Yanked From YouTube – A Lesson For Independent Artists

You may have heard about the recent yanking from YouTube of teen starlet Rebecca Black’s video of her infamous song Friday. What you may not know is why it happened and the huge lesson that all aspiring artists should take from her experience. Let’s roll back a few months for a bit of context.

Friday was an overnight viral hit early this year, punching its way onto Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. It got covered by Justin Bieber and even made its way onto the monster TV show Glee. All very good and fine, until things began to unravel between Black and the company that owned the studio she had recorded it in.

Black and the studio, which is also a record label, apparently did have some sort of contractual arrangement. But, when the song hit big, the proverbial doggy doo began to hit the fan. According to her, the song’s sudden success surprised everyone and, almost immediately, the company went about exploiting both it and her name in ways that she claims it had no right to do. Letters from lawyers started to fly, with accusations of this and that involving master rights, copyright infringement, unlawful exploitation of publicity rights and so on.

It is evident that both she and the company were woefully unprepared for the eventuality of success. Her situation illustrates perfectly what often happens when unfettered assumptions, lack of scrutiny, inadequate forethought and sloppy business practices mix with newfound success. It’s an explosive combination that frequently results in parties suddenly acting with divergent interests, often leading to disillusionment, bitterness and a highly stressful legal mess.

The kind of experience Rebecca Black is currently going through is incredibly common in this business, so much so that I’ve felt compelled to make this particular subject one of the key topics in the music biz program I teach at Douglas College near Vancouver. Along with providing loads of nuts and bolts information on numerous things like who does what in this industry and how to promote yourself with smarts in the age of Internet marketing, I examine in depth how to choose the right parties to work with, how to protect yourself from problems with them down the road, and what you can do to foster long-term productive relationships.

If you believe in yourself and the potential of your music, then you owe it to yourself to prepare adequately for future success. Take every opportunity you can to participate in local industry-related seminars, workshops, courses and conferences, get some good books on the biz out of your public library and check out some of the informative websites, blogs and forums out there. You need to get a grasp on the nuances of this business to give yourself the best chance to survive and thrive in it.  Just as important, don’t be shy about communicating with industry people. You’d be surprised how accessible many of us are.

I’d like to hear from you about where you’re at with your career pursuit and how you’re planning for success. Drop me an email or post a comment on this blog.

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