For many years musicians in the know could make a decent amount of extra income from licensing their music, but this sometimes lucrative income stream is starting to slow down very rapidly. This unfortunate trend has allowed Music Supervisors to low-ball young artists who are desperate for much needed exposure, and is enabling the downward trend of license fees paid to the artists.
This age old story is the same as ever, the people at the bottom (in this case the young artists, and sometimes even not so young artists) are the ones getting the raw end of the deal, and the corporations get something cheap on a promise and make a fortune with it.
Trying to make a career in a band is harder than ever, so getting a piece of music in a popular show or movie can literally make you overnight. In reality the music industry needs these bands, no matter how it looks from the outside. If it becomes too hard to make even a modest living we are going to be left with artists from American Idol and similar shows that are 100% controlled by someone like Simon Fuller, and we will just get more fake, plastic and generic sounding rubbish with every ounce of originality wrung out of it.
Now do not think this is a rant against the singers on these shows because there is some real talent on them, and what other choice do many of them have these days? But how many Idol winners are huge stars and household names? A few like Carrie Underwood (OK, I am a fan), but who can name 5 that are really doing it and making music that will stand with The Beatles or Led Zep in 20 years time?
Artists are just a way to sell the TV show, who cares if they disappear after one record, there is another 50,000 waiting to audition for next season.
While Ryan Seacrest is pretty funny, a good host and a seemingly nice guy, if he gets the reported $45 million a season and the winners are all one album wonders then there is something not right somewhere. Couldn’t that money be better used to develop real artists, not ones that have to have an instant hit and are not given time to develop into the next Stones or U2, I mean who couldn’t present that show for $1million and do just as good a job if the truth be told?
Even if you are lucky enough to get your music placed, unless it is in a huge movie or show, you may still not make much. This has lead to many talented artists putting their music on the sites at the lower end of the market, the ones with no quality control, the artists make pennies and devalue their brand, further contributing to lower licensing fees.
Another thing that artists need to be wary of are step deals, this is where the artist gets nothing or almost nothing upfront, with the promise of a payday later on down the road. On many occasions this amounts to money that is very hard to keep track of and so again the artist gets nothing.
New bands are also coming up against well established dinosaurs of music who sign huge exclusive deals to provide music for many shows, closing the door on the new guys, and taking even more money out of circulation.
You can still make money with licensing fees, but you need a lot of stuff out there. Of course there is always the one guy who made $200,000 from a commercial, but how many of those do you personally know? I heard of a guy who knows a guy who heard a conversation in Starbucks about someone who said they got a lot of money for a commercial once, but that is as close as I have ever got to someone who signed one of those deals!
I produce free production music DVDs for use in professional productions and promote a fair deal for the musician and the production companies, we need each other, so be fair to each other because this is a marathon business not a sprint.
As I mentioned earlier, TV music show presenters are getting $millions for not doing much, so please do not tell me the money is not there to develop real talent. If you need a cheaper Idol host so you can use the money more wisely I can find you 50 that are funnier and more talented just by walking down the Sunset Strip on any given day.