Join me for a lively discussion with Brittain Ashford who is Executive Director of the Music Publishers Association of the United States. She answers some of the most common questions music educators have about music copyright issues.
I would like to that J.H. Tackett Marketing in Hanford for sponsoring this episode.
The Central Valley Music Educators Podcast is hosted by Rob Bentley. The show is available at:
This episode of the Central Valley Music Educators Podcast is sponsored by JH Tackett Marketing in Hanford. They offer worldwide printing at your fingertips. Find out more at JH tacketmarketing.com. 18s Welcome to the Central Valley Music Educators Podcast. I'm your host, Rob Bentley. On this week's show, I'll be speaking with Britton Ashford from the Music Publishers Association. You can follow the podcast on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Google, YouTube, or wherever you download your favorite shows. You can also listen on our firstname.lastname@example.org. 3s Well, I'm super excited to have with us Britton Ashford, who is the executive director of the Music Publishers Association of the United States and an artistic advisor with Shermer Theatricals in New York City. In addition to her work with the MPA, she is also a songwriter, arranger, and performer. In 2017, she starred in the Broadway musical Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. Welcome to the show, Brittany. Hi, Rob. Thanks for having me. Can you tell us a little bit about the Music Publishers Association and the work that they do? Yeah. So, in brief, the MPA is a trade organization made up of print publishers. We were founded in 1895, and as such, we are the oldest music trade organization in the United States. So we serve publishers and the composers they represent through educational outreach and various advocacy efforts. We are a nonprofit. Our goal is to facilitate communication between publishers, dealers, educators and musicians. One of the reasons I'm with you today. Awesome. Where is the MPA based? Out of? We're based out of New York. Okay, cool. Hey, it's a crazy world out there, and there's been so many misconceptions about music copyright by music educators. I've gathered a few questions from our listeners, and I'm wondering if you might shed some light on the issues that we faced in a lot of our music festivals. This is music festival season that we're in right now, and participants are asked to perform with original scores and provide the adjudicators with original scores as well. Why shouldn't they just make photos the copies to save money? So looking at the copyright law, permission for duplication for any purpose whatsoever must be secured from the copyright owner. And I'm going to stress this throughout our conversation because I think it will be relevant in a few different spots, but asking with lots of lead time is a great idea because each publisher has different feelings about these types of things. I mean, not specifically adjudication, but I know that one has come up. Like if a student has purchased a copy for themselves and maybe even a copy for one adjudicator, do they really need to purchase three copies for three adjudicators? And the answer is always with each individual publisher. So as the law is written, you just need to ask permission to copy because that's the letter of the law. And I will add that print on demand has made this a lot more economical. It used to be, certainly when I was in high school, if you were doing a piece from an anthology, gosh, it could be a huge book, a $50 book, but it was only available in that anthology and you had to buy three copies of it and that was sometimes just not possible. But now so much is available. Print on demand and publishers do give you the option to buy that 2nd, 3rd, 4th copy right there online and it's pretty dark and affordable. 1s What about the composers and how they're affected by copyright people copying scores and such illegally? Rob I'm glad you asked that, because in my answer, I didn't even kind of scratch that, that ultimately, when we're talking about copying music, that's who we're hurting. That's why we shouldn't just copy to avoid avoid that purchase, because we might think of a publisher as being sort of this large business entity that we're not really hurting when we copy it. But at the end of the day, publishers work with composers who they're able to produce work for. And if people aren't buying that work, then they're not able to pay their composers. And if they can't pay their composers, then composers, they are like educators. They have families and homes. They have to pay rent just like anyone. So if the work has value to the individual, it certainly has value to the composer, and the composer should be compensated. So we have a lot of marching band directors in our listening audience, and some of them have asked me, they want to arrange music for their field shows, for their competition field shows. And they end up going through companies like Trisan, Licensing Exchange. And what are some of the things that directors face when they go through using Tristona and the different companies and the rates that they charge? 1s So I can't speak directly to Trisona and the rates that they charge from that end of it. But it's my understanding that many publishers are still able to offer a license for various works directly. And I'm not sure 1s I've heard from many educators that Tricona that there's some price discrepancies and things like that. And again, I cannot speak to that. But if perhaps some educators like to secure a license through them because it might feel faster, or maybe they perceive it as easier, especially if they're trying to pursue multiple pieces at the same time, if it's seen as sort of a one stop shop. But generally speaking, I found that publishers are more than happy to negotiate directly. Again, going back to making sure you have enough lead time to secure the permissions you need, there are some folks, even very well staffed publishers, it could still take two months to get the response you need. If you've picked your repertoire for the winter, you should be asking for it in the spring. My general advice to directors would always be to inquire with a publisher directly. And there's also a world where and this goes for any outlet if you're unhappy with what they're offering or how they offer it. There's a lot of work out there on a lot of different platforms, and I would encourage folks to explore what else is out there if they're not happy with what they're receiving. Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned the lead time, because that's so important. I've been sharing on the show as festival coordinator, people registering for festivals and getting paperwork done on time. But I guess music arranging, getting permissions is alike in that way that you definitely have to think several months, if not more, ahead of time, if you're seeking permissions for arrangements or those kinds of things. 1s I mean, my advice is always at least six months. It never hurts to be too early. And I know sometimes 1s things change based on needs. You might not know the abilities of your students going into, you know, if you're dealing with, you know, a freshman ensemble, for example, you might not know exactly who is going to be in that class and you might select to work. And at the end of the day, it's maybe not a great fit. So you have to kind of go back, back to the drawing board. But the more time you can give yourself, the better chance you're going to be able to negotiate what you need. So, Britain, in your opinion, what are some of the most common misconceptions about copyright law? Oh, goodness, there are a lot of misconceptions about fair use. I think a lot of folks think that if it's being used in a school or a church, that permission isn't needed. And there's certainly lots of uses for teaching that are part of fair use. But it's really important that educators are keyed into what they can and cannot do with any particular piece of music that is protected by copyright law. There's a ton of music out there that is no longer protected by copyright law. A lot of public domain stuff, particularly in the classical canon, but noting that there are also very important, there are also copyrighted arrangements of things that are in theory and public domain. So if you are using those for education, 1s I would say that's actually a copyright misconception, that if it's Bach, for example, that you can do whatever you want with it, but you might be using a new arrangement of a public domain piece. So if you're using that for educational purposes, you should still be getting the proper permission for explicitly what you're doing with it. There's this notion that everyone's doing it. Like, if it's photocopying music or anything that people are doing that might require permission, everyone's doing it. Why can't I do it? And it's not so much about who is doing it or who is getting, quote unquote, caught. It's about respecting that intellectual property. So Brittany mentioned a number of resources available to educators to find out more about getting permissions for some of these. What are some resources they can use? I'm going to say first and foremost, Mpa.org is the Music Publishers Association website, and there's a ton of resources there for educators, including very specific circumstances, permission to photocopy, permission to arrange, how to broadcast, things like that on the MPA website. I mean, you might have stumbled across it, but there's like a whole thing that's like resources for educators. And I will say that the Guide for College Music Students has a lot of stuff that even just as a musician, as a layperson who's trying to, like, figure out there's a lot of those reallife questions 1s are things that even as a performer, I've been like, who do I talk to about that? I'm like, oh, that right. Lies with, like, this person or that person and that's. 1s So lots of information there. National association for Music Education also has a lot of great stuff on their website as well. Yeah, speaking of your website, I noticed on the website that the MPA is introducing a new curriculum on the importance of respecting creators rights. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Right now we have two curriculum resources. One is geared towards elementary educators. It's a short animation that depicts what happens to creators in a futuristic world where one could duplicate physical objects with a scan of a copygun. This animation is accompanied by a lesson plan and some discussion questions and introduces the idea of copyright. It also encourages students to think about their individual creations as having value. I'll also say you can find email@example.com. And yeah, that has a resource guide for students and teachers and sort of how to like in addition to showing it's a very short video, but it's pretty darn concise. And then for older students we have Copyright and you, which is a guide for college music students. And this is intended for future music educators, and it covers the basics of copyright, though I will say it also has a lot of real life situations that often face our music educators, which includes things like your student loses their music right before the show and also securing specific rights prior to arranging or posting videos, things like that. So posting video is actually nice segue because that's what was coming up. 1s So with YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, all these different social media platforms, facebook, a lot of other things. What are some things that educators should be wary of posting, like concert videos and such? Online? 1s So this is hard. This is hard. We go to a concert, we see our kids perform. And just given the nature of social media, the immediacy of it, of course we want to post it, we want to share how great our kids are. But streaming and posting this type of content is essentially a broadcast. And again, going back to the copyright law, the right to share copyrighted work in this manner belongs to the copyright holder. There's also, in addition to just getting permission, there are other things to be considered. And this is a little outside my scope, but I think it's important to remember, 1s imagine a world where you had permission from the copyright holder. I would still be mindful of posting videos of students without their explicit permission. I think that's important to remember too. And again, going back to the law, the right to reproduce any intellectual property, it belongs to someone. That's what intellectual property is. But I always go back to print. 1s And Prince Notoriously did not want any of his music anywhere that he did not give permission for. Like, he didn't want anyone covering his work. He certainly he did not want it on YouTube. And until he passed, none of it was there. And it's so funny because people are like, I want to post this. Why can't I post it? I'm paying homage to this great artist. I love x artists or y artist? You know, it's still their right if they want it up there. And there are plenty of people who are not concerned, but if they are, it is their right to be concerned and not have it up there. I think the big thing is just asking for permission. And it doesn't matter if you're not sure, particularly if you're not sure, ask for permission. I found that 2s I'm going to say this in quotes, post pandemic world, 2s that many publishers are actually, like, very gracious and very accommodating. They want educators to succeed. They want students to. 2s You know, relish the joy of music. Like, nobody wants to keep it from anyone, but we do. Again, everyone's got to pay rent, you know, like, you're an educator. Like no one's going to ask you to do your job for free. There are certain things we do out of the kindness of our heart, but, you know, at the end of the day, we're all trying to piece it together. So publishers, while they are very flexible, you know, there still it might not even be their call. The composer might have very strong opinions about how something is used or when it's used. Permissions are granted. So when in doubt, ask, because you might be surprised by the answer. Well, Britain, I want to thank you for coming on the show. This has certainly opened my eyes on a lot of the issues and I hope for our listeners they've been able to gain some insight in the show notes, I'll put not only the link to your website and the MPA website, but several of the other resources that you mentioned. I just want to thank you for taking the time to come on our show and I want to wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, both profit and nonprofit, in your career. You do some great work. Awesome. Thank you so much, Rob. I'm very happy to be here. 2s Wasn't that a great interview with Britain? Well, that's all the time we have for today. I want to let everyone know that the Chasmic preview episodes went so well that CMEA has invited me to record a special episode during the conference at their booth in the exhibit hall friday afternoon from one to three and Saturday morning from ten to twelve. Stop by to jump on the show with me and share your conference fun or just stop by to say hi, I'd love to see you there. I'd like to thank JH Tackett, Marketing and Hanford for sponsoring this episode of the Central Valley Music Educators Podcast. If you're interested in sponsoring a future episode of the show or you have a topic that you would be interested in hearing about, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed the show, please consider leaving a review, sharing on social media or telling a friend. For more information about the show, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube at Centralvalleymusic Edge Educators podcast or at CVME podcast. Have a great week.