A Life-Long Mystery Solved: Decoding Music Industry Fees

DjsSingersMusicians_1by Jeff Lowy, President, Encore Creative

Like so many millions of other “wannabes,” I started writing music when I was six or seven years old.  None of it was any good, but I was lucky and determined enough to get a recording contract when I was 19 and sold a couple of songs that were recorded on a major label, published, and distributed.  Dutifully, I joined BMI, in the hopes of having a hit on my hands and bazillions of dollars streaming into my bank account for years to come.

Naturally, that never happened (it happens to one in more than one million people, but don’t quote me on that, the number is probably higher).  I think I got a check for $2.59 because one of my songs got on a vinyl record selling on late night TV in compilations of Disco tunes that sold for $12.95.

The point is, I’ve now been in the event and entertainment, production and A/V, and branding and messaging business for 34 years, and I can’t remember how many of my clients call in fear of what or whether and how much they’re going to have to pay fees to ASCAP or BMI to have music at their event.  I’ve linked an article below that I think every meeting planner should read and memorize (seriously), and share with your friend in the industry so that you know the truth and can work with it.

Now there are a lot of legitimate fees that should be paid, like mechanical licenses (if you want to use someone else’s music in your film or TV show) and other live performance licenses. For example, “Proud to be an American” was going for $25K during Gulf War one when everyone wanted to use during programs.

Check this article out as it’s pretty mind-blowing, and very, very true. It is part of the demise of live music in our current day life. People really like to see a live musician perform, even if they’re performing “covers” or other people’s music.  And sometimes, Virginia, yes, there is a Santa Claus and there is something other than a DJ that works really well in a night club, for a wedding or social event, for an awards ceremony (imagine how much more exciting the “bumpers” would be if they were live, like at the Academy Awards) or a dinner dance etc.

Why have we resigned ourselves to pay someone (and I have nothing against DJs) thousands of dollars to play their I-tunes collection? That’s really unfair because some DJ’s do remix music and a credibly musically interesting job “performing” the music and as their own interpretations.

Even fashion shows rock with live music. Cirque shows have live musicians. What I’m trying to say here is, IT’S COOL TO WATCH A LIVE PERFORMANCE

So, this article is about who gets paid when that music is performed.  If I wrote that hit song, I would want to get paid. It’s on the radio, millions of people are listening to it, I published it, poured my heart into and I should get something.  Here’s what happens and why I (or the people who really do write hit music) don’t get nearly what they deserve for baring their souls.

Click here!

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On April 25, 2014