Authors are being affected by the change in the media market. “There has been a visible decline in author compensation”
Henry is a Nordic composer who has been making music all his life. He is a fourth-generation musician and has performed in over 50 different countries in various line-ups. Professional composer he has been for about 15 years. Having received many kinds of offers during his career, Henry has learned that it is good to be careful when signing a contract.
Henry has composed pieces for symphony orchestras and numerous Nordic television series and films. When Henry composes for a film, his work supports the film’s storyline and atmosphere, making the music an important part of the whole.
Every now and then he has been offered copyright buyouts; contracts that attempt to acquire the copyright for the composition.
“These contracts are often offered in the advertising and game industries. But now they have become increasingly common in the television and film industries as well.”
Henry says that full copyright buyouts are rare. However, there are many different types of contracts that vary greatly in terms of what rights they attempt to acquire. Since Henry has been in the industry for a long time, he always weighs the terms of contract carefully.
“There is a surprising lack of awareness even among those making the offers. Sometimes, even the production companies seem unaware of what can and cannot be done. You really have to be aware of what you are selling.”
Production companies are looking for composers suitable for their productions and contract negotiations could thus be described as a buyer’s market. However, Henry thinks that he as a creator should have the option to decide what amount of rights he is prepared to release.
“It is important to understand that in the end we do have the complete power to decide if we want to sell our work and what it is worth. I believe that in some cases even a buyout deal can work for all parties if the compensation is sufficient.”
As a professional composer, he would like to receive decent remuneration for his works.
“If they are buying out more rights, this should lead to better compensation. I don’t find it difficult to tell the counterparty if they cannot afford a professional composer. As creators, we have no other choice but to hold on to our worth.”
Buyout contracts are clearly increasing in the market, Henry says. That is why he believes that it is important to discuss about the magnitude of the rights being transferred and what would be the right compensation for it.
“I feel it is important to find an agreement that works for both parties most ideally. I have seen clients go to catalogue music just because they cannot afford to pay for International licencing of a domestic tv-program, in which the licensing fee for the whole program would have been less than the cost for the rights to use the music. These kind of examples are clear examples of lose-lose situation and there should be a way to find agreements that work better. For instance percentage deals might work in these cases.
Henry thinks it is time to raise awareness of the different rights, contract models and remuneration on offer to composers. At the moment, Europe is going through a transition from old to new. He is especially concerned about the new emerging composers, starting their career.
“All media and platforms are shifting their focus to new technologies. Once a new generation of composers enters the market, they will define what the new prices will be.”
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