Intellectual property, creations of the mind: these are what Performing Rights Organizations are charged with protecting. When artists are represented by licensing companies, they are entitled to compensation each time one of their songs is performed. Anywhere. On television, in movies, on the radio, online, and even in the bar down the street or the restaurant on the corner. This is fair, it’s right, it’s good for the artists. Right?
TechRadar’s Gary Marshall points out, “PRS [Performing Rights Societies] For Music represents songwriters and composers, not major record labels, and for many artists they’re the only source of income. If U2 covers an obscure indie band’s song or Radio 1 plays it, PRS For Music ensures the songwriter gets paid.” Everyone can agree that’s as it should be, right? But do music licensing companies go too far? Many would argue that the over-regularization and charge-for-everything attitude are actually detrimental for some artists.
Music in movies, TV shows, videos, radio broadcasts, and other mediums serves several purposes. Besides helping creating mood and prop up the story, it also gives invaluable exposure to artists. An example: The Knifings, a Toronto band, are not a household name by any means, but that is changing as one of their pieces has made it to the hit show, Entourage. Another: Young Galaxy, another unknown band, made it onto the Lifetime show, Army Wives. Leader Stephen Ramsay said there were far more people checking their website and “sending emails saying, “I’d never heard of you, now I’ve just bought your record.”
And that’s the point. We hear something we like, and we want to buy it. But the constant hounding from PROs can make it difficult for some bands to be heard in this way – and that is the way they get the most exposure, and by extension, the most money. Massive Attack thought they hit it big when their song, “Teardrop,” was chosen as the theme song for House.
Huge exposure potential – but the show yanked the song in every country but the US because of licensing issues. They could not get it licensed (with reasonable fees, presumably) in the other countries, so they opted to produce their own piece entitled simply “House.” This is a blow for Massive Attack, especially considering that they are British. They are not only losing the royalties from the song playing each week, they are losing exposure that could boost sales tremendously.
In this case, at least, it seems that the “protection” of the licensing companies is a bit more like a stranglehold.
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