If you have an eye on the music industry then there is no doubt that you saw the scathing letter from British alternative rock/electronic artist, Whitey, to television production company, Betty TV. They were one company too many to request free music for their productions, claiming to have “no budget for music”. The response is clearly the result of a long simmering irritation that boiled over, and then poured over into social media.
The result of which is sparking huge discussion in an already sensitive area of artist rights in this strangest of music industry times. Check it out at Whitey’s Facebook page, or read it for yourself below:
I am sick to death of your hollow schtick, of the inevitable line “unfortunately there’s no budget for music”, as if some fixed Law Of The Universe handed you down a sad but immutable financial verdict preventing you from budgeting to pay for music. Your company set out the budget. so you have chosen to allocate no money for music. I get begging letters like this every week – from a booming, allfuent global media industry.
Why is this? Let’s look at who we both are.
I am a professional musician, who lives form his music. It me half a lifetime to learn the skills, years to claw my way up the structure, to the point where a stranger like you will write to me. This music is my hard earned property. I;ve licensed music to some of the biggest shows, brands, games and TV production companies on Earth; form Breaking Bad to the Sopranos, from Coca Cola to Visa, HBO to Rockstar Games.
Ask yourself – would you approach a Creative or a Director with a resume like that – and in one flippant sentence ask them to work for nothing? Of course not. Because your industry has a precedent of paying these people, of valuing their work.
Or would you walk into someone’s home, eat from their bowl, and walk out smiling, saying “So sorry, I’ve no budget for food”? Of course you would not. Because, culturally, we classify that as theft.
Yet the culturally ingrained disdain for the musician that riddles your profession, leads you to fleece the music angle whenever possible. You will without question pay everyone connected to a shoot – from the caterer to the grip to the extra- even the cleaner who mopped your set and scrubbed the toilets after the shoot will get paid. The musician? Give him nothing.
Now lets look at you. A quick glance at your website reveals a variety of well known, internationally syndicated reality programmes, You are a successful, financially solvent and globally recognised company with a string of hit shows. Working on multiple series in close co-operation with Channel 4, from a West London office, with a string of awards under your belt. You have real money, to pretend otherwise is an insult.
Yet you send me this shabby request – give me your property for free… Just give us what you own, we want it.
The answer is a resounding, and permanent NO.
I will now post this on my sites, forward this to several key online music sources and blogs, encourage people to re-blog this. I want to see a public discussion begin about this kind of industry abuse of musicians… this was one email too far for me. Enough. I’m sick of you.
What does this mean and why is this such a potent statement?
Currently the music business has been failing artists – specifically indie artists who make a living through their music, but by no means are major label darlings. The overnight wave of streaming services and instant-gratification, online music has bred a very unhealthy climate for musicians. Average listeners want instant, endless access and artists seem to get shorter and shorter ends of the stick.
It seems that it has gotten to the point where significant corporate entities have the gall to ask established artists for FREE music. As NJ White articulates, this isn’t their first rodeo, but this is the only way they survive. If corporations and the industry at large thinks they can undermine artist livelihoods altogether then it seems that we have really reached a low point. It takes artists with brains in their heads to actually come forth and call out this unacceptable activity. Too often this gets written off as “business as usual” in this messy climate, so it is rather refreshing to see someone stand up and shout a resounding “NO” to mistreatment.
The music industry, and all who dabble in the music industry, need to turn the tides away from the idea that consuming music content is not a commodity but an entitlement. One must adapt and change with the tides, but this is one glitch in the system that could self-destruct everything. Some standard must be upheld.
Whitey’s letter is not new information to anyone, but it is a bold and visible reminder that corporate interests cannot dictate the course of the music industry. If a company has the means to pay for their content then they absolutely should! That’s how this works.
The double standard that artists face needs to be systematically erased, or things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.