“I’m Sick Of You” - UK Artist, Whitey, Reacts To Free Music Licensing Request
By Christopher Rucks | Music Dealers
More and more often, influential artists within the music community are publicly tongue-lashing those institutions they feel treat them less than they’re worth, then spreading those verbal lashings across the social mediasphere for all to see. Artists are speaking about topics such as the payouts from streaming services, the increasing difficulty of making a living from their craft, consumer’s expectations of free music, and now, the corporate expectation of free music.
Case in point, I recently came across a blog post on indiloop featuring an incredibly scathing letter written by London-based musician, Whitey. Whitey released the verbal hounds after being infuriated by a license request from London-based, Betty TV, with no budget for compensation.
Below is the letter that was published on Whitey’s Facebook page.
…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, affluent global media industry.
Why is this? Lets look at who we both are.
I am a professional musician, who lives from his music. It took 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 licenced music to some of the biggest shows, brands, games and TV production companies on Earth; from 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 someones 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- http://betty.co.uk/category/factual-entertainment/- reveals a variety of well known, internationally syndicated reality programmes. You are 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
Wow. My eyes were the size of saucers by the time I finished that. This letter represents a particularly challenging situation for us at Music Dealers. We are strong advocates of the independent artist community; our company was founded with the intent of being a positive agent of change in the music industry, a means for artists to cut through the red tape, monetize their most personal art, and increase their revenue streams.
And at the same time, we bridge the gap between the independent artist community and those in need of music for media: the TV production companies, the film studios, the ad agencies, etc. We serve the needs of two masters, creating success by bringing them together. But we can’t ignore the bold truths of Whitey’s letter. He tactfully laid out his argument the way a silver-tongued attorney does, wooing and swaying a jury in the process.
It’s a slippery slopethe very musicians we depend upon to create the amazing content that enhance and enliven our visuals will, eventually, be incapable of sustaining the living that allows them to continue pursuing their craft to the level of greatness. They drop out from the race, disheartened by yet another request for free music, another claim of a lack of budget, and say to themselves, “screw it. I’m just gonna get a job.”
Independent artists and musicians look to the corporate and brand world for respect, for the ability to earn the money unearned in the consumer space. With consumers, you’re dealing with your album being streamed for paltry payouts through Spotify, hoping to forge enough of a connection with your fan base to pack shows along a tour. But when a business comes-a-knockin’, well, that’s supposed to be real, tangible cash. That’s where the artist hopes to make up for the sacrifices on the consumer side, where they can not only settle the income differences, but hopefully, come out ahead. But what do you do when the very place you were expecting to earn income, also whips out a hand, expecting your art for free? It’s a demoralizing thought process.
Several industry and major news outlets have chimed in on the discussion. Most, observing the situation from the artist’s point of view, have applauded Whitey’s efforts in taking a stance and exposing the letter in hopes to shed light on a growing cloud of darkness in the music licensing space.
But I’m really curious of the opinion of those who license music.
Do you believe that free licensed music is normal? Who do you feel is responsible for the trend towards free music for brands and corporations? What’s your vision of music licensing utopia where everybody wins? Is it the company’s fault for asking for music for free and not allocating funds for licensed music, or does the blame lie with artists for giving away licensed music and commoditizing the sync business in the process? I’m eager to know your thoughts.