Composers – Beware of HGTV, The Cooking Channel, Food Network, DIY, Travel Channel, any Scripps Networks Shows


Why should you, as a composer care? From what I have learned, and experienced, Scripps demands that all of the music for it’s shows be “direct licensed”. In other words they do NOT pay any performance royalties to composers. How do they get their music? Most likely from libraries that do a blanket license with the shows producers which, in most cases, means that you, as a composer, will not share in any of those blanket license fees. To be fair Scripps is not the only company that refuses to pay PRO monies. I believe ESPN is another company and their are probably more.

How will you know if your music is being used on these shows? You will probably never know unless you happen to be watching and recognize your music or have a Tunesat account. Occasionally these shows will air internationally and you will see some performance monies though it will be miniscule. This makes it more insulting as they do not have to pay in the U.S. but are forced to in other countries.

Music libraries have different points of view on this dilemma. Some refuse to work for any shows that air on Scripps Network. Others feel that because some production companies have shows on both Scripps and non-Scripps networks they they have to take the bad with the good. One library has gone so far as to start paying their composers a small royalty for any Scripps shows that happens to use their music. Certainly a step in the right direction and I applaud them. But really, shouldn’t Scripps be stepping up to the plate? I think the lack of respect for composers and their music is appalling!

Your thoughts?

101 Replies to “Composers – Beware of HGTV, The Cooking Channel, Food Network, DIY, Travel Channel, any Scripps Networks Shows”

  1. It’s a question that has much to do with where you will draw the line as a music producer, and how you manage your music portfolio. Lots of different ways to see that, which depends on many both objective and personal factors.

    I will not work with libraries that offers blanket licences like this, because I see it as a way to loose control over my portfolio. To me, a deal where a client offers money to a library for my music, and I won’t get compensated, is basically “hijacking” of my music. This means that I no longer are in control of my music portfolio, and consequently can’t manage it as I want. That’s where I draw the line. These types of deals breaks the trust I need in a professional relationship.

    Now, I am also in a financially good position, because I can afford to be picky about the deals I make. I don’t have to take any type of deal that I’m offered in panic and desperation. I can sit back and wait for something better to come, or make no deal at all. I’d rather spend time writing new music, than spend time dealing with these types of companies.

    For many this may seem too privileged, but for me this is where I draw the line and don’t cross. I see it as a way to create a robust business. If business can’t be robust, there really is no sustainable basis for business at all, imo, fwiw.

    1. Hello there
      anyone can tell me how looks the situation with HGTV (US) royalties at the moment after the whole action with Discovery who owns hgtv now ?

      1. Discovery owns Scripps/HGTV. Some Scripps shows pay but not HGTV as far as I know. I have music on the new Property Brothers show Forever Home but doubt I will see any money from it.

    2. I have several new pieces of music running on the Food Network. Is this still a no $$ situation? Any hope of royalties? Thoughts?

  2. My January ASCAP domestic statement had a payments from a few placements on the Travel Channel. The amount was very small, a couple of dollars at most, but it IS money from Scripps. I also had a new cue sheet show up today from a 2012 placement on the DIY channel (also Scripps). Hmmm ….. are retroactive Scripps royalties in our future? I’m not holding my breath πŸ˜‰
    Anyone have any info on this?

      1. I just want know in 2021, how do I get into this licensing business, I have lots of music but which music libraries do I start with..??? Anyone to say something..

        1. That’s what this site is all about but it takes research. There is a ton of info here. As for libraries? Read the reviews and listings and start contacting them.

    1. I’m also starting to see cue sheets showing up for placements on Travel, HGTV, etc. One just showed up for a placement I had on Travel many years ago. And I did get paid on a Travel placement in my January ASCAP statement.

      So I’m also wondering if anything has changed. If anyone has any inside scoop here, please let us know!


    2. I had my first payment last statement for cue used on the Travel Channel. Show was Ghost Adventures, a 19 sec cue used in 5 episodes paid $9.21.

      1. I have a bunch of Tunesat listings on HGTV that don’t show on BMI statements … does anyone report the broadcasts to their PRO (mine is BMI) and do you get any results?

        1. Many of Scripps shows (HGTV, Food Network, Cooking) are direct license. Had stuff on their for years and never saw a dime in PRO money from BMI. I believe SESAC may have an agreement with them.

          1. Did you ever try to get BMI to pursue/contact Scripps or did you enter a claim with BMI? Or does direct license mean they will never pay BMI? It doesn’t make sense that Scripps would pay SESAC but not BMI…

            1. Yep, tried that but the company I was writing for direct licensed. All the PROs have the ability to make deals with networks. From what I have heard SESAC has, BMI has not.

          2. Hey Art and whoever is interested…..
            I recently have received a bunch of cue sheets for placements on a show called The Cowboy Way on the INSP network. Anybody know if they pay royalties? David Vanacore wrote a ton of music for this as well as he is listed with my credits so I assume he wouldn’t do this for free. Thoughts anyone?

            I wasn’t sure where to post this. Hope this is ok :0)

            1. Probably not much if they do Lincoman. From Wikipedia:

              “INSP (formerly The Inspiration Network; the initialism is sounded out letter-by-letter) is an American conservative digital cable and satellite television channel that features family entertainment programming. INSP is headquartered in Indian Land, South Carolina, near Charlotte, North Carolina. It is wholly owned by Inspiration Ministries. Between 1991 and 2010, INSP was a non-profit ministry focused network. In October 2010, it was re-branded and launched as a socially conservative, commercial-supported family entertainment network with Nielsen C3 ratings status. As of February 2015, approximately 80,584,000 of American households (69.2% of households with television) receive INSP.[1] “

        2. My last BMI statement had one 19 sec cue used on an episode of Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” and I got $1.01 from it.

  3. Has anybody else been getting back end from these channels? Just noticed some Cooking Channel placements on Tunesat. Have they turned over a new leaf? I haven’t seen any cue sheets yet, just Tunesat pings.

    1. A Tunsat report does not mean you get paid. However I have seen some cue sheets for Scripps shows lately. The usually appear as “Booze Traveler Cues” or something like that. I also saw some royalties both domestic and intl for some of their shows. Nothing to get excited about as we are still getting ripped off. ScoreKeepers is the worst as they take exclusive music, give it away for free and then don’t collect any royalties. To me, part of exclusivity is the administration of rights and collection of royalties which they are not doing.
      To add something to the thread, there are libraries that do pay on blanket licenses, usually if your music gets placed as a result of the blanket. There are some that will also cut you a % if your music is sold in a blanket license.
      So when ever I am asked to submit music to an exclusive library, I make sure that they pay on blankets and don’t work with Scripps.

      1. Ha, yeah I know Tunesat doesn’t mean I get paid. In fact, I’m ASCAP so it really means I don’t. I was just curious if others have been getting royalties, since you have that’s a good sign. I’m sure my few placements on CC are peanuts but if I get more placements on Scripps channels with no royalities showing up I may try to find out who’s placing them and ask about the blanket cash.

  4. I was surprised to see a cue sheet show up on my ASCAP account from a Scripps channel. It was from a season 1 episode of Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel. Season 2 is running now and I have had some Tunesat detections from a few episodes also.
    I wonder if this is significant? I noticed ALL of the music on the cue sheet was supplied by SK, interesting. I’m just speculating here, but maybe SK struck a deal, perhaps gratis, to get PRO payments? That would be a rare piece of good news if it were the case.
    I’ll report if/when I see any actual PRO income.
    Happy New Year!

    1. My tunesat indicated a bunch of placements on The Travel Channel, Food Network, and The Cooking Channel. All SK exclusive. I guess I will have to keep an eye out on my ASCAP statements. Really disappointed to hear all of this. Makes me afraid that I may have made a poor publisher choice, although I hope I am wrong.

    2. Hi Alan. I’m interested on knowing about your experience with SK. I’ve been lately sending a lot of music to them and I just got worried about possibly being sending music to the wrong publisher. Have you seen any income from the time you started working with them?

      1. @musicformedia
        This question is more for the SK page, but
        For me SK is the wrong library. I will gladly elaborate in the SK forum page to anyone interested

  5. “Why should you, as a composer care? From what I have learned, and experienced, Scripps demands that all of the music for it’s shows be β€œdirect licensed”. In other words they do NOT pay any performance royalties to composers. How do they get their music? Most likely from libraries that do a blanket license with the shows producers which, in most cases, means that you, as a composer, will not share in any of those blanket license fees. To be fair Scripps is not the only company that refuses to pay PRO monies. I believe ESPN is another company and their are probably more.

    “How will you know if your music is being used on these shows? You will probably never know unless you happen to be watching and recognize your music or have a Tunesat account. Occasionally these shows will air internationally and you will see some performance monies though it will be miniscule. This makes it more insulting as they do not have to pay in the U.S. but are forced to in other countries”

    thanks for posting this..I swore I heard one of my songs on ESPN a year or two ago and assumed I’d get a cue sheet on it but never I know why..i’m not even sure which library I work with gave it to them…it had even been selling at some RF sites around that time so maybe I did make a little $ off of it…Jay

    1. Hi all,

      Wondering if anything has changed with DIY Network. Tunesat shows I am getting a lot of placements on this network. No cue sheets show up in my ASCAP account. Is it really the case that they won’t file cue sheets and I won’t receive anything for all of these placements? Who is making money then and why would the libraries place with them? Thoughts?

  6. I couldn’t help but notice the infomercial discussion. I’ve done hundreds of these soundtracks
    over the years,and have gotten some of the work on my own.
    At one time before BMI/ascap cut the monies collected it was a gold mine,Now they only pay1/3 of what they used too. In the late 90’s before the cut the company I worked for was receiving checks between 3 and 400,000 thousand for as many as 20 to 30 shows on tv per quarter!!!
    But that was the infomercial heyday.
    I think a top infomercial has a 3-5 year lifespan and the monies aren’t what they used to be.
    Like Matt said,a nickel 200 times is what it is but micro money is the new business model.
    Making a little off of many tracks or being exposed to many buyers like apps for your phone is the future of small business.

      1. @John. You were reading correctly.400,000 per quarter over a 2 year period.
        Mainly from The Carlton Sheets Real Estate Program which ran for 20 years.
        We had our music on there for 2 years as well as many other shows.
        Some shows we did,littermaid,George Foreman grill,Oxiclean,Aerobed,Comcast,
        Wagner power painter,the list goes on.
        We also did the Don Lapre show who was recently arrested for not having the ‘greatest vitamin in the world’.

          1. A big congratulations Dan! I wonder if it’s possible to see that kind of money these days. ASCAP stated the average member yearly royalty pay-out per year is $5,000.

            1. @ John,yeah thats sounds fairly average.I think back in the day in was different.
              You have to remember that if the show infomercial you work on doesn’t sell its product,it goes away. The market is also incredibly small so the players are few. I’ve done a few on my own as well.
              The guy I had worked for still does it and I bet he’s making plenty.
              He has relationships with production heads in a handful of companies. Getting personal is everything.

              1. Speaking of getting personal, I took a chance and cold called a division of a major publisher. I was told that they of course do not accept unsolicited material. I then asked who are the main people that they work with as far as getting music for projects.

                I was told that relationships with agents, lawyers, or other legitimate representatives are the key. I asked if a representative from my PRO would be sufficient. I was told that this could work. I am in the process of contacting my PRO to get more info. Hopefully this leads to something!

                1. Hi Synth player, I think that the relationships that’s being mentioned above are with editors and music supervisors who are the end users of your music. Going with a publisher to get your music in film/TV is not that much different than using music library (another middleman).

                  Unless you’re looking to get your music placed with an Artist, I don’t see much of an advantage of going with a standard publisher to get TV placements.

                2. I disagree with that one. A good publisher probably has more connections and has a better idea of which divisions need what kind of songs for a TV or film placement. They probably could get my music submitted directly to affiliated libraries, thereby allowing me to get my music heard before some other composers.

                  Also, it could lead to working with recording artists. Songs with vocals do pay more than just instrumental tracks. I wouldn’t mind working with a few pop stars on the side while I flex my music library muscles πŸ˜‰

                3. Synth, I agree that a good publisher can find a lot of “different” opportunities for your music (especially if they are vocal songs); where as a library’s focus is on film/TV. but I think the type of personal relationship that Dan was talking about was with the people directly responsible for using your music (music supervisors and editors). “IF” you can establish a relationships with these folks you will have a much higher chance of the songs being used in their projects and benefit on 100% of the earnings. Whereas working with a publisher, you’re giving up copyright and 50% publishing with no guarantee of placements.

                4. @ Synth player.
                  Ya know the last guy to decide who is going to cover your songs
                  are the artists themselves.
                  Also for Guscave,the people I had dealt with in the past are the ones who decide
                  your music will get used. It was never a music supervisor or Library.
                  Always the actual production company or marketer.A whole different ball game really called business.

                5. @ Dan P, you are correct about production companies deciding what songs will be used for a show. I contacted a few production companies and actually sent in some music. I found the names of these companies by watching the ending credits of different reality TV shows. Hopefully I can make some magic happen.

    1. Wow….. sorry – I just had pick my jaw off the ground. That is insane! Thanks for sharing that with us, it’s very motivating to hear success stories like that. Although the rates may have gone down since then, just by doing some rough multiplication of what I got, the money is still pretty good in informercial land.

      Is it something you still do? Were you writing for the production companies who made the informercials, or was it through a middle man like a library?

      Also, I wonder how insane your statements must have been. Probably the girth of a phone book, I imagine.

      1. @ Matt. Personal relationships were made and nurtured over many years.
        And yes the royalty statements were many pages though I saw them less as time went on.
        I still get some of the work myself but its spread out over a handful of composers who work on individual show to create a whole soundtrack.
        One show I had recently had nearly 28 minutes of music so times that by how many times it plays and the numbers start to look good if it works and regular people buy the product.
        I never worked through a middle man though in this land. I’ve had enough experience to make a show work and sound appropriate for the product.
        On another note, I know a lawyer in the entertainment biz who saw 1/3 of the writers share of a primetime TV show,one of the writers apparently had a check at the lawyers office that got opened and the amount was a million dollars!!! I was wowed!Thats entertainment!!
        Have a good day guys.

  7. My thoughts are that composers should not even worry about stuff like this. If you continue to base your self-worth as a musician over money and placements, you will never succeed.

    You have to really stay focused and not worry about these small deals. Really, these small deals should fuel your desire to tackle bigger deals. If these type of situations frustrate you, then you need to get focused and see what deals pay more money with the least amount of competition.

    I know that someone here talked about “mickey mouse libraries”. I believe that most libraries are in that category, even some exclusives. The real way to get paid as a musician licensing music is to actually stop being a musician (or at least stop thinking like a musician)! After you do that, get incorporated & become a music library owner. As someone that owns publishing rights to songs, you have 100 times more leverage than 95% of songwriters/composers. That is all I will say for now. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ B-)

  8. I spoke to Doug Klein, the head of music for Scripps in Knoxville, TN at one point a few years back, and he said they were testing a model where composers came in and used Scripps music gear to produce music for shows, and they would be paid $25/hour ALL IN. Glad there weren’t enough folks in Knoxville to fill that up…

    From what I hear, Doug spends a lot of time in his office making up show music in ACID, usually all in the key of A.


    1. Keep in mind that we are talking about HGTV (which is a building product infomercial disguised as programming) and the food channel etc. Do these shows really demand more than a guy cranking out tracks on a DAW for $25 an hour?

      BTW…I’m sure that there’s more than one person on this forum who would jump at $25 an hour (or at least there was when it was free). 25 per hour is 52K per year, which is just above the median household income for the U.S. So, what is it about cranking out the loop based wallpaper in Scripps programming that ought to be worth more than the median household income? 52K per year is more than the starting salary of Assistant District Attorneys in most cities. It’s higher than the average starting salary for teachers. Cranking out hours of “hip-hop lite” is worth more than that? It’s a more valuable contribution to society?

      I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Your music is an investment portfolio. Some of it is through the roof stock, some of it is mutual funds, and some of it is municipal bonds. There are too many writers who think that their municipal bonds should have the same value as their through the roof stocks.

      Put everything into perspective, and manage your catalog (portfolio) accordingly.



      PS. Don’t expect to get rich from either municipal bonds or Scripps programming.

      1. Yeah, but it’s not a full-time, or even part-time gig.
        I see your point if it was consistent income, though…

        1. Well to play devil’s advocate, I’d say there are a lot of writers on this forum who have put 8, or more, hours into tracks that have never made $200, or even a few dollars, for whom $25 an hour would look mighty good…..especially if their regular job isn’t paying that much.

          I won’t be calling Scripps. But I’m not going to judge those who do.

      2. I’d jump at the chance at the slightest possibility of making $25 writing music (well, maybe. Depends). Anybody have info on how this works? Never heard of Scripps. Is this an actual possibility or a theoretical scenario. Sorry, just kind of stumbled onto this post.

        1. Just got an email from a friend who wrote music for the food network, years ago. He had to crank out 22 minutes of music in a day and a half. I can’t imagine that it’s gotten any better.

          1. Thanks MichaelL. That’s completely insane. No way I could produce that much music that often unless there minimum requirement is one chord, but I am wondering how you get into something like that just out of curiosity. At least I’d like to be able to consider something like that if the option were open to me. I could always not do it but now I’m just seeking out options. I haven’t made a dime yet.

            1. AND…he didn’t get any back end.

              As far as getting into that situation. You’ve learned from this thread that Scripps is in Knoxville TN, and the guy to talk to used to be Doug Klein. Pick up the phone. At least you know what your potentially getting into.

              You’ve been at it about a year. How many tracks do you have out there?


              1. Thanks Michael. Not many compared to you guys. About 30 that I would consider my best stuff and the rest mediocre stuff but I’m getting faster at finishing cues in general.
                Don’t like the no backend part though. One of the main things I’m interested in is building some ongoing backend income.

                1. I thought I read somewhere (maybe on this forum) that Scripps and BMI were working on a deal to get it’s members paid.

                2. I started that one as that’s what BMI told me. It appears that Scripps demands that all music for their shows be direct licensed, thus getting around having to pay composers any PRO income.

                3. Tell me if I have this correct: When music is licensed directly to Scripps Networks, only the music library gets a licensing fee. So for instance, Library X would not require Scripps to fill out cue sheets. The library would just accept a payment from Scripps and keep it moving.

                  If this is true, then a composer should be able to license her own catalog directly to Scripps and collect a flat fee, right? This may not be such a bad deal. I am sure that libraries get more than $25 for an hour’s worth of music.

                  This is why I am working hard to beef up my catalog. Direct licensing deals such as this may not be so bad as long as a fair price can be negotiated and the composer gets paid. Interesting…

                4. A composer can make a direct licensing deal. You would have to be careful and not make one with a network that had a deal with the PROs and you were collecting both a direct license fee and getting royalties from your PRO. If I recall correctly there was a story going around a few years ago about a composer that did just that (I think his deal was with a show) and got hit a with a bill for over $100k from his PRO. A bet MichaelL, or someone here, would know more about this. I know just enough to be dangerous sometimes!

                5. I would hate to see what Scripps is doing become some sort of “trend” in the industry. We’re already getting small change from cable networks placements.

                6. It’s 8 AM and I’ve got to deliver tracks today, so in between Cheerios, I’ll try to give you a quick answer.

                  “If this is true, then a composer should be able to license her own catalog directly to Scripps and collect a flat fee, right?”

                  @synth, Yes, I see that as a viable revenue stream. But the key word here is “catalog.” Scripps, or any other network, is not going to be interested if your “catalog” only has 50 or 100 tracks in it. I think that John Fulford once said that you’d need at least 500 tracks to get in the door. I see his point. I would provide the network with a hard drive filled with tracks, or host my catalog somewhere like and charge an annual subscription fee.

                  @Art, I’m not familiar with that story. But, while the law definitely allows for direct licensing, I can see where double dipping would be a violation of the writer’s contract with his or her PRO. They do have the power to recover their money. I received an overpayment from ASCAP once for some music on CBS Sports. They deducted it from future royalties, until they go their money back. A NOTE OF CAUTION HERE: if you have direct deposit for your royalty payments, you’ve most likely agreed that they can get any alleged overpayment back directly from your bank account!

                  With respect to this particular situation, the writer should have notified ASCAP of the direct license (it’s probably required by the PRO’s writer agreements). The writer certainly had notice when they received the payment from ASCAP that something wasn’t right — unless they completely did not understand the system.

                  “We’re already getting small change from cable networks placements.”
                  @Guscave that I’m afraid is the nature of the beast. With the exception of big cable networks like HBO, CNN and MTV etc., it’s a relatively inexpensive medium.

                  The direct license option, as I said the Synth, is a viable revenue stream, if you have a lot of tracks. But, If your a part-time writer with 50 or 100 tracks, who can only produce 25 tracks per year, it will limit your options, somewhat. But, as I alluded to in another thread, most cable placements aren’t going to make you rich. I’ve had a number of tracks on cable channels like, Animal Plant, Discovery, the History Channel, etc., they amount to few hundred dollars each per year. In most cases, you needs hours worth of cable programming to make significant money.

                  SO.. the one theme that runs through this post, other than don’t try to pull on over on your PRO, is you need A LOT of tracks — a “catalog” — to make this business a career.

                  I try generally to not be “brutal” in my answers, because I know that many people are pinning hopes and dreams on writing library music. But the reality is that it’s a numbers game. You MUST be able to generate (to quote Mark Lewis again) a “volume of work.” If you can do that then direct licensing — done properly — is an opportunity not a threat. If you can’t generate a “volume of work” then this is a hobby, and you need to plan accordingly for other sources of income.

                  Hope that sheds some light.


                7. Thanks again MichaelL for such another informative post! The story about the composer who direct licensed on his own was told at a PMA (Production Music Association) meeting I attended a few years ago. It was BMI who presented him with a bill for over $100k and, from what I remember, he did not inform BMI or did not realize what he was stepping into!

                8. @Art

                  I guess that I do not understand the direct license deal. I thought that license fees and PRO royalties were two different things. I thought that any music used for a broadcast situation required royalties to be paid no matter where or who it was licensed from. The composer who got that 100K bill is not liable in my opinion.

                  But honestly, ASCAP & BMI are letting Scripps get away with murder. I do not see how they allow Scripps to use music that is registered to each PRO without paying royalties. Scripps is using music for broadcast purposes without proper payment. Realistically, all networks could just stop paying royalties by direct licensing music from libraries. It would not be ethical or legal, but what if this did happen? Would the PROs do something about it? They have already set a precedent of not holding networks accountable by allowing Scripps to not pay royalties.

                  Furthermore, any music library that has a publishing interest in the music in its catalog (non-exclusive and exclusive) would be robbing themselves by continuing to work with Scripps. They would also not receive the publishing royalties for songs used in broadcast situations. Something sounds fishy about the whole situation.

                9. “I guess that I do not understand the direct license deal. I thought that license fees and PRO royalties were two different things.”

                  Ah…the light goes on. Sometimes sync license fees and PRO royalties ARE different. But under the Buffalo Broadcasting case referred to in the articles posted by Michael Nicholas, the courts rightly interpreted copyright law as allowing the copyright owner to cut their own deals with broadcasters, circumventing their PRO. Scripps is NOT violating any law or cheating anyone.
                  The direct license fee paid buy Scripps to the composer replaces the PRO payment to the composer. A direct license is different kind of contract than just a sync fee.

                  The composer is “liable” because under their contract with the PRO thy must report the direct license deal to the PRO.

                  ASCAP and BMI are not “letting Scripps get away” with anything. This is the law. The composer has the right to direct license. To my knowledge Scripps is not using library music
                  from libraries as you are thinking of libraries. The $25 per hour that it pays is not what it pays to a library for one hour’s worth of music. That is what it allegedly pays to composers per hour to write music FOR THEM. As I said in another post a friend of mine did that and they (the Food Network) wanted him to write 22 minutes of music in a day and a half. He did not get any backend, because it was a direct license under a work for hire agreement.

                  It all comes down to what you agree to.

                10. HI Michael,

                  You said: “And here it is, 2011 and the performing right is staring to disappear…..”

                  I respectfully disagree. The performing has not going away.

                  Β§ 106. of the copyright law provides the following in the pertinent part:

                  Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

                  (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

                  (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

                  (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

                  (4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

                  (5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

                  (6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

                  Direct licensing DOES NOT alter those rights in any way. In fact, the copyright law guarantees the copyright owner control over public performance of his or her works. Under a direct license, the composer is still controlling the use of his or her “performing right” –for a fee. The only thing that changes is how the money is transferred from the licensee to the licensor.

                  Cutting a deal to license your catalog directly to a network or a producer is no different than selling sync licenses in a royalty free library that does not require buyers to file cue sheets.
                  It’s another form of direct license, which is perfectly OK. When you or I write custom music for a non-broadcast client, aren’t we granting a direct license?

                  Music licensing is not a one size fits all application. Scripps is not a “network” on the level of ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX. During the 12 years since FMM published these grim articles, I have only seen my royalties increase. The PROS have only taken in more revenue.

                  As one of the articles stated, direct licensing will be very lucrative for “some composers.” And as I stated in my response above, those composers will be the ones with a “volume of work” who can get into the direct license part of the game.

                  Direct licensing is just another revenue stream. You’ve got to be flexible in your thinking, creative in your deals and have multiple revenue streams to survive and thrive. Hoping to make backend money off of cable “placements” is not enough. It’s just a supplement to everything else that you must do.

                  Synth Player said…”The real way to get paid as a musician licensing music is to actually stop being a musician (or at least stop thinking like a musician)!” I can’t believe I’m going to say this –he’s right. You need to think like a business person or a lawyer — maybe more than a composer. He said “get incorporated & become a music library owner.” What that means is that you can’t be passive.

                  One of my favorite lines from a song comes from Don Henley: “I saw a Dead head sticker on a Cadillac said you can never look back.” Truer words were never spoken.

                  We have to deal with the business as it is now and respond as it changes, That is where you find opportunity.



                11. Hi Michael, great stuff, thanks for the post.

                  “Under a direct license, the composer is still controlling the use of his or her “performing right” –for a fee”

                  True. But this conversation started because Art kind of stumbled across the fact that he was losing performance royalties, so in that case I argue the performing right did “seem” to disappear. So yes, the composer could control the use of his or her performing right by not signing with a library that direct licenses. Or by signing with for that matter. Perhaps the point to be made here is to read library agreements more closely from now on and be sure to understand their policy on this!

                12. Hi Michael,

                  It all depends on what you agree to. If you are part of a library that direct licenses, make sure that you are getting a sync fee. In the case of an RF library that is your “sale.” That is part of the argument against retitling, where the ‘library” does a blanket direct license of its catalog and the composer only gets a prorata share of the license and no backend. The can be pretty much the “working for free” scenario that you raised before.

                  The bigger picture to which I referred, and the article touched on, is where a composer with a significant catalog deals directly with the network and not though a library.



                13. Hi Michael,

                  I had a few more thoughts.

                  You said.

                  “And here it is, 2011 and the performing right is staring to disappear…..”

                  In a previous thread I think that spoke of royalties “drying up.”

                  I’m not sure that those facts are linked to direct licensing. I’ve written and produced library music for 30+ years. I can tell that library tracks have a ‘best when used by.”
                  Styles change, but more importantly technology changes and even great tracks sound old.
                  About ten years ago, I did two “sad piano tracks” for an exclusive library. They got used everywhere. I consistently made money from those tracks for a number of years. BUT..that was the late 90s the piano sound was from Korg Trinity and the strings were 16bit emu. The track are simply long in the tooth now. Instead of showing in 20 different shows every quarter now its one or two. I don’t believe it is because of direct licensing. The tracks are just old and there’s 10 million more library writers now.

                  The point, however, is don’t expect the tracks that made you money 10 years ago to continue at the same level. I took a chance and posted my sample from 1999 on the jukebox. The writing is good enough, but it doesn’t have the same sonic sheen or punch that it would have if it was recorded today. Whether it’s the “loudness wars” is simply better tools that change our ears, library music has a shelf life. So, before concluding that the industry is going down the tubes, check the “expiration date” on the tracks that aren’t paying what they used too.

                  More food for thought.


                14. “So, before concluding that the industry is going down the tubes, check the “expiration date” on the tracks that aren’t paying what they used too.”

                  Thanks Michael. Sometimes I am too negative and can’t help concluding the industry is going down the tubes, but I like your positive attitude! Especially true is your “We have to deal with the business as it is now and respond as it changes, That is where you find opportunity.”

                  I’ve been writing library music for only ten years. On and off actually. Most of my income came from custom writing for clients. It was when I was in between projects that I would work on production music. The custom work has really slowed down so I’ve had more opportunity to write for libraries recently. An example of the shelf life you bring up – Ten years ago I did a lot of songs for an exclusive library and placed on the network soap operas. They were chillout and trip hop songs, with vocals. Now, chillout is out of fashion and the soaps are all but gone!

                  You’re quite right, there are new sounds now and better tools (including quality microphones at reasonable prices). And, we have more years of experience working with them. My recent stuff sounds better over all than ten years ago, though I do (as an old-timer) find it hard to push the loudness as much as others are. Here are a few examples of recent cues.

         (with a co-writer)

                  One thing I’ve been doing is listening a lot to other writers cues that are getting used. Crucial has a “top ten” player. Music dealers let’s you hear what being placed, things like that. I learn what it is, at least at that moment, that is getting used. It sticks in my mind and I try to bring out those elements as I’m working on my stuff.

  9. Hi Michael

    “So are we basically working for free now, without ever having any intention of doing so? I guess it depends on our agreement with the libraries getting the placements. I would hope they find a way to split the blanket money for music used per episode.”

    To my mind, as soon as you give your music to a licensing agent, who may or may not license your tracks, vs. a library that pays up-front or does direct sales, you are running the risk of working for free, or for very small amounts of money, unless the licensing agent specifically targets high-end licenses.



  10. The law allows for direct licensing. I’m not going to go into the legal history of direct licensing. But, my recollection is that there was a lawsuit against ASCAP, that challenged its claim to exclusively represent its members.

    Everyone wants to blame Scripps and the networks, but a large part of the problem starts with us, the composers. First, there are far too many people trying to license music. You say competition is good. Yes, for the buyer, not the seller. But what are we going to do…ask would be writers to give up and do something else for our sake?

    Next, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. If no composers entered into direct licenses this would not be an issue. But, due to the flooded market, previously mentioned, writers are giving it away. However, I would argue that giving it away is a relative concept based upon historical expectations that are not necessarily relevant in today’s market. And “giving it away” is essentially relative to one’s needs.

    Technology has made cheap music a reality. And, in the right hands it has made good inexpensive music a reality. Technology has also created a global marketplace. Writers with 100K studios in LA are competing with bedroom writers in places like Croatia. Guess who has a lower cost of living? A $50 sale on AudioSparx provides far greater economic benefit to the latter. So, one writer’s giving it away, is another’s windfall in a global economy.

    Many writers complain that we under value our work. I would submit that because our egos are involved, we tend to over-value our work relative to its function in the market. Yes, If you’re Sting and using your music actually helps to sell a few Jaguars then you can command a hefty license fee. But, if you are an anonymous library writer, and a buyer who is producing a low-budget corporate video has 10,000 similar hip hop tracks to choose from and you’re NOT 50 Cent, then “50 cent” is about all you’ll get –relatively speaking.

    So..this IS the new normal. Darwin would say that in order to survive you need to adapt. Art compared our business to war. You need to be open-minded and creative in how you approach the music business.

    And, in the new library world you MUST have quantity. One frequent contributor here, Matt, has been gracious enough to state that he has reached 150K in annual earnings. He’s also spelled out that he has, I think, 2500 tracks. Barbie from AudioSparx has said that her top writers have at least 500 tracks.

    That’s the new reality. If music is worth less, you’ve got to produce more.

    1. “That’s the new reality. If music is worth less, you’ve got to produce more”- Michael

      Or produce a specialized product where there’s a less competitive market.

      John πŸ™‚

      1. @ John (the Other John)

        Specialization can be good.

        But, many people, not just musicians, are working harder to make less, or to make what they were making in the past.



        1. I agree Michael. Considering what some of my unskilled labor friends were making an hour in the 70’s & 80’s (about $9 an hour) and making now ($15-$18 an hour), they’ve about doubled their per hour rate. However, a loaf of bread is 5-10 times as much today as it was then.

          Then there were other unskilled jobs in the local supermarkets in the 70’s starting at $10 an hour. Today those jobs are starting at $7- 8 an hour.


          1. Of course there’s flip side to specialization depending on what you specialize in.
            I would imagine that hip hop is a pretty crowded field.

            1. Maybe I should have used the word “uncommon” or “less competitive” music tracks. A genre with a smaller number of composers like classical, ragtime, cocktail piano, opera, flamenco guitar, etc…

                1. Talk about a niche, for five years I had freelance work custom writing for a major textbook publisher. The courses were teaching English as a second language. The songs were included on audio CD’s with the book, as and aid to teach English. The target market was kids in Mexico. Each song taught specific vocabulary, so I had to write to fit provided lyrics, which could at times be quite a challenge. I did over 125 of these!

                  For my library writing, lately I have tried to do the uncommon like is being suggested here. Recently I brought in a friend playing an acoustic upright bass and we did a bunch of bluegrass and traditional Country. I played mandolin, acoustic and resonator guitars. Figured less competition than the hip hop and pop.

                2. Robin wrote a rag that’s been used a number of times on the Cartoon Network. You never know where this stuff will show up.

                3. I wrote a dramatic trailer track for an exclusive library, about 10 years ago. It showed up on my last ASCAP statement in “Jesse James Hidden Treasure” on the History Channel.
                  They use exactly :01 (one second). I guess they used the last note.
                  FYI, one second on the History Channel is worth $.39. Yes, thirty-nine cents.

                  Ten showings and I’ll have enough for cheap latte! πŸ˜†

                4. There’s a informercial that airs just about every night on cable that uses about 5 seconds of an epic track I did a while back. Every quarter for the past couple of years I’d get this heavy stack of paper from ASCAP (just went paperless because of it) and I’m thinking I’ve just hit the jackpot. Just as I’m imagining what exotic car I’m going to get with all my newfound wealth, it turns out that it’s over a hundred pages of just this 5 seconds used on pretty much every cable channel imaginable. Pennies, nickels and a few dimes, which add up to maybe a few hundred bucks every quarter.

                  There must be some serious money in informercials though – I can only imagine how much someone gets for those long monotonous, typically peppy soft rock tracks that seem to play beginning to end! Not the most glamorous way to make a living, but no one needs to know what paid for your Ferrari.

                5. I did a makeup infomercial about 12 years ago while working as a staff composer at an east coast music house. 30 minutes wall to wall music. I was on salary so I didn’t give it much of a thought. One day on my way out, picked up the mail, and had a $25,000 royalty check. (my boss got the same check as we split the writers share) I thought it was a joke at first. The money gradually decreased, of course, over several years but royalties hadn’t even crossed my mind when I did the job. Ah, the good ol days.

                6. ABC just picked up one of my piano rags for three promotions Art. Good money! Let’s keep it between ourselves. Don’t want the market flooded with piano rags. πŸ˜€

    2. Great response MichaelL. Quantity is the key and to do that you have to be able to get up each day and write just for the shear joy of writing. Thankfully for me, after many decades, I can still do that!

      1. Art,

        I think that Matt really nailed it in another thread when he said, “write, even when you don’t have to.”

        The reality is that if you’re going to do this seriously you always “have to” otherwise you won’t get to the hundreds, even thousands of tracks necessary to make it.

        Top put it another way, as Mark Lewis says, you need a “volume of work,”
        and he doesn’t mean loud!

        That said, writing music, is in my opinion, a very cool job. I never got up in the morning and looked forward to the “shear joy” of practicing law. πŸ˜†


        1. I agree that if you have 500 good tracks as opposed to 100 good tracks your chances improve in getting work. However, if you have 500 crappy tracks instead of 100 crappy tracks, your chances don’t change. Your chances in getting work are still crappy.

          Yes, composing full-time (every day) is best. I would guess most can’t do it full-time though.

          I do wake up every morning eager to get started. Though sometimes I lie awake all night with anticipation.

          1. Okay, sorry John, I always have to jump on subjective words such as “crappy”. I have some of those “crappy” tracks and they have made me a good deal of money.

            1. Maybe I should have said “undesirable tracks” Michael. Unsaleable tracks? Poorly done tracks? Badly produced tracks? Unmarketable tracks? All of the above. lol

  11. Pump Audio has got my music placed on HGTV and the Travel Channel in the past. I received my share of the license fee but was wondering why cue sheets were never filed with ASCAP.

  12. Don’t know, but I’ve always had a lot of Travel Channel placements. I know I’ve been on the others in the past, HGTV, DYI, Food…but they’re not on this last statement.

    “I haven’t had anything on the Travel Channel but I have on all their other networks.”

    So are we basically working for free now, without ever having any intention of doing so? I guess it depends on our agreement with the libraries getting the placements. I would hope they find a way to split the blanket money for music used per episode.

    I guess you found this out because of tune sat? I’ll have to check with my libraries getting placements. I don’t have cable TV so I wont happen to run across my music! (that did happen the other night though, watching History Detectives on PBS…)

    1. My Tunesat account tips me off to these uses. Drives me a little nuts when I see them. On the other hand the recent ones don’t bother me as much as I know the libraries are getting me good placements with other, paying, shows.

      The ones that drive me the craziest come from work I did years ago when I thought I was getting one deal but got snookered into a direct license work for hire deal. I should have known better but my lawyer should have known even better! To be fair that deal got me into this whole production music/library world and I am enjoying it. Fortunately I was finally able to get all of my copyrights back. I could have sued that production company as I had a nice e-mail trail of their promises.

  13. Interesting. I did have a bunch of Travel channel placements show up on July’s ASCAP statement. I wonder if they were older re-runs that already had cue sheets in place. I was also placed on about 20 other networks, but no others from your list.

    So first the license fees dried up, now the performance royalties will disappear. The next logical step is that composers will start paying money to the shows. Sounds far-fetched, but I don’t have any doubt that there are people out there that would do this.

    1. Hi Michael, That is interesting about the Travel Channel. I wonder if they do pay or maybe ASCAP has a different deal than BMI? I haven’t had anything on the Travel Channel but I have on all their other networks.

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