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music office Illustration: Fabián Muñoz. Illustration: Fabián Muñoz.

The music editor or Music Publisher (II)

In the first part of this consultation we had done some history, defined the main functions of the music publisher within the industry and the types of publishing contracts or publishing

But perhaps we missed clarifying something that is often very confusing for laymen and even for people who work making music. Editorial rights do not exist separately or apart from, nor are they something distinct from, copyright. To put it quickly and badly, what they call publishing rights is nothing more than that part or percentage that the author gets rid of when he signs an editorial contract and that becomes controlled by a publisher. In other words, the rights that the laws grant to the author over his works, by the sole fact of being their creator, are transferable (during life, through sales, assignment or editorial contracts that the composer can sign and when he dies, by succession to his heirs). In other words, as long as the composer has rights over his works or over his part in the works he has created with others, as long as he lives he can negotiate them, market them and even sell them forever, as has become fashionable lately. Once deceased, his heirs will also be able to do so, provided that there are no previous agreements, signed by the author in life, that prevent it. In any of these cases, the person or company that acquires the rights to the works by contract becomes the new owner (or owner, in the case of sale) of the same. 

Publishing activity in music in Cuba dates from the 30s of the 20th century. The first music publishers in our country were branches of publishers North Americans who, attentive to the compositional level of Cuban authors and the precariousness of their lives in some cases, planted their offices in Havana and managed to sign extensive catalogs of Cuban works, almost always mediating advances that we now know are ridiculous. It must be recognized that they knew how to sniff out talent, that they had the necessary skills for editorial work: Miguel Matamoros, Sindo Garay, Ignacio Piñeiro, Benny Moré, Ñico Saquito, Bola de Nieve and many other enormous composers were the targets of their attention. Peer International Corporation and Southern Music Company, both founded by a shrewd American Jew named Ralph Peer, managed to sign and have held all this time the rights to a good part of the Cuban composers of the 40s and 50s.

In 1950, and with the express intention of breaking the monopoly of those mentioned above, Musicabana emerged, the first music publisher in Cuba created by active musicians, which came to collect a very representative sample of authorial creation in Cuba at that time. , especially linked to the filin. About its founders and their activity, I recommend reading "Playing with a candle: the Musicabana publishing house" on the blog forgetful, that wonder of musical archeology that our admired Rosa Marquetti wears.

In the first years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the North American music companies were “nationalized”, but this intervention essentially affected the premises, the equipment and the machinery (for recording, pressing, etc.). Although many previously recorded audio matrices remained in Cuba, the copyright and therefore the editorials in their immateriality, they continued to belong to those companies that had acquired them. In 1964, the Egrem was created, one of whose functions, as its name indicates, was publishing; later, in 1988, the Editora Musical de Cuba was born and then each of the state record labels that appeared also created an area for contracting musical works. Other publishers active in signing Cuban repertoires have been the Spanish SEEMSA (formerly Quiroga), the North American Hall of Fame, the German Termidor Musikverlag or the English Tumi Music. Sony Music Publishing, meanwhile, treasures both the hits of local people like as sub-editor the editorial catalog of Egrem. More recently, Planet Records has acquired an interesting group of Cuban works, especially from the urban music scene. 

That, that of the Cuban music publishing companies, is a story yet to be told. A first approach to the subject, if you are interested, you can have it in the book The sheet music editor in Cuba: an approach, by the musicologist Karina Rumayor Hernández (Contracanto Ediciones, Uneac). In any case, I dare to assure you that, unlike what happens in most countries that have a structured music industry focused on the market, in Cuba the music publisher has not played a very important role in recent years. . At most, the record companies try to take over the rights to the works they record, but as far as I know, there is no specific training or clearly structured policy that allows the appearance of scouts of works and much less an active practice of placing works on the music market beyond their record release. In this sense, if I consider a exemplary publisher it is Espiral Eterna Editions, a small company, created by the work team of maestro Leo Brouwer, which is in charge not only of publishing scores and books and controlling the exploitation of the work of the prominent Cuban guitarist and composer, but also rents materials to interested soloists and orchestras and, in general, performs a commendable professional job of disseminating and controlling Leo's work.

But, focusing on the type of questions that music creators usually ask me, is it convenient for a Cuban author to assign the rights to his works to a publisher? What kind of publisher? What kind of contract should you sign? The answer, in all cases, is IT DEPENDS. And it depends both on the type of works you are the author of (if it is more or less commercial) and above all on what are the objectives that you as a musician or band consider in the current ecosystem and with respect to your compositions. 

Also readIllustration: Fabián Muñoz.
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The music editor or Music Publisher (I)

Darsi Fernández05.11.2021

In Cuba there is no usual music market, it is not the publishers like in other countries- who They control the massive promotion and dissemination of musical works. That already makes a difference, because it is not commercially mandatory for you to transfer your compositions to third parties to reach radio, TV or digital music distribution platforms. 

If you have the rights to your works and what you are considering is making a record with an “official” local record company (Egrem, Bis Music, Colibrí, Abdala), it is most likely that together with the record contract you will be required to assign the publishing rights. about the works that you are going to include in the phonogram. It is a completely widespread practice everywhere. The record companies, which make the investment of paying for studios, musicians, promotion, production, among others, demand to have rights over the performed works, which results (through the royalties they receive from collective management entities, income from synchronization, etc.) another way to amortize their expenses. 

If you are working as an independent under the concept of self-production, in principle you do not need to assign the editorial part of your rights to anyone, especially if you personally or your own team are in charge of promoting your works and recordings. In that case, when your works are broadcast, televised, heard on-line or played live, the rights they generate will go directly into your pocket, through the collective management entities to which you belong. Keeping the 100% of your rights may also be convenient in the event that you manage to “stick” a work and that it attracts the attention of very prominent performers or film or video game producers. In that case, the negotiation will be directly with you and it is likely that then you will have to give up a stake to a publisher or company as a condition for the inclusion of your work in the new album of the famous performer, in the film or in the video game in question. . 

I will give two examples, in my opinion very notorious: Marta Valdés, probably the most performed Cuban composer, holds all the rights to her wonderful works, which she never agreed to cede to anyone and which have been performed in all genres and latitudes through the years. For its part, Yomil & El Dany, for years, has achieved several hundred thousand views on YouTube or listening on Spotify, without having committed his works to any music publisher, except his own company Trapton Music. 

As we discussed in the first part, there is a variant in which the author creates his own publisher, through which he manages the rights of his compositions (and sometimes of other authors whom he interprets or discovers) in a more professional manner. In Cuba it is still impossible to carry out music publishing as an autonomous (non-state) activity, which is why several Cuban musicians have chosen to create their own music publishing companies in other territories. Hopefully this and other prohibitions will disappear soon, which in my opinion will result in a necessary revitalization and modernization of musical activity in the country. 

In short, whether or not to sign an editorial assignment contract should be an informed decision, preceded by a prior evaluation of the real scope, both commercial and of platforms and public, that the publisher can give your works. Do not lose sight of the fact that compositions are the most important asset that a musician (if he is also an author) can have during his career. To yield or not to yield, to sell or not to sell, that is the question. Get advice before you decide. 

Additional note for the curious: in the last two years we have witnessed a fairly new phenomenon regarding the commercialization of rights to musical works. Established artists (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Shakira, Mick Fleetwood, Blondie, Rick James, Barry Manilow) sold their music catalogs to record label publishers, investment funds or companies willing to pay a fortune for them. This is a practice that most European and Latin American laws do not allow, unlike those of the United States and the United Kingdom. When a composer sells his authorial catalog in its entirety, he loses the possibility of receiving future income from the exploitation of those works, their fate ceases to run and he has no power to decide on their future exploitation. You will only be mentioned as an author, but you will no longer receive income for your successive uses or listening. The choice these authors make — in my opinion provoked partly due to the stoppage of concerts that the pandemic has meant and due to the negligible income produced by the streaming for composers it is to receive a liquid amount, as opposed to the practice of earning as musical works generate. It is an operation at risk, because it is almost certain that what these creators are receiving is a lower figure than all the future returns of these works will add up to the purchasers. But the saying "a bird in the hand is better than a hundred in flight" is also true. Many of these artists are advanced in age and will be thinking that they prefer to leave their heirs cold, hard money. In short, who can say how the music industry will work in 50 years?

Avatar photo Darsi Fernández Hyperlink with human figure. He has a bad memory only for what suits him. He dreams of retiring to read. More posts

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