Buy outs? WTF?

Updated: Dec 20, 2019



TV and Film composers say Netflix and other streaming services insist on buying out their music rights

In late October at a worldwide conference in Budapest, leading composers and songwriters gathered to discuss contentious moves by streaming services and others to up-end the traditional model of how screen composers are compensated for their work.

As most of you know, our income is usually split into two parts. The first part is an initial up-front fee which covers our time to write the score, as well as any production costs including recording and mixing engineers, live players, and other hard costs including equipment costs, computers and sample libraries and other studio costs. The second part is royalties from the public performance or our works administered by APRA and other PRO's worldwide. The challenge is that the up-front fee is rarely a lot of money and is often only just enough to cover the costs of producing the score. With this model, we composers rely upon royalties to serve as our primary income stream; our superannuation if you will!

However, composers contend that some of the streaming services are now insisting on 'buy-outs' where most or all rights are transferred to the company without an increase in the up-front fee that would reflecting the true value to the composer of the loss of those rights.

Buy-outs can mean that for a one-time fee, the composer is entitled to no further fee for re-use of the music across any production or media worldwide in perpetuity, and in some territories may mean the loss of not just the so-called Publisher's share of public performance royalties but also the Writer's share.

(One of the AGSC's bedrock principles is that composers retain their Writer’s share, and where possible to retain your publishing unless adequately compensated for the loss of these or other rights. For more information click here).

Please do read THIS ARTICLE in the Hollywood Reporter detailing all this and more. Advocate strongly for yourselves, and don't forget that AGSC members can contact us for advice.

Please note the following disclaimer: the information provided herein on this website is of a general nature only and NOT to be construed as legal advice  The guild cannot advise you on specific points of your music agreement or on the law more broadly. Any questions relating to a contractual agreement should be directed to a qualified lawyer

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