Suicide is Painless « Studio 51 Music
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Suicide is Painless

Suicide is Painless

So goes the song. Composer suicide may be painless as well. After all it has been a slow burn until now. That said. I can assure you that at death it will become very painful!

Our profession has been under attack by unethical and shadowy characters since the days of the masters. There have always been ways to steal our works throughout history and many have succeeded. But, something has fundamentally changed it the past few years. For lack of a better category I will call it “Assisted Suicide”.

I think the worst started with the onset of re-titling led by Pump Audio in 2001. The model was designed to entice music creators by suggesting that they have many more opportunities based on placing a single piece with many more publishers. Seemed like a winner; except-Licensing fees began to plummet as the re-titlers, to compete with the higher quality exclusives, began reducing, blanketing, and later removing all licensing fees.

To compete with the lower licensing fees the Royalty Free libraries began to take hold. No licensing fees what-so-ever! And to compete with the Royalty Free Libraries along came Performance Free libraries that actually remove the music creator from the Performing Rights Organization, and vice versa eliminating royalties.

To complete the circle of this downward spiral we come back to Pump which is now part of Getty Images. Arguably one of the largest publishers and content providers in the world. Getty/Pump is now up to their old trick of telling composers they are missing opportunities if they don’t provide their music for free, depending only on their back-end royalties as a reward for their work (often less than a Venti at Starbucks). How far down does the spiral of devaluation go before the our music is simply worth zero? I fear that is where we are headed.

Hence Composer Suicide. By supplying music to these companies the composer today is filling everyone’s pockets but his or her own. When the value of music reaches the level that only tens of thousands of pieces make money where does that leave the composer? Dead! That’s where. And unfortunately only the composers have themselves to blame in today’s information packed world.

There is an old story about the alligator and the bunny. The bunny wanted to cross the river to see his girlfriend, and the alligator offered him a ride. The bunny objected; “you will eat me”! The alligator countered with a promise not to. After some time the alligator convinced the bunny and across the river they went. Upon arriving on the opposite side, as the bunny hopped off, the alligator grabbed the bunny in its jaws. The bunny cried; “you promised!” the alligator replied; “Hey, I’m an alligator stupid!” Well there you go.

Composers are falling into this same old trap. It’s funny how they vent toward the exclusive publishers (who focus on licensing and royalties, or up-front and royalties), with argument after argument that they have typically been given without any critical thought. Given by whom? Well it may be a well-meaning friend, but trace it back to its source and it typically begins with an alligator! These alligators don’t typically say; “Hey, I’m an alligator stupid!” No, that is not their style, they just think it!

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