Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Songs For Sale

A start up called SongVest is holding an auction for "fans" to buy a piece of the writer's share of a song. Traditionally a song's ownership is divided into a publisher and a writers share. Sometimes the writer keeps the publishing other times she/he sells a portion or all of her/his publishing rights to a publishing company such as EMI Music. Usually between the two of them, they decide if or where the song gets placed, such as commercials, in a film, etc. SongVest has partnered with songwriters or their heirs to auction off pieces of the writer's share to raise money for the writer of the song. SongVest would receive 25-40% of the total raised according to an article in the WSJ today. "Fans" that buy a share of the song would receive royalties. It is not clear how royalties are paid out or what % a shareholder would receive. SongVest's banner is Music Memorabilia with Royalty Checks.

On the site's FAQ's. The following is posted for the seller, which seems to cloud the money issue a a bit more:

What charges can I expect if I sell my song through SongVest?
a. Minimum Commission An industry standard seller’s commission between 10% -15% will be applied if your song sells, unless otherwise specified in the contract.
b. Unsold Charge If the bidding does not exceed your reserve price and the song goes unsold, an industry standard charge would normally be applied. This fee is currently being waived.
c. Platinum Award The tangible piece of the sale is a one-of-a-kind platinum album wall plaque. The charge for a double platinum award is $400 and a single platinum award is $300 plus shipping and handling. .
d. Tax Please consult your accountant on any tax related issues.
e. Thompson & Thompson Search If a search is required, the cost to do so will be paid by the seller.

One of the songs that will soon be up for auction is near and dear to my love of music: (Theme from) The Monkees written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The 60's had such a great run of successful writing duos and Boyce/Hart were right behind King/Goffin and Weil/Mann. I played that Monkees first record so much that I'm surprised I still have it in one piece today. The album cover is a bit tattered. Another Boyce/Hart track up for auction is the theme from Days of Our Lives. Mark Hudson of the Hudson Brothers fame, as well as the father of Kate has quite a few of his songs up for auction.

Of course it makes me think that the writers of these songs are selling as they need the money now. It must be heartbreaking to give up a piece of yourself. I've never met a songwriter who didn't fell like everyone of their songs is a part of them. My first impression was more money people starting a "music company" to extract every dime out of anything they can, then it occurred to me that the writer might really benefit financially in a way that royalties alone might not.

On a design note: SongVest's website looks way too much like Sirius' website.

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