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Killing Off Broadcast Royalties – A Worrying Trend

Killing Off Broadcast Royalties – A Worrying Trend

There are good royalty-free music deals and bad royalty-free music deals.
I have decided it is about time to write an article addressing a worrying trend I have been observing: namely music libraries that are not allowing composers they list to be part of Performing Rights Organisations, or the music they list to be registered with any royalty collection agencies.

“Bad Deal” Royalty-Free Music Websites

There are some websites out there in the cyber world that are saying they are the only ones that are truly “royalty-free” royalties, no cue sheets, no broadcast royalties for composers, and then selling their songs sometimes for as little as 99c. As if that is supposed to make it cheaper for people buying the license to use a song.
The truth is, that the buyer of a track license NEVER has to pay royalties for broadcasts anyway, as any broadcast royalties collected come from the broadcast royalty pool. All it actually saves them is the 5 minute job filing in of a cue sheet. It doesn’t save them any money. I am all for the promotion and use of Royalty-free music, but at we would never even consider taking away the right of a composer to get their legitimate broadcast royalty compensations. My advice is to stay away from any arrangments that require a composer to forego those rights. Artists are often the first to be screwed by corporate greed and/ or cost-cutting. The website music libraries in question here will not accept works that are registed with any royalty collection agencies, PRO, PRS (Performing Roghts Organisations and Societies).What is happening here is they are selling a composers music for a small sum, and refusing to allow the composer to collect any broadcast royalties, even if their music gets thousands of plays in a big budget production. I am first and foremost a composer and musician myself., and believe as such, that we should be fairly and rightly compensated for our work, and this type of deal is not good for us at all.

Here is an example to ponder:

Bad Royalty-free website:
A composer lists a song on one of the Suspect, bad deal websites. The site sells the song for 99c or $9-95 or even maybe even $19-95. A client comes along and uses the song in a documentary. The documentary gets played on television channels world wide. The maker of the documentary gets thousands of dollars off the production in sales and royalties. The composer gets his/her share of the original sale price, ( a few cents or dollars) minus the website fee, and cannot get any royalties from the broadcast plays at all. Is that a good deal? I think not! The only ones really benefitting from such a deal are the greedy management at the website that sold the music for a song ( pardon the pun) and are laughing all their way to the bank!

Fair Compensation Royalty-Free website
The composer lists the song on or another site that compensates composers fairly. We sell the song for $39-95. A client comes along and uses this song in their documentary. The documentary gets played on television channels world-wide. The maker of the documentary makes thousands of dollars off the production in sales and royalties. The composer gets his/her share of the original sale price, and also has the opportunity to collect broadcast royalties from the documentary every time it is aired in public broadcast. Now that’s a right and fair compensation for the composer, and it doesn’t cost the production company any extra money!

Broadcast Royalties
Broadcast royalties are a standard part of every professional composers income. Broadcast License fees are charged to broadcasters because they generate money by having a composer’s music used in broadcast, and so it’s only fair that that a composer receives something in return for that: Namely a broadcast royalty, as has traditionally been the case.
Suggesting that composers just be happy, and get used to not being compensated for broadcast usage of their music is unfair, and should not be a part of the industry in any way in my opinion.

“Bad Broadcaster Deals”: No Royalties For music Usage!

I have recently seen some advertising on a behalf of a broadcaster who wants to cut costs by using music by composers that are not members of any Performing Rights Sociey. They want to use only music that is not subject to any form of broadcast royalty collection. Their intention is to create a library of music that is devoid of any possible broadcast royalties, and are refusing to include music in the library by any composer who is a member of a PRO ( Performing Rights Organisation). This is a new and alarming development in the broadcast industry, and if it were to become standard practice it could have huge negative repercussions for composers’ and their income streams.
The broadcaster in question here appears to be trying to cut down on the fee they pay for the right to broadcast music. I can only speculate, but assume that this would be by declaring less usage to the PRO’s that they have traditionally paid their license fees to, and thereby lessen the fee they have to pay to the PRO’s.
If they don’t pay license fees to any royalty management/collection agencies, then they can’t broadcast anything that includes music created by members of royalty collection agencies at all. They either pay the fees to the Royalty collection societies or they don’t. All major films and TV shows will have been made using works by society members. If they play just “One” of those shows/films if they are not registered as a Broadcaster with the PRS companies then they are breaching copyright laws. So what is the deal that they are managing to cut that still allows them to play those shows but not pay royalties for music usage from their libraries?
This trend worries me both as a composer and as someone who supplies royalty-free music. . If the number of websites etc selling dirt cheap music while not allowing contributors to belong to any Royalty collection societies, and the number of broadcasters using music by non society members grows bigger, what will become of the industry?. If this model trend was to continue to grow, and corner the market, composers would slowly lose the rights that were fought for in the formation of those agencies in the first place, and unscrupulous broadcasters could basically pay them a pittance, declare only what they decide to declare in the way of music usage, payout no royalties, and no-one is there to police that. I myself see this as another screwing down of artists who generally struggle anyway.

Another possible scenario that could occur is this:
The broadcaster who is using non PRS music decides to make a particular TV show for broadcast within their country and on their network. The show goes on to become a massive success spawning the desire of Other broadcasters in other countries decide they want to broadcast the show in their territory also. So they contact the orignal broadcaster/show creator, and purchase the rights to broadcast the show on their own network in a specified territory. Again it succeeds in that territory also, so then other broadcasters around the world also buy ther rights to use the show. Then the show goes to air worldwide, and it becomes a global hit, broadcast on a number of different networks.
Question: Who then will be responsible to pay the per-play money owing to the composer of the music used in the show? The new broadcasters won’t have made the deal with the composers of the non PRS music, so won’t be liable to pay them for it, and the orignal broadcaster won’t want to pay money for music that is not being played on their own network.

Oh But it’s Only Composers That Suffer. Who Cares? It Helps Us Make Things Cheaper!
So, video makers and film makers are you going to also go for the cheapest option in music so you can make your productions on the cheap, and show no regard for the consequences to the industry long-term, or will you think beyond your own needs and look to the future of all artists? Because afterall, who and what would be next in line for culling then? What about broadcasters telling studios, producers and film makers their works won’t be used if they belong to any film and television royalty collection agencies, societies and collectives like the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC), Association of International Collective Management of Audiovisual Works (AGICOA) or the SMPTE. What about refusing to use works or performances by actors who are members of SAG (the Screen Actors Guild), or the AAAA ( Associated Actors and Artistes of America)? If YOU USE MUSIC from companies that don’t allow the filling of cue sheets and the reporting of broadcast royalties, you are helping to kill the income of composers, and encouraging the proliferation of sub-standard non-professional music. Remember, your affiliations could be next.
Shall we shoot your foot first or mine?
To re-iterate: My advice is to stay away from any arrangments that require a composer to forego the rights to collect broadcast royalties. Don’t be a part of de-regulating and killing our industry.

In order to better understand broadcast royalties, read the following tutorial as it explains the concept further:
Tony Koretz © copyright 2012