Protect your royalties and protect yourself
Royalties versus buyouts. Yawn. Can’t we just skip to the part where I get to write cool music and hear it on TV? Anything you can pay me would be great!
So says every composer (myself included) when first entering into the world of writing music for TV and film. And what a world it is. In the United Kingdom alone, the TV industry was worth a staggering £16.18 billion in 2018 (source: Statista). As you’d expect, it’s a highly competitive place in which to work where people will sell their grandmother for a seat at the table (or was that just me?)
If you are lucky to sit in that seat you will feel like the winner you are – people will tell you you’re great, you get to make music that will be beamed (or streamed) into households across the country and perhaps across the world and your mum will be proud as punch. Money will appear in your bank account like rains after a desert drought and the flower of comfort will bloom as you can pay your rent/mortgage and buy that shiny new synth.
Fast forward 10 years. The show you poured your heart and soul into scoring is still being aired and watched but you are struggling. Work is hard to come by and money once again is tight. What went wrong??
Perhaps you should have insisted on keeping your royalties.
In my years working as a composer I have had to accept buyouts. I’m only glad that they were few and far between. My royalties on the other hand arrive dutifully each year and sustain myself and my family completely. I see that tracks I wrote when I still had hair are still earning for me. It’s a miracle that I am forever grateful for, built on the struggles and campaigns of composers who died over a hundred years ago, some in complete poverty through no fault of their own.
There is a reason royalties exist. Since the Middle Ages, writers have realised that they are the fairest way for everyone to earn from what has been written. This has not changed. Protect your royalties and protect yourself.
The Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union are campaigning for royalties and against buyouts. Find out about the Composers Against Buyouts campaign, read and share the Fair Commissioning for Screen Manifesto, read our guide to buyouts for media composers and watch our animation introducing new composers to buyouts.
Mat is a media composer and songwriter. He’s on the Media Committee, EDI Steering Group and is Chair of Media Composer Diversity Working Group at The Ivors Academy. Mat is also on the Commercial Advisory Group and Production Music Advisory Group at PRS for Music.
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