Music libraries offer instant access to scores of tracks

As record labels, artists and Congress try to establish the legalities of Internet music downloading, publishers and copyright holders are racing to upload their tracks onto B-to-B music sites.

LicenseMusic.com, SongCatalog.com and EnableYourMusic.com, among others, offer varying services that promise indie record labels, publishers and artists a new way to monetize content.

These strictly B-to-B sites offer instant access to scores of tracks from production music libraries to record catalogs to garage band demos. For film and TV music supervisors as well as broadcast, multimedia and corporate users, finding that perfect cue can now be as simple as an Internet search.

Aggregating content and exploiting music catalogs (in the best sense) online makes sense. However, with such new territory, the business model for music publishing sites is unproven. But the financial strength of publishing (traditionally the music industry’s cash cow) is undeniable.

According to the National Music Publishers Assn.’s annual survey in 1998 (the most recent year available), music publishing revenues from the U.S. alone totaled $1.6 billion. That figure includes performance-based income from radio, TV, cable and satellite totaling $516 million, plus an estimated $111 million for synchronization rights collected by the org’s members. Worldwide, publishers collected $6.5 billion in 1998.

Most major publishers, such as Sony/ATV Music Publishing (www.sonyatv.com), offer their catalogs online for search purposes only, often designed specifically as a creative tool for music buyers. It’s the nonaligned and smaller music songwriter and composer who stand to profit most from Internet music licensers that act as brokers, administrators or simply Web hosts of copyrighted material.

Since 1995, streaming audio samples have been available on production music library Megatrax’s Web site. Additionally, registered users can license music onsite obtaining both sync and master licenses simultaneously. Typically for any audio-visual medium both synch rights (licensing the composition or song) and master use rights (licensing the recording) are required.

“The Internet is a huge advantage for us,” says Ron Mendelsohn, Megatrax’s CEO-executive producer. “The biggest benefit of the Web site is the music search tool.

“However,” the exec admonishes, “to find that very specific sound, you can’t replace the human search tool.”

LicenseMusic offers a user-friendly search and pricing engine, and hosts approximately 50,000 tracks, including production music libraries and publishers such as DreamWorks Music Publishing, Arc Music and Cherry Lane Publishing. As Steven Corn, exec vp, explains the 24/7 aspect of the site plus the automated pricing feature gives users quotes in seconds enabling the entire transaction to be completed on-line.

“We’re taking the music library concept to the next level,” says Corn. “We’ve taken the menu approach of libraries and applied it to a much larger body of music and made it dynamic and interactive.”

LicenseMusic has had success licensing to nontraditional media such as web sites and corporate AV producers, and has made inroads into the film and TV music world with songs licensed for projects such as “Meet the Parents” and Fox Family Channel’s “The Amati Girls.”

Vet music supervisor Evyen Klean of Neophonic, Inc., says the Internet has become an important tool for doing administrative and creative research but points out that music licensing sites are still building their reputations and need to ensure that all their “ducks are in a row” rights-wise.

Obtaining film and TV music approvals is often a lengthy process on the creative side; music license sites promise to shorten the administrative process.

“The potential is huge,” opines Steven McClintock, chief creative officer of SongCatalog.com, who believes that his site opens up a global market for its more than 12,000 songs.

Since November, SongCatalog.com has hosted publishers and writers for a fee. The site’s dynamic search engine allows 22 different configurations such as looking by lyrics, genre, style, chart position, chart history or theme. In March, the site had over 300,000 hits with 180 registered buyers to date.

In March, MP3.com launched EnableYourMusic.com as the publishing arm of its music site. With more than 850,000 songs (by 130,000 emerging and indie artists) already online, artists can opt-in for EnableYourMusic’s comprehensive licensing and royalty administration services.

EnableYourMusic’s prexy and CEO Steve Love explains that the site’s mandate is to “work with a developing constituency to enable them to control their own destiny.” Music buyers can search by music type as well geographic and demographic criteria.

More online ventures are pending: LibraryTracks.com plans to launch later this year, which pools more than 800 CDs of music from six production music libraries: 615 Production Music, Manhattan Production Music, Non-Stop, Videohelper, Omni Music and Megatrax.

In mid-April, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, launched a searchable database, http://www.sonyatv.com, which samples the catalogs extensive holdings, and allows searches by topic, genre, lyrics or mood. For the actual license, buyers will still have to go off-line.

Not every artist is committed to generic licensing of his or her material. As film and TV composer Miriam Cutler (“Scout’s Honor”) explains, “While the possibilities are exciting, they are also limiting because they take the individuality out of the relationship between a director and composer.”

But Cutler is not immune to the Internet’s potential for increased business opportunities. Her Web site address: www.miriamcutler.com.

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