Whitey Explains to a TV Producer Why His Music Isn’t Free…

UK-based electro-rock artist Whitey, aka NJ White, has had his music on shows ranging from CSI, The Sopranos, Entourage and Breaking Bad.  Here, he explains to a TV producer why he insists on being paid for all of those arrangements.

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255 Responses

  1. Brian Mellblom

    What was Tim Quirk of Google saying again? Wasn’t it something about it being impossible to devalue music?

    • Anonymous

      Yo Mr White! Very well said. A highly profitable UK TV company (check out their no doubt comfortably well-off staff http://www.betty.co.uk/about/) puts the hustle on a musician … who eloquently and precisely tells them where to get off. Who do these people think they are?

  2. Rich Gordon

    How delightfully delicious and eloquently written.

    I am sharing this around the world.

    • Melinda

      I would say likewise to your comment….love your choice of words!

    • TuneHunter

      Lets share it with his British friends at Universal – they are the biggest promoters of current state of the art.
      He might have delightful and delicious way to communicate with the executors of free.

      • wryneck101

        State of the art what, precisely? It’s an adjective, not a noun.

    • Anonymous


      Probably a standard form letter to all indie artists from the 34,567 “music supervisors” and “sync houses” of the world.

      • Rene M

        Don’t put the blame on the supervisors….they can only deal with what the production company gives them to work with–often not much of anything. I do know a few who try to get more for musicians and songwriters when they can.

    • Anon-As-Well

      I don’t think he can legally share the initial letter without written consent.

      • dkw

        Yes they can. when someone sends you correspondence, it belongs to you.

        • Fjalar

          Depends on the national law that applies. I understand Whitey isn’t interested in a lawsuit over the next three or four years to find out whether he has the right or not. After all the company lawyer that sues him gets paid for this.

        • Rob

          In the U.S. the original letter writer owns the copyright. That doesn’t mean it can’t be shared, however. It just can’t be used to make a profit.

          • lawyer

            You’ve clearly never read the copyright law. The author possesses what is often described as a “bundle of rights”, including copying, transmission, and public display. The word “profit” does not appear in the law. But it doesn’t matter, because a form letter isn’t a creative work, so it’s not protected by copyright law.

          • Lawyer 2

            Armchair Internet lawyers are funny. Here it is; the douche who wrote the original letter doesn’t own dick.

        • Gordon

          No it does not. Not on any Berne Convention signatory nation.

          • Anonymous

            This sort of thinking helps make copyright controversial. Let’s not extend copyright to absurd levels, It’s designed to protect the right of creatives to make a living, not for people sending idiotic letters to avoid embarrassment.

      • a-kind-of-name

        He shared what he himself wrote, that’s fine. His own words.

      • Musty

        Read the letter, especially the second to last line, which says :encourage people to re-blog this.
        Property law aside (once he sent the letter it is no longer his to control, unless it was sent to a specific person who is covered by privacy laws, such as a lawyer), are those 5 words not enough for you to feel comfortable sharing the letter, AS HE ASKS YOU TO DO?

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, the guy you’re replying to isn’t suggesting that you can’t share THIS letter, he’s suggesting that Mr White can’t share the letter that the tv producer sent him.

      • bobluc

        At the beginning it seems to indicate not a letter but an email. If it is not legal to share I bet that an interested hacker could anonymously share it 😉

  3. Realist

    At last someone makes a stand! There was me thinking that the tyranny of TV would ‘stamp on the face of music forever’. When all it takes is someone to say NO. Well done Whitey.

  4. Spoken X Digital Media Group

    Music cost and the cost is very large on the scale of distribution and publishing and when you filch–mess with music you devalue yourself. . .LX

  5. paula

    Well written and right to the point. …a stand all musicians should applaud.

  6. Paul Resnikoff


    Some comments got munched last night and early this morning by our new spam filtering system, so please re-enter if you don’t see your comment from before.

    We’re refining the system, with a few snags here and there.


  7. John

    My quartet, Grammy-nominated, Juilliard trained, The Hampton [Rock] String Quartet, was asked in 2009 to play at the White House during Christmas. We were told that we were wanted for at least two performances but that there was “no budget.” Incredulously, I asked if there would be shots with the President or some such PR benefit to HSQ, but was told no. I asked why we should not only play for free, but also, pay for transportation, room and board for the 3 or 4 days we would need (including travel time). They answer that came back was, “sorry you have that perspective.” Incredible. They will pay for the caterers, venue costs, chauffeurs, plumbers (if they need one), etc., but not the musicians. Yet, I am sure they got replacement groups will to play for the “visibility.” Shameful on all involved. I tried, “Help Me Howard” on WPIX and my own local, 802 to report on this, but none responded. Coincidently, Obama made an unrelated statement the next day saying, “..every American deserves the dignity of a paycheck.” Apparently, except musicians.

        • Jack Point

          I would think drone strikes would be enough for any sane person to be rightfully labeled a prick. But, failing that, delivering a speech involving the fair payment of all Americans while his staff refuses to pay a fair wage to musicians would also probably qualify since he is, as the head of state, the man to whom all fingers are pointed.

          • Debi Jarrell

            He (Obama) may not be aware that the musicians aren’t being paid. All that stuff is left up to someone else to deal with. He’s had some big name stars at the WH to perform, and I doubt they did it for gratis – unless they did it for the publicity.

          • James

            They need the money for Michelle’s vacations. C’mon… 😉

          • Anonymous

            Those drone strikes are keeping your fat cynical azz safe.

          • farbauti

            Quite the opposite, in fact.

            If you shoot at people, they will generally want to shoot back.

          • da bishop


            There is a french poem: [fr] “Cet animal est tres mechant, Quand on l’attaque il se defend.” – [eng] “this is a terrible animal, when you attack it, it defends itself!”

            Also, if drones whacking the most militant of them because they’ve got in the way of multi $bn foreign projects which largely serve to endanger and impoverish the nationals, and half the reason why they’re revolting is that they have been brainwashed for decades by various government subversion projects concentrating on radicalising religion.

            Any guy who climbs up the political ladder in the USA and gets to the top has the opportunity to do something about all these dodgy black projects, corporate imperialism etc. Probably would end up having an “accident” or get assassinated by some “terrorists”, but it’d definitely stop people calling you names on the Internet.

          • mike b

            How are drone strikes different from sending a soldier to shoot someone in the face, fire a missile from a plane, or use an orbital weapons platform?

          • da bishop

            Cheap, automated destruction. Those are propellor planes, they’ve got a lot in common with WW1 aeroplanes, just slightly more modern materials. With the remote controlled planes with big, nasty missiles strapped to them, they can, at a good price, take out 20 targets, and the guy they’re taking out is only at one of them.

            How is it different to a soldier? The predator drones are flown out of Las Vegas, the pilots take holidays on casino ships, and play machines that look like space invaders. These fat middle aged men do not spend any time confronting what they’re doing. To the guys flying these missiles, a CIA job appears exactly the same as a routine US army job. They fly the plane into position, miles and miles away, can’t even see through the cloud cover, bombs away, and return it to base. No physical risk to themselves, or even remote awareness what they bombed.

            The “star wars” orbital ballistic missile defence system was a massive late cold war era money pit for black projects companies, and is basically unnecessary after glasnost and nuclear dearmament.

            It’s also hard to say what these companies actually spent the money on, it’s probably horrible. Most of the satellites they threw up didn’t pass the military tests, the project was reportedly a complete fiasco as far as defending the USA from intercontinental ballistic missiles was concerned.

            Of course, the subtle military balance of nuclear global wipeout was just one form of political leverage which could be brought to bear when staging civil wars or military coups in the superpower-imperialist “great game” of soviet-backet communism vs. western capitalism in countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia or Chile.

            If Star Wars had been a walk in the park, that would have put the USA in a position to nuke the crap out of Moscow and not be hit themselves.

            Of course, if it was that easy to find an object the size of a small bus flying at extremely high speed through the upper atmosphere over a continent, then the Russians would have built one, too. ’80s computers were no way up to that sort of job, we’d have trouble building such a system today. It’d be very, very expensive. These aerospace / nuclear war type companies filed for billions and billions of dollars regardless, and they definitely got the money.

  8. Matthew Dudek

    The same can be said in the software industry as well!

    • Anonymous

      I hope you are joking….I’m both a musician and a software engineer, and you are either on another planet, or joking….

    • SJ

      Why would he be joking? There was a strike what, last year over the way FX artists were being exploited in the video game and movie industries. Same thing applies. Even some overqualified engineers find themselves in part time and/or temporary contracts all for the promise of working on a hopefully high profile product – but starting at the bottom if you have the skills can keep you underpaid and undervalued. Corporations with fiduciary responsibilities, “outsource everything” credos and middle-men publishers can be just as damaging to other digitized art disciplines as music.

      • Jeremiah

        “underpaid” is not even close to “not paid.”
        Being underpaid is a problem, yes, but only one those being “entitled” to being paid can have. Those not getting offered compensation AT ALL (i.e. artists) have a far greater problem, especially when it’s still their livelihood, success and self-worth in question.

        • Apex2

          I believe he’s referring to the constant stream of business idea people who want you to work for them for no money under the pretense the business will get huge and you’ll be rich in the future.

  9. hippydog


    this SOOOOOO needs to go viral!!

    I almost clapped at the end of it.. 🙂

  10. Anonymous

    Love it!

    I get how this might be a tremendous opportunity for a new, unkknown artist who needs to get out there, but the ignorance/arrogance associated with this request, to an artist who is obviously well established (at least in media licensing), is laughable.

    And on another note – you rarely see EVERYONE in such unanimous agreement on the DMN comments!

    • Tom Green

      Have you seen the stuff Betty produces ? Lowest of the low reality tv, a lot of it daytime slots. This isn’t exactly X Factor or anything that could be described as ‘a great opportunity’, even for those just starting out.

      It’s precisely the short-sighted belief that getting a sync on this rubbish is some kind of big thing that will kick start you into the charts, that lets these people get away with that whole ‘exposure’ line, when actually it’s all bollocks. It’s unlikely to help out that way in any way at all.

      So charge these bastards. Say no, you don’t work for free, you don’t license for free, you don’t compose for free. EVER. Then maybe we can ALL get paid.

      • Michiel from Belgium

        I don’t know.. Let’s say you are a hard-working artist who didn’t have a lot of exposure on large scale yet. But then a TV-show with millions of viewers asks you if they can use your song on their show for free. Would you say no? I don’t think so, in that situation. Anyway, I wouldn’t say no. You’re going to be happy that a big audience is going to hear you music. It might result in more fans, selling more albums, and having more people at your gigs.

        But I agree with previous comments that you want to get paid once you’re an established artist. It’s a vicious circle that’s hard to stop.

        • Anneke

          Think about it, it really isn’t such a ‘great opportunity’, not even for a starting artist. How often do you look up the music being played in a reality show? And how often do you think the general audience for shows like that would do this? In a lot of documentaries or tv shows the artists supplying the music aren’t even credited, so finding out who made those ten seconds of song you heard during that reality show takes a lot of effort. I draw, and get the same type of question quite often. People ask me to use some of my images for posters for local events, saying they can’t pay me but it would be ‘good publicity’. This sounds ok at first but when you think about it you know the people who are going to see your stuff are not going to ask you to do drawing work for them.

    • Daniel

      The response was almost definitely to find another musician to create a soundalike version of whitey’s track. And that person was probably not paid either.

  11. The Response from Betty

    According to the Guardian:

    A Betty spokesperson said: “We use a collective licensing system that ensures both the recording artist and composer are paid. We apologise for any confusion and we have contacted the artist to clarify this. We would never use music without permission and going through the proper procedures.”

    • Tom Green

      IE- we happy the broadcasters have to pay royalties to collection societies because then we don’t have to pay sync fees, if we can get away with it. We’re still getting it for free.

  12. McG

    This letter should be required reading for every manager, agent, A&R guy, label head and every other industry puke and panelist who fields requests for “promo opportunities” on a regular basis. It is up to these people to also take a stand, protect their artists and their intellectual property. Every person in these positions that says Yes just exacerbates the problem. Here’s a business model for ya: pay us, or piss off.

  13. Steve

    We get this same treatment in audio-post. We’ve seen the way musicians/composers are treated. Do this one for free and we’ll make up for it on the next one, only the next one never happens. Perhaps we should all go on strike and the film industry can go back to silent films and then maybe they’ll get it…..I doubt it. Well written!

  14. Smed

    Great letter and I will certainly share it.

    Unfortunately, this is the awful state of the music business. There are now at least 2 generations of adults that have never purchased a piece of music in their life. These same people are now in positions of authority in the entertainment industry, i.e. music supervisors, music editors. directors, recording engineers etc. All composers and music producers must take a stand. The future is now! Stop giving away your music.

  15. facts

    grow up, it’s a business like every business. Do u care that ur starbucks caffe was harvested by a $2 a day worker?!! Musicians don’t have unions like the actors writers guild which makes them a target for biz abuse. This isn’t targeted at musicians, it’s how this world works where few take most of the fruits.

    • Jeremy Levy

      There very much is a musician’s union (in the UK and USA) and many other organizations involved to make sure composers are paid for their work (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC). Currently, we’ve reached a point where production software has reached consumer levels and allows anyone to create “professional” sounding music. This is amazing at a creative level, but it also floods the market with content providers that are very green and don’t stand up for their work. We’ve all been eager to share our work when we’re starting out, but it is counterproductive in the end.

      Also, be aware that in this situation with Whitey, whether or not he negotiates money up front, he will still be paid by ASCAP or BMI if his music ends up being used on the air. There are many complex channels of monetary payment in the music industry. Granted, a paycheck upfront would be preferable.

      • Tom Green

        It’s no more than bullying. They know they’re supposed to pay a sync fee for their own license to exploit, and make a profit from, than their use of it, regardless of the royalties paid when broadcast. And with a £14m turnover, they can well afford it. But if they can get away with it, they will. No difference if you’re small or big, they should pay. Yes, the bigger the artist, the bigger the fee. But they should always pay something or they’re ripping you off, and making money out of your work.

      • Anonymous

        They are just rights collection society. You can bypass ASCAP and BMI entirely you know, if you get a agreement from the original copyright holder directly.

    • Ryan

      Businesses still have to pay the people who work for them. Would you tell a cashier, construction worker, or doctor to grow up if they complain that they’re expected to work for free?

    • Ivan Joider

      You are a massive troll. I hope you get ass-cancer and die. You don’t even know the facts. Please croak.

    • Brett

      …but people are happy to pay $4 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks that will last all of maybe 15 minutes, while they expect to download or stream music for absolutely nothing. Evidently if you can’t hold it in your hand or put it in your mouth, it isn’t worth anything.

    • FDOL

      It is targeted at musicians. and we don’t drink Starbucks or shop at Walmart because we do care. We are grown. Don’t assume too much please.

      Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you would take advantage if you could and do the same shit exactly. I work. I get paid.

    • Mark M

      That’s not true. BMI is not “owned by the broadcast industry”, it is a non profit organization that exists to collect royalties and distribute them to its members. That is their business interest. If they don’t do as good a job as ASCAP, people jump over to ASCAP, and vice versa. There is a long history of litigation between BMI and/or ASCAP vs the broadcast industry which would not exist if you were right.

  16. Big Tony

    I’ve seen this again and again from film companies. event promoters, advertisers, all sorts – and it’s not just directed at musicians but dancers too. The whole “It will look great in your portfolio”. And yet as others have mentioned there’s a budget for extras. It’s sickening really.

    Big Tony

  17. Janine

    I have been involved in the media, ‘entertainment’ industry (for more years than I care to remember), as a producer/director. My son, is in the music industry. The problem, is that by the time one gets to the end of a production, money that was probably allocated to music/post production has reduced significantly because earlier production costs have gone beyond their limit. At the same time, I have also had companies ask me to do a video ‘for nothing’ because I will get my foot in the door. The problem, is that anyone who is an ‘artist’, is exploited by the money people because they feel we are stupid/desperate, and if we refuse, there are thousands waiting in the wings for an ‘opportunity’. We should go for the silent treatment – I agree.

  18. Amanda Palmer

    Didn’t we already cover this with the “Amanda Palmer Incident of 2013”

  19. jw

    If the producer needs a car & goes to Ford & says “Look, we need a car for our show, but we have no budget for it. But we’d like to use all Fords, it will be great promotion,” would that be devaluing automobiles? Furthermore, what if he said, “We’re offering you the opportunity to be the exclusive supplier of automobiles for our show, you may have this privilege for $X thousand.” There’s a tension there between the value of exposure & the value of the use of the automobiles, it could swing in either direction.

    Maybe the producer is overvaluing the exposure… maybe he’s undervaluing it, who knows? But there is some value there. Furthermore, I doubt this e-mail was the only one he sent out, & I’m sure someone will eventually bite. And as long as there are artists willing to bite, I’m sure he’ll keep sending out these e-mails.

    Much is said about market rates when a content owner thinks that he or she can make more money. But when it comes to stuff like this, where there’s an oversupply and underdemand, it becomes about fixed rates, or some moral obligation for tv producers to offer something beyond what they could get by just asking around. Oftentimes it’s a case of artists wanting to have their cake & eat it, too.

    Certainly, if there were thousands of amateur janitors willing to work for less in order to get a paying gig as a janitor, the exact same situation would play out. Ultimately, it’s about market forces. The more people out there who desire to be in your position, the less leverage you have. So ultimately it’s not the producer’s fault, it’s the fault of other artists who will take the gig for less (and keep in mind that even nothing is something… exposure has some value). When the producer knows he can’t get music for free, he’ll stop making these offers. But I doubt that will happen any time soon, because then how do artists get their foot in the door?

    • Isabel

      jw, you do have a point when you write about supply and demand. There is only one flaw in your argument, you just can´t compare a car to intellectual property (No one would really be hurt with the use of the car). However, it is true that people will work for nothing and it is probably the most serious issue. But that does not mean Betty was right, it just means they have some nerve in asking for his work especially an artist with proven worth in the music field and they deserved this answer.

      • jw

        If no one would really be hurt with the use of a car, how would someone be hurt by the use of a song?

    • robertday154

      The difference between any sort of creative getting these messages and Fords being approached for some product placement or corporate sponsorship is that the Ford Corporation has multiple outlets across the world where people are queuing up to hand over their hard-earned cash in exchange for a car. When that happens, they have the luxury of allocating a budget for promotions which can carry the provision of a small proportion of their daily output of vehicles for a paid placement.

      The majority of creatives do not have that luxury. The person or organisation asking for work for nothing is asking for unique material that will occupy that creative for some considerable time to create and have them out of pocket to actually deliver.

      • jw

        No, the letter is clearly seeking a work that’s already been composed.

    • Edik415

      jw, this is a good reply, and I thank you for it. If I may be permitted, I’d like to add an element to the hypothetical scenario you’ve proposed:

      What if that producer went to Ford and said “We need a car for our program, but we can’t pay for it. But it can’t be a car you’ve already built somewhere else, because we want something that will be uniquely associated with our program. Will you design, engineer, and build a completely new car for us for free? Also, we want you to sign over the rights to that car — you may not build another one like it after this one.”

      • mitchell

        Also, the car is likely clearly identifiable as a Ford, whereas music used in shows is rarely credited (or the end credits move too quickly to read them), so the “advertising” angle isn’t really and apples to apples comparison.

        • jw

          With products like Shazaam, this is becoming less and less an issue. Also it’s somewhat common that shows display onscreen what music is playing in the background. I know mtv tends to do this (likely in exchange for lower sync fees, but that’s just a guess on my part).

      • jw

        This is a pretty absurd hypothetical, & there’s nothing to suggest that anything like that took place.

        Even still, it’s up for Ford & for artists to determine what’s a good deal & what isn’t. Maybe there’s a situation where taking that deal would be advantageous, I don’t know. I don’t make automobiles.

    • Jack Point

      Artists don’t have their cake and eat it too. The vast majority of them rarely can afford cake, and this is part of the issue. Musicians are amongst the lowest paid proffessionals on the globe. Even if you take into account the flukes and the out-layers (the wildly successful/rich pop stars, for instance), this trend holds true which means that for the vast majority of musicians, being poor IS the cake we get to have and eat. “Market forces” are not some magic salve that allows for value of work to become fluid; it is a social construct relying entirely upon perceptive value. This means that the value of your own work changes depending on yours and others’ view of it.

      That means that this letter, and others like it, are the solution. We can rationalize not getting paid all day (and fantasize about musicians living the “rich life” with their “fake jobs” like bourgeoisie kingpins) but the fact that we don’t is a glaring imbalance that will only be corrected by changing peoples’ minds.

      As for Ford “lending” a car for a “promotion…?” LOL no. Ford is a company, not a charity. Unless it was for a charitable event (which the company gets paid for in tax write-offs at the very least), the person signing off on that car being used would be found, flogged, tarred, and feathered. And then made to run through the streets naked. Or just written up and told not to do something for free again. Your analogy is flawed. “Exposure” is not a payment method. Nor does it translate into something which can pay for your next project or your next meal. Furthermore, “exposure” that CAN bring you an influx of cash isn’t going to come from a single blurb on one charity-case job. It will come from a concerted effort on the part of the promoter in the form of blurbs, commercials, blogs, banners, radio time (laughably), and people being told by the higher-ups to talk about the content in question. In no way does a one-off charity event/job translate to being paid except in the most esoteric of thin arguments. Used by these people to get things for free.

      How ironic that we look down upon poor people begging for change but we defend the corporation looking for handouts with terms like “market forces.”

      • unicornincaptivity

        I totaly agree with Mr. White’s letter and am thankful for your reply, Jackpoint. The comparison of original music with a car that comes on mass production is ridicoulous. But it’s true that musicians have to begin to change the market by stopping to give away their work for nothing or almost nothing, and this letter is a step into this direction

      • jw

        For clarification, I’m not necessarily defending a corporation for requesting free music. To some degree I’m defending an artist’s right to do what he or she has to do to get his or her foot in the door. But more than that I’m just telling it like it is. Blame the market forces, but more than that know the market forces & use them to your advantage.

        Because sometimes the shoe is on the other foot. For instance, how often do artists get pro bono or reduced rate work from producers/engineers who are just starting out?

      • James

        Well as far as Ford not lending cars, that thing used to happen all the time in the 70s. Charlie’s Angels only had Fords in it. Hawaii 5-0… only Fords. I’m pretty sure most of the old Quinn-Martin productions featured Fords. I’m sure there was some consideration involved there. Perhaps that’s not done anymore, but it must have been back then.

        • jw

          The car analogy really gets to the root of the issue here. A production sees it as a product placement, an artist sees it as work for hire. They know the value of their exposure because they deal in it all day long, & not just cars, but soft drinks & fashion brands & whatever. It would be different if the production was requesting the artist create an original work, but clearly that’s not the case.

          The Transformers movies all have GM automobiles. Anyone who thinks that GM got paid a dime for that is off their rocker, & you don’t get bigger budget than the Transformers franchise. I’m sure GM paid big bucks for the product placements.

    • Anonymous

      Exposure has value … A talented and or seasoned musician has far more value. Because many musicians are willing to play for free it sets a standard … Or partly sets a standard for industry to take the path of expecting a musician to work for nothing. I am an artist and a musician. I’m really tired of hearing that there is no budget for music.

      When I say I won’t play for free (and truth be told I cannot AFFORD to work for free) even some of my musician friends will say “I don’t do it for the money” … This all to frequent comment insults my authenticity as an artist and as a person. Let me be clear here … I don’t do it because of money … Money was never the reason I wanted to be a musician. Still …. I have a firm belief that I deserve to be compensated for a performance.

      It would be nice if musicians who are just starting out … Or musicians who have not risen to a level of competency …. Could realize that playing for free in venues or for events that usually pay musicians is not appropriate.

      Expecting people in a professional arena to honor my position in said arena is not unreasonable. But expecting to be treated equally and fairly in the music industry holds a risk of disappointment. I would rather risk disappointment and ask for compensation than to throw in the towel even though it’s so common for musicians to be underpaid or not paid at all.

      I work for free when it supports a cause I believe to be worthy.

      I choose otherwise … To be paid for my work.

      My hat goes off to all the professional musicians who strive to have music support them. I am one of you.
      Just because a market is the way it is … Doesn’t always justify the end result.

      Art and music have suffered the same losses … There has been a progression of less and less financial support for artists and musicians. When you look at the position that we as Americans hold in relation to other countries … With regards to many things … Certainly art and music as well … Perhaps it could be said that something needs to change.

      • jw

        You chose a profession where half of your competition are hobbyists. Oftentimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a professional or a hobbyist, in terms of both the artists & their music.

        The idea that hobbyists shouldn’t perform for free, or that artists just starting out shouldn’t take a gig unless they’re paid is downright ridiculous.

      • jw

        Here’s a note about exposure. From Steven Hyden’s terrific & superbly researched “The Winners’ History of Rock & Roll” series (Part 7).

        The last chapter of the Winners’ History of Rock and Roll is about the Black Keys, one of the only indie bands of the ’00s to break out of the underground rock ghetto and achieve mass stardom. The Black Keys succeeded, in part, because it worked around rock radio, licensing songs to more than 300 films, TV shows, and commercials. In a way, dealing to corporate America from its deep well of bluesy, atmospheric guitar riffs was better than radio airplay, since the audience was bigger and you could actually get paid big dollars up front.

        There was no disputing the results, at any rate: In 2003, when the Black Keys were signed to the Mississippi-based record label Fat Possum, the duo had turned down an offer of $130,000 from a British mayonnaise company interested in using one of its songs in an ad. Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney worried at the time that taking the money would hurt their image. Instead, the hard-touring musicians were as broke as ever — not to mention largely unknown outside a small coterie of fans still hungry for stripped-down blues-rock after wearing out their White Stripes records.

        But once the Black Keys became the soundtrack for every new car, push-up bra, and fourth-ranked nighttime TV drama on earth, people finally began noticing and buying their records. The last two Black Keys albums, 2010’s Brothers and 2011’s El Camino, have gone platinum, which for a rock band in 2013 is like going quintuple-platinum back-to-back in the late ’80s. And the Keys have done it by sounding like an actual rock band, an even rarer occurrence in contemporary pop culture; there’s no mainstream rock group today that has more in common aesthetically with the subject of Part 1 of the Winners’ History, Led Zeppelin, than the Black Keys.

        Granted, the Black Keys were getting paid for each of those spots. But the point I’m trying to make, though, is that exposure has value, & that without that exposure they wouldn’t be selling the records they’re selling or playing the venues they’re playing. Even if they had taken no money from any of those commercials (and who knows, maybe all of those deals weren’t so lucrative), they still would’ve come out net positive.

        • jw

          And perhaps more importantly (can’t believe I left this out), you don’t get offered your 300th licensing deal if you don’t sign your first. By licensing their songs without prejudice, each deal begat the next deal. And what’s more, artists like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club & Gary Clark probably got some of that overflow. (Were I a music director, I’d pick Cuban Heels or Jim Jones Revue over the lot of them, but that’s just me.)

          Anyways, that’s the point I’m trying to make about getting your foot in the door.

          • Flat Duo Jets > White Stripes > Black Keys

            Now that we have sorted out the derivatives, your other points are valid and well communicated. 🙂

          • jw

            I appreciate it.

            As a Flat Duo Jets fan, you are obviously a discerning, reasonable individual.

          • jw

            On second though, even Prof. Lowery, who can be quite unreasonable, can’t deny the force of nature that is Flat Duo Jets.

            Just the same, thanks.

    • Anonymous

      ” Certainly, if there were thousands of amateur janitors willing to work for less in order to get a paying gig as a janitor, the exact same situation would play out.”

      It would and does. That’s why we have things like the minimum wage, to prevent companies from paying barely anything just because there’s an abundance of people who can do it.

      • jw

        This is easily the most reasonable response in all of these comments. And yet, what do we see? We see overseas sweat shops manufacturing our electronics & migrant workers picking our vegetables.

        It would make a difference, & would probably drive these types of requests further under the table, but ultimately there will always be desperate artists looking for their big break who will do anything for exposure driving the value of these placements down.

        However, if someone could come up with a way to implement this I would fully support it. It would likely take someone like Eliot Spitzer with bigger political aspirations to enforce it.

    • wrong

      No. A better comparison:

      “Dear Start Up Truck company. We want to use your trucks for our delivery business. We have no budget for purchase, but we will drive them around everywhere, so people will see the name of your trucks, and you will get lots of exposure. Sincerely, FedEx.”

  20. Luke B

    EPIC!! Most exciting thing iv read in a long time.. Stick it to those whom seem to think its fine to get us to work our ass off so they can reap the benefits!! Well written Mr White!!

  21. Antonio

    If you have no budget for music licensing… THEN YOU HAVE NO MUSIC.
    If you have no budget for a photographer… THEN YOU HAVE NO PHOTOGRAPHS.
    If you have no budget for a graphic designer… THEN YOU HAVE NO DESIGN.
    If you have no budget for a makeup artist… THEN YOU HAVE NO MAKEUP ARTIST.

    Why is this so hard for people to understand?!?!?!

    • jw

      Because it’s not very hard to get music with no budget. And it’s not very hard to get a photographs with no budget for a photographer. And it’s not very hard to get design without budget for a graphic designer. And it’s not very hard to get make-up without a budget for a make-up artist.

      I’m not saying that’s a good or a bad thing, but there are artists who are offering these services pro bono & are reinforcing the ideas… how hard is that to understand? I understand that it’s offensive to you, but also you don’t speak for all artists. And a lot of artists making big money got their break doing something pro bono.

      Whitey’s response, & the response of the commenters in this thread, are going to fall on deaf ears because they’re simply not true. (There’s a sucker born every minute.) The reasonable response to the producer should be, “You get what you pay for. If you really want quality music, you should’ve managed the budget. Unfortunately, you’ll have to settle for lesser quality music by some desperate chap who has to give it away to get it on the air.”

      It’s not a matter of yes/no, the leverage that genuine professional artists have is quality.

      • Raist

        Which is pretty much in another way what he’s saying. He said NO. Not for free. Screw it. He made a fair point either way.

        • Raist

          Moreover, he nows get ZERO and nothing from Whitey. It’s pretty clear that it’s Whitey’s music what is wanted. So it goes without saying they want *HIS* work and not some lesser work.

          • Anonymous

            These companies don’t want WHITEY’s music, they just want music, and they want it for free. This was one of many emails they sent out to many artists, this is standard practice. As JW has so eloquently pointed out, someone will likely bite, and then they will put it on their resume…which is likely very slim.

            There are plenty of people willing to do that, and if that in any way raises their brand equity (however little). This is how many people make their way.

          • Edik415

            As someone else above pointed out — they’ll get someone with less experience to do a sound-alike version of Whitey’s music for free. There are a lot of composers/musicians/artists out there…someone will bite. Sad, but true.

    • Anonymous


  22. Julian

    I think this speaks for all artists as well.
    Nice job Whitey. Thank you.

  23. forte31510

    The director needs to find a room all to himself and be a self-serving sperm donor.

  24. Matt James

    What’s missing is some honestly. How about, Dear musician, we’d like some music for our show. We’re looking for a musician who is prepared to waive sync fees, however we’d credit your work and ensure broadcasters have all the correct information for collection society payments…

  25. Mark Powell

    Done and done.
    Mark Powell
    Institute for Music Leadership
    Eastman School of Music

  26. Eileen Potocnak Arnold

    Brilliant. Eloquently written. And, sadly, insane that he had to write it at all. My cousin is a full-time musician. If any other job in a first-world country simply stopped paying employees, there would be riots. Why do people think stealing music is acceptable?

  27. Tom

    His analogy to eating someone else’s food is not relevant.

    When someone uses another persons intellectual ‘property’ they don’t deprive the original owner of the property, its duplicated.

    Intellectual property is a reification where the original owner has a higher claim of property and then says he or she can use the state to enforce that claim in copyright court.

    It doesn’t hold to reality and it’s holding less and less with the acceleration of technology that makes information like music more readily sharable.

    New ideas are needed in this field to let artist get what they give and a few smart people will figure out a better way an make themselves very rich in doing it.

    • Anon

      No, it doesn’t, but and if you were talking about someone at home downloading off piratebay I’d agree, but:

      A media company want to use his music for free to make money, it may no be theft, but it’s bad form.

    • Edik415

      Yeah, that’s a bad analogy, I agree. But remove it, and I think Whitey still has a valid argument.

    • Anonymous

      there are times when exposure in a film can hurt an artist…if the film/ad/sponsored content/whatever is too prominent, the artist might not be able to license that piece of music to anyone else in that domain. so you’ve just given it away for almost nothing and if you mistakenly gave full buyout rights, which every producer seems to ask for regardless of budget, there is no backend to speak of from the PROs on anything but network TV.

  28. Hayden

    We can’t blame the internet for this sort of thing. When I was a kid in the 80’s and 90’s we used to copy music onto cassette from the radio. Now the kids use the technology of today. Yes, it sucks for the musician who wants everybody to pay, but until somebody get a really brilliant idea, this sort of thing will persist.

    • Karl

      Here’s a brilliant idea, force these multi-million dollar corporations start paying creators and writers for quality works and making them available for free, and don’t worry about the kids sharing works they have legally purchased. These companies are making profits from our hard work and advertisers are eager to pay for a place among them. They’re sharing our labor and property and not sharing the procedes from it, with us.

  29. Mark Steiner & His Problems

    RIGHT ON! This certainly warrants a repost! Well said. Well done. Hats off. x

  30. JK

    Well said. It was about time someone said it out loud.

    That said – musicians hold part of the blame themselves. Im amazed by the amount of well playing, super voiced, hardcore rhythm talented people, who approach the TV industry (venue holders, clubs ect) with: “if we get our name out there, well play for free”. I think, correct me if im wrong, NJ White has played his amount of free bees – and now his a big name and want money.
    I can understand that 100%!

    But don’t hold it against the TV producer Zoe. She, and a lot of others, are use to getting music for free, from very talented people. So don’t blame them for trying to get the top-shelf for free. Don’t just batter one side – focus on all the “nearly there” musicians who gives the last free-bee, before they make it big and want money. If every musician, upcoming and established, put a price on their work – nobody would have “no-budget for music”.

    Because there would be no free music anywhere.

  31. Anon

    Sadly the media industry is a huge pig regarding this.
    Do some photos for us, film something, edit something, be a runner, do it, we can’t pay but you’ll have fun, unfortunately people are so horny for working in this area that they do it for years on end without pay.

  32. Daniel lim

    They can pay artistes, editors and everyone to put together a great show, let’s see how they can make the show ‘great’ without great music. These producers ought to be shot. We get a fair share of such abuse even in our fields. Producers wooing professionals to work for nothing for ‘international exposure’ is what they like to call it here in my country. It’s a real shame.

  33. Some guy

    I bit of context might be constructive.

    The royalty system in the UK and Europe different from the US, particularly for background music. Their system makes no distinction between background or library music and songs and pays everything at the same royalty rate. Therefore getting music in an on air production, even without money up front, can be quite financially lucrative for the composer/producer, particularly if he/she owns the copyright. I’m just saying, Whitely may have been insulted, but his music would not have been used for free.

  34. aindre reece-sheerin

    it is the same when putting on Charity/Benefit shows. Months in the planning and taking it out there to get people interested because most Charities can’t be arsed to help promote. Pay for the Hall Hire, Pay for the Posters, Pay the PRS for the Songs (rightly so), Pay for the Sound and Lighting but dare to suggest that a Little Bouquet $4.00 pp be taken out for Musicians who have given of their time and talent for free?. Well, there by hangs a tale. Obama does not book acts so would be unaware of this situation. I am not American (Irish) so cannot really comment further. It is still unfair on any level, for companies to expect musicians to perform for free ‘All the time’ Thanks for Sharing

  35. Peter James

    If TV stations dont want to pay for your music, and some artists are willing to give away the music for free, perhaps to gain exposure to other customers such as private consumers, then the true price of the music sold to TV stations should be 0?

    It would’nt suprice me if some musicians would be willing to actually pay the TV stations to use their music in a show – just for the sake of the exposure. Do you think that the TV stations pay Apple, whenever a person in a show or a movie has a macbook? No – it’s the other way around – it’s called product placement, and some companies are willing to pay millions for this exposure! You on the other hand – you want to get paid!

    Demand and Supply never lie! Or should we really start to do this the chineese way?

  36. Deano

    On the one hand it’s just Supply & Demand, on the other hand this dude is Absolutely Unmistakably Correct, it’s about time lovingly created and talent driven art was Paid For Competitively to other inputs on many commercial projects, if there is an income being made from the overall product. Yes you have to give a little sometimes for promo, but if there is a big gain it should be shared, Deano out …

  37. @shanemchu7

    this was the same when I Was in band and gigging London, we could get the gigs because we used to take coaches of at least 50 into a venue but we didn’t get paid or the gigs unless we did! and we were brilliant band http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqlSL3cm15M supposed to be promoters that promote and bands play! LAzy exploitation of people struggling to get their stuff out there!

  38. michael

    I agree with the letter, what I find amusing and I’d love to question….. how many of you people download music for free via torrents and stream off websites…. and then you are standing up for this guy. (Btw I agree 100 percent with him as a musician, and I can push this argument because believe it or not I pay for all my music.) But what a load of hypocrisy this is from over half of you. You lots are a joke.

  39. igen

    Look up Harlan Ellison’s rant, “Pay the Writer”, on Youtube.

  40. Sarah

    I had PR agencies call me to say they had no budget for a stylist to style their photocall. With words like pick your brain and where would you get this . I had taken years to find out where to get my props , and many other supplies needed for same and am not going to hand them to you for free. Needless to say I am now in another business!!!

  41. nameless

    For me, music is something that reflects feeling thoughts and dreams.
    People who make music in an afford of being successful in view of money, are no good musicians. They haven´t understood the sense of music yet.

    • Anonymous

      well, unfortunately, people cannot live from thoughts, feelings and dreams. Saying music (or other creative art forms) shouldn’t be for money is ridiculous. Music and art are awesome, don’t devalue them by saying their creators shouldn’t be paid for their work.

  42. Thom

    Just want to clarify to people, he also said this:

    “I want a loud dialogue started in the music press about this shit. I’m sick of these people. I propose a collective blacklist of companies that play this shabby angle, enough.

    I donate music all the time to indie projects, students and those who need it but cannot pay. But these people… ugh.”

    He donates music to projects who genuinely don’t have the money to pay. But not companies that clearly have enough money to pay an artist and are owned by Discovery Enterprises International. I think this is important and I hope young people out there without the money to afford big music aren’t rattled by this email. This is NOT what this is about.

    I made a short film at university for my masters and I didn’t have money to pay ANYONE. Not just the musician. I was well on my way expecting to find public domain music when all of a sudden a record producer approached me as they had seen some of my work. They offered me music from their label so long as I would ask for the musician’s permission too. THIS is how it should work, you get permission from both the record label AND the musician. Needless to say, if I ever start making money I’ll try and pay them back 🙂

    Also, here is the original email: https://scontent-a-lhr.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/1441238_10151673065551269_476748099_n.jpg

    A very strange letter… and yet now they are claiming they would always pay the artist and that this was a mistake… this only clarifies that they always had the budget. Actually making the situation worse I think

  43. funkyfeline

    Part of the problem is a lot of musicians are so desparate to “make it” that they will give their music away for free seeing it as an opportunity to get noticed. A lot of the public believes you are only a successful musician if you are famous and in the mainstream. Therefore these TV producers think all musicians are desperadoes and will give their work for free. We need to value our own self worth. Like Whitney Say no!

      • funkyfeline

        It works for a small few. I feel musicians work is not respected unless they are known in the mainstream. That you are not a quality writer unless you are selling to millions so why pay you? It is a craft that is perfected like many other trades not just a talent.

      • GGG

        As someone who briefly went through the “exposure is great!” line of thinking years ago, the amount of times anything substantial comes of it is far less than nothing happening.

        Mainly it comes down to context. These companies have money to pay for licensing, they just don’t want to. It’s one thing to donate to a charity or friends’ film school project, it’s another to have your song on some nationally televised show and get shit for it. That’s fucked up. Bands I work with have gotten a good amount of money from syncs. And it’s still a mutable value, ie maybe some indie film can legitimately only pay this much as opposed to CWs 4-5 figures. We can make something work. But unless you’re eating Ramen noodles for a year to pay for your artistic endeavor, if music is crucial to your vision, it’s a cost that must be included. Unless you’re a dick.

  44. Anonymous

    Ummmm They weren’t asking the crybaby to work. They were asking if he wanted his RECORDING played on their show. All he had to do was say no. If I were producing the show and music didn’t drive it I too would put little value on it even to the point of finding someone who wants some free exposure. You already did the work, sorry but I’m not paying you to give you free exposure on my well watched TV program. Oh, and when I want a custom piece done I will gladly pay someone who is talented without being a stuck up prick.

    • a. nony mouse

      By that ‘rationale’ (notice the quotes because it’s anything but rational), a painter shouldn’t be paid for their paintings because the work’s already been done and isn’t being done on command.

      You, sir, are an idiot.

      • Anonymous

        Cry much? Seriously, to some people the EXPOSURE is payment. Don’t get mad at them because they value that more than money. Oh, and thanks for the name calling. It only bolsters my position.

        • NYerHolmes

          “Exposure”? Please. That’s the oldest hustle in the world by weasels trying to get something for nothing. All it means is they don’t value it enough to want to pay for it—in which case they can’t have it. When I hear that line I look them in the eye and say, “You do realize that you can die of exposure?”. That shuts ’em up quick.

    • wrong

      exposure means nothing. i’ve licensed dozens and dozens of trax, hundreds of times, some very high profile tv & film productions, in key scenes. never once have i had someone contact me and say “hey i heard your song on xxx, i want to pay you…”

      what i do see is a spike on youtube views after it airs, and by youtube analytics i can tell their keyword search, so i often know when a show has aired and where. comparing it to iTunes sales timewise, the exposure doesn’t seem to translate to many (if any) sales. mostly likely they’ve gone to a torrent site and d’loaded it, which i don’t track. so: exposure means micropennies.

      exposure only works if you also have a big budget behind you — ads also running, a pr team, major label backing. even by the time a song like Feist’s 1,2,3,4 becomes a massive hit due to exposure on an Apple ad, it was already a biggish minor hit, and had achieved a fair amount of attention.

      also, i can’t believe that you actually said the works been done, why should it be paid for? that justification of “it’s just a copy” or “or nothing needs to be replace” negates hundreds, even thousands of years of artists, writers, performers, scientists (“it’s just a patent, already paid for in development”) being paid for their creations.

  45. Edik415

    Of course, this doesn’t only happen in “the industry.” This happens ALL THE TIME in the world of the freelance performer. I do a little on-the-side work as a freelance marimbist/vibraphonist, and here was a conversation I recently had with a bride-to-be: “Could you please provide prelude music for our wedding? Oh, and maybe some up-tempo tunes during our cocktail hour? Well, we can’t afford to pay you for your service, but maybe you can play in lieu of getting us a separate wedding present.”

    Context: this is a person I was friends with in college, and have only communicated with on Facebook since then. In the since graduation, I have moved halfway across the country for my full-time job. I tried to explain to her that I simply can’t afford to LOAD MY MARIMBA ONTO A PLANE, buy a ticket/rental car/hotel room, and fly halfway across the country for free. “In lieu of getting us a separate wedding present?” How presumptuous is that? I wasn’t planning on getting you a wedding present in the first place…

    Sigh. Ok, I’m done with that rant.

  46. jamacare

    Art in general is not valued in our society. Yes of course people will pay millions for an original Van Gogh, Rembrandt, etc, but that is not the “value” of art, that is the “market value” of the art. Art is too abstract (even when it’s not) and intangible. The sense of value associated with art is based upon people/society’s ability to comprehend and appreciate the “work” that goes into it. This is where the disconnect exists and will remain until we EDUCATE, starting with our CHILDREN. Pull art and creative education out of school and this is what you get:

    Contempt, rooted in ignorance, dismissed by the mind, forgotten by the heart, and fueled by greed…

  47. Hagge Geigert

    IP is bullshit. Make your music but you dont own it. No one owns what you here. You can only own tangible assets.

  48. DrunkenMonk2

    Its just rape. Plain and simple. My story is the same. Lifetime to acquire skills, but very little compensation for your intellectual property. So be it but the world shouldnt expect to have high quality art if you cant feed your family from the efforts of that labor. Maybe they can just put their computers on some random note smashing thing and listen to that or listen to people who dont know a treble clef from a quark continue to make art. At this point i create for my family legacy more than anything and will make what i can from shows because otherwise its a sad state of affairs in the industry for artist. TLC at the height of their careers made 50 000 a year apiece. True story.

  49. Anonymous

    Why go to all the trouble of writing a kick-ass letter and then say “even the cleaner who mopped your set and cleaned the toilets will get paid”. I’m sure the suggestion – that the cleaner is a comparatively ridiculous example of someone who deserves to be paid (so preposterous that it is underlined, in red) – is not Whitey’s intention. How about a correction?

    • Mark M

      That’s not the suggestion – the suggestion is that based on what has been proposed, the person that wants the music for free operates on a hierarchy of value in which musicians exist below janitors.

  50. Anonymous

    Whitey, good sir, you NAILED this. Thank you for standing up & making this public. I’m also an artist with lots of experience licensing my music & I’ve had the occasional request for a freebie. Honestly, I’ve never responded to one but I now see the importance of educating people about the reality of the situation.

    Isn’t it funny that we have to educate people about why they should pay us for our goods/services?

    Technology has created this falsehood that there are many things (music included) that should now be free. I’m all for free if EVERYTHING is free… but since not everything is free, I will justly require payment for the use of my music to promote your brand/film/game/TV show, like you, Whitey.


    Josh Schroeder

  51. an ad person

    Really well written. As someone who is often making licensing requests, though, I would like to note that it is often not the producer who is allocating funds, but someone else – In advertising, the client. Even though some larger entity may well have plenty of money, producers can only work with what they are allocated. Sometimes there is no music budget at all, and some artists are indeed willing to have the exposure, and so it’s worth asking. Don’t shoot the messenger!

  52. Rick Denzien

    Most shows, tv & film would be so bore ass with out the music; most of the time it is the music that makes the moment. I say, “Music makers UNITE, or die”. http://www.RickDenzien.com

  53. Jim

    lol, I’m a web developer & I get that all the time. “We have no budget for our web site, but we need a ton of work done on it.” People are just cheap. Fuck em.

  54. Bess

    In all fairness… film/television producers do this ALL THE TIME with members of the crew, and even more so with those working in post-production. They may not ask outright for you to work for free (sometimes they do), but will try everything conceivable to screw you out of a paycheck. (But, we don’t have the budget!) Even after working 12 hour days for weeks on end, many will still try and pressure you into working ‘extra’ hours for free (which should be paid as overtime in the US). It’s also not uncommon to illegally use interns for free work, as well. The Unions are pretty much the only thing keeping the worst abuses at bay.

    That said, I couldn’t agree more with this letter. Music often gets the short end of the stick on an already pretty short stick. Bravo for sticking up for yourself.

  55. TheWhitefire

    How many of you commenters then turn around and pirate the music you listen to? Doesn’t that strike you as somewhat hypocritical?

    • PL

      Not really, because the letter above is talking about a multi-million dollar corporation making money off them for free. Joe Downloader at home is just listening to the music at home and not making money off it.

      Museums are free, libraries are free, anyone with garageband can make a record these days, so bands should be letting people listen to their art for free just so people know who they are. If the band is good enough the person will see them play live, buy a shirt or LP, and hype them to others, to the point where people who make tv/video games/commercials will want to use them in their product, and -hopefully- pay them handsomely.

      It also must be stated that in America, artists are not allowed to live as artists unless they are in the top 1%, whereas Canada and the rest of the world has a neverending dole for them to live off while they hone their craft.

      • mike b

        ” so bands should be letting people listen to their art for free just so people know who they are”

        That is what the media company was saying. The thing is, it isn’t up to you how people share and don’t share their material. You may make suggestions to help their business model, such as letting people listen to their music for free, but you have no right to go against that they dictate.





  56. bloggulator

    Superb letter and well said NJ White! Your response is intelligent, logical and articulate and spells out the FACT that the music industry now has an ethical sensibility on a similar level to the Gambino Family or the Colombian drug cartels; the big difference is they don’t stoop to the level of actually murdering people at the bottom of the totem (AFAIK) – in other words, dead musicians can’t provide free content…..

    The trouble all started in the mid 1990s with the Internet, in which “free downloading” (read theft) via the likes of Napster et. al. became popular models for illegitimate distribution of artists’ work, in which blatant theft was euphemistically referred to as “file sharing”. There became a resulting widespread awareness (especially amongst the younger generations who grew up never having to pay for music) that a continued and endless supply of free music was an expectation and an entitlement.

    This corrosive attitude spread very quickly to the mercantile section of the industry – (corporations by their nature are nobody’s friends except their owners and major stockholders) – in which musicians are regarded as indentured servants whose offerings are, according to the current rates of payment for streaming content, for example Spotify and ITunes, as near as dammit, worthless.

    It’s time for every player who plays music to a standard that can be offered for sale, to team up with NJ Whitey and make a stand against these corporate lowlives and thieves. This is now war, folks… your livelihoods and careers depend on clear, decisive action. It’s time to put the boot in. Enough is enough.

  57. Greg

    Brilliant !!! Maybe they can be shamed into doing the right thing.

  58. Mike

    Let them do their shows whit out music if they don´t wanna pay for it.

  59. Jan

    I totally agree with your sentiments regarding ownership and payment for your property but be careful how you say things about other people. “Even the cleaners” is insulting and makes you as bad as the people you are writing to.



  60. Ti-Panda Transport

    Well written and true…we had some synchros, like in Grey’s Anatomy, french TV etc… What’s also happened to us is that a NBC night show, sorry to name you, did used our music without telling us, by luck someone did record it…after that, how can we do to get paid without going to court (we can’t afford a lawyer) plus not be blacklisted in the synchro world(we can’t afford that neither)…not only the first time things like that did happened and we know we are losing money we could use to improve our studio or touring. The true question is how to deal with that, what solution do we have in this David vs Goliath thing.

  61. dasbnau

    Put yourself in the position of the director for just one moment (yes, I know it’s hard):

    You have a company to run, with the ultimate purpose of making money. You need a certain item to make your final product, and you know from experience that you can acquire that item for absolutely free because plenty of people are willing to provide it free of charge.
    Commenters are now arguing that you should choose to pay for that product, simply because “it’s right”. I’m sorry, but no businessman in their right mind would ever do this. It’s not a charity organization we’re talking about.

    Like jw said earlier, the problem here is oversupply and underdemand. If you spent half your life acquring skills to produce a product that people are not willing to pay for, then perhaps you made a bad career choice. Or perhaps you enjoy making music so much that it outweighs the poor pay, in which case you made a good one.

  62. klrothjr

    Yes, I agree. See violence isn’t the answer.Successful dialog is.

  63. Pero Naliv

    Enough with treating musicians with SHIT!!!! Just because we love our craft and life for it doesn’t mean we therefore must work for free! A true musician everyday works many hours developing skills, creating music and it is a job like everyones else. I’m pissed now…

  64. a Musician

    You are a HERO SIR!! thanks for sticking it up for the rest of us.

  65. Michael Incitti

    Damn skippy, Whitey. Nice job. You invest a lifetime of work, energy, creative and intellectual power to generate the music. You own it, you protect it. It’s the labor of your combined talent, intellect and artistic sensibilities. And you most definitely do not give it away for free. Well done. And congratulations on your success thus far.


    But don’t we have a right to free music? Just like our right to free health care?

    • Anonymous

      nope because we have to make a living in order for you to have said music.

  67. PL

    The problem is that there is no union for musicians, actors have SAG-AFTRA and Equity, which prevent abuse like this, but what do musicians have? Nothing.

    • Stu

      Well there is Musicians Union, but I guess that’s a paid for service. They’re very good otherwise.



  68. SoundComposer

    As a film composer I would like to say THANK YOU SO MUCH Mr. White 🙂

    Reactions like this is what we need in this industry! I’m just as tired of it as you 🙂


  69. J

    Oooof. Poor Zoe. A casual glimpse at the company site reveals she is not one of the company’s top execs. So … of course they sent a poor underling into a buzzsaw to ask a musician to just give away their creative property. Why do your own dirty work?

  70. Jack Eberle

    Has anyone noticed that Zoe, no longer works at this company? No doubt they dropped her like a bad habit after publicity like this when, lets be real, she was likely instructed to preform this sort of bad behavior by her superior who, follow me here, subsequently fired her for doing what she was told. Bravo!

  71. NYerHolmes

    The most powerful sentence in Whitey’s freaking awesome response is “culturally ingrained disdain for the musician”. While I have yet to attain Whitey’s level of success, I too have been hit up by all manner of weasels looking to either use my recordings for free or have my band(s) perform for free. When I lived in LA (and was younger and dumber), a big-name actor, with a lovely house in the Hollywood Hills, convinced me to perform at a party at his grand home, with my band, for nothing because of all the wonderful exposure I’d get, playing for him and his swell friends. You can probably guess how many great opportunities came out of it. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had someone hit me up to use one of my songs in a movie with the exact same “unfortunately there’s no budget for music” crap.
    The worst case of musician abuse of which I’ve heard recently came from a musician friend: he was asked by a guy (a former chief of a major label, as it happens) to travel from the west coast to the east coast to perform two gigs. When my friend gave him the (absurdly reasonable) price of $600 for the pair of gigs, the guy blanched and started going on about how some of the other musicians involved were doing the gig for free and why couldn’t he? My friend, btw, has a family to feed. The guy hiring had left his position as label chief with a reported severance in excess of $15 million after the label did a major re-organization; yet he found $600 excessive. You gotta love guys like this.
    The reason that these things are so commonplace is because there are so many musicians trying to get a foothold in a brutal industry that all too many think that by giving their music and/or services away, they will curry favor and get ahead. Many are just desperate to play out and will do so for little or nothing, just for the chance. I hope that it will change someday but I doubt it will. Nonetheless, I have bookmarked Whitey’s brilliant letter and the next time some asshat comes along and tries to weasel me, I’ll be prepared.

  72. Terry Thomas Photos / Atlanta, Georgia USA

    Delete the word “musician” and replace it with “photographer” and the same crap is going on for us.

    Terry Thomas…
    the photographer
    Atlanta, Georgia USA

  73. Al Quaglieri

    Such eloquent indignation, and yet it’s like pissing in the ocean. For every professional musician who sticks to their guns about fair compensation, there are a hundred amateurs who would not only give you their music, but come wax your car and mow your lawn for a year for the chance at some mythical “break.”

  74. Anonymous

    “Fuck ‘people’s music’,” laughs Jerry Garcia from a reclining seat in the plush, wood-finished business offices of the band. “I mean, I thought it was a dumb discussion even when it was the big thing awhile back to talk about how music should be free… that music belongs to the people and musicians rip them off. That kind of thing really irks me.

    “It’s like, in order to get so you can play music you have to sacrifice a lot of what would have been your normal life. You know what I mean? …. It’s not a thing you just do. If that were so, everybody’d be making their own music and there wouldn’t be professional musicians. There’d be no need for them. For someone to deny the fact that you spent a certain amount of your life working on some sort of discipline and learning how to play… that’s the rip-off…. Anytime someone comes down on artists and claims their work on any level, I think that’s pure bullshit. There’s been too many great musicians who died poor. People’s music… it just ain’t so.”

    • jw

      This quote has very little to do with this topic. He’s talking about a late ’60s thing where kids felt like they shouldn’t have to pay to go see concerts. You see a lot of this in the Festival Express doc, & the Dead actually load their gear up on a trailer & go play free sets at public parks in order to satiate these fans. At least that’s what I recall. But there were gate crashers at Woodstock, etc., & all of that lead to shows like Altamont, which essentially ended it all.

      Related, the Grateful Dead ended up playing a famous free show in the back yard @ the Château d’Hérouville in ’71 to ~200 townspeople after a free gig they were playing in Paris was rained out. It ended up televised on French public tv, likely for free. And consequently the footage can be found for free, (re-edited to match the original performance free of charge by a Dead fan) if you look hard enough.

      The Dead did free stuff all of the time. The point is that in each case it’s up to the artist to decide what makes sense & what doesn’t.

  75. Anonymous

    I am a gospel singer and someone told the same thing all the time. At collection time I give. The last Church I sang at they had gift for their Pastor and wife to go anywhere they wanted for a week, but no budget for me. It is hard in gospel because we want to serve, but we have bills too.

  76. Artster

    I’m willing to bet that this company also uses “interns” that they don’t have to pay.

  77. Flora

    This idea that entertainment has no value is running through everything. Pubs will give you a gig if you come in and organise your own and perform for free, they call it gaining experience. I am a family entertainer, more and more often I am meant to work for free, even McDonalds has asked me to work for free on their fund raising day, mind the manager was getting his pay packet, the CEO was probably getting more than I make in a year. Every year I get one of two invitations to appear for free on some TV talent show or another, I have sent quotes in return many a time because my skills are worth more that going up against cute 10 year olds. Everywhere you turn someone want you to work for free, most often the same people who will be getting paid for their time as an event manager at your performance.

  78. Alex

    NJ White seriously needs to learn some people skills and more importantly negotiation skills. If he handled this better he would have been able to licence his music out AND get paid for it.

    If you read this NJ, I’d recommend you read the book ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People.’ It’s an awesome book… I promise you’ll love it 🙂

  79. suntox

    If “Zoe” asked for a new piece written just for him, and that for free, i understand the commotion. But if he wanted to use an already existing song, the answer doesn’t make sense. Would habe been an opener for negotiation. Not a reason to go up the wall. Time to tell a price, not to flame imho.

  80. Ohhhjustaguy

    How can you ever expect to make music your life is you can’t make a living off music?

  81. davidclowery

    I’m just really happy that JW had to waste an entire day writing 57 comments.

  82. Aaron

    This is fantastic – it came to my attention on a local Professional Photography board on Facebook. We as professional photographers get requests for free work frequently, and we feel the same way about it. Great to see this post making its way around the other creative circles as well. Cheers everyone!

  83. Linda

    Posted on my Facebook wall,tweeted and blogged this! As a professional photog for all of my adult life,I am appalled at the weekly requests I get for freebies or those that just decide to steal my copyrighted images then wonder why they are in legal trouble once caught!
    Thanks for posting this classic response!

  84. Carlos

    This sounds so familiar, I know a lot of stories similar to this one being a professional musician myself. What really got me about Mr. White’s response was his explanation about the fact that musicians spend half their lives studying and perfecting their craft, and then we are expected to just give away what we learned.

    Talking about double standards, going to school and studying does not guarantee much of anything either. It seems like “education” has been modified and only a portion of it is given to general population, while the “Rich” and “Blood-line descendants” get the real advantage and the real careers! The more I learn about this corrupted world, the more it looks like something out of “The Matrix”. Some of us are so dependent on the system that we will fight among ourselves just to defend it. Yes I said it! We are living in a matrix, designed to maintain the rich richer! The fact that Mr. White made a stand means nothing either, because in real life, at the end, we the producers and songwriters must still chase money to survive. We are trapped! It is a never-ending cycle of lies that have been pushed down our throats in the name of “humanity and its well being”. Bullshit!

    Anyways, I admire Mr. White’s courage, at least he made a stand even though it doesn’t mean anything!

  85. Anonymous

    Much the same for actors trying to crack film/tv. So, so, so many production companies offering the hallowed opportunity to work – sorry, “gain experience for your cv and make contacts for networking!!” – for a production where every other member of crew and production gets paid. Now I’ve done my fair share of volunteering for student films, completed a year’s full time apprenticeship on £2.60 per hour in a theatre, and worked for purely expenses in a circus, all in return for experience. But it’s come to the point now where I just Need Money to Live. Then just get an acting job! But no, even professionally trained actors (which I’m not) are missing out on work, because there is always someone else desperate enough for experience to jump for free when a producer claps. Why would a producer offer paid work when they know they’ll have people biting their hand off to work for nothing? The whole media industry is so corrupt in this way, it needs to stop, but will only stop if everyone feels and sticks by these principles. Grrrrr.

    • Anonymous

      So true, in all the arts. And I’ve been in several! reverbnation.com/magicsong

  86. James K

    Supply and demand. There’s so much music from so many suppliers that it is only fair for it to fall in price. If people ‘feel like’ they still want to do music, well, better get a paying job and enjoy your new hobby. If you continue to feel entitled to money just because you worked hard on something, have a talk with the farmers of the 1920s. If you continue to produce something that no one will pay for, and you continue to expect it to bring food and heat into your home, then you can eventually drag the whole economy down with you. It’s only fair that people can have for free everything that we have in abundance. An abundance of music means free music, then we can focus on work that NEEDS to be done, work where there is deficit and pleas for improvement.

  87. MCC

    You could easily replace the word “Musician” with “Artist”. Happens all the time with us. Very hard to make a living. Thanks for posting this.

  88. Greg Kulina

    It seems pretty-common for artists of all sorts, not just musicians, to be expected to present their work to the world for little to no compensation. It just does not make sense. If you want the material, in whatever format, then you obviously value it. So you should then pay for that valued material.

  89. Gordi

    This reminds me of the couple trying to book a band for their wedding.
    “£1000 for a few tunes, that’s ridiculous!”
    OK, well why not try and get six experienced plumbers out on a Saturday night to work for 4 or 5 hours and see how much it costs you.

    • Karen

      Great video Brian. We would think it ridiculous if someone attempted any of these scenarios you illustrate in your video yet with music many argue these same tactics are reasonable. I’m betting that none are musicians who are seeing their livelihood being stolen from them by streaming services such as Spotify. As far as how much artists are paid per stream by Spotify, here’s David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame weighing in: “The amounts these services pay per stream is miniscule – their idea being that if enough people use the service those tiny grains of sand will pile up.” To support this statement, the veteran musician notes that Damon Krukowski had one million hits for his song Tugboat (with his band Galaxie 500) on Spotify and received only $16.89 in royalties (the YouTube video of Tugboat is shown below).
      The same article states that, “According to Rolling Stone, streaming services pay different amounts for different artists. Even here the amounts remain small. The magazine notes that even Daft Punk, who reached over 104,760,000 Spotify streams for their groovy track Get Lucky, will only make only around $13,000each from this very high number of air-plays.”

    • Fay

      Great video Brian. While the various scenarios you outline may seem ridiculous somehow they seems reasonable to many when applied to artists and their music. So many people seem to think that it’s reasonable that online streaming sites such as Spotify profit from a ‘product’ created by someone else AND that somehow it’s reasonable that the original creator be marginally compensated. As someone who manages a legacy music catalog (for an independent artist) that hs a long track record of success I’ve certainly heard the “there’s isn’t a big budget for the music” from music supervisors. Where previously a song typically made anywhere from $10-20,000 for placement in a film I’m seeing offers for as little as $500 (which of course I turn down, unless it’s for an independent project that represents the music in a way I believe in. To do otherwise de-values the song). And no, the drop in synch fees doesn’t have to do with the song’s relevance, as some would suggest; this particular song was covered by a very well known pop artist as recently as 2010.
      As far as streaming services David Byrne of Talking Heads fame weighs in here and it’s not favorable: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/oct/11/david-byrne-internet-content-world

      • Fay

        Sorry for being redundant, my first reply didn’t show up, now it’s there twice…

  90. Anonymous

    Of course an artist can simply say, “no,” without maligning the motives of every waitress who indicates a desire to hear an artist’s work without mentioning compensation. Not long ago it was dogma within the music industry that any TV exposure was good, regardless the compensation. Things might’ve changed since then. 🙂

    BTW Anyone here know how DJ’s compensate artists for the music they use? I’m curious. What about artists sampling other artists’ stuff? Social media is all about sharing, of course, so I guess it’s hard to find the right balance, what with paradigms shifting and all…

    • H-Man

      Not well enough. If a DJ uses another artist’s creation, the original artist should make more money off it than the DJ him/herself. All the DJ does is press play.

  91. Elliott

    Damn right!!!!!!!!! Same happens to photographers too! Will share in my industry as well. Good work, Sir!

  92. Anonymous

    well done I am a photographer and am well used to the phrase can you post those on face book or can you mail them to me. never any mention of payment.

  93. Vivian S. Bedoya

    Wonderfully expressed and so true. Bravo! I, too, am sick of the same free-loader requests from organizations and businesses who want to use my photographs for free.

  94. Victor

    Well said Mr. White. The bigger problem that underpins this whole dialogue are the musicians and midiots who set precedence and work for literally nothing. These are not composers but supposers who, in order to get a credit, will give their music away thereby broadcasting to the industry that musicians work for nothing. When you are asked how long it takes to do a project, start with your first music lesson + 20 years of studying, + 10-20 years of experience. That total should be your answer to those who think music is an overnight turnaround for fee.

  95. Carl H

    Well done tell them how it is great stuff! gonna put this up sick of the begging too! no budget for music, Its a joke.

  96. Make it Free or We’ll Steal It ‹ Advertising Week Social Club

    […] This subject recently gained great internet exposure thanks to UK musical artist Whitey. When asked by the UK based television production company Betty TV to issue a license of his music copyright free of charge, Whitey was fed up and delivered an incredibly impressive response. […]

  97. steve stroud

    Hit the spot there .

    As much as i’ve helped and supported charities,even the events people get their monies first and they are guilty of cutting the musos legs away…TV companies minted …..Artists still poor

    Time to get real

  98. Anonymous

    Thank you Whitey. The same mentality pervades performance venues in NYC, where hungry-for-exposure artists are now given a 45 minute gig, expected to be payed essentially by their friends who attend! The ‘club’ lines up gigs hour after hour, each artist, each hour, is required to bring x number of fans in order to be paid. All guests are to follow the usual drink minimum, door, etc; then they are booted out for the next artist’s attendees to find seats. In some instances the club even keeps some of the door money. Sorry, not where I perform! My often tardy music pals would show up for my last song! and then be told to leave. This is not tolerable. NYC is glutted with music schools and very young performers,often on daddy’s charge card, who have no problem working for nothing, and are too naive to see the big picture. Professional jazz artists, many of the old-time greats, sit home playing piano, not being seen and heard by these same students and others of their generation who would be enriched were these esteemed accomplished musicians on the bill, for a full three sessions, WITH PAY! Instead we only get to attend their memorial services, after they’ve been ignored for years.

  99. Spencer Brewer

    I could not agree with your well laid out, well articulated response more. In my 40 years in the music biz, I have had more inquiries like the one you point to than fewer. Since music is played by so many people on so many different platforms and is available with 1000’s of free music libraries, producers think because of the competition factor, they can low ball musicians. Why not, “I can download it all free anyway!”

    Well done….

  100. Gwen Sampé

    Great response. This kind of thing happens so often, and if you refuse people think you are being unreasonable. Or they try to convince you that you are missing a great opportunity to get your name out.

  101. sjc

    Awesome, I’m posting to every music site I’m on. “Pay the writer” updated.

  102. Simon

    Fantastic posting

    My colleague and I are sick of being asked to play for free at so called charity events where it always turns out to be the end of year ‘back slapping’ party for charity organisers. We have been duped into doing this so many times and sit there playing to a bunch of suits drinking fine wine and eating the finest food on offer while congratulating each other on raising £50 for charity after drawing a salary of £150k. That may an exaggeration.

  103. Dear Audi, Thanks for Stealing My Music. Sincerely, Sohn. | Music Blog List

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