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Out of Synch: Photographers vs The Music Industry

Dove Wedding Photography

The Music Biz vs Photographers: Part I.

In keeping with our commitment to serve up timely topics, we’re launching a series of posts focusing on music licensing for professional photographers. Share your experience and voice your opinion by commenting below!

Over the last few months there has been buzz about photographers and filmmakers getting fined or sued for using unlicensed music on  their websites, slideshows and videos.

There are plenty of forum posts and magazine articles where photographers share their opinions on the matter, but I thought it would be interesting to hear directly from someone inside the music industry. Living in Nashville, it is fairly easy to connect with music business leaders and artists. So, let me introduce you to my friend John Thompson, Director of one of EMI’s publishing departments.

John has been an influential figure in the music industry for over 20 years. He has worked in both the business and artistic sides of the industry and is passionate about helping artists grow and thrive. I recently spoke with John about his views on music licensing. For this post we will concentrate on what value music has to our websites, slideshows and products.

Peter: Why are photographers and videographers expected to go through the work and spend the money on licensing music for their slideshows, websites and videos?

John: If someone did good work and it’s adding value to what you do, then it’s fair to compensate them. If you’re a photographer and you’re taking cool pictures, I could say, “I just want to use the picture for my one little thing, why should I have to pay you for it? You already took the picture. You clearly are a professional and these pictures look really nice so you must be making money and don’t need my little $15-$20 to pay you for that picture.”

It just unravels at some point. You can justify it if it suits your purposes, but I think the rationale that “these people are rich already” or “they are getting exposure from me” doesn’t really hold water.

Peter: Does an artist – and those involved with the artist – not see potentially viral videos and slideshows as free promotion?

John: Very few people are ever going to buy a song because they heard it in a video montage or something. The video creator is probably using the song because certain people (his/her clients) are already fans of that song.

There are a bunch of different levels where we ask, “what kind of value did that song bring to that product?” Is it a tiny value or is it a large value that drives the emotion of the product? So, there is discretion that can be used when setting the price in a fair way and it’s all negotiable. Our job as a publisher is to look out for the songwriters.

As far as considering viral video promotion, in terms of the value equation, it would have to be a pretty compelling argument for someone to say, “I should be allowed to use this song for free because I’m doing the song writer the same favor that they are doing for me.” With some independent, one-off thing, it is difficult to justify how many people will buy the album because of that slideshow or video. Plus, if they can play the video over and over again to hear the song, they don’t need to go buy the song!

If the song wasn’t worth something, you wouldn’t want to use it! If you want to use the song, it must be worth something.

Peter: My questions to you, The Photo Life readers: 

What value does music have for your presentations? Tell us about the emotional value as well as the financial value. 

Do you agree or disagree with anything John said in this interview? Why?

Written by Peter Carlson

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love   working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement. Peter & Whitney run their own studio, Dove Wedding Photography, as well as The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!