Some of SomethingLet’s face it, we got into music to piss off our parents – not to be experts in business.  Most musicians are terrible business people, and the ones who are great business people are typically not great musicians.  That’s why you see so much bad music making it big – not because people like garbage, but because those artists spend more time on marketing and business than they do practicing their instruments – and they rise to the top.

When a Deal is Bad

At any rate, sometimes a deal is bad and you walk away.  I mean…a record label says they’ll make you famous but sign this horrific contract and give us your first born; you should walk away.  But, when an opportunity presents itself for you to get some exposure, and that opportunity isn’t perfect, but it’s better than not getting the opportunity at all – shut up and take it.

When a Deal Is Not Perfect

Take for example…a documentary filmmaker comes to you and says they would like to use one of your songs in their film.  They have no budget, they cannot pay you, but they are working really hard to get into festivals and they will give you credits on their website and link to yours.  Do you take the deal?  Isn’t your music worth something?  I mean, other artists are making money from their music.  Shouldn’t they pay you to license your music?

Why You Can’t Always Get Perfect Terms

Listen, you work hard.  We get it.  You deserve to be compensated for your work.  But there are a few harsh realities.  The first is that not everybody who likes your music and wants to give you an opportunity can afford to pay you.  The second is that your music is risky vs. a good, well known song or artist.  If someone has to pay to license some music, and the cost of doing so is the same whether it’s you or John Mayer – I don’t think I have to tell you whose music is going in the Pepsi commercial.

Look at our service.  earbits is going to provide 100% commercial-free online radio, which is what listeners want.  Providing our music commercial free will be an incentive for listeners to choose our service over that of mainstream online radio stations.  And, we’re going to spend a lot of time and money screening artists so that people can come here and discover new music without having to wade through a bunch of crap.  That process is expensive.  As a result, we cannot afford to pay artists all of the royalties required by SoundExchange.  The cost of doing so is simply too high.  If you want to play on our service, you must agree to forfeit these royalties.  Otherwise, if we have to pay the same royalties to use your music or John Mayer’s, guess who gets the airtime…

What Do You Get If You Say No?

Most artists have had no problem with our policy.  They get it.  First off, Beyonce made all of $5,000 in royalties last year from online radio and her songs were played a ridiculous amount of times.  Your music is going to get one 1 millionth of the plays she did.  So, when someone comes to you and says, we’re launching a new radio platform and we really want to feature your music, but we cannot afford to pay you royalties, ask yourself, “What do I get if I say no?”

You get nothing.  If you say yes, you get exposure, maybe some music sales, new fans, and other benefits.  If you say no, you get nothing.  The same goes with the documentary opportunity.  What might you get?  A few new fans, some exposure, and you get to help a fellow artist make a good piece of work.  Perhaps when they make their next documentary with a bigger budget they’ll remember your kindness and they’ll license you again, this time for cash.

So Stop Whining and Start Seizing Opportunities

It probably sounds like I just got an email from some band saying they didn’t want to give up their royalties to be featured on our stations and now I’m ranting.  Actually, the urge to write this post comes not from bands telling us that they don’t want to use our service (we’ve actually had an overwhelming response, and Yotam deals with those emails anyway).  It comes from hearing bands all the time complaining about not getting opportunities, and then bitching when one presents itself and it’s not perfect.

So, as you may have guessed, the moral of the story is, Some of Something is Better Than All of Nothing. Unless you are permanently signing away the rights to a song, or otherwise stopping yourself from realizing the full potential of your music in the future, you really ought to take every opportunity you can get.  Don’t like the deal?  Negotiate.  But, remember that your leverage is only as good as your willingness to walk away, and what do you get if you walk away?

That’s right.  Nothing.

Joey Flores
[email protected]
Twitter: @earbits

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