If you’re a composer, your lifeblood is the back-end performance royalties you receive when your music is aired on a television show. At one time you could expect a nice up front fee for your services as well, but those days are now mostly in the past. Now thanks to new policies put forth by both Discovery Network and Netflix, those performance royalties are now in jeopardy as well.
Discovery, which airs popular programs like Deadliest Catch and Alaskan Bush People, recently informed some of its composers that they must give up their performance royalties starting in 2020 in order to continue working for the network. To make it even worse, Discovery also demands that they sign away their ability to collect royalties on all past shows on its networks too.
Netflix isn’t being quite as onerous, but it’s new policy states that the composer’s music rights will now be on a buy-out basis, meaning that the composer will not be able to collect performance royalties as well.
This is obviously a way for these networks to cut costs, but it also sets a dangerous precedent that other networks could soon follow. If this practice should spread industry-wide, actors, voice-over talent, and others that receive performance royalties and residuals could be next.
Even though many claim we now live in the golden age of television thanks to the many networks producing quality programming, the control is tilted more in favor of the network than ever before when it comes to payment. Even producers, who traditionally were able to keep ownership of the shows they create, have seen their position erode. The network continues to consolidate power.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that the best producers these days are television composers, as they produce far product than the typical music producer and therefore are much better at it. That status may be in jeopardy however, as many could soon find themselves out of work, or working for far less than they deserve, if these industry practices prevail.