Five Questions with Music Career Development Consultant Preshias Harris by Copyright Alliance
This week we would like you to meet one of our Individual Creator Members, Preshias Harris.
1. What was the inspiration behind becoming music career development consultant?
I’ve always loved music. There was always music in our house when I was growing up in Kentucky. I knew I had to be in Nashville because that’s where the music is. As s soon as I could, I moved to Nashville and got a job as an intern at BNA Records and then Atlantic Records. It was a wonderful opportunity, working with recording artists such as John Anderson, Lorrie Morgan, Tracy Lawrence and Confederate Railroad. Everyone was willing to share what they knew with me, the new kid. That made a big impression on me. So many young people turn up here, knowing nothing about the music business. They are easy prey for the ‘music sharks’ who are waiting to take advantage of them. As my knowledge of the music industry grew, I made myself a pledge to help aspiring artists and songwriters follow their dream while giving them the knowledge to spot – and avoid – those smiling sharks!
2. What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
For me, there is nothing more exhilarating than putting two or three young writers together in the writing room next to my office on Music Row and hearing a song begin to take shape as they work together, maybe for the first time. There’s trial and error, maybe a false start or two. But when they emerge, I can tell by their faces if they’re happy with what they’ve achieved. It is still an amazing thrill for me when they sit down and sing and play their new creation that didn’t even exist an hour or two earlier. It sends chills up and down my spine!
3. When did you first become aware of copyright and why?
My maiden name is Tomes. Various members of the Tomes family formed a Gospel group in Kentucky, so the ins and outs of the recording business were dinner table conversation when I was growing up. From an early age, I understood the importance of protecting what you create.
I tell a story to my ‘kids’ (as I call them, regardless of their age) to illustrate the importance of copyright. It goes like this: If you were to have a baby, your family and friends know it’s your baby. Nobody doubts that this is your baby. However, you still go ahead and register the birth of your baby by acquiring a Birth Certificate. You wouldn’t ever consider NOT getting a birth certificate, would you? Why? Because a birth certificate is an official document issued to record the baby’s name, birth date and the names of the baby’s parents. If there’s ever a dispute about who the baby’s parents are, the birth certificate would be ‘prima facie’ proof of parentage.
I tell them to think of their songs as their ‘babies.’ You created them, you are proud of them and you want to protect them. When you register your song with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, you have proof that you are the author of the work. You are protected in the event that someone tries to infringe upon your copyright; that is, to claim the song is their own or use it without your permission. When they think of it that way, you can almost see a light bulb light up over their heads!
4. What is your best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
Take the time to educate yourself about copyright and how it affects you! Don’t assume you already know enough about it to protect your intellectual property. Start out at https://copyright.gov and then look at the tutorials starting with ‘Copyright Basics’ that is top of the list here: https://copyright.gov/circs/ All the tutorials (or ‘circulars’) are easy to read, and if you still have questions, the people at the Copyright Office are patient and friendly. You can call them at (877) 476-0778.
5. What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?
I make sure the people I’m mentoring understand that they need to stop and think before posting an uncopyrighted song on social media! I encourage them to save money by submitting a batch of songs in one submission for a single fee by using the electronic copyright option (eCO). Again, the ‘circulars’ at copyright.gov explain it all.
Preshias Harris is a music career development consultant with special emphasis on new and aspiring artists and songwriters as part of her College of Songology℠. Working one-on-one with clients, she focuses on ‘chasing the dream’ while understanding the realities of the music industry. She maintains a writers’ room on Music Row – named The Sangtuary – for her clients and their co-writers. She is the author of “The College of Songology℠ 101: The Singer/Songwriter’s ‘Need to Know’ Reference Handbook” available at www.collegeofsongology.com
From her office in Nashville, Preshias has interviewed everyone from Alabama to ZZ Top for articles and stories published in numerous music magazines. She is the author of ‘Inside Track on Music Row,’ the longest-running monthly country music column in America. The column appears in ‘Nashville Music Guide’ and on websites around the world.
You can follow Preshias on her blog at www.nashvillemusicline.com and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo of Preshias Harris working with a songwriter client as she reviews an eCO registration © 2017 Preshias and Mike Harris
Are you one of our Individual Creator Members? Participate in our Five Questions series! Please email us at email@example.com. And if you aren’t already a member of the Alliance, you can join today – at no cost – by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form!