make sure that we help our clients to get registered with the rights organization and also that they understand where the money is. Which means at some points sometimes it can be slow to get money you know, from one rights organization to another one, especially for international rights actually. So we're registering our clients everywhere to make sure that they will get their money and also we educate a lot of clients about publishing in general and rights in general for them to understand what they have to do actually with rights.
Ritch Esra: Songtrust as you said, is a music publishing administrator. Can you talk about who needs a publishing administrator? Is that something that everyone needs or who needs that?
Virginie Berger: It’s when you become actually I would say semi-professional you know, writer or composer or professional or semi-professionals because if you only have two or three music works, songs and you don't know what to do with it, I'm not sure that Songtrust could help you a lot. Why? Not because of Songtrust but because rights organizations actually only collect for professional or semi-professional writers or composers. When you start to gain some visibility or you have some views on social media or on platforms for example. Or when you start to work with Distributors you can start to work with Songtrust.
Eric Knight: Are there any additional services or features that Songtrust offers that are unique to the artist?
Virginie Berger: Yeah through Songtrust we also offer YouTube monetization. But also through Downtown because you know Songtrust is a part of Downtown Music actually so through Downtown you can also go through distribution with CD Baby for example. You can also get some monetization through Phondy or work with AVL for YouTube monetization because well downtown is a very big group of music. so don't trust actually you can do everything from the creation, distribution, but also monetization.
Okay Virgine, can you discuss why it is so important for beginning songwriters and artists to learn the basics and have a solid understanding of music publishing? Can you talk about the importance that you know publishing service in an artist's career or songwriters career
Oh yes absolutely. Its because without publishing we never get your money on the publishing side. You know you have the master side and then there is the publishing side. And most of the writers I don't understand what the point is. Do I need a publisher? Should I set up my own publishing company? How does it work? And why? Why, most of the time. Just to give you a personal example, my neighbor's son actually has decided that he wanted to be a musician. And a rockstar. He's 22 and we had to go last week because his mother wanted absolutely for me to explain to him because for him it's okay, so I will use a distributor and just you know drop some songs on iTunes and we are good. No. You’re not. I want to become a rockstar
Eric Knight: That’s just the beginning of the journey.
Virginie Berger: So I told him, well first you have to go through the copyright office just to make sure that your song will be protected and from that you will have to get registered with the rights organization because we cant collect the right if you are not registered with a rights organization so BMI or ASCAP or depends on where you are and from there you can use us to make sure that we will collect everywhere. So yeah most of the writers and composers don't understand what is publishing because it don't understand this plate of right between you know in the publishing World actually. So they don't understand what a PRO is. What a CMO is. All these acronyms. And they think most of the time that if they are affiliated with a rights organization that they’re good. And they have nothing to do. Copyright Office, why? Understand you know, the Sound Exchange, neighboring rights for example. why and even if you talk with artists that have a big career Most of the time they only have an affiliation with a PRO. They don't think that they need something else. So the importance of publishing Is just for the writer or publisher to collect All the rights really. And song trust can become the publisher of the writers so if they don't have a publishing company, they can collect 100% of the publisher rights, of the publisher share and forward it to the writer. If they don't understand what publishing is and are not affiliated with a rights organization or… and not with a company like Songtrust, they will lose money in the end. And when you look at world markets and in context you know covid and live performance, that well there was nothing during covid and same with stores that are closed so obviously they lost plenty of money. So that's why being able to get affiliated with a rights organization will help them get their rights.
Eric Knight: And this is a perfect segue to the next question. Can you discuss the distinctions between a traditional publishing deal and administration deal? What are the pros and cons of each of those?
Virginie Berger: Actually when you work with Songtrust, you can also work with a publisher. But when you work with Songtrust, first you can break the contract whenever you want. So you don't end up stuck with a publisher but also you can decide to register the songs that you want. Just say you want to, for example, to collect three songs, you can do it. And also we don't in terms of fee for example, it's 100% for you. so there is a big difference because at the end as a pub admin, we don't work with the writers as a publisher is supposed to work. Which means that you know having marketing costs for example or supporting the writers. But we are not exclusive, we are free. You can register the songs you want. And we only take a fee.
Eric Knight: So that's what I was just going to say, so it's not like a 90/10 split or an 85/15 or anything
Virginie Berger: It depends actually on the deal. But its not. No no. Absolutely not, so but you can actually be a publisher and work with us, we will help you get registered as a rights organization and be able to collect everywhere. We are kind of, how you say, neutral.
Ritch Esra: You know, listening to you answer that, and then Eric’s follow up it brings to mind… can you discuss how valuable an artist's music publishing can be and why it is so important for them to hold on to it? I mean this seems to be the essence of what song trust is about. Providing that service so that you can hold on to it you just said that it's a fee-based organization not an ownership of copyright. So can you talk about that?
Virginie Berger: Absolutely we take absolutely no ownership, nothing. the writer gets to keep 100% of their rights. So that’s the biggest difference with a publisher. Yes we take a fee but we take a fee on the revenues not a fee on the publishing side or publishing share actually so the writers keep 100% of the publishing shares but also 100% of the writers share so yeah that’s the biggest difference with a writer because especially now, it depends on the writer and what he wants to do. So if for example, he wants to work with a big publishing company because a big publishing company is able to, I don’t know, set up some sync deal for example you know very high legal sync deal. Or is able to provide marketing expenses for him, marketing budget to help him, it can be entrusting for the writer to work with that type of publishing company but it really depends. If it’s an indie band or indie writer or composer, I’m not sure it can be helpful for the writers because plenty of publishers actually do the same job as us so its mostly pub admins. So that's why for the writers it can be helpful to work with us but you know, in some capacity it depends on the style or if you want to become a big star for example, its better for them to work for a big publisher like Universal Music or publishers that will help him. It really depends on the writers and what they want to do in their lives
Eric Knight: Let me ask you because this is a sub question to what we're talking about for instance, I'm an artist and I have a company that does publishing Administration for us, could we actually get songtrust as well if we were working with another administrator in terms of getting finding more of those revenue or no, that would be more of a…
Virginie Berger: No because if you already work with an administrator we won't be able to work together because as we work directly with rights organizations it could create some claims, some conflicts so that's why we can't. If the company is a publisher-publisher yes, we can. We can work with that company. But if the company is a pub admin no because it means we will send the same music to the same organization and that will cause some issues
Eric Knight: Right, yeah it will create some confusion. Can you take us through some of the basic steps and best practices of what artists need to do to set up their own publishing companies in the most efficient way you were just talking about your friends son and you like an example of setting up the pro the Publishing Company copy Wright's excetera can you take us to that step by step
Virginie Berger: Absolutely! So the first thing actually you should do is register, to get a registration from the copyright office to make sure that everything is okay with your music works so you can also work with a company maybe like Cosign. I have no investment in Cosign, absolutely nothing, no partnership. But it’s just a company that can help you to make sure that everything is okay which means that for example the split agreement with the co writers or composers which is extremely, extremely important because at the end of the right organization and the publisher will you know send you the money based on the split agreement. That company Cosign, can help you with all documentation around actually copyright. So agreement but also to get you registered with the copyrighted office. First formally the first step, do you have a contract with the co-writers, do you have a contract with a composer if not do it because if you don't have a contract you don't know what can happen.
Eric Knight: And that's the songwriting agreement with the splits
Virginie Berger: Absolutely sometimes it's like two pages, it's absolutely nothing. It’s just to make sure you are ok with the splits because what will happen if the co writers or co composer don’t agree with you or you have a big fight.
Eric Knight: Exactly you want to get that stuff done upfront.
Virginie Berger: Absolutely you can be friends and then very quickly no so its the first step for me. Second step is to get affiliated with a rights organization. If you work with a company like Songtrust for example we have direct registration with rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI SOCIEDAD. So that means if you are registered with Songtrust we are able tos send you directly to the registration with those rights organizations. If we don't have a direct registration you can also register to get a membership with local PRO’s or CMOs because I wouldn't advise a writer get affiliated with a rights organization that is a local rights organization. Because of subsidies for example, education, or even pension or house coverage that you can get with your local rights organization. And then after that you can work with a company like Songtrust to help you get affiliated with all the rights organizations in the world. You know, I know technically the rights organizations collects reciprocal agreements but it can be very slow and sometimes they don't know you have a broadcasting or a concert outside the country that is your country. So what we’ll do is why we register your music works everywhere, not all your music works but you know the music works that you’ve decided to get registered with us.
Eric Knight: And another side question to that, just from a curiosity standpoint because there's a lot of confusion, should an artist what's the benefits of them setting up their own Publishing Company? Could you explain that?
Virginie Berger: same, I would say that it's like what I said about the publishing company, the benefit is like you will get your publishing share actually, that's the benefit of doing it. That's also you know why Songtrust you know was created in 2012 I think it's because it wanted to help artists without a publishing company to get their publisher shares that's the story actually of the…
Eric Knight: Because typically normally they would get it sent to them through the PRO right but…
Virginie Berger: It depends on the rights. Actually it's not everywhere and sometimes you need other publishers and some countries and in other countries you don't need a publisher which really depends but you don't get all the publishing shares actually. It depends if the country is based on copyright or if the country is based on author rights. That's another discussion we can have because its too technical you know…
Eric Knight: … Yeah it is technical, but its good.
Virginie Berger: It really depends because in some countries you can and in other countries you really need to have a publisher. Like in the UK for example it is easier to go through a pub admin by yourself. It might be interesting for a writer, once again it depends on your project, on the time you have and if you have a very good accountant and if you understand how the register works with a rights organization. If you understand all the data because its the most complicated to figure out what to send to a rights organization because its not the same everywhere. If you work with GMA or SSEM it's supposed to be the same but you have some technical details that are different. Yeah it's interesting for a writer that has his own publishing company. If you have the knowledge and the time its great but most of them don't so we support those that don’t have the money or the knowledge or the time to set up their own publishing company.
Ritch Esra: Let me ask you Virginie, how can artists or songwriters become involved with Songtrust? What’s the process?
Virginie Berger: Very easy online so they just have to register online and they just have to fill out a form and from there we'll contact them to make sure that we had everything in place so we have a contract they can sign online and its a very, very easy process and forms and you know I will contact them all so we can send the newsletter or emails to make sure that you have everything and we also have you know is CS team, a customer service team dedicated to all clients so they can contact us actually whenever they needed us.
Eric Knight: Wonderful, Virginie, are there any books or films that have really resonated with you professionally speaking that you could recommend to our audience?
Virginie Berger: About publishing?
Eric Knight: Yeah about publishing or any things that maybe influenced you, anything that yeah would be helpful.
Virginie Berger: The book, do you know the David Bern book, “how to make it in music” so that book, its a big book. But yeah it’s very very interesting also on netflix you have a series, I don't remember the title…
Ritch Esra: Song Exploder?
Virginie Berger: Yeah!
Ritch Esra: Yeah! All about the writing of individual songs, they do these half hour shows on individual you know whether its Trent Resner, Dua Lipa did one yea yea yea.
Virginie Berger: Absolutely so that one is really really super super interesting really. And also you have movies like the movie with Lady Gaga that was really about…
Ritch Esra: Star is Born?
Virginie Berger: Yeah you know about writing and you have plenty of you know, Songtrust tries to educate a lot of their clients so we also give away plenty of documentation, ebooks for free. We also gave away you know, we talked about the split agreement so we gave away split agreement… it's very very basic but they need something at least or they will have it. And you don't even have to be a client you can just download. So we also try to give them plenty of info because we know that its difficult.
Ritch Esra: Yes I can be it can be. It's funny I teach courses on the music business and the way I learned the most about music publishing was about teaching it. That over the years that's how I really came to learn and understand by teaching it. I wanted to ask you, what advice do you have Virginie, because you had a very interesting career in this space, For our listeners who are interested in a career as a music publisher or who want to get into that field professionally?
Virginie Berger: Well as you said you said you learned music business but for me i learned music publishing by doing it actually it's really you know, when i started to read the contract because when you read an article, it's very difficult to understand and to really know what they mean by writer share by publisher share and Blah, I don’t know. So really I would say its to start with an internship or you know to start working with an artist. It's really, to start directly with the contract and to understand real life, because there are also plenty of people that you know that see music publishing like I don't know, sync for example. Which it is but, its not all the times. So I would say the best thing is to probably start with an internship. Everywhere. Or even to work with an artist for free. That's how I started, I would just work with artists or write about it. That can also be interesting. To write articles about music publishing.
Eric Knight: That's interesting, Flipping that question around what advice can you offer our listeners who are wanting to pursue a career as a recording artist.
Virginie Berger: Oh wow it's good luck. It's very brave. I would say that you need to know about the music business. We talked about it but it's and it's what I said to my neighbor's son actually its real you need to understand that it's not about being in a studio and when writing your songs because you can be the best but it won't work. I'm sorry to say that but we know now that artists really must understand how it works, the music business. it's without that I'm not sure that it would be successful because now it's really a question of business it can be the best but if they sign a contract that is very bad for them for example it can't just destroy their career. So they really should know about music business or I know that most of the times are not interested or they think that it won't be their job but it's their job. It's part of their job. I remember I don’t remember the name of the DJ but he said he's very, it's not Diplo, maybe its Diplo. So I'm not sure but he said that now to be successful you have to be your lawyer. So you have to yeah I just so you have to understand what you are doing it doesn't mean that you have to be a lawyer or you have to understand a contract but you have to understand what you give and what you sign
Ritch Esra: You have to be educated
Virginie Berger: Absolutely so I would say that if they want to be successful they can be as smart and ] talented you know really but is it don't understand what this sign, Radiohead is Trent Reznor you know they are the best example actually because they really try to change I mean that they changed in some ways the business but because they know really what they have to do so it's a it's a very good example
Ritch Esra: Virginie, thank you so much for doing this we really, really appreciate it very, very much thank you
Virginie Berger: thank you! Thank you very much for your questions, thank you
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