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Topic: Performance royalties and publishing deal

  1. #1

    Performance royalties and publishing deal

    Hi everyone,

    I was recently approached to score a 13 part series for a very small cable release. But it is a 13 part series so they hope it will be licensed and integrated into a school curriculum due to the nature of the show content.

    When we got around to discussing the payment they tossed out figure which is not a whole lot but not peanuts either but they expect 5-6 hours of music. They did say they wanted the music as a total buyout. I mentioned that because its a lower upfront fee I wanted a piece of the backend in publishing. They said they needed all the rights so they can market the show and the station needed to have everything totally cleared.

    This strikes me as total BS as I have heard composers say that I should run away from a deal where they try and take royalties from me. I thought they only needed sync and master license to air the show wherever and for as long as they want? Its the classic dangling carrot. I can use the show as a calling card and they have other shows for me to work on if this goes well in the future.... blah blah blah. I have no experience scoring to picture and no credits anywhere, so I'm totally green. I also have to do some music editing as well for this.

    What would be a fair publishing deal in this case if I can persuade them to do so?


  2. #2

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    It is total BS. If your licensing deal includes a provision for them to be able to sell or license the series to anyone else...then their argument does not hold any water.

    Most people (even seasoned producer types) still to this day to not understand music royalties and how they are generated. They think if you as the composer are getting any kind of publishing that it will prohibit them from selling the film, or cause them to have to pay more money down the road. And in the case of royalties from the publishing...since the music royalties are generated from the broadcasters...this is not the case. They try to equate it to SAG royalties or the like where the production company is directly responsible for paying them...not the broadcasters.

    You might try to explain that to them. If your license of the music to them includes a provision that you will still own the music, but you will allow them to sell the film or license the film to anyone they want in the future for all mediums, etc...then all would be ok in terms of their concerns.

    It would be like licensing any other commercial song for their film. Share with them an extreme example...If they put a U2 song in the film...they don't have to own the publishing rights to the U2 song. They own a license to use it under the terms of the agreement. And depending on how great the license agreement is...they will be cleared to use it for DVDs, or broadcast...or whatever.

    Just know that unless the series is being broadcast on television, you will not get publishing or even writer performance royalties on anything on the series. Only on the cable broadcast...not on any classroom usage or curriculum usage/screenings.
    Brian W. Ralston

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  3. #3

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    This is truly a bad deal for you, unless they are paying you up front an acceptable fee.

    It is becoming more and more common for them to ask for buyout, or work for hire for TV or the type of project you are talking about however.

    But again, if they are not compensating you for it then walk away.
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  4. #4

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    Yes I concur with Dubaifox, companies I work for buy me out all the time, but it costs them!
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  5. #5

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    Buyouts/work for hire is commonplace in composition for TV. Nothing there is out of the ordinary at all. Since this is for something on cable especially, you really can't expect much upfront money either.

    The thing is, buyout doesn't preclude you from getting performance royalties, and you owning a greater share of the publishing interest also shouldn't affect their usage of the music.
    Zircon Studios - Original music for media, electronica, sound design, and synthesis.

  6. #6

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    Thanks for the collective wisdom in replying to my post! So from what I understand for them to have total clearance on the music for use with the show to broadcast worldwide or use in selling licenses to the schools,etc... I guess I am granting them a license to use the music in the show in perpetuity (forever). But I'm still unclear on what publishing rights I am keeping and what licenses are a part of those rights and what they need for the show.... I know there is sync, master, distribution, performance, mechanical, print. What is fair for me to keep as a green composer?

    Another thought that occurred to me was that what prevents them from using the music I create for other shows, etc if they own the rights? is there a derivative right?

    The buyout deal isn't that great when you split it over 5-6 months and no doubt 12-14 hour days, it the lowest end of five figures and they also want me to do 50% of the music editing included in that same fee. Does anyone else do their own editing at the same time? They did estimate that I would be doing 5-6 hours of music but they don't have an exact total. Is it common for episodic to not be sure about how much music is needed until they have the shows edited? So I see a lot of red flags here.


  7. #7

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    Quote Originally Posted by dalamar16 View Post
    The buyout deal isn't that great when you split it over 5-6 months and no doubt 12-14 hour days, it the lowest end of five figures
    If I am reading this correctly, are you talking $10,000 - $15,000, for the entire series???

    For 5 - 6 hours of music?!?!

    If that is the case I would walk away and stop wasting your time. Especially if they are not going to give you the writers and publishers share of the copyright.

    If they don't and you sign a contract that says buyout or work for hire, then you are writing the music for them like you would be flipping burgers at McDonald's, except making a whole lot less. A WHOLE LOT LESS!! They can do whatever they want with the music too and you will never see a dime.

    Not sure what they mean by %50 editing.
    Are you just giving them music to edit to, and then they want to come back to you to have you tweak the music so it fits the film better? Is that what you mean?

    Sounds like they are trying to get something for nothing here.
    "International Award Winning Arabic Fusion"

    2xMac Pro 2.66, OS 10.4.9,Pro Tools 7.4.8,Waves Plat,Altiverb
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  8. #8

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    Recently I've been getting offers in the range of $2,500.00 per half hour episode, or $4,000.00 per one hour episode, for scoring cable TV programs.

    Doing the math, 13 half hour episodes should net $32,500.00 and 13 one hour episodes comes to $52,000.00.

    These are the LOWEST offers I'm getting. Many shows pay more. But I thought you'd find this useful as a benchmark.

    Also, in my experience it's not unusual for the scores to be "work for hire". This does NOT, however, mean you give up your broadcast royalties. They own the copyright - but you keep the ASCAP/BMI dollars. Generally, royalties are not paid on video releases (DVD's, etc.) - but can be negotiated for music only releases (CDs, digital download, etc.); essentially if they're selling your music in a context that's different from the film or video you composed it for.

    But as they say - in show business, there's only one rule: Everything is negotiable.

    It's common to be upset or feel like you're getting ripped off when asked for a buyout. But here's the way my lawyer explained it...

    If you think of a TV show or film as a piece of product, in order to market and sell that product - the producers must own it. Potential buyers don't want to be making deals with every individual who participated in the product's creation. It would be like selling a house, then telling a potential buyer, "Oh yeah, somebody else owns the kitchen. If you buy the house, you'll have the right to use it, but you won't own it."

  9. #9

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    About a buyout, you shouldn't position it as though you're asking for some kind of an exception to the rule. Buyouts (or work-for-hires) are standard, and part of the standard deal is that you keep the writer's share, so you can at least see some performance royalty $$ on the broadcast side, which can add up if it's something that will get played to death on a cable net, and then possibly syndicated to their affiliates in other countries. If you're lucky enough to keep the publisher and writer's shares, that's brilliant-- you'll see twice the royalties on the broadcasts. But realize that ultimately that only helps you if there's a lot of earning potential via ASCAP/BMI, or if you plan to release the music on iTunes -- you'd be able to keep all of the $$ you made.

    Just my $.02.


  10. #10

    Re: Performance royalties and publishing deal

    Thanks for the benchmarking and advice about how the buyouts work. This is the sort of info that is hard to come by as a new composer but I know we have all been there.

    Is it common to work into the contract the exact number of minutes of music that will be composed or is more like not to exceed # minutes? I will come back to them and see if I could retain the writer and publisher's share and see what they say. The only saving grace though is that the music is more Philip Glass - like and plays through a scene - just setting the mood rather than hitting everything, so very minimalist. But I have a house to save for and I certainly don't want to waste my earning hours.

    And yes Dubaifox, they want me to do half of the music editing for the series as well ON TOP of the music and all for no extra fee. Right now I'm really considering a pass. This is more for someone who lives at home with his parents and wants a summer project. They want 5-6 episodes by September 1 and then its one episode per month...decisions decisions.

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