A few days ago we reported on an online auction of certain rights to rap legend Kool Moe Dee’s music catalogue at RoyaltyExchange.com. The site listed bids for “100% of his BMI writers share, consisting of 135 titles.” Nervous fans wondered what was going on and how “100%” of anything Kool Moe Dee related could be going for a mere $36,000. However, after speaking with the “How You Like Me Now” vet we have a much clearer sense of what is going on and things are just fine for the pioneer.
“The BMI writer’s share is literally, for most artists, unless you got a Michael Jackson kind of deal, the max I’ve ever heard is 25%, but for most artists it’s about 10% of what the whole pie is,” Kool Moe Dee told WatchLOUD.com on the phone. “If you broke the dollar down for each record you made or sold, BMI would represent about 10 percent.”
Kool Moe Dee placed that small portion of his rights up for auction to get more money upfront on what would have normally been a two year wait.
“A simple education…for anybody in the industry that knows, basically there are four revenue streams: publishing, master, royalties, and writers. What I basically did was, the way BMI pays you, they give you your money back in slow increments, so I said let me expedite that and get some of that money upfront instead of waiting the two, three years it would take. I literally put it up to see what it was. I guess they came up with a price, which is half or a third of what it would earn [over time]. So I put up a portion–I don’t know where the 100% thing came in–just to see if it’s worth it. I don’t even have to accept it quite frankly. There is a lot of misconception of what it is. BMI pays very very little in terms of what you can earn. There are tons of other money streams and BMI is kind of the lowest end of all of them. Instead of getting paid quarterly at the rates they give you I said let me get two years in advance. I had no idea that it would turn into this media storm. So no I’m definitely not selling any of my masters.”
In recent years Kool Moe Dee has been very vocal in spreading the word to his peers that in years to come they can reclaim music they signed over to record labels in the early 80s. Thanks to a “termination of transfer” provision of the Copyright Act of 1976, it is now possible for some artists to get their masters back.
“If you’ve been in the industry for 35 years like I have there is a ‘second bite of the apple’ law where you get own your masters back, it gets to come back to you 100%. I think somebody is trying to put a slant on [my business] because I’m putting people up on that. It’s going into 2015 and 35 years back is 1980. [get more details here]
The thing that was amazing to me is that there’s tons of people who have done this before and this is the first time I’ve seen it go public like this. So who has a bug up their ass about me? The music industry finds ways to make money off of you more than you make money off of yourself. I could make that same 36K easily in two years just from my writers portion but it has nothing to do with publishing or masters licensing and definitely not with digital. There’s digital royalties that come in now based on all the digital stations, you get paid for all of that. And BMI doesn’t really acknowledge that, they still pay you in the old style.”
Even better news is that Kool Moe Dee has new music on the way to help bring an experienced perspective to these trying times.
“I’m releasing two new records: ‘Stop Killing’ based on all the cop killing stuff that’s happening and another called ‘The Elvis Effect’ based on all the Iggy Azalea, Q-Tip and T.I. debate online,” he says. “We’re just dealing with the Elvis effect. Whenever you have white people doing black music they’re going to go that way because that’s what the industry is built on. You don’t attack the artist for what the artist is doing, you have to understand what the industry is about.”
Lesson learned. Look out for more from Kool Moe Dee on WatchLOUD.com in coming weeks.
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