“I think it (the use of music in a TV show) is more of a promotional opportunity in 2013.” So said PJ Bloom recently, one of the “most successful and sought after music supervisors”. Apparently. PJ Bloom spoke in front of a packed room at AIM’s Sync Licensing to TV, Film, Adverts and Games event. For those that don’t know, and/or have a proper job, ‘sync’ is short for synchronization, a license granted by the holder of the copyright of a particular composition allowing the licensee to “sync” music with some kind of visual media output – film, TV Shows, ads, Video Games, accompanying website music, movie trailers, etc. Having worked on hit shows such as CSI: Miami, Nip/Tuck, Glee and currently American Horror Story, he told indie execs how to get to the gatekeepers of sync and what they should expect to get out the process: nothing, apparently.
PJ joined a long line of end users putting the case in favour of their own free use of other people’s music, citing that same reasoning that their particular use will be “good promotion”. The LOCOG Committee – for the London 2012 Olympic Games – made a similar claim last year: “Bands should play live and for free in and around the Olympic village” as it was “good promotion and would showcase their talents to the world”. Excellent.
But good promotion for what?
Live gigs? In the UK a special license was required for any venue wishing to have live music. The 2003 Licensing Act had imposed this bureaucracy on gigs, decimating the live music sector in pubs etc. It was finally amended in October 2012 – after the Olympics – to exclude venues holding less than 200 people. Oh, and it still only allows unamplified music. So forget all those thoughts of turning up to a pub and asking if you can play, as they are likely to have jumped through numerous hoops in order to obtain their license at not inconsiderable cost in at least of their time and now wish to see a return on their investment.
CD Sales? As a percentage of the total music market, CDs sales have shrunk back to 1988 levels of around 35%. In 1988, cassettes accounted for 54% and vinyl 8%. In 2012, it’s downloads that account for 40% and subscription and streaming for 8%. In order to receive enough income to reach the statutory monthly US minimum wage of $1160 – assuming an average sale price of $9.99 – a solo artist writing their own material would need to achieve one of the following each and every month:
Self pressed CD – 143 sales
CD through CD Baby – 155 sales
Retail CD album – 1161 sales
iTunes album download – 1229 sales
Downloads? This is the area of the industry that has been the most democratized. Anyone can get their music onto iTunes and Amazon without having to jump through any record company hoops in order to obtain a recording contract, albeit there is no advance to pay for recording costs and it is necessary to utilize a third party aggregation service company such as CD Baby or Reverb Nation to name but two.
Back to those monthly figures, this time for download sales:
CD Baby mp3 download – 1562 sales
Amazon / iTunes track download – 12399 sales
Streaming via You Tube, Pandora, Rhapsody, Last FM or Spotify etc etc?
Here are those necessary monthly numbers again:
You Tube – 351,515 views per month. But ONLY after the millionth view and ONLY if you are a You Tube partner.
Rhapsody Streaming – 649,817 plays per month.
Last FM free on demand streaming – 1,546,667 plays per month
Spotify streaming – 4,053,110 plays per month
There has always been a concern with pirating illegal copies. “Home taping is killing music” was printed on every LP cover. But illegal downloading is now endemic and it appears to have taken on a ‘Robin Hood’ aspect. But that is a whole other blog.
Today, creators make their living from many different sources. But these are interdependent for the creator and shouldn’t be used as an excuse by others to offset one against the other. It is a brave new world, but it has to have a sound moral foundation or we all lose.
It seems to me that everyone can justify his or her own reasons for either paying an unrealistically small sum for music content or, more and more, actually pay nothing at all. Surely the most fair and decent thing would be that if music enhances your production or your life then you should make some sort of contribution to the creators of it? That way, if everyone pays a piece we can all make a living.