Friday, September 18, 2009

Publishers seeking snatch royalties

If only music publishers ran supermarkets, how sweet it would be. They'd have the little pieces of cheese on sticks as samples, and after people had a bite, out from behind the deli counter would come the publishers, seeking recompense for the consumed cheese.

"But this is a sample, isn't it?" the customers would stutter.

"Yes, it's a sample. And the samples cost. So cough up..."

Or, in other words: Publishers are now seeking to be paid when people listen to the 30 second sample on iTunes.

Oh, and in addition, they want payments if someone downloads a TV programme or film which features music. Yes, yes, the rights to cover that music would have been bought out at the time the producers make the programme, and so this is being paid twice for the same thing.

Of course, it's greedy, but the songwriting lobby (or, rather, the collections agency) don't think being paid twice for the same work is greedy:

"We make 9.1 cents off a song sale and that means a whole lot of pennies have to add up before it becomes a bunch of money," said Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters' Guild of America. "Yesterday, I received a check for 2 cents. I'm not kidding. People think we're making a fortune off the Web, but it's a tiny amount. We need multiple revenue streams or this isn't going to work."

Rick Carnes isn't kidding that he got a two cent cheque. But you get 9.1 cents for a sale. So - assuming he didn't sell just under one-fifth of a track - he's having quite a bit of his royalties hoovered off during the process of money getting from the seller to the songwriter.

Perhaps the president of the Songwriters' Guild Of America might like to have a word with someone high-up at the Songwriters' Guild Of America about that. He might also like to have a little chat with the people sending out the cheques as to why they'd do something so stupid as to send out a two cent cheque - does nobody really have the wit to only trigger a payment when there's enough money to make it worth sending? If songwriters are struggling, part of the reason seems to be an insane approach to the administration of royalties.