Jose Mari Chan’s timeless music, steeped in Catholic and family-centered values, has made him a Christmas tradition in his own right — as essential to the Filipino holidays as the parol or the puto bumbong and bibingka.
Capturing the hearts of Filipinos must indeed be a blessing for the dedicated composer and singer with every mall in the Philippines unanimously deciding to usher in the Christmas season with the everlasting tunes of “Christmas in Our Hearts”.
With the expected pick-up in recording sales, the musician must surely be having a windfall in royalties this time of the year. This begs the question: how do singer-songwriters earn from their music?
A singer and a songwriter earn in very different ways because they have different rights. A composer has a right over the melody and the lyrics, while the singer has the rights over a specific recording of the song.
In general, the composer, considered to be the original author of the song, has copyright over his song. But once that song is performed and recorded in a specific way by a singer, the singer himself enjoys related rights over his performance in the recording.
There are two aspects to copyright — the economic and the moral rights of a copyright owner, according to the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines. But for this discussion, only economic rights will be discussed.
Economic rights is the right to reproduction which governs how songs are reproduced in any way — reproduction of a song to turn it into a record and sold to the public, or reproduced as background music in a movie, for example.
Apart from reproduction rights, another economic right is the right over the public performance of a song and other ways of communicating to the public such as uploading of it on the Internet or its broadcasting.
But the composer/songwriter and the singer are not the only players in this game: the composer/songwriter gives the right of reproduction usually to a music publishing company or a record label to exploit the song financially.
The songwriter can earn from the sales of the records, from the public performance of the music, or from the use of it in commercial or movies all stemming from his composition copyright.
He may get mechanical royalties from a publishing company or a record label, whichever avenue he chooses to exploit his music.
For the public performance of the music, the songwriter may get public performance royalties from the collective management organizations (CMO) who monitor this activity, and collect royalty from the user — like malls, hotels, TV networks — and distributes this to member songwriters and composers. At present, the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (Filscap) is accredited as a CMO for composers.
The singer or the performer, on the other hand, has a related right for the performance in sound recording, or audiovisual recording, and, at least in the Philippines, earns from the sales of the records. The Performers? Rights Society of the Philippines, has applied for accreditation to collect royalties for the public performance of singers and actors.
Earning from your music, whether as a singer, a songwriter, or both, is not a simple task. How the music industry earns, in every country, is anchored in large part to their copyright law.
For renowned songwriter-singer artists, like Jose Mari Chan, learning the intricacies of copyright is key to a thriving and enduring music career. — IPOPHL