Are you killing the value of your own music - an open letter

Lewis Foster

New Member
Hi all,

Today I published an open letter to raise awareness of the aggressive devaluation and exploitation that's currently happening in the music licensing space.

I figured this would be a very relevant place to share it: Read letter on medium

This is such an important issue for anyone seeking to earn from the placement of their work in video or film. I hope you find it an interesting read and, of course, please feel free to circulate/re-post the letter - the more awareness we can create about this, the better.

- Lewis
 
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Lewis Foster

New Member
@Beluga - Artlist and Soundstripe are the main companies operating the model in question. I believe Epidemic only offer a subscription plan to YouTubers which - in my view - is a much more reasonable approach. If I'm incorrect there though, please do correct me :)
 

Beluga

Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean
@Beluga - Artlist and Soundstripe are the main companies operating the model in question. I believe Epidemic only offer a subscription plan to YouTubers which - in my view - is a much more reasonable approach. If I'm incorrect there though, please do correct me :)
I’m afraid from what I heard from one of their clients they do have a subscription model of 200 $ per month or something for unlimited (? not sure..) use of music in commercial productions including promotional material. We are talking multi million companies not Youtubers.
 

Paul Grymaud

Active Member
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Sad...

Lewis, You are absolutely right. This sort of attitude coming from commercial companies is a shame. Composers must develop self-esteem otherwise customers will have no respect for them and we will work soon for free. Our work is invaluable.
 
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Lewis Foster

New Member
Looks like you're right @Beluga. I have a feeling that may be a recent change for Epidemic. It's cheap, but still nowhere near as cheap as the main culprits.
 

Beluga

Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean
Looks like you're right @Beluga. I have a feeling that may be a recent change for Epidemic. It's cheap, but still nowhere near as cheap as the main culprits.
Well, it still hurted me directly with this client who was raving on about how cheap the music was. While I kept rolling my eyes. :)
 

-JM-

New Member
Dear Lewis,

Thank you for your efforts!! It seems that there are composers who have no idea about the value of their music.

-I am sometimes confronted with customers who are surprised that the buy-out of a high-end piece of produced music would cost them more than their monthly Spotify subscription (not yet talking about additional Pro royalties).

I’ve heard from young composers who are selling finished produced instrumental tracks as a buy-out for 200,- or allow unlimited usage for 20,- . Their ignorance and struggle between composers makes them forget the value of their art.

-Some exlusive libraries (which usually take away your music in perpetuity), trend towards a music flatrate mentality which seems like a nightmare, although I am sure that a company who exclusively signed your music away will not be allowed to change their pricing to such a flatrate model without checking back with their composers and asking them explicitly for their participation… otherwise any silent change towards such a model could be considered as a breach of contract.

-A serious problem in the music world is a trend, which educates the young generations to consider music as something which is (almost) free of costs. Pro software, top sample libraries, first class hardware and creating high-end productions cost not only love, energy and devotion but also a lot of money, which helps me to demand reasonable prices… however, nowadays many „producers“ (and hobby musicians who are not dependent to earn a living from their music) compete with their bedroom equipment and some youngsters of the smartphone generation who consider 128 kb/s mp3 as sonic bliss, are often not hearing the difference anymore.

My suggestion to transcend these trends is not to fear these library-sharks and their ego based models but strictly not to cooperate with them,...focus on the quality of your productions in such a way that customers will hear and feel that mediocre music may be available for low prices, but that quality deserves an appropriate payment.

I am sure that your open letter will have a very positive impact (Btw, may it also motivate you to raise the pricing of your p.m. library – I just saw that you offer rather low prices compared to other libraries. I suggest that you double your prices immediately!).

Kind Regards

-JM-
 
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Oliver_Codd

Member
Great post Lewis.

A couple years back I posted a video expressing my frustration with the state of the trailer music licensing scene. A few companies started undercutting and became quite successful, yet the composers were bringing in much less. I urged composers to push for higher percentages as a way to pressure the publishing companies to raise their rates back up. This seemed to resonate with a lot of folks, but sadly few actually took action. 2 years later, these same companies are now publicly complaining about the emergence of new companies that have similar sounding music and lower prices. The irony! Now in response, they're trying to enforce exclusivity to the existing composers! No wonder so many decide to leave and start their own publishing companies... The race to the bottom doesn't end well for anyone.

I appreciate your efforts to heal a rapidly deteriorating industry. THANK YOU.
 

Desire Inspires

To the stars through desire....
Personally, I found the article to be boring. It was more complaining about the “state of the industry” with nothing to make things better.

Then I went to Music Vine to check out the site, music, and prices. Shameful in all ways. Lewis should stick to the dayjob and charge more money for the music on the site.

Blogs don’t do jack spit these days.
 

Chr!s

Active Member
I fully expect I'll get hate mail here, and I'm not saying I disagree with the article in a general sense about predatory business models, but it makes the mistake of failing to address a fundamental problem that exists beyond corporate greed.

You see, one of their sections is titled "but why is music so valuable, anyway?"

The misconception here is that music is just inherently "valuable". It isn't. Especially not when you're offering the exact same thing as 1000s of others.

9/10 production music tracks, and many composers in general today, are making music that sounds basically the same. The same string ostinatos, the same block chords, the same percussion, the same low brass, etc. I mean, trailer music has been boiled down to a literal formula. It's just assembly-line music with no obvious features that identify it as being a particular composer's work.

If they go to like...John Williams and say "John will you compose for us?" they'll pay just about whatever he wants, I'm sure of it, because they want John Williams and his signature style.

But if you're just doing the same thing as everyone else, of course they're going to go for the cheapest option, because that's all you can really offer them over the others.

 

JohnG

Senior Member
The catch is that, often, the customers sort of want exactly the music to which they're accustomed.

It sometimes occurs -- people actually, really do want something original. But, often enough, if you present something really weird (or even a little bit unusual), you discover that, after all, they want the music in a trailer to perform the same functions that they are in the habit of hearing.

If that's the case, you have to offer either

a) An original take on the "same old thing," or;

b) A lot more "craft" and cleverness than normal; and / or

c) An ear-catching performance and mix.

In other words, the-same-but-different.

As Alexander Pope put it in his "Essay on Criticism:"

True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd;
Something whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit.


― Alexander Pope
 

Erick - BVA

Music is more than just color and rhythm
I fully expect I'll get hate mail here, and I'm not saying I disagree with the article in a general sense about predatory business models, but it makes the mistake of failing to address a fundamental problem that exists beyond corporate greed.

You see, one of their sections is titled "but why is music so valuable, anyway?"

The misconception here is that music is just inherently "valuable". It isn't. Especially not when you're offering the exact same thing as 1000s of others.

9/10 production music tracks, and many composers in general today, are making music that sounds basically the same. The same string ostinatos, the same block chords, the same percussion, the same low brass, etc. I mean, trailer music has been boiled down to a literal formula. It's just assembly-line music with no obvious features that identify it as being a particular composer's work.

If they go to like...John Williams and say "John will you compose for us?" they'll pay just about whatever he wants, I'm sure of it, because they want John Williams and his signature style.

But if you're just doing the same thing as everyone else, of course they're going to go for the cheapest option, because that's all you can really offer them over the others.

And this is precisely why music doesn't have as much value as it once did. So I don't think you're off base or wrong at all. It's become so much easier to produce. And with the invention and development of AI composing tools, it's only going to get worse. The value of something is increased with scarcity. Inversely, the value of something is decreased by its abundance. Supply-side economics is rearing its head. So we need to develop a unique style that is "ours'. In a way I guess, just produce something that is scarce via assertion. We can do this and still produce accessible music. The PROs have been fighting for us in some ways (and for themselves of course) --trying to increase representation of artists in licensing laws and performance rights laws. Recently, there have been some "wins" in this regard in the courts. I think we just need to concentrate on being as unique and relevant as possible (even though those words seem contradictory). The world doesn't owe us anything, and we can't really force things to be a certain way. We have to adapt and utilize the information and tools we have to the best of our ability. I know that seems pessimistic, but I believe it's true regardless.
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
I contend that the music for media business is actually better for composers now than ever before.

Here's why:

There are the same number of top-tier composers and top-tier gigs providing top-tier pay as there have been for - what - 50 years? The difference is that there are entirely new segments of the market that started to emerge about 20 years ago. Video game music didn't exist back then. YouTube didn't exist back then. Netflix didn't exist back then. 1,000 cable channels with 500 reality shows didn't exist back then. All of that is new and that's where the huge boom in lower-paying gigs exists.

The composers making money off reality TV, YouTube, whatever would be earing $0 from it 50 years ago. In my case it's a decent chunk of change as a second income - I write a few dozen tracks a year in my home studio and there's a market that can use them. That didn't exist 50 years ago. Someone in my position is vastly better off than 50 years ago for that reason.

Now the question of value is a different matter: that's a personal preference. If some kid in his bedroom can produce a product that meets the needs of the consumer, and he's willing to do it for $5 vs. your price of $500 then yeah, you're going to lose that gig. But the only time that's a problem is when there is a mass of people who have no other opportunities (e.g. sweat shops in third-world countries). But I have never met a composer who couldn't make a living doing something else. So it's a choice and we should let the market play out as it will. Nobody has a fundamental right to make a living from his music.

So yes, convince composers to value their music more. I certainly support that. But the statement that music is valued less today than 50 years ago doesn't appear to be backed by reality.

rgames
 

gregh

Senior Member
I contend that the music for media business is actually better for composers now than ever before.

Here's why:

There are the same number of top-tier composers and top-tier gigs providing top-tier pay as there have been for - what - 50 years? The difference is that there are entirely new segments of the market that started to emerge about 20 years ago. Video game music didn't exist back then. YouTube didn't exist back then. Netflix didn't exist back then. 1,000 cable channels with 500 reality shows didn't exist back then. All of that is new and that's where the huge boom in lower-paying gigs exists.

The composers making money off reality TV, YouTube, whatever would be earing $0 from it 50 years ago. In my case it's a decent chunk of change as a second income - I write a few dozen tracks a year in my home studio and there's a market that can use them. That didn't exist 50 years ago. Someone in my position is vastly better off than 50 years ago for that reason.

Now the question of value is a different matter: that's a personal preference. If some kid in his bedroom can produce a product that meets the needs of the consumer, and he's willing to do it for $5 vs. your price of $500 then yeah, you're going to lose that gig. But the only time that's a problem is when there is a mass of people who have no other opportunities (e.g. sweat shops in third-world countries). But I have never met a composer who couldn't make a living doing something else. So it's a choice and we should let the market play out as it will. Nobody has a fundamental right to make a living from his music.

So yes, convince composers to value their music more. I certainly support that. But the statement that music is valued less today than 50 years ago doesn't appear to be backed by reality.

rgames
not really - you are forgetting the opportunities that have closed and also your market fundamentalist position is not supported by anything other than ideology. There is no personal preference that is not learned almost in toto through the environment one is exposed to and that environment is biased because there is no "pure" market. Therefore personal preferences are biased - and biased by the dominant power structures and market distortions that obtain in one's environment. Similarly for needs of the consumer in a post subsistence world.
 

-JM-

New Member
There seemed to be a fear engulfing composers, producers and libraries that gives them the impression that their works become more or less worthless as there is so much competition, many ego based service providing companies and copycats who try to make fast money by throwing moral ethics aside. If a client wants you to copy something you can do that if you want to make him/her happy… at all other times I would highly recommend to set great store on uniquness and high quality… all else will be a creative and financial disadvantage in the long run. Most library composers sound rather similar as they don’t dare to focus on their very own style and because only a few libraries pay good advances which enhances the struggle between composers. If a good number of composers and producers would re-consider their own value and do their music intrinsically motivated (no matter what the outside tells them) that quality will always beat quantity. If the people who read this thread think positive and compose something just because their love for the music today, this will have a very powerful impact on this fear cloud, I for one will immediately do that…

Lewis and his Team should not stick to a dayjob if he loves his library… but „walk his talk“ and demand at least higher licensing fees from his clients.

Best Regards
 
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Lewis Foster

New Member
@Paul Grymaud - Completely agree with your note!

@-JM- - Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I 100% agree that the key these days is to focus on producing real quality. Truly authentic, well produced and contemporary production music actually remains fairly hard to come by. I think that should be a reassurance for us all. I also agree that with a quality catalogue comes a responsibility to set the right prices. Your feedback does not fall on deaf ears.

@Oliver_Codd - Thanks for your kind note & sharing your experiences. Let's hope this letter has some positive impact - it's certainly started some conversations already, which can only be a good thing.

Desire Inspires - Wow buddy, given the several comments you've made on the other forum, you're going to quite some length to troll me, the letter & Music Vine. Please go easy on the tone - there's a human over here, not just words on a screen! And, again, huge difference between complaining and raising awareness - my letter was intended to do the latter.

@Chris - Very interesting perspective. I'd love to discuss that perspective more with you (will try post later on), but I need to head off! But wanted to say, thanks for the intelligent post :)
 
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Alex Fraser

Senior Member
I largely agree with Chris here.

I can see that the business models described in the article are vastly weighted against the composer.
Not good.

But I often think the music industry is kind of stuck between the "glory days" of royalties and the more crushing daily reality. The expectation that the creation of a musical work then entitles the composer to an ongoing income stream is fairly alien to say, a plumber who gets paid an hourly rate.

Whilst you should always get paid for your work - I think sometimes there has to be a reality check. For example - I'm one of the composers mentioned who (sometimes) gives away the entire rights to a track for about £200. But - if that track was completed in 2 -3 hours from start to finish - is it worth much more than that? That's the question. And that £200 feeds the kids.

I'm not saying anyone's approach is the right or wrong one. Clearly - as aways - musicians are being shafted. But sometimes reality gets in the way. For me, anyway. Just putting it out there for further discussion.
 

-JM-

New Member
@alex - There’s nothing wrong in caring for your kids and to survive… but if a composer considers his/her art as worthy, gives the best, invests true love, energy and time into the production and radiates the self worth that the result deserves more than 200,- I am convinced that such a person will draw those people into his/her life who are willing to pay far more than 200,-

If a generation of youngsters considers music as a free thing and if people become aware that there are composers and companies who start fighting themselves by lowering their pricing models, the result for composers and libraries will be fear, lack of perfectionism and a reduction of Musical expansion and uniqueness… on the other hand it will automatically reward those who do not let themselves be fooled by these trends and who continue to set great store on quality.

@Lewis– That’s good to know! I do not suggest that you should demand e.g. 10 times as much (as some major p.m. libraries do), but your current pricing model would keep me away from your site as it will mainly attract low budget projects or people who don’t estimate the quality of your catalogue. (If you and your composers gave your best and can really be proud about your works then you should deserve more than peanuts).
 
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