I've written about the difference between copyrights and trademarks before. Yesterday's post focused on literary works, which could certainly have commonalities (e.g. lyrics) with today's subject. From the written word to the spoken - today we're talking about...
Over the years we've worked with all kinds of musicians running the gamut of genres - rock and roll, country, hip hop, and even a Frankie Valli tribute band. Just like those creating literary works folks creating anything with sound will likely need copyrights and trademarks.
MUSICIANS & BANDS
So any format which is "fixed" (i.e. CDs, MP3s, record albums, etc.) AND emits sound should be filed for copyright. The Copyright Office allows online filing and seeing as how it's only 35 bucks a pop it is more than worth it to file each and every sound recording you create.
You'll want to research and trademark any element that you're using that represents you as a band or a musician. This means your personal name (e.g. Beyonce), your band name (e.g. Maroon 5), or your logo (e.g. Wu-Tang).
You may also want to trademark the name/logo for the actual performances (e.g. this Radiohead filing) AS WELL AS the tangible recordings (e.g. this Radiohead filing).
And if your merchandise is a big part of your musical identity, you might also want to consider filing for those various products. Check out this filing to see how The Grateful Dead filed their skeleton logo for use on magnets, stickers, paper & cloth posters, and clothing. Of course, filing for trademark protection for merchandise may be well down the road but it's good to keep those possibilities in mind. Plus, hey, it's thinking positive!
RECORD LABELS, STUDIOS, or PRODUCERS
This area is going to be a bit different for you. Usually labels will own the copyright on the sound recordings (or attain them through a recording agreement); however, scenarios differ so cementing your plan before signing an artist is probably the way to go. Check out this link for further information.
This area is pretty clear cut for you folks. Since you're offering a service you'll want to make sure that your company name and/or logo is legally available before filing for a trademark.
Have questions? Please leave a comment here or email me directly -- shannon at tmexpress.com