Discovery Networks (& Netflix) Corners Composers in Music Royalties Battle

Iswhatitis

Member
Speaking to guys and girls who were writing music for network tv in the late 90’s....man they were the glory years. The money was incredible. The gravy train has been slowly running out of fuel after that peak.

What’s sadder still is that even with advertising where billions is spent annually, the music budgets are still shrinking. The only benefit to ads now is the royalties can be very lucrative (if composers are smart enough to take them).

Still you have companies like Nike emailing composers and songwriters asking to have their music for free. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so depressingly greed-fuelled.
What I’ve learned over and over again the hard way is that my rates are not negotiable. If a producer wants to low ball me they can go fuk themselves and I usually tell them to save their money and use someone else’s music libraries after a low ball offer. They want a composer for hire original music score for music library rates. I don’t do music library work, it doesn’t interest me at all.
 

BartonFink

New Member
What I’ve learned over and over again the hard way is that my rates are not negotiable. If a producer wants to low ball me they can go fuk themselves and I usually tell them to save their money and use someone else’s music libraries after a low ball offer. They want a composer for hire original music score for music library rates. I don’t do music library work, it doesn’t interest me at all.
Ive had instances where my original work has been in competition with a library piece. I’m always torn by this because I’m a library writer too and my production music work pays my mortgage and then some. If you write for the big names and take library seriously it can be great work on top of custom scoring.

I have turned clients always for low balling me and always will.

But as a PSA for any composers - it’s in a similar vein but on the production music side; A friend of mine runs a large library, and a gigantic beverage brand came to him wanting to license a piece of music for a big ad. My friend quoted a $100,000 fee, to which the client responded “no, I have $10,000.” My friend showed them the door, but a week later the client phoned back with $20,000. The library again politely declined their offer. The client was irritated but told them they would “negotiate.” They offered $70,000, but again the library said their price hasn’t changed from $100k. They lost the client - but a year later the same brand were running another campaign, even bigger than the last. They came back to the library wanting to license a piece of music, and low and behold they had $100,000 for a license fee. They have Been their go to for licensing and putting together bespoke music. Their fees and backend make their composers very comfy.

On the other side of the coin, another composer I know was approached by a brand who offered him a $7,000 buyout for an ad for one of his tracks. He wasn’t quite as experienced but has been in the business for a few years. He took the buyout and a week later saw the ad and it was during the super bowl....he never heard from that client again.

Sometimes, as hard it is, it’s better to say no to the short term. It can pay off in the long term. Your integrity is extremely valuable. Clients can recognise self worth and will value something they pay good money for.

You may not be around those types of figures, but don’t be so quick to give something away or bend to the will of the guy with the check book. And please hold onto your writers share - you never know where it’s going to end up.
 

Iswhatitis

Member
Ive had instances where my original work has been in competition with a library piece. I’m always torn by this because I’m a library writer too and my production music work pays my mortgage and then some. If you write for the big names and take library seriously it can be great work on top of custom scoring.

I have turned clients always for low balling me and always will.

But as a PSA for any composers - it’s in a similar vein but on the production music side; A friend of mine runs a large library, and a gigantic beverage brand came to him wanting to license a piece of music for a big ad. My friend quoted a $100,000 fee, to which the client responded “no, I have $10,000.” My friend showed them the door, but a week later the client phoned back with $20,000. The library again politely declined their offer. The client was irritated but told them they would “negotiate.” They offered $70,000, but again the library said their price hasn’t changed from $100k. They lost the client - but a year later the same brand were running another campaign, even bigger than the last. They came back to the library wanting to license a piece of music, and low and behold they had $100,000 for a license fee. They have Been their go to for licensing and putting together bespoke music. Their fees and backend make their composers very comfy.

On the other side of the coin, another composer I know was approached by a brand who offered him a $7,000 buyout for an ad for one of his tracks. He wasn’t quite as experienced but has been in the business for a few years. He took the buyout and a week later saw the ad and it was during the super bowl....he never heard from that client again.

Sometimes, as hard it is, it’s better to say no to the short term. It can pay off in the long term. Your integrity is extremely valuable. Clients can recognise self worth and will value something they pay good money for.

You may not be around those types of figures, but don’t be so quick to give something away or bend to the will of the guy with the check book. And please hold onto your writers share - you never know where it’s going to end up.
Producers lose respect for composers who accept low ball prices and a composer will be more respected for having higher fees. You always have the power to say no and stand firm, I learned that the hard way. Too bad there’s no union with minimum rates.
 

Thundercat

Member
I just don’t get it. What is fueling this evil race to the bottom? Don’t they know this is going to come back to bite them? Composers need and deserve to be compensated for their contributions and talents.
 
OP
gsilbers

gsilbers

Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com
I just don’t get it. What is fueling this evil race to the bottom? Don’t they know this is going to come back to bite them? Composers need and deserve to be compensated for their contributions and talents.
Streaming and over supply means lowering cost. and since its basically this last year where noticed, hey maybe netflix and amazon should be paying more in royalties. (i noticed like 10 yrs ago when i worked on one of the big studios that netflix had more money that most broadcasters combined)

back when they 1st started no one cared about those streaming royalties. since it started with netflix who used to send dvds via mail then there was no royalties. mainly for tech reasons and also we didnt cared.
so netflix used that same argument for streaming. its under HOME ENTERTAINMENT (this is a big big important word in distribution ) so they didnt pay roaylties.

and they didnt pay that much royalties later when bmi and ascap asked. and they didnt pay that much royalties when they opened up shop in europe. and japan. and south america. nope. we didnt see it coming.

fast forward to now and all this braodcasters are struggling to keep up the old ad revenue model plus cable royalties etc becuase of streaming.. and now you can see why these roaylties matter.

and not to mention that we still think streaming shoudlnt pay that much as broascasters. and even in music via spotify. someone said, hey its streaming so it should pay less and everyone just went along with it. suddenly artists are like hey..... wait a minute... but too late.
if service like apple music, youtube and spotify started charging the rates like 15yrs ago and they will go bankrupt in a week.
 

BartonFink

New Member
I just don’t get it. What is fueling this evil race to the bottom? Don’t they know this is going to come back to bite them? Composers need and deserve to be compensated for their contributions and talents.
It wouldn’t be a problem if royalties or fees were adjusted but streaming has developed so damn fast and the PRO’s and Publishers are ridiculously complacent. I’ve been worried since day dot when I noticed streaming but my managers and publishers have always told me to chill out...but look at us now.

If you follow any of the big name music houses and libraries on social media, all they ever post is staff vacations, bowling/drinks nights and Xmas parties with a pop star as a guest. These guys don’t seem to see what’s in front of them.

Either the laws adapt to online/home entertainment for royalties, or the fees for scoring/licensed music goes WAY WAY up. But it’s pretty easy to see that royalties are vanishing and fees are plummeting, so who the hell knows where we’ll be in 5 years.
 

Thundercat

Member
Regarding streaming, I think it’s sick that it’s not classed as a broadcast. It very much is a broadcast on demand.

I read a book about music royalties awhile ago and they shared the story of a songwriting team that had a hit sing in 78 countries.

78 countries.

And there were millions and millions of streamings.

The songwriters’ royalties ending up being a few thousand dollars in total, which they had to split.

What these content companies are not respecting is the sheer talent and energy that goes into creating music. And they literally are plundering artists while keeping the lion’s share of the profits.

why?

because they can.

To this day I refuse to sign up for Apple Music streaming because they give the first 3 months free. That’s 3 months of the artists receiving no royalties I’d imagine.

we really need to unite about this issue.

then again it won’t be long before AI does a hefty share of music cues. So there’s a ticking clock here.

mike
 
OP
gsilbers

gsilbers

Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com
Regarding streaming, I think it’s sick that it’s not classed as a broadcast. It very much is a broadcast on demand.

I read a book about music royalties awhile ago and they shared the story of a songwriting team that had a hit sing in 78 countries.

78 countries.

And there were millions and millions of streamings.

The songwriters’ royalties ending up being a few thousand dollars in total, which they had to split.

What these content companies are not respecting is the sheer talent and energy that goes into creating music. And they literally are plundering artists while keeping the lion’s share of the profits.

why?

because they can.

To this day I refuse to sign up for Apple Music streaming because they give the first 3 months free. That’s 3 months of the artists receiving no royalties I’d imagine.

we really need to unite about this issue.

then again it won’t be long before AI does a hefty share of music cues. So there’s a ticking clock here.

mike

if you see my previous post, youll see i try to be more realist and objective...

so..

your statement is not wrong... but from a different point view:

supply and demand.

what these companies are seeing is a TON of talented composers and prodcutions.

i saw this a couple of years back in soundcloud. it used to be a lot of crap out there but randomly checking stuff out and heard a lot of great music from random poeple. music i could easily hear from a top DJ in EU. or a top Hip hop prodcuer in the US. and trailer, film and library music thats on par with whats on tv.

everyone has been trying to do john williams and hans zimmer for decades now and the tools are now there. and lessons on youtube. of course there is still crap but there is a lot better music than before.

so companies do respect the music and want the best. but as any business they see an oportunity to save on money.
we are not uber drivers of course but we are on the same boat where there is a lot of competent composers trying to get the gig. and we dont band together due to geographical reason.. trying to get the pie reasons and random moral arguments.

so thats the reality, a glut of composers and a glut in content. if we band together... or at least have the proper info then we could all say and fight the battles correctly so we all get paid better....


anywayss.. i keep repeating myself, the thread got looong.. but as long as a new spitfire library release thread.. but still..
 

Iswhatitis

Member
if you see my previous post, youll see i try to be more realist and objective...

so..

your statement is not wrong... but from a different point view:

supply and demand.

what these companies are seeing is a TON of talented composers and prodcutions.

i saw this a couple of years back in soundcloud. it used to be a lot of crap out there but randomly checking stuff out and heard a lot of great music from random poeple. music i could easily hear from a top DJ in EU. or a top Hip hop prodcuer in the US. and trailer, film and library music thats on par with whats on tv.

everyone has been trying to do john williams and hans zimmer for decades now and the tools are now there. and lessons on youtube. of course there is still crap but there is a lot better music than before.

so companies do respect the music and want the best. but as any business they see an oportunity to save on money.
we are not uber drivers of course but we are on the same boat where there is a lot of competent composers trying to get the gig. and we dont band together due to geographical reason.. trying to get the pie reasons and random moral arguments.

so thats the reality, a glut of composers and a glut in content. if we band together... or at least have the proper info then we could all say and fight the battles correctly so we all get paid better....


anywayss.. i keep repeating myself, the thread got looong.. but as long as a new spitfire library release thread.. but still..
The A-list composers are the only ones who could unite and strike and make a difference, this will never happen as each A-list composer is only in it for himself. These guys are not interested in forming a union or protecting any other composer. Back a long time ago a big time A-list composer stole one of my tracks note for note with the same arrangement and orchestration for an episode of a tv show that ran in the 90s. I still think about suing that a-hole, I didn’t at the time because I was led to believe if I sued a studio my career was over just as it started. Looking back I should have sued that loser.
 
OP
gsilbers

gsilbers

Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com
The A-list composers are the only ones who could unite and strike and make a difference, this will never happen as each A-list composer is only in it for himself. These guys are not interested in forming a union or protecting any other composer. Back a long time ago a big time A-list composer stole one of my tracks note for note with the same arrangement and orchestration for an episode of a tv show that ran in the 90s. I still think about suing that a-hole, I didn’t at the time because I was led to believe if I sued a studio my career was over just as it started. Looking back I should have sued that loser.
damn. That’s some crappy stuff.

As for the union... a few years back seems composers wanted to do the union and it was going to happened to later be struck down by a judge saying freelancers (independent contractor) couldn’t unionize or something along those lines.
 

Spectator

New Member
Prime, high quality television is on the up for the next 10 years and any TV channel that decides to use "ok" or "that will do" music to score their shows wont be around for 10 years anyway.
 

Iswhatitis

Member
Prime, high quality television is on the up for the next 10 years and any TV channel that decides to use "ok" or "that will do" music to score their shows wont be around for 10 years anyway.
This is about the film director and tv producer. Any film with an A-list director or tv-show with an A-list producer will almost always use only A-list composers that they have already specifically chosen to work with for the film score or main title theme and underscore as in the case of tv.

Of course studio films and tv shows sometimes use famous songs throughout a soundtrack as overtures, end credits and/or underscoring, but rarely do non-A-list composers get their original music heard in major productions. To break in either you are already working for a top A-list composer like Hans Zimmer, who may be too busy to take on all the projects he is offered and recommends you, or you develop a relationship with a director early in his career and work on an indie film that becomes a huge surprise hit. Both of those realities are also near impossible to make happen for any aspiring composer. What most composers discover is that every major A-list director and producer already have established working relationships with 2-3 A-list composers and regardless of your talent or reel, they simply are not interested in working with either new composers or any composer not already on the A-list.

Actors have a significantly easier time breaking into the industry. Maybe the actor first got a degree in acting from a college or took many acting classes from an acting school or private instructors. Then, an actor can mail or email headshots to 250 legit film/tv agents and then more headshots to 250 commercial agents. There’s a decent chance one could get repped by both a legit and commercial agency. From the people I know, it is not uncommon that it could take an actor 80 auditions to finally get a booking for a National commercial and possibly another 80 auditions to book your second commercial gig, and so on. The reason is that there are only so many big time casting directors in the biz, and once a specific casting director has seen you audition 8-10 times, first they know you are not just quitting the biz and have determination, and second they start recognizing and remembering you (getting to know you) which could lead to them liking you personally and getting you hired. The more auditions you go in the more casting directors that could take a liking to you as the commercial is is always looking for fresh faces and personalities. The more commercials you book there is always the possibility that a specific tv director or producer or casting director takes a liking to you and voila you get hired more regularly finally being able to make a living out of this biz. Get noticed in a big national commercial and then voila take two you get booked on a tv show. From tv 📺 one gets noticed again and voila take three you are in a big time movie 🎥 🍿

Nothing like this or with any real structure or possible opportunity really exists for composers. Too often a composer is told by a producer that there’s no or very little money to pay you. When one is starting out it feels daunting to ask for reasonable fees when everyone is absurdly low-balling you from the beginning. The bigger problem is that if you do get hired on the cheap, you are now not as respected and will probably continue to get low-ball offers making this biz impossible to stay in. Though actors usually spend money on acting classes and teachers, it is no way near as expensive as buying music gear and getting your studio up and running to be able to compose music for film and tv.

As most of us know, getting on the A-list can be and certainly feels almost impossible. It is possible at times for an indie band to have their music placed on a big time studio tv show on prime time but I don’t think that’s easy to make happen either let alone to happen with any kind of regularity.

I totally understand why composers turn to creating or writing for established music libraries even though I’ve never done it myself. Instead of spending day after day trying to schmooze and network with established directors and producers (which is fairly impossible to do if they are already on the A-list, trust me I’ve done this for decades echo echo echo echo), one can actually write music that may or may not get placed on a tv or cable show one day which feels much more productive than networking. I would imagine that unless one was creating their own music library that composers don’t get paid that much to write a cue for an established music library production company. So it doesn’t sound like it’s feasible to make a living at that unless it’s your music library and you establish the necessary relationships with film and tv execs, producers, directors and others. Good luck with that problem. There is certainly no end to how many indie films a composer can get hired to do for nothing or next to nothing and rarely does that project turn out to be the next Four Weddings and a Funeral smash hit, so those films don’t necessarily lead to anything as those directors and producers often quit the biz and never get on the A-list themselves.

Too often composers may feel its more important to build credits than make money and thus are willing to take much smaller fees for their music whether for a composer for hire gig (been there, done that) or for a music production library. Either way, no union protects us (though both the WGA and AFM could include a composer rate sheet and simply don’t), and composers trying to break in are usually too willing to take the gig regardless of how much they are being paid or simply don’t have the knowledge of how much they ought to be charging or how much a studio is used to paying for their services, no fault to the composer.

My point of all this is:


I doubt that John Williams, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL, Mike Post, James Newton Howard, and other iconic A-list composers ever have to reduce their composers fees and royalties. I don’t know what music libraries charge and get paid by big time studios but my sense is those fees keep getting reduced.

If non-A-list composers stopped giving themselves away and refused to take such low paying gigs, studios like Discover and Netflix and other scumbag producers would be forced to pay a lot more money for composer fees!! Now, how does this idea, hope, new reality unfold without union protection so we can stop these predatory DESTROYERS AND USURPERS?!

I have no friggin’ clue 🥺


Non-A-list Composers should not be such easy targets for unscrupulous producers and studios. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!!


Let’s just form a composers union or get the WGA or AFM to take composers in under their wings!!!! Anybody know any big shots at the WGA or AFM? Anybody? Anybody? Anybody?

 
Last edited:

Krayh

Member
What I dont understand is why are you all talking about a union? If I'm a producer i dont have to hire a composer that is with a union I can pick from dozens of others all over the world that are not.

So why do you think this will help? (This is an honest question)
 

Iswhatitis

Member
What I dont understand is why are you all talking about a union? If I'm a producer i dont have to hire a composer that is with a union I can pick from dozens of others all over the world that are not.

So why do you think this will help? (This is an honest question)
If a producer theoretically wants to be a member of the PGA and be considered for awards in the USA as well as be in theaters and tv networks/studios in the USA than just as they have to pay the minimums rates to SAG/AFTRA, AFM, IATSE, WGA and DGA they would have to pay minimums to composers too. I’m not saying people cannot get around dealing with unions, but look at how much those above mentioned unions protect their members.
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
Ive had instances where my original work has been in competition with a library piece. I’m always torn by this because I’m a library writer too and my production music work pays my mortgage and then some. If you write for the big names and take library seriously it can be great work on top of custom scoring.

I have turned clients always for low balling me and always will.

But as a PSA for any composers - it’s in a similar vein but on the production music side; A friend of mine runs a large library, and a gigantic beverage brand came to him wanting to license a piece of music for a big ad. My friend quoted a $100,000 fee, to which the client responded “no, I have $10,000.” My friend showed them the door, but a week later the client phoned back with $20,000. The library again politely declined their offer. The client was irritated but told them they would “negotiate.” They offered $70,000, but again the library said their price hasn’t changed from $100k. They lost the client - but a year later the same brand were running another campaign, even bigger than the last. They came back to the library wanting to license a piece of music, and low and behold they had $100,000 for a license fee. They have Been their go to for licensing and putting together bespoke music. Their fees and backend make their composers very comfy.

On the other side of the coin, another composer I know was approached by a brand who offered him a $7,000 buyout for an ad for one of his tracks. He wasn’t quite as experienced but has been in the business for a few years. He took the buyout and a week later saw the ad and it was during the super bowl....he never heard from that client again.

Sometimes, as hard it is, it’s better to say no to the short term. It can pay off in the long term. Your integrity is extremely valuable. Clients can recognise self worth and will value something they pay good money for.

You may not be around those types of figures, but don’t be so quick to give something away or bend to the will of the guy with the check book. And please hold onto your writers share - you never know where it’s going to end up.

Thanks for sharing those stories, very interesting.


I don't work in music and only follow this stuff from the sidelines. I'm coming from the visual side of creative work and there it's fairly unusual to even see royalties at all and I've entered that line of work when this was already the case for most of us. So all these discussions are slightly surreal when I read about the royalties that some composers manage to get and I think "They get that much????" when some of the stuff that I made is printed on over a million of physical goods and I don't get any royalties for it and never will be in a position to make it happen, because the competition is fierce and there is no willingness on the clients' side to engage in the hassle that is paying royalties longterm (which to be fair as a paperwork averse person I can relate to). In supply vs demand terms you're simply fucked as a creative.

So... keep fighting guys, when this is gone, it's gone for good and you'll likely never get those royalty deals back. I'm rooting for you all!
 

Krayh

Member
If a producer theoretically wants to be a member of the PGA and be considered for awards in the USA as well as be in theaters and tv networks/studios in the USA than just as they have to pay the minimums rates to SAG/AFTRA, AFM, IATSE, WGA and DGA they would have to pay minimums to composers too. I’m not saying people cannot get around dealing with unions, but look at how much those above mentioned unions protect their members.
I did not know this! So what is exactly holding us back to begin our own union?
 

Iswhatitis

Member
I did not know this! So what is exactly holding us back to begin our own union?
The only composers with any real leverage are all on the A-list. Getting them to unite and strike the major studios is basically impossible. Also, what would be much easier is if either the WGA or AFM union added composers into their already established unions. I don’t understand why this doesn’t happen as a composer is a writer and certainly often a musician and orchestrator. But neither union protects composers.
 

BartonFink

New Member
Thanks for sharing those stories, very interesting.


I don't work in music and only follow this stuff from the sidelines. I'm coming from the visual side of creative work and there it's fairly unusual to even see royalties at all and I've entered that line of work when this was already the case for most of us. So all these discussions are slightly surreal when I read about the royalties that some composers manage to get and I think "They get that much????" when some of the stuff that I made is printed on over a million of physical goods and I don't get any royalties for it and never will be in a position to make it happen, because the competition is fierce and there is no willingness on the clients' side to engage in the hassle that is paying royalties longterm (which to be fair as a paperwork averse person I can relate to). In supply vs demand terms you're simply fucked as a creative.

So... keep fighting guys, when this is gone, it's gone for good and you'll likely never get those royalty deals back. I'm rooting for you all!
I came from moving image work and took me a decade to build up a portfolio and move across purely to audio. I personally think designers should definitely get a royalty and as far as I’m aware logo designers can and do if it’s negotiated?

Luckily I’m a UK based composer and work a lot here and rest of Europe. UK establishes royalties for music as a human right by law. So it’s a definite non-negotiable aspect of some of my business. However if it had to be done, I could relinquish a bit for streaming if the composing and licensing fees shot way up. They can’t have it both ways though or they’ll simply lose a gigantic piece of the creative puzzle that makes good entertainment.

Some of the royalties in music are crazy. I know one the composers who wrote in a duo for a big comparison site commercial in the UK. Together they made £9million in backend from those tv/radio campaigns over 4 or 5 years...

My catalogue isn’t even that big but $50-60k per year in backend provides me with a pretty decent passive living while I tackle other areas of the business. It won’t be the same every year and might drop off but that’s the thing the less experienced composers don’t understand - if they’re serious about this, they’d make a passive living off their output which allows them time to constantly push their skills forward and knock on doors. Royalties help you succeed, they take care of you while you work/invest in the next project or chase the next job. They play a part in your decision making and what kind of jobs you want.

These composers doing it part time for small one time fees will find it’ll take them years to break into full time. That’s why I don’t understand composers questioning the value of the royalty system. They wouldn’t think that way when they suddenly get a $10k royalty cheque from a toilet paper commercial they forgot they did last year for very little money.

Just last year a library track of mine was used as main titles for a tv show in Europe. I didn’t even know about it until my PRO emailed me my December statement which was $20k. So now I’m going to Japan for 2 weeks at the end of this month for a break. I fucking love royalties. I’m not special either, I just signed good deals and worked my ass off.
 
Last edited: