Marty Bandier, CEO of Sony/ATV, hurled a live grenade of an email to the members of his publishing company, an email first picked up and publicized by Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News.
The email chronicled a year of success for the Sony/ATV family, but deeper within exposed some alarming figures. Sony/ATV and burgeoning music industry legend Pharrell Williams were paid a mere $2,700 for 43 million first quarter Pandora streams of Pharrell’s infectious and inescapable song “Happy.” The irony of a song titled “Happy” generating such unhappy wealth was not lost upon me.
Marty Bandier’s email also gave dour figures for John Legend’s “All Of Me,” receiving an unsubstantial $3,400 dollars for 55 million first quarter plays. Marty saved us the trouble of pulling up the calculator apps on our phones: the figures translate to roughly $60 bucks per million plays.
Our Director of Artists Services, Rob Lindquist, initiated a discussion, relaying the email’s alarming facts to our Lead Rights Management Specialist, Will Saad, who was googling to confirm their validity.
As I caught wind, I was tractor-beamed right into the conversation, delaying the hasty escape I was in the midst of making for the holiday break.
“Damn. This is bad. This is really bad.” That’s the PG version of what I thought after hearing the details.
The revelation sent aftershocks throughout the foundation of the industry, with various digital outlets picking up and commenting on the story.
The foundation of the industrythat’s what I’m concerned about. During the discussion of the dismal royalty math, Rob said to Will, me, and those of us who corralled to discuss this news, something along the lines of,
“Streaming is becoming more of a mode for discovery, for generating buzz, and getting more fans to shows, instead of a source of revenue. This is why licensing is so important. A single sync license can generate this kind of income for an artist, just like that.”
We all nodded in agreement. His spontaneous and factual statement sounded like a well-deliberated script for a Music Dealers commercial.
But my thinking traveled beyond the artists we do and hope to represent. I thought primarily of the clients we serve, of the industries that can’t survive without syncs, of the brands using music to connect with their consumers.
I thought of how the very foundation of the music industry is being rattled, its concrete pillars fracturing from the violence of industry earthquakes caused by meager streaming royalties, streams that would have likely been sales not long ago.
I thought of the clients we represent, who use music to tell stories, who leverage an endless succession of music in their content, and how they are the closest thing to a life raft for the music industry. From those in love with working with music to those of you who see music as another rote task on the listyou all matter. Each of you unite to form a giant jack and handle, working together to mechanically prop up a teetering industrythe artists within it, their goals and dreamskeeping it level.
If even the most successful artists earn only $60 bucks per million streams, can you imagine what you do for an independent artist by licensing their work for $100 bucks, or $1000, or $10,000? The figures stated in Marty’s email put contact lenses on a very fuzzy area of the industry, making your essential role in the music industry absolutely clear.
As this article was being conceived, music sales figures for 2014 were making their way through the industry. Removing totally any coating of sugarthe situation looks dismal.
Try to remember, content creators of the world, that you’re not merely licensing a song. You’re propping this sh*t up. You’re indispensable. Thank you.
Stay strong independent artists. With each year that blows by us, sync licensing grows more important. Learn its principles, master your craft, tread a path toward success paved by sync licensing.
As for Music Dealers, we’re working as fast as we can to help the content creators of the world pump the jack and bring some semblance of balance to the industry. Whatever balance we can bring, we’ll do our best to make it happen.
By: Christopher Rucks, Music Dealers