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Production Music Association

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As MLR attracts more and more newbies to the music library world I’m collecting various posts that deal with recurring questions. Please check these links first! Continue reading

PMA (Production Music Association) meeting on Non-Exclusive libraries and retitling

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Robin and I attended the PMA meeting, June 21st 2010, on “Non-Exclusive libraries and retitling”.

Tunesat sponsored this event and it was great to finally meet some of those folks, Mellisa, Chris and Lara. They are as nice in person as in the many e-mail conversations I’ve had with them! Chris was on the panel and was particularly eloquent in explaining Tunesat, fingerprinting and detection. It is the future!

Another nice surprise was when one of the panel members, Catherine Farley, Director of Music Licensing, for the Disney ABC Television group mentioned that she uses Music Library Report for research and recommended that others use it. Wow, cool, so they are paying attention. Very gratifying. Thanks Catherine!

The panel members included: Catherine Farley (Disney ABC), Cheryl Hodgson (Trademark and Copyright attorney), Ron Mendelsohn (Megatrax), Alicen Schneider (NBC Universal), moderator Randy Wachtler (615 Music) and Cris Woods (Tunesat).

It’s not hard to imagine how most of the assembled panel and guests felt about the topic. You can read more about their position here: http://app.e2ma.net/campaign/27456.af55d60b404c79870d1c9931918a94fc

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, many of their points were well taken. In particular, I can see it from the networks’ point of view. Alicen Schneider (NBC) and Catherine Farley (ABC) both spoke of the increase of multiple claimants on music that has been aired. They also spoke of music that is overexposed because of the retitling issues. (Then again, at least with production music, how many people are going to recognize a short piece of music from one show to another, buried under dialog?). There is also the issue of 3rd party deals that might conflict and how they may impact foreign sales as well as potential legal and ethical problems. All very good points, and they opened my eyes a lot wider.

On the other hand, from the PMA’s point of view, it all seemed a bit self-serving. The old library business model appears to be failing and there is a mindset that the “The sky is falling”. It’s fine to protect the interest and value of music, no argument there, but the genie is out of the bottle regarding non-exclusive libraries and re-titling. There must be tens of thousands of re-titled tracks available through non-exclusive libraries. One of the biggest arguments against re-titling is the potential loss of ownership of your copyright. Call me naïve, but I find it hard to believe that the courts would take the position that all of those thousands of copyrights (involving untold numbers of libraries and composers) are in jeopardy because of re-titling. I think one of the answers lies with the PROs and finding a mechanism for keeping all those income streams straight. And yes their are other potential problems but I don’t think the “sky is falling”. Then again I’ve always been a “glass is always half-full” kind of guy!

For those of you who are new to this: Generally speaking, you have a number of options to promote your music to the film and TV world. There can be many variations depending on your negotiating skills and/or demand for your work:

Exclusive – Up-front Money. The music library will pay you, upfront, for each piece of music, up to and including, all recording costs and expenses. You will give up ownership of the copyright in perpetuity and will not participate in any license fees. You will retain your writers share of the performance royalties (but not the publishing share). There will be no re-titling of your music.

Exclusive – No Upfront- Money. The music library will NOT pay any upfront fee or costs. You will give up ownership of the copyright in perpetuity. You might participate in any license fees. You will retain your writers share of the performance royalties (but not the publishing share). There will be no re-titling of your music.

Non Exclusive – No Upfront Money. The music library will NOT pay any upfront fee or costs. You will NOT give up ownership of the copyright (any music placed with a show will stay with that show in perpetuity). You probably will participate in any license fees. You will retain your writers share of the performance royalties (but not the publishing share). Your music will be re-titled.

Go It Alone – You will NOT give up ownership of the copyright (any music placed with a show will stay with that show in perpetuity). You will receive 100% of any license fees. You will retain your writers share of the performance royalties AND the publishing share. Your music will not be re-titled.

Because the exclusive library route is not possible (or desirable) for the many and the “Go It Alone” takes a particular personality trait, the non-exclusive avenue is an attractive alternative.

One member of the audience asked the panel what they would say to a non-exclusive library owner who says that this is the only business model that works for him. A member of the panel gave a rather sharp reply; “go exclusive or get out of the business”. I found his comment not very constructive. I would assume he also feels the same away about composers who are unable to get signed exclusively by one of the major libraries.

So, what’s a composer to do? I’ve been a writer/producer all my life with a modicum of success. Certainly, I have not been able to earn enough to live on. That doesn’t mean I will stop writing or producing as I love what I do. The various “Big” libraries I have tried to get into are not interested. I’m also not interested in smaller exclusive libraries that offer nothing more than a promise and want my music in perpetuity. Does that mean I should “get out of the business?” Not gonna happen. In a perfect world I would rather work exclusively with a company that I believed in and that believed in what I did. In fact I had that many years ago as a writer with a couple of major publishing companies. In the meantime, I’m comfortable working with the few non-exclusive libraries I work with and yes, the retitling issue is a problem and will have to be dealt with. If nothing else, last night opened my eyes to the potential problems.

I do think a workable solution can be found. It’s too bad none of the non-exclusive libraries, that were asked to participate, chose not to do so. The only way to solve these problems is for all sides to come to the table, be open, communicate and work out a solution.