Musicians say Enough is Enough for being asked to work for Free: One mans strongly worded refusal goes viral on social media
A Familiar refrain: “They consistently offer musicians nothing for their work, instead suggesting ‘exposure’ as a form of payment.”
The issue of for profit companies trying to increase their profit margin by refusing to pay creative artists for their work has once again gone viral, creating a debate which has metastasized on social media. Today it is by musicians. The similarities to the debate and discussion sparked in march of this year on the issue of writers and journalists facing the same problem are almost identical. See http://natethayer.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-freelance-journalist-2013/
Whitey, aka Nathan Joseph White, a musician from London, is the latest creative artist to put his foot down and publicly confront for profit companies asking to use his work, but refusing to pay him for it. The latest request by a major corporation to do just that prompted him to write a strongly worded, resounding no, and then post the message on both his FB page and twitter.
“I want a loud dialogue started in the music press about this shit. I’m sick of these people. I propose a collective blacklist of companies that play this shabby angle, enough. I donate music all the time to indie projects, students and those who need it but cannot pay. But these people… ugh,” Whitey wrote on his Facebook page today
“This approach is becoming standard, I see an epidemic of these cheap manouevres. The income of musicians has already been decimated by file sharing- and smelling the blood in the water, there is a cynical trend for companies to play upon that struggle for survival. They consistently offer musicians nothing for their work, instead suggesting ‘exposure’ as a form of payment. Well ‘exposure’ only worked when the masses actually bought music, or if it is attached to a prominent cultural event. This kind of exposure… might as well pay me in Monopoly money,” he wrote on his FaceBook page.
In 2004, Whitey released The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train which was lauded as a critical triumph, recognized on numerous Best Of Year lists worldwide. In 2007, his album Great Shakes was leaked onto the internet, and as a consequence was never officially released, resulting in Whitey losing several mainstream licencing deals. Whitey’s work has been featured on Grand Theft Auto IV and on episodes of The Sopranos, House, One Tree Hill, The O.C, Kyle XY, Entourage, Breaking Bad, and CSI.
In May 2012, Whitey condemned”….ludicrously one-sided offers, arrogant A&Rs and hammering on closed doors”.
In December 2012, Whitey successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his seventh album as well as making physical releases on CD and vinyl available for all his back catalogue.
Yesterday, Whitey rejected a Betty TV request to licence his music for free and reposted the email online to begin ‘a public discussion… about this kind of industry abuse of musicians.’ The post has gone viral.
British musician Whitey has had it with being asked to donate his music for free to big for profit companies. After the latest email from British company Betty TV, Whitey, aka NJ White, responded. Here is his letter, which has now had thousands of retweets on Twitter and thousands more on FB. The beat goes on……..:
“I am sick to death of your hollow schtick, of the inevitable line “unfortunately there’s no budget for music”, as if some fixed Law Of The Universe handed you down a sad but immutable financial verdict preventing you from budgeting to pay for music. Your company set out the budget. so you have chosen to allocate no money for music. I get begging letters like this every week – from a booming, affluent global media industry.
Why is this? Let’s look at who we both are.
I am a professional musician, who lives from his music. It me half a lifetime to learn the skills, years to claw my way up the structure, to the point where a stranger like you will write to me. This music is my hard-earned property. I;ve licensed music to some of the biggest shows, brands, games and TV production companies on Earth; form Breaking Bad to the Sopranos, from Coca Cola to Visa, HBO to Rock star Games.
Ask yourself – would you approach a Creative or a Director with a resume like that – and in one flippant sentence ask them to work for nothing? Of course not. Because your industry has a precedent of paying these people, of valuing their work.
Or would you walk into someone’s home, eat from their bowl, and walk out smiling, saying “So sorry, I’ve no budget for food”? Of course you would not. Because, culturally, we classify that as theft.
Yet the culturally ingrained disdain for the musician that riddles your profession, leads you to fleece the music angle whenever possible. You will without question pay everyone connected to a shoot – from the caterer to the grip to the extra- even the cleaner who mopped your set and scrubbed the toilets after the shoot will get paid. The musician? Give him nothing.
Now lets look at you. A quick glance at your website reveals a variety of well-known, internationally syndicated reality programmes, You are a successful, financially solvent and globally recognised company with a string of hit shows. Working on multiple series in close co-operation with Channel 4, from a West London office, with a string of awards under your belt. You have real money, to pretend otherwise is an insult.
Yet you send me this shabby request – give me your property for free… Just give us what you own, we want it.
The answer is a resounding, and permanent NO.
I will now post this on my sites, forward this to several key online music sources and blogs, encourage people to re-blog this. I want to see a public discussion begin about this kind of industry abuse of musicians… this was one email too far for me. Enough. I’m sick of you.”
Here is the email on Whitey’s Facebook page.
As I did with a request by the Atlantic Magazine in March this year, in an almost blueprint equivalent of his case, Whitey makes clear he does not object to playing music for free. He told DangerousMinds.net today
I don’t want payment for everything. I don’t even care that much about money, I give away my music all the time. You and I live in a society where file sharing is the norm. I’m fine with that.
But i don’t give my music away to large, affluent companies who wish to use it to make themselves more money. Who can afford to pay, but who smell the file sharing buffet and want to grab themselves a free plate. That is a different scenario.