PMA And The State Of The Production Music Business

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  • #25793 Reply
    Art Munson

    Any thoughts on the PMA and the state of production music please post here.

    #25794 Reply

    There is no doubt that the production music world is changing, and that those who insist on blindly holding onto the past will be swept away by the currents of a changing society and its demands, the technological gale force winds which have changed music production to the core, and the ever escalating game of politics playing at a much higher level on the money food chain than music will ever attain.

    To me this is highlighted and evidenced by the current push and demand for “exclusivity” while upfront payments for the “right” of exclusivity are dropping perilously — even to the point of no upfront payment. Those asking for perpetuity and exclusivity without serious up-front investment want the opportunity to have their cake and eat it to as dad used to say….

    No thanks.

    My perspective – if anyone wants exclusivity for my musical works, they had better be willing to pay dearly for it. For me to crawl under the covers with them and sign on their dotted lines, they had better have a vested interest sooo heavy that they are willing to not just put it on their ever-growing easily stocked shelves in case someone MIGHT want it, but instead, they had better be out there beating the bushes hard in an effort to monetize my investment for them. Because that’s what it is. MY investment for THEM. In the real world, I don’t just work for them – they are working for me.

    In 2016, even $2k is not enough for a creative work to be signed away in perpetuity and exclusively. Making music full time at a top level is expensive, and there are too many new exciting options in a rapidly changing world to have my music tied up exclusively with someone not willing to pay upwards and over $1-2k for a piece.

    I’m sorry, but for the PMA associated libraries offering nothing up front (and yes, I’ve been offered just that for an incredibly difficult and expensive project I created by a highly touted boutique PMA library) there is no way. It is sad for me to say, but after many years of being associated with some of the biggest libraries in the game, I am not finding the PMA libraries too appealing at this point in time – they are quite often too far behind in the amounts they pay out, and too out of touch in their ability / willingness to get out and get quality placements for my music. It takes a lot of money to live in LA in 2016, and shrinking up front payments, along with shrinking (per play) BMI/ASCAP payments do not make the old model as appealing as it used to be.

    If music libraries want to play in the exclusive world, they need serious, hard core capitol to invest – not a warm friendly pie in the sky promise in hope of placement – at no up front cost to them. If that is too hard of a game to play, then find another business. I can’t finance their gameplay. You can only squeeze experienced quality composers so hard before they don’t want to play anymore.

    The options in the non exclusive world, including multiple non-ex libs, forays into the music for the general public world, and private use of music for my own projects is too great to hand it over for the “possibility to play in the exclusive world” with no guarantees, no upfront buyout money, and perpetuity demanded. It’s embarrassing. I thought PMA membership demanded more.

    Yes, 10 years ago the real-life possibilities outside the traditional music library world were somewhere between dismal and a joke. No longer. Up front “tiny” sync fees are becoming a major player in comparison to BMI / ASCAP fees which are shrinking (as least in a per play perspective). For me, the only thing keeping my BMI/ASCAP alive is huge amounts of music being added to an already large amount of shows in circulation / syndication, and placements with libraries that I’ve got long term relationships with.

    I don’t know the answer for the PMA, but from my vantage point, they seem to be in a very precarious position as the world changes around them. They are wise to reach out and seek advice from composers. I hope they can listen and read between the ever contracting lines…..

    #25799 Reply

    Thanks Art! I hope this brings about good discussion.

    #25819 Reply
    Mark Lewis

    In another PMA thread Paolo wrote…

    The impression I’ve gotten (is that PMA is) focused on preventing the further erosion of music licensing fees by these libraries banding together and not under-cut each other.

    Is this actually true?
    This would be called ‘price fixing’ in any other industry.

    #25838 Reply

    Since this has been changed over to a “state of the production music business” thread, I have something to discuss that’s on topic and that’s been on my mind for awhile.

    I think that as up-front master rights payments get smaller and smaller, and as ASCAP and BMI are loosing their grip, the “get paid sync upfront, and performance backend” paradigm is loosing it’s allure.

    Sure, I’d rather be associated with huge well known libraries, but more than that, I’d rather earn a living. The big libraries (virtually all of whom are PMA) are failing at that right now. Even $2k is not enough for me to produce a track, pay musicians, pay production staff, build a studio, pay the bills, and net a profit for “writing” the cue – unless the back end is phenomenal. And those “phenomenal” back end days are long gone from my perspective. ESPECIALLY with netflix, streaming, etc. looming in the shadows.

    Oh wait – they are not in the shadows anymore… So…

    So let’s talk about the old school paradigm of sign your creative copyright and masters away to the big company and let them control your destiny because they have your best interest at heart vs. the new school paradigm of retaining and managing your own copyright :

    Old School Strike 1 – upfront payouts dismal, and not appropriate for the degree of work and creativity going into a musical product.

    Old School Strike 2 – backend is shrinking consistently, BMI and ASCAP are completely ineffective in getting even 1/10th of what they should be from streaming services, and in a few short years streaming WILL be virtually all that matters. So….steeeerike 2!

    Old School Strike 3 – None of the “biggies” I’ve ever been associated with will split sync’s with me. To boot, they are mostly doing blankets which would be a joke anyway. Then, they want my music in perpetuity even if they do not perform. Meanwhile, royalty free libraries are paying real money – although small – UP FRONT sync’s which at this point in time, I think is the future of royalties – AND I can control my copyrights if they do not perform, or move my music, or change things up, or try different musical distribution directions.

    Seems like a total no brainer to me, and yet, I’m still having a hard time leaving the PMA and it’s associated libraries in the dust.

    Any thoughts? Am I crazy? Am I writing music that is out of touch with the times? Am I just having a writers mental breakdown? Love to hear any of your thoughts on this, cause I have 4 huge projects that were originally envisioned for the “mainstream” that I am considering keeping the masters and copyright for, and putting them into what is becoming a good thing – non exclusive libraries.

    Thanks for any thoughts.


    #25841 Reply
    Art Munson

    I’m with you LAWriter.

    My thought is that, unless there is any way for this to improve, is to cut out all middlemen and get right to the client who is signing the checks. How to do that? Good question and one I am constantly thinking about.

    That doesn’t preclude me from trying to work with old school companies as long as it’s fair and equitable. Fair and equitable means different things to different people.

    #25842 Reply

    I just don’t know what else to say other than LIKE, LIKE LIKE (I have sore fingers LA writer)

    Just to add, even at 1K to 2K a cue…we are all learning that a cue that we control the copyright for can go on and easily print 1K to 2K in earnings (and we get paid FASTER) quite easily over time. Have you guys ever asked yourself this…Let’s suppose your job was to write a very high quality, ultra pro, well mixed for broadcast cue every week (ideally with some live performers) for 1 to 2K a week as a work for hire, but you lose ownership of the cue because you sell the copyright to the publisher…would you do it? I can’t write for 75K a year. I need more than that to put kids through school. It is kind of getting to the point where it does not make economic sense to work the “old school” way because the multiple revenue streams from RF sites, PRO back end from NE, medium sized $500 to to 2K sync fees, and the occasional home run national spot that pays a juicy sync fee as well as sweet back end says…”NO! hang onto your copyrights and control them! ”

    Why do you think Paul McCartney is going to buy his entire catalog back after the 50/ 60 years ….or whatever it is….I guess he learned his lessons too.

    Let me draw a comparison with the book publishing industry. (I have some experience in there too). Most pubs are in the book biz for that one blockbuster seller that pays all the bills. They put out books, most fail, but one book hits huge and earns tons.

    We’re kind of in the same boat. We write and write and release and release…some tracks do OK, some do poor, some do real well, and then a couple out of nowhere knock it out of the park and money comes raining down like crazy!

    The only way we can be in this beautiful position is by owning and controlling the copyright, choosing our distribution channels, and frankly using many of them.

    Guys, I am once again optimistic, I like this business again believe it or not and I am having a ball writing what I want and distributing it where I want and controlling the situation. We’re in that lucky position where we have lots of back catalog assets working hard for us generating solid and increasing income. I just wonder if the so called big boy PMA library owners are aware of what has happened in the last 8 years in these “new” markets?

    We have a couple more tweaks to advocate for in the “new markets”….we need to strongly encourage all RF markets to have higher pricing tiers for higher end projects like national TV spots, etc. I believe we can and must influence the decision makers at these RF libs. The guys that own those RF sites are disgusted too when our music squeaks by into a big spot for only $40 or $70 or $100. I have brought this to their attention and really they DO NOT like when this happens. We need to remind them of that. That is the last problem that needs to be solved. The TV spot price should be 1K because it is…well… stock music (and it is non exclusive meaning others can buy it and use it too), If a high end brand digs into RF for music, we need protection and a respectable fee for a TV spot. I do believe “River 6” is on this and is going to announce changes but please advocate for it too. It never helps to remind them that some bigger agencies with a lot of cash are exploiting cost savings opps. This is a concerning trend I am seeing.

    #25845 Reply

    In light of this discussion, I just noticed this at the bottom of the new MFP post in which they offer $125 per track (to be exclusive), including all edits.

    P.S.S. WE don’t accept music from composers with music in RF libraries.

    #25847 Reply
    Art Munson

    In light of this discussion, I just noticed this at the bottom of the new MFP post in which they offer $125 per track (to be exclusive), including all edits.

    I warned Jean (the owner) he might get blowback. 🙂

    #25848 Reply

    MichaelL – the “PSS We don’t accept music from composers with music in RF libraries” is pure and simple…well, I won’t say it. It’s the same $#@! that I’ve heard from other PMA libraries in the past.

    Absolutely infuriating. IMO. There’s no way I’d let any music out for $125. If they multiplied that figure time 15 or 20 they might be able to pull off that kind of attitude, but $125?!?? I don’t care how good their rep might be. An attitude like that will seal their fate longterm as the industry starts to turn backwards and head the opposite direction.

    #25849 Reply

    MichaelL – the “PSS We don’t accept music from composers with music in RF libraries” is pure and simple…well, I won’t say it. It’s the same $#@! that I’ve heard from other PMA libraries in the past.

    Before anyone runs off on a tangent, MFP does not appear to be a PMA member. So, let’s not bash the PMA over MFP’s “No RF Composers” rule.

    I mention the bar on RF composers because I find any such restriction of an individual’s freedom in the realm of commerce to be problematic.

    I have composed for PMA libraries for more than three decades, including for one of its founders. No one has every told me “you cannot compose for royalty free libraries.”

    Low upfront fees like $125 (combined with low PRO rates) are a major factor in my decison to compose for RF libraries. I was paid more than $125 per track 20 years ago.

    So, given the choice between accepting $125 for a day’s or even a week’s worth of work and putting the track out myself in an RF library, I will choose the latter.

    Good tracks in successful RF libraries will earn far more than that over time and your catalog is an asset that remains yours.
    How much time? How good an investment is it? Last week I sold a track (remixed and remastered) that I first put into an RF library 30 years ago.

    #25850 Reply

    All I can say is this: Attention PMA publishers, we all deal in RF markets because we’re getting paid faster and pretty soon possibly more than our PRO checks and sync fee royalty checks. Many of us will have more data to report in about a year. Some guys are pulling down 15 to 20K a month in RF, hundreds more are doing 5K a month… did you know that? And PMA Publishers, do you have any idea about the size of the worldwide RF market? 3 years ago, I had no clue, but now I know what I know…and I tell you it is BIG, and it is Global.

    I don’t even see it as “royalty free” anymore. People buy a license, drop our tracks on media project for YOUTUBE, and we get paid a royalty! It’s really NOT royalty free even though it’s marketed that way. If my cue gets dropped on a live football game as a bumper, I get a PRO “performance royalty” 9 months later…and it often equates to the same fee as a RF license sold. So who are we kidding here in 2016?

    PMA folks…. Also, maybe think about embracing the opportunity and find a way to persuade ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to shake down YOUTUBE to increase the “performance royalty” pool of money. Why shouldn’t we move forward and start getting “performance royalties” from YOUTUBE syncs/ needle drops?

    ADREV is not quite enough. ADREV should not be the PRO for YOUTUBE. Those are some more points that I thank you for letting me anonymously share Art.
    Things are getting better is the sense I get. Let’s move forward.

    #25851 Reply
    Art Munson

    Some guys are pulling down 15 to 20K a month in RF, hundreds more are doing 5K a month… did you know that?

    Love to see hard data on that!

    #25852 Reply

    Ok, maybe some clarification is needed here. Because I’m at the point this year where my music in exclusive libraries is now killiing the music I have in royalty free libraries in earnings, for the first time this year, although it started posing an equal challenge to royalty free libraries last year.
    I understand that sync fees and upfront money are not where they were some short years ago, but help me understand, since many say that exclusives are out-earning royalty free libraries for many composers 4:1, why I would stop putting my tracks in exclusive libraries to focus on royalty free. As a protest, or because it makes sense? Not questioning, just not understanding. As a disclaimer I’ve been doing this over 4 years now, so I am still trying to figure out which way to go.
    Why royalty free instead of good exclusives?

    #25853 Reply

    Yes please tell (in response to Art’s request to see hard data on these $5000 – $20000 a month royalty free earners). Because if my reality was even in the parking lot of the ball bark of those figures, I would also go completely royalty free.

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