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My Soapbox: Brad Schnittger, MusicLi

Brad Schnittger

Brad Schnittger at The Woodward Theater

The Sundresses at SXSW 2012


There are wonderfully talented musicians in Greater Cincinnati. If their music is digitally catalogued, published and made accessible for licensing, it will generate income for musicians and strengthen the local music environment as a whole.
 
I was awarded $100,000 through the People’s Liberty Haile Fellowship to make the above core principle a reality in 2015 through a project I call MusicLi, which is pronounced like the word “musically” (“relating to music”). The “Li” stands for “licensing” and “library” because MusicLi will publish this region’s music for licensing opportunities and puts the music it into a searchable online library.
 
Let’s step back for a moment to understand the problem I’m trying to solve.

Publishing ensures that owners of copyrights on musical works are paid for any and all uses of their work. Those uses require licensing.
 
Music is licensed for many uses including film, television, advertising and even things like corporate training videos. Music licensing is currently the best opportunity for local musicians to make money from their talents.
 
There are two sides to MusicLi, as I envision it.
 
From a musician’s perspective, it’s an online dashboard for managing all aspects of recorded works. For local musicians, the act of publishing, licensing, registering and managing their music is time-consuming and complex and can be extremely frustrating.
 
Each of those aspects of the music business has multiple online solutions from a never-ending list of providers, each with different terms and ingest platforms.
 
As the managing member of local rock band The Sundresses, I was (and still am) responsible for all of this stuff. I’ve seen firsthand how the overwhelming task of registration, publishing and licensing keeps bands from focusing on what’s most important — making music.
 
MusicLi does all of this in a single dashboard, putting musicians in control. One platform, one password, very simple.
 
From the end user perspective, MusicLi creates a digital library of music from this region that can be accessed by production houses, music supervisors, ad agencies and anyone else who wants to license music. This matters because “buying local” is a good idea for musician and end user alike.
 
For example, a couple years ago I co-wrote a song for First Financial Bank called “Change.” The opportunity originated from my work at The All Night Party design firm and its partnership with ZoneCG; the song featured myself, my bandmate Jeremy Springer, Lisa Walker from Wussy and John Curley from The Afghan Whigs.
 
Not only did the job pay me enough to carpet my newborn son’s bedroom and cover my living expenses for a couple months, it cost First Financial roughly four times less than if they’d hired a non-local musician. And, look, it’s still generating press and revenue because I’m telling you about the commercial right now!
 
The goal of MusicLi’s catalog is to make connections like this happen more often. There are plenty of ad agencies and Fortune 1000 companies right here in Cincinnati whom I’d love to see find music in their own backyard instead of sending that income to other cities.
 
The musical talent in Cincinnati is real and largely untapped. Cities like Austin, Seattle and Minneapolis prove that a thriving music scene has positive impact on the community and attracts a strong “creative class,” which leads to a better quality of life for all citizens. Everyone wins!
 
MusicLi creates a marketplace that can attract and retain talent and, in my wilder field of dreams, make Cincinnati a national music industry hub.
 
During the first month of my Haile Fellowship I’ve spent a lot of time researching music rights and publishing. After consulting with some of the best local web developers, we’ve just begun to build an alpha version of my site.
 
I’m surveying musicians to shape MusicLi’s direction and what exactly that alpha version must do. I’m honing in on a business model to sustain MusicLi beyond 2015. And, finally, I’ll soon have a new logo and visual brand identity thanks to Jason Snell of We Have Become Vikings (also a musician).
 
All this in mind, I’m still asking questions and taking suggestions. I don’t have all the answers yet but am anxious to pull all of the pieces of the puzzle together and bring MusicLi to fruition.
 
I have great support and direction from the People’s Liberty team, and I am absolutely thrilled they could see the passion I have for my city and its people. I look forward to making Cincinnati a music industry hub for the 21st Century.
 
I highly recommend pursuing the other People’s Liberty grant opportunities. Applications for their “project grants” are being taken through March 20; details are here.
 
If you’re a musician in the Greater Cincinnati area, please take a moment to complete my survey and help me make MusicLi a more valuable service for you and your friends and bandmates.
 
Look for another update from me in Soapbox this summer. Thanks for your support!
 
Brad Schnittger can be contacted through People’s Liberty: bradschnittger@peoplesliberty.org
 
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