So… It’s been a really busy couple of weeks. I’ve been out playing every weekend, done a ton of travelling and driving in my car to and from these gigs… (side note: it overheated and got ran in to on the way to a gig …it’s been an adventure!). In between these gigs I’ve been working, teaching little ones, getting to the gym when I can, and also trying to catch up at home on all the things I need to do for myself as an independent musician. I’m also just trying to be a normal human who needs to spend time with loved ones and to do the laundry and shopping…
In reality, days off haven’t been really happening… I don’t mind doing little bits every day as it all contributes to my overall goals, and I’ve been really enjoying the ‘work’ at the moment, but I am aware this will wane at some point, so I’m planning on taking next Monday off completely (no emails, social or anything) and heading for a day of shopping in Kingston (did someone say a big LUSH stock up shop?! YESSSSS!)
Until then, there’s a lot to do… and a lot of it is boring, but very necessary. As always it’s about putting in the hard work now for a pay off later. Unfortunately as an independent, with an ever changing market to adapt to, it’s no longer acceptable to just be creative. In a world where we can do it all, it’s expected that we should. Business and organisation smarts are as fundamentally important as the creativity now; this is why I’m a huge advocate of personal development and just learning as much as possible about everything you can. Knowledge is power, after all, and the more you can do for yourself, the better.
…Anyway, back to this week. I’ve been getting my house in order and working through a bunch of boring stuff I needed to do. The first being catching up on my accounts and receipts. I needed to go through everything from the weekends, input the receipts and amounts in to a spreadsheet for my accounts and make sure I have a record of everything correctly. I also needed to check my mileage for each journey and calculate the petrol expense. It’s mundane. I hate every second of doing this, trust me. But I do it because when I put in my tax return every year, I don’t want the stress of running around my flat and cleaning out my car for soggy trampled receipts trying to find out what I spent in a service station at 11pm, 6 months ago. If you don’t do this already and you’re earning from your music I really suggest you just start now. Simply make a list of what you’re spending and what’s coming in. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Grab a shoe box… shove all your receipts in it at least so they’re in one place when you need them. If you can afford to, get an accountant for the end of the year, but help them help you by doing the leg work now. Trust me, you don’t wanna fuck with the man so just sort it now.
I’ve been doing my best to keep on top of my emails for the last few weeks too, but there’s been some stuff I couldn’t do whilst I was away, so I’ve been working to catch up and respond where possible to anything immediate. I often feel overwhelmed by my inbox, I’m not going to lie. It doesn’t help that it’s a monster that I feed by not always taking my own advice and deleting stuff, then ending up with 800 emails in my inbox to sort through… but I’m learning. My biggest advice to anyone who struggles with this is to answer anything urgent straight away, or send a holding reply if necessary, file the emails by subject as soon as they’re answered in to folders and delete anything unnecessary as you go. Please don’t procrastinate, forget to reply and then find in a week an opportunity is gone because you didn’t answer quick enough (I’ve been there several times) and keep a record of your booking conversations particularly (this covers your arse if you ever get in to an argument about money too).
Because I’ve been out live a lot, there’s PRS Gigs & Clubs Claims to do too. As an independent this is a super important source of income for me. If you’re a UK songwriter playing out live, PRS is basically gonna chuck money at you for this, so don’t throw it down the drain. Sign up today! It’s £50 out of your first set of royalties (so you’re paying nothing up front!) and for every set list you take the time to submit you’re earning a share of around £5 a set list split between the writers of the material you submit (different for festivals). If you’re out playing a lot, I recommend scheduling a block of time in a day once a month where you catch up on this. Otherwise it takes forever to remember what you played and when, you get bored and you won’t fill them in and get paid. And before you complain £50 is too much… just 10 original gigs and your in profit. Do it now!
Saying that though… to get paid, you have to have registered your material in the first place. I cannot stress this enough if you’re a writer: REGISTER YOUR SONGS. It is not cool to be ‘underground’ and not earn from your music. It’s money in your pocket! You just need a song title, the duration if you have it (you can register demos without this on PRS so there’s really no excuse!) and the writer(s) name if you’ve been co-writing too (top top: get their name, PRS number and the split agreed at the session in writing if possible.) Then, when your music is played on radio… kerrrr-ching!
Furthermore, if you play on your material, or others recorded music, and/or you own your rights to your sound recordings and are self releasing, you need to be registered with PPL too.
To explain: there are two copyrights within a recording; the writing rights and the sound recording rights). In the UK, PRS deal with songwriting rights, and PPL with the sound recording rights, though the two do communicate with each other and especially with MCPS too (the UK’s mechanical rights society).
For PPL, you need to register as two separate entities if you are both a rights holder (you own your sound recordings and self release/license them) and you are a musical performer. As a performer, if you sang and played guitar on a record… then when the recorded version is played, you’re owed a performance royalty for those actions. KERCHING. Furthermore if others have played on it too, they should also be paid and remunerated accordingly, so make sure you add your drummer and bassist etc to the registrations if you are the one registering them. (Side note: if you’re on someone else’s recording as a session player etc, you can just submit a claim to be added to it, but they should really do this for you. As always though, not everyone else is reliable so keep the control and make sure you are getting what you’re owed!)
If you are rights holder, you will be given an ISRC starter code by PPL which is unique to you. You then finish this yourself with the year of release and a number (PPL has advice on this on their site) and assign to each track accordingly. ISRC codes can be embedded in a master (hey Metadata this is why you’re so important!) and this enables radio and anywhere that plays your recorded track to track who the sound recording belongs to and gets you paid accordingly. So if you are writing and releasing your own material… DOUBLE KERCHING! I highly recommend you use a spreadsheet (I’ve given a little example below) to make sure you know what’s been given what. Then if you ever need to license anything too, you have all the information handy. I do the below for everything I release, and I also have a list of PRS registrations too.
Anyway… at snooze point I will say, this is just the tip of the iceberg and leave it there. My point is, if you don’t do the work, you don’t get paid, you might get screwed and you could lose out on something you didn’t need to pay for. In the long term a little work* (*ok a lot of work in little chunks), will pay off so I recommend starting today. Make spreadsheets and organisation your friends, and it’ll free up time for you later on when you’d rather be making music. It’ll also help bring in the dough! I hate it, but I do it because I love everything else.
With that, I’m finishing writing this today. My album masters have arrived (SO SO SO EXCITED). This is the culmination of more than a year of work and it’s a big relief – I actually cried listening to it whilst writing this (probably why it took me all day).
No matter what anyone says now, I know I’m really proud of this record. It’s eccentric and honest and me.
And it’s all registered properly too.