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Friday, July 22, 2016

Q. Do I need to register with royalty collection agencies abroad as well as in the UK?

By Tom Flint

Is the German GEMA essentially the same as the MCPS? Does a band putting out its own CDs need to register with different people in different countries, or do these organizations cover all situations?

Via Email

Releasing a record commercially requires a fair amount of paperwork.

SOS contributor Tom Flint replies: GEMA performs pretty much the same function in Germany as the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) does in the UK. GEMA's full name (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte) translates as the Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction rights. In other words, GEMA help songwriters, lyricists and music publishers obtain their royalties and, just like the MCPS, GEMA acquires these funds by taking a cut of record sales revenue in exchange for granting manufacturing licences to record labels.

Releasing a record commercially requires a fair amount of paperwork.

Releasing a record commercially requires a fair amount of paperwork.

In the UK, the MCPS licences usually have to be paid by the record label up front and are set at 8.5 percent of the price the label charges the distributor for each record (known as the PPD or Published Price to Dealer). The 8.5 percent is the writer's cut of the record's sale price, although writers who are signed to a publisher have to split their fee according to their publishing deal. If no dealer or distributor is involved, the figure paid by the record label is rated at 6.5 percent of the retail price, excluding VAT. GEMA operate in a similar way, although they take just over 9 percent of the PPD.

Other countries besides Germany also have their own versions of GEMA. In France, for example, there is SACEM, in Japan JASRAC, and in the US they have the Harry Fox Agency.

Quite whether you will actually need to deal with GEMA, or any other foreign agency depends on your location. According to the MCPS, licensing is not determined by the country of manufacture, but by the country in which the label is based. This means that if you are a UK-registered company it won't be necessary for you to get a licence from GEMA, even if you are using a German manufacturing company to make your CDs. The same is true if you are manufacturing CDs in the UK and exporting them to Germany. Obviously you could strike some sort of deal with a German label and have them release the record on your behalf, but it would then be up to them to obtain the relevant licence from GEMA.

It's worth noting that the MCPS are not the only collection society you need to consider contacting when releasing a record. There is also Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), which collects licence fees for records played on the radio and TV and in pubs, clubs and other public places, and the Performing Right Society (PRS), which collects royalties from the public performance and broadcast of musical works (both recordings and live performances). Fortunately, both the PPL and PRS gather musical performance royalties from foreign countries on your behalf, so you don't necessarily have to sign up to the equivalent organisation in each and every country.

Published September 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Q. How do I hook up my reel-to-reel tape machine?

Hugh Robjohns

I recently purchased a second-hand Tandberg reel-to-reel tape machine and I'm having difficulties connecting it to my external hi-fi. I was provided with a lead that has a five-pin socket at one end and phono leads at the other, which I plug into the 'analogue in' socket on my hi-fi. However, when I'm playing tapes the music only comes out of one channel. The back of the Tandberg has two of these five-pin sockets and also three other holes, marked 'p up', 'amp' and 'radio'. Can you tell me how I can get the sound coming from both speakers and not just one? Any help would be most appreciated by this novice reel-to-reel owner!

SOS Forum Post

Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: There are several possibilities here. The most obvious one is that the DIN-phono lead you have is broken. DIN is the Deutsches Insitut für Normung, a German standards-setting organisation, and it specified a range of connectors using a similar body with between three and 14 pins. The three- and five-pin versions were used a lot on hi-fi equipment in the '60s and '70s, before the RCA 'phono' socket became the standard interface, and now the five-pin DIN is most commonly found on MIDI leads. If you have a test meter, check the connections between the phono plugs and DIN pins to see if the cable is faulty.

The 'standard' numbering scheme for DIN plugs.

The 'standard' numbering scheme for DIN plugs.

For some bizarre reason, some manufacturers' implementation of the DIN wiring is exactly the opposite of others, so although I am giving the most common way of wiring them up, bear in mind that this is not always the case. The 5-pin DIN sockets were used to convey stereo unbalanced signals. The DIN pins on a male jack are numbered in the order 1, 4, 2, 5, 3, clockwise from right to left (see diagram). Normally, pins 1 and 4 were used for the left and right inputs, respectively, and 3 and 5 for left and right outputs, with the middle pin of the five (pin 2) serving as the common screen or earth connection for all four signals. If your DIN-phono lead only has two phono connectors on it, the centre pins of the two phonos will either go to 1 and 4, or 3 and 5 — a test meter will help you find out which.

The other possible explanations for why you're only getting output on one channel are broken electronics within the machine itself, or that you are trying to play a quarter-track tape on a half-track machine (or vice versa)...

You can check the latter by looking at the heads or making a test recording to a blank tape. A half-track head uses almost half the tape width for each channel, so you'll see the two head gaps occupying just under half the tape width, with only a small gap (guard band) between them. A quarter-track head uses slightly less than a quarter of the tape width for each track, and the two channels are separated by a quarter-track width, so the two head gaps are separated by the width of another head gap.

As for the 'p up', 'amp' and 'radio' sockets, this suggests that the machine has a built-in record selector and preamp. 'P Up' will be an RIAA phono pickup input, for example. 'Radio' is pretty self-explanatory, and 'Amp' is probably another line-level input — but it could possibly be an output intended to go to a preamp. It would be worth checking anyway!    
Published September 2005