For more than two decades, Don Passman has watched a number of business models come and go as he built up a legal practice guiding artists through an ever-changing thicket of licensing deals and other contractual arrangements.
Passman, who represents the likes of Stevie Wonder, Pink, Tom Waits, Green Day and Paul Simon, recently spoke with Billboard about what's new for artists on the occasion of today's release of the eighth edition of his influential book, "All You Need to Know About the Music Business," published by Simon & Schuster. The book has sold approximately 335,000 copies since its first printing in 1991.
The video above is a brief Q&A about the book and the contemporary music business with Passman's youngest son, Jordan, who is a digital music entrepreneur and founder of Score A Score, an online marketplace for custom music scores. And the following is an excerpt from a discussion Passman had with Billboard - a separate version, which goes into his predictions about what's next for the industry, will be published in the December 15, 2012, issue of the magazine, available Friday.
There have been complaints from artists who believe they are not getting enough money from digital services such as Pandora and Spotify. At the same time, major labels are reporting a surge in revenue from these services. Why is there a disconnect?
It's not a disconnect, but the income is spread over a lot of artists, and the artists only get a fraction of what the companies get, after deduction of publishing payments. I would guess that, in the long run, artists will get a bigger share.
What can artists do to make sure they get their fair share?
They can audit the record company and look at the data supplied by the digital service provider. The problem is, it's hundreds of thousands of entries.
Should artists demand data transparency from the digital services directly?
The record companies are fighting this, and since the artists have no direct deals with the digital services, they have no right to the data.
What are three concrete steps artists can take to future-proof their revenue in a world where the technology used to distribute and exploit their work is ever-changing?
Nothing magical here but common sense: make great music, build a touring base, build a fan base and stay connected.
Should artists window their releases and keep new releases off of streaming releases for a period of time?
This is controversial. According to one record company executive, there's no evidence that it makes much difference. And certainly for newer artists, it can help spread the music and build your career to get it everywhere.