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Topic: Royalties: Again ....

  1. #1

    Royalties: Again ....

    Quick question before i contact ASCAP

    How do i report Infommercials??

    Just register the works, and submit cue sheets? Do i need media buy info?

    Hopefully it isnt reported like advertising/commercials ... its so painful, i dont think ill ever do it, unless it is major market network stuff.

    I know that most of the buys are through cable outlets, yet in big markets, are cables surveyed?

    Thanks!!!! So many twist and turns in the royalty world.

  2. #2

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    A fair slice of cable networks are surveyed, and informercial music often shows up in a special ASCAP survey called 'Special Survey For Production Music Libraries' at the local level, which is a random survey of radio stations, tv stations and cable channels (including some local public access channels).

    Register your music as you would a jingle or a theme, just make sure the first line of voice-over copy is included in either the title or the alternate title. If you register the main title as a 'theme' and there is a copy match, you will get paid much more than if you register it as a promo or background music.
    a $120k business degree will get you a job on Wall Street - a $120k Berklee degree will get you a job on Beale Street...

  3. #3

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    I think all you need to do is submit cue sheets. ASCAP doesn't watch shows to look for cues, they just check cue sheets when a show appears in their random samples. The tough part is whether they will spot an infommercial in their sample!

    I have reason to believe that at times, the lazy ASCAP surveyors (they are independant contractors) just check TV Guide listings instead of actually watching some of the stations to see what gets aired. This is bad for infommercials because they usually are not in the TV listings. So you may need to gather some evidence to prove you had more airings than ASCAP will claim.

    Way back when, a friend of mine co-wrote music for most episodes of "The Psychic Friends Network," a series of infommercials with Dionne Warwick. He made hundreds of thousands of dollars from BMI because, as you may recall, they aired the s*** out of those stupid shows. Interestingly, his ASCAP co-writer only collected about a third as much!

    For that reason, my wife belongs to BMI. She "writes" music for shows that I think may skew in BMI's favor. Otherwise, I write them and go through ASCAP as normal.

    Now that I think about it, this friend of mine DID keep track of all the buys and did battle with BMI to get all his money. This is an advantage to BMI because they pay for every airing, while ASCAP merely samples, and can always claim your stuff didn't show up for "random sampling" reasons.

    - Mike Greene

  4. #4

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    One thing I don't quite understand is how you know for sure whatever title shows up in a survey matches with whatever is on the cue sheet. If, for example, you score music for "The Psychic Friends Network", but the survey comes up with something slightly different, like "The Psychic Friends Infomercial" (but it is indeed the same show you scored), is there some mechanism in place that ensures the show will be matched with the appropriate cue sheet?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    I can only speak for ASCAP's situation, but every work is assigned what they call a T-Code...ASCAP-ese for "Title Code."

    Lots of situations can lead to multiple Title Codes for the same show/work. If it showed up on a cue sheet before you added it to your catalog, it could already exist. I have had situations where the same series was coming up under four different T-Codes, and only one was right.

    You are right to be concerned about it. You just need to do a little online checking of your catalog, and some searching to see if the show comes up under different T-Codes. If so, you just call member services, and speak to them about consolidating all of the varying T-Codes to your account.

  6. #6

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    Quote Originally Posted by glennm01
    One thing I don't quite understand is how you know for sure whatever title shows up in a survey matches with whatever is on the cue sheet. If, for example, you score music for "The Psychic Friends Network", but the survey comes up with something slightly different, like "The Psychic Friends Infomercial" (but it is indeed the same show you scored), is there some mechanism in place that ensures the show will be matched with the appropriate cue sheet?
    A legitimate worry. That problem has happened to me before with ASCAP. They're morons. I did a show called "Lifestyles with Robin Leach." ASCAP surveys called it simply "Lifestyles" and came up with no matches.

    Several times, a guy will write "Michael" Greene instead of "Mike" Greene on cue sheets. Even though there is no other Mike or Michael Greene at ASCAP besides me, and even though I list "Michael" Greene as an AKA, ASCAP comes up empty on who this mystery composer could be. They even have a department called "Research" that's in charge of finding puzzling name variations like "Michael Greene" and this crack team of investigators always comes up empty. Really!

    About half the shows I do never show up on my ASCAP statements until I make calls to correct things. Often, the problem is on the production company's end and not ASCAP's. But even then, the people at ASCAP are such a bunch of dunderheads that it takes forever to get a straight answer as to whether or not they have the cue sheets or not.

    That reminds me, it's been about six months since I first complained to ASCAP that I haven't seen any foreign royalties for MaxEx, which I know started airing in almost every foreign market about four years ago. I called a few months ago and they still hadn't figured out what's up, but "We'll call you right away when we do!" Looks like I'd better call again tomorrow.

    - Mike Greene

  7. #7

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    FYI, I have been told by my ASCAP contact that advertisements and infomercials are simply not tracked. Here's the scoop....if you can give them an exact broadcast schedule then they will pay you royalties, otherwise it's unlikely.

    The catch is that many advertising firms consider their time slots to be intellectual property and hence are not very eager to share it with a lowly composer.

    If you're friends with the producer (or even better the client) you have a better shot at getting those air times from the advertising agency.

    Organize them neatly in the ASCAP form as posted on my web site (and ASCAP's) and keep your fingers crossed.

    ASCAP is indeed a bunch of morons who really don't give a ~~~~ about the low guys on the totem pole....however if you're Mike Post or anyone with any sort of major clout they will bend over backwards and Marylin Bergman will personally blow you to make you happy! It's amazing!
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  8. #8

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    That's why I'm not Mike Post: I prefer that she send a surrogate.

  9. #9

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    ASCAP vs BMI is a tough call.

    If you do infomercials, go BMI. Period. If you primarily score shows/programs, go BMI.

    If you score promos/library stuff, go ASCAP.

    Over simplified? Yeah, but the differences are quite complex. Trust me --I've been in and out of meetings with both for ten years, now, and both, when it comes down to it, could care less about composers getting their money.

    At least composers of tv/film music.

    THE FOLLOWING IS REPRINTED FROM PMAMUSIC.COM (an amazing organization -- and anyone who's going to be at NAB this month should join/attend the meeting)


    "30 seconds of your music was on TV last night. How much will you get from ASCAP?

    If your music was a hit song (even from many years ago) and the primary focus of audience attention in a program, congratulations! You’ve hit the ASCAP Jackpot! You’ll get one full credit!

    If your hit song was used as the theme for a TV program, you win again! ASCAP will pay you half a credit. If you wrote an original theme for a TV show, you can also get half a credit, but only if your show is network prime time. Otherwise, you’ll only be getting 35% of a credit. (an increase from 25%).

    If your hit song was used as background music in a film or TV program, congratulations! Not only has your publisher negotiated a lucrative synch license for you, but ASCAP will give you half a credit! If you wrote an original score for a film or TV show, or if your library track was used, too bad - you’ll be getting a mere 8 percent of a credit. (The old formula would have given you only seven percent!)

    If your hit song was used in a commercial or promo,congratu-lations again! Not only will you receive a bucket o’ money for the synch license, but ASCAP will pay you 12 percent of a credit. If you wrote an original jingle or a library track for a commercial or promo, don’t plan on an early retirement. ASCAP will only pay you just 3 percent of a credit. "


    So, why even join ASCAP? Well, believe it or not, even though they pay less than BMI for promos, they manage to catch more of them.

    It's a odd balance.

    Ultimately, there are two things I suggest you remember when choosing a Performance Rights Organization:

    1. If you're writing under another publisher, make sure that publisher is looking out for their composers. A good publisher will have ASCAP's ear and be able to get things done for their composers.

    2. Again, base it on what kind of usage your music gets. Right now, it's about the best way to determine.


    P.S. BRUCEUP, the current Prod Music Library Special Survey does NOT specifically cover infomercials. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen an infomercial pop up in about four years. Network TV (especially TV networks that would carry infomercials) only comprise less than 10% of the "randomly" chosen stations on the survey each quarter. Contact me privately if you need more info. I just finished the most recent one -- and it was pathetic.

  10. #10

    Re: Royalties: Again ....

    Good post, Stew.

    A few trivial quibbles: I'm pretty sure ASCAP (and BMI as well) pay 16% of a credit for background music rather than 8%. I'll bet your source cut it in half to the 8% figure because they also computed writers-only (we wouldn't get the publisher's share.)

    Also, the higher rate ASCAP (not sure about BMI) pays for network themes compared to non-network themes only applies if the show lasts some number (13 maybe?) of episodes. They treat it as a sort of bonus because the theme is contributing to the recognizability of the show (at least that's what they say is the reason.)

    To expand on commercials, I met the guy who wrote the Kit Kat jingle ("Gimme a break . . .") It got used a zillion times, but he said he made very little money (he didn't give me a figure) in PRO royalties. I believe there's no bonus for "visual vocals" for commercials, so he was stuck with the 3% (or whatever low rate) as if they had just used a library track.

    - Mike Greene

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