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Record Label FAQ

Q. I've just found out that my music is already being sold in iTunes Music Store. I didn't put it there or give anyone permission to do that. How did it get there?
A. This is a loaded question and there are a number of possible answers. In one particular case we came across, there were 3 copies of the same CD in the iTunes Music Store which really did produce multiple answers. However, the simplest answer is often the right one so we'll try that first. There are two major culprits - the distributor and the pressing plant. Let's start with the most common situations.

CD Baby - It might seem like I'm singling out CD Baby, but I'm not. Here's the thing - if you have an indie pressing and sell your CDs through CD Baby, there's a very good chance that whoever signed you up with CD baby also signed their digital distribution agreement at the same time or at a later time. If so, when you sent in your first couple of CDs for their inventory, CD Baby ripped your CD and uploaded it to the online music stores. There's actually nothing illegal happening here *IF* the digital distribution agreement was signed because this agreement gives CD Baby permission to distribute your music digitally.

The Pressing Plants - I'll lump these all in together. One of the selling points of certain pressing plants is their ability to hook you up with distribution. I can write for a long time on why this isn't as good in real life as it appears in their sales literature, but the bottom line is that some of the pressing plants are providing digital distribution as a "benefit" of using their CD manufacturing services. You need to check what you actually signed up for when you had your CDs pressed.

One of your business "partners" - Because of the nature of this industry, strange relationships often occur and disintegrate as quickly as they happened without the benefit of a paper trail. However, because this is a rights issue you'll still have to do some due diligence and check out all your paperwork. Yup, go through all of your contracts again. Manager. Promoter. Bass Player. Drum Roadie. Recording Engineer. Rehearsal Space. Landlord. That one night stand gig in Belle Fourche, SD* (you think I'm kidding). Ex-Wife. Etc. One of them may have a legitimate clause or option which gives them some kind of digital distribution rights over your music.

Maybe it's someone that you owe money to - Yes, this is the point where it all comes flooding back to memory. Remember how the studio wouldn't give you your masters until you paid them in full? It may turn out that someone, to who you owe money, holds some rights to your recordings and is trying to recover what you owe them by selling your music. What's worse about this situation, is that they may actually have a legal right to do this. So don't rush in with the baseball bats. OK? Who owes who the money?

If none of these examples covers your situation, then it's probably time to get a really good attorney.

Q. I applied to iTunes and have been turned down. Can you put my music onto iTunes?
A. Higgs Communications may be able to distribute your music in the iTunes Music Store. However, we have a fairly strict set of criteria. We want to work with artists and musical genres that actually interest us. We've worked with way too many people in the past who have unrealistic expectations. Our experience is that it's better not to work with an artist who is not "on the same page". We're not just talking about "American Idol-syndrome" either. That way we keep the "friction" down to a minimum and everyone gets something positive out of the relationship.

Q. My old band's album hasn't been available for years. We could never get our label to repress it and we never did own the masters anyway.
A. Maybe we can brighten your day a little. Or at least provide a small glimmer of hope. Depending on the type of contract you had, and if your album hasn't been available for years and your label contract and options have completely expired, it is possible that the ownership of the masters may have reverted back to the band members. It's a long shot. You will need competent legal advice, and it will take a lot of research. Anyway, if you don't check, you'll never find out. It's also possible that an old label will sell you your masters back in payment for monies (royalties) owed to you.

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