Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More on Selling Pre-Loaded Player: Looking for the Downbeat

Dear Rich: I have the need to sell pre-loaded playlists on MP3 players to students. The songs are not important - the characteristics of the song are - such as beats per minute, hearing the down beat, etc. and can't figure out a way to do this legally. It is a for profit business. I have spoken to numerous Royalty-Free music folks and the application makes it impossible (so they say). Should I give up? Or is there a way to license music for this purpose legally and in a cost effective way (in order to stay in business!) We think you have a challenge using existing pre-recorded music. Copyright laws and music licensing rules are going to get in your way. You can't use a service such as iTunes because you'd have to do something ridiculously worky - like set up endless accounts to accommodate each sale (or risk violating the license agreement). It's possible, though also unlikely, that you could license the songs directly from a music publisher. You can find the contact information at the Harry Fox Agency. The challenge with that is that you also need permission from the person who owns the recording copyright (usually a record company) so you would need to find a publisher that also controlled the sound recording rights - again, a worky and perhaps cost-prohibitive solution. As for royalty-free licenses, they usually don't permit the resale of the song (or the transfer of ownership). 
Possible solution dept. If we were in your position and the content of the songs didn't matter, we believe the least expensive route to success would be to commission the work you need. Any music geek with a laptop and Acid, Pro-Tools, or any other looping software could pull it off in an hour or two and without the need for bringing in other musicians. (We would volunteer but we're under strict supervision and cannot stray from our task of serving your readers' legal needs). In any case, the DIY route would guarantee you could own what's created -- just ask the musician/geek to sign something that says they assign all rights to you -- and you could even have a say in musical content. How do you find said music geek? Try posting an ad in Craigslist or check out sites where said geeks congregate such
Thinking back to yesterday. All this talk about MP3 players brings back memories of yesterday when we returned our iPad and ate the stiff restocking fee. Since iPads were not listed in the return policy at Best Buy there was some discussion between the Dear Rich Staff and the Best Buy Staff as to whether the 10% iPhone restocking fee applied or the (controversial) 15% computer restocking fee applied. They chose the 15% fee and therein lies the iPad conundrum. It's not really enough of a computer to justify the full price. We accepted Best Buy's decision because under a "plain language" interpretation of the return policy, they were correct - the iPad is not an iPhone, especially our Wifi only version. So by default it falls into the computer category. However, let's face, if the return policy, assuming we contracted for it, was a contract of adhesion, and therefore ambiguities should be interpreted against the drafter. We could have pointed that out but we were distracted by a discussion with the sales person as to whether or not you could use the iPad to watch Netflix movies. We maintained that only super-widescreen movies worked all the way through--for example, Air Force One with Harrison Ford (Hey, whatever happened to Gary Oldman. We love him). But typical movies with a lower aspect ratio (less letterbox) always stopped after about thirty minutes. In any case, the Best Buy Staff trumped the Dear Rich Staff because after all, they are Best Buy and we are just Dear Rich. When we put the iPad back in the box for its final destination, the iPod blinked back on inside the box, like a deceased relative who suddenly comes to life in the coffin. We closed the lid anyway and said goodbye.