Writing songs for commercials and television sounds sexy, until you start talking to the composers and placement specialists in the grind. Not to kill the buzz, but it sounds like songs are usually replaceable, payments are constantly getting driven southward, and music supervisors are typically under heavy pressure to pick a cheap winner. It's not that there aren't success stories and people with good careers in synchronization, it just seems like there's endless competition from writers, and most material is considered disposable.
Which means that major licensees have a lot of power - and are potentially using that power to make incredibly lopsided deals. Which is now the focus of an accusation being made against mega-broadcasters like BSkyB, ProSabien, and RTL Group by the European Composer & Songwriters Alliance (ECSA). Basically, the Alliance says that these broadcasting heavyweights will only hire a composer if copyrights are relinquished, a demand that can rob the writer of significant downstream revenues. The complaint was lodged with the European Commission and formally announced at the Silken Berlaymont Hotel in Brussels this week.
Sounds oppressive, yet these writers are knowingly signing these contracts. This isn't forced labor, and there are other licensees in town. Well, this is where the allegation gets more interesting, because the Alliance also accuses these giants of colluding on the practice of grabbing rights. So, a smaller (and probably inexperienced) writer walks into a negotiation with almost zero bargaining power and no chance of keeping downstream royalties. "As freelance workers are often obliged to conduct their own contractual negotiations, composers are ill-equipped to defend themselves against the powerful bodies upon whom they rely for their work," the group stated.
Let's see where this goes, but there are already responses coming from the broadcasting giants. In a response to Bloomberg, a representative for ProSiebenSat.1 said that this is not an exclusive practice, and large amounts of licensing happens without these royalty grabs. Which means that writers are being forced to relinquish their rights in many situations - but it's unclear how often and widespread this is. "Obviously we do not only work with composers if they cede their rights to us," the representative stated.
/paul. Written while listening to Grizzly Bear, deadmau5, and Sydney Blu.
Mike Maloney Friday, March 02, 2012
Paul, nice to see DMN reporting on this. But this is nothing new, composers assign all copyrights via work-for-hire agreements, and collect the writer's share of performance royalties from the societies. They have been doing so in film and TV for a very long time. I manage a large collective of composers and have seen the continuing compression in synch fees, assuming that is what is driving this action by ECSA. It will be interesting to see where it goes.
Cleaus Friday, March 02, 2012
I think the reason artists are signing these kinds of deals is because they want to maximise their exposure and, although their rights would be forfeited, if they don't take the work their losing out on money as well as exposure as another artist will take the deal offered.
Its not fair on the artists at all, tv broadcasters with to much power trying to squeeze as much out of the artist as possible.
Sound familiar? Thats why we hate major record labels!
Oldschoolbrian Friday, March 02, 2012
Interesting. I believe this practice is more prevalent in the U.S then is even being reported here. As a music supervisor I have done work for T.V networks that demanded just that. That all original compositions exclusively be work for hires. In some cases tracks/songs that were being licensed were to be retitled and registered with that particular networks publishing company.
It is difficult to work with composers/musicians given those parameters when you know you are not negotiating in their best interest.
MCR Friday, March 02, 2012
composers have always been the low guy on the totem pole. next to what we used to call the tape jockey. and even he ended up being a producer.
i do a lot of pitching for broadcast. 15,30,1:00 spots. it's an unbelievably opaque and somewhat brutal process.
response? Saturday, March 03, 2012
Why don't BMI, ASCAP and SESAC speak publicly agaist this tactic?
guest Sunday, March 04, 2012
I think the entertainment industry needs to pull together and come up with new arrangements that can actually benefit both parties.
With regards to films, if they do deals where the composer gets a split of profits generated from the film, then thats an additional upfront cost that would have to be paid by the film company avoided and on the composers side its a possible future revenue stream. Helping both parties. It can easily be done. Do you agree?
Michael Sunday, March 04, 2012
Good, a little nameand shame. But it can work both ways. I remember talking to a major animation producer who told the composers point blank: "we don't pay composers; you get money from the performing rights societies afterwards".
As it turns out, they did end up paying for the composers' work in addition to leaving them their rights. But they grabbed the publishing nonetheless.
I shudder to think how less experienced composers would have reacted.