I was recently offered an exclusive deal from a publisher who stated that my chances of my music being placed with her would be “about as good as it gets” due to her connections and being the sole music supplier to a production company that produces about a dozen reality TV shows. I’m not particularly excited about reality television or my music being used in it, but I came really close to signing with her, because like everyone else I need to make money with my music. I consider myself to have a lot of integrity, but I think sometimes it’s ok to lower our standards a little as a means to an end. In other words, sometimes you have to sell out a little to survive and move on up in the world. We all have ideals, but sometimes we have to bend them a little just to be get by. We don’t live in a perfect world.
As I looked closer at the contract, I noticed it also stipulated that they wanted the exclusive rights to not just the master recordings, which is typical of exclusive licensing and publishing contracts, but they also wanted ownership of the copyright of the actual songs they wanted to sign. This seemed to imply that they wanted full ownership of not just the master recordings for licensing purposes, but the actual songs themselves. This seems like a huge over reach to me, so I emailed this particular company to clarify. I was correct they said, “This is exclusive, so you can’t include the master/composition on CDs, downloads, etc.” When I questioned them further about why they would prevent me from selling my own music for a chance to have my music featured in a few reality tv shows I got no response. This was after ongoing communication for several weeks.
It’s hard enough to make money from publishing deals that offer no upfront money and no guarantees of having your music placed. Now here was an offer to sign my music exclusively, for no upfront money, for a chance of my music being licensed that is “about is as good as it gets”, that would also prevent me from selling and sharing my own music online via Itunes, selling CDs, streaming sites, etc.
The sad thing though is that this particular company is a relatively big player in the industry. I would like to say who they are so that you can avoid them. But I won’t. I don’t think it would be particularly good for my website or reputation to do so. The last time I mentioned a company by name in a negative light I was threatened with a lawsuit within about three hours of posting the blog that mentioned that company. I’ve outlined the terms of their agreement so that you know what to look out for. But the reality is they clearly have a lot of musicians signing up for this, enough that they are the exclusive supplier of music to about a dozen tv shows.
But why? Why would anyone agree to such, for lack of a more eloquent word, “shitty” terms? It’s simple. Musicians have become whores who are willing to sell their songs and their souls for nothing more than the hope of maybe, one day in the future making a little something extra from their music. Actually maybe it’s even worse than prostitution. At least prostitutes get paid upfront for their services. There’s really no other way of explaining it. Musicians want so badly for the industry to throw them a bone and give them a break that they bend over backwards and sign deals they know (or should know) aren’t good deals in the hopes that they can make a little extra money from their hard earned creations.
Now obviously not all licensing/publishing deals are bad and I don’t want to give you that impression. There are plenty of great companies out there offering perfectly fair deals. My website and service exists to educate musicians to the best of my ability about how the licensing business works, what to look for and what to avoid. Musicians need to be informed in order to make decisions that are in not only their best interest, but the best interest of the music community at large. It serves no one when musicians line up to give their product away.
To a certain extent the law of supply and demand dictates the value of music. There’s a lot of music and a lot of musicians out there, hence the fact that so many musicians are “whoring” themselves out for little or no money. BUT… ultimately we get to decide what deals we do and don’t sign. We get to decide the terms we are willing to agree or not agree to. We get to decide what we do with our music. It’s our music after all. I’ve spent a lifetime learning to write songs and create music I’m proud of. I’d rather keep it to myself than give it away.
In : August 2014
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