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An Interview with Chris Crawford, CEO/Founder of Loudr on New Ways to License Indie Music
It’s long been widely known that recording cover songs is a great way to get a new band or artist known. Even after multi-platinum success, Whitney Houston will forever be remembered for “I Will Always Love You,” which was a cover.
Quick primer on music licensing: A cover song is an artist’s version of a previously fixed recording which has also been commercially available for purchase. It is not a mash-up, it does not use any of the original sound recording, and it cannot deviate too widely from the original arrangement (adding an extra verse, etc.).
Until recently, the main way to license a cover, which is compulsory (meaning you do not need permission), was to go through Harry Fox Agency (HFA). Whether through a publisher partnership or Songfile, it’s a relatively simple process and the pricing is fair.
In the mid-2000s, a young a cappella fan was working at iTunes and searches were only bringing up a few standbys (Take 6 and Rockapella, etc.) The young man knew a slew of college a cappella groups which had done recordings (usually covers), but they were nowhere to be found. Why? There weren’t companies catering to the process of mechanical licensing for these groups. So, he started A Cappella Records with simplified licensing in order to get a direct deal with iTunes. And through building that technology and platform, what we now know as “Loudr” was born.
That dude was Chris Crawford, CEO and founder of Loudr. I spoke with him about the company’s partnership with CD Baby and the importance of legal licensing.
PM: How do you describe Loudr? Is it a licensing company, a distribution platform?
CC: I describe it as a rights company. We’re developing the technology to make clearance and administration of rights more accessible for everyone. There is a lot of frustration about how challenging it is to release something legally. Whether it is an artist or a distributor, or a digital service that must pay mechanicals to publishers, we are trying to solve that problem in a simple way.
PM: What does it cost to use Loudr?
CC: Simply, it’s $15 per license/song, plus the estimated cost of the royalties. So, an artist comes to our site, fills in some information about where the song will be available, the estimated number of downloads, physical copies and streams if you’re on a platform that doesn’t pay publishers direct. (Ed. note – you do not need to pay for streams, as most major streamers like Spotify already pay the mechanical.)
PM: Do you collect an admin fee or any other further fees?
CC: No. It’s straightforward. Once an artist sells over their estimates amount they can come back and purchase another license at a 50% discount.
PM: What’s the major difference between Harry Fox/Songfile and Loudr?
CC: We attempt to research and clear any song you request. HFA only licenses its own database, which is vast. But for those really hard ones, and especially other independent artists, we clear it.
PM: As a licensor, I know how hard that is. How often is it impossible to clear a song?
CC: It’s very rare that we can’t clear it. We pride ourselves on that. There have only been a few that we couldn’t clear in our history. One example: we got a request for a cover of music that featured in a video game. The problem is, the property wasn’t released separately. And then, the official soundtrack was only released in Japan. That one still burns me.
PM: How do you pay out publishers?
CC: Publisher preference is a threshold of ours. Some pubs prefer monthly, and other quarterly with minimums. We see what we do as a service, so we pay the way they prefer to be paid.
PM: Any interest in getting into syncs?
CC: Sync licensing is complicated. It is the most negotiated right for publishers. We’re building our business around statutory licensing. Mechanicals are compulsory, meaning there is no negotiation and the rates are set. That’s where we think we can make a difference.
PM: Tell me why it was important to integrate with CD Baby; aren’t you in distribution competition?
CC: For Loudr, our combined licensing and distribution offering is great for people without a distributor, but we found that to be a smaller market. Our focus is on making it simple and affordable for every artist to use Loudr to obtain easy mechanical licensing. So, it made sense to join forces with a larger distribution company, like CD Baby (350,000 members), that focuses heavily on distribution.
PM: What’s next for Loudr?
CC: We have a lot of surprises coming this year. We are laser-focused on making this platform available to as many musicians as possible, that’s all I can say now.
Go license your first cover at https://loudr.fm/licensing
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.