By Chris Lindahl, Indie Wire | A group backed by 6,800 composers launched a social media campaign this week against a plan by Discovery Networks that composers say would cut their income by up to 90% percent. The cable network owner wants to eliminate the vast majority of royalties paid to the people who create music for shows like “Deadliest Catch” by instituting a pay policy that goes against longstanding industry practice, according to the group.
Discovery, which airs some 8,000 hours of original programming annually on Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, HGTV, Food Network, and other channels across the globe, has traditionally followed a century-old model where composers are paid an initial work-for-hire fee to compose original music and can collect royalties after shows air through performance-rights societies ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
US royalty payments typically make up a majority of a TV composer’s income. Your Music Your Future, organizer of the campaign against Discovery’s plan, offers this example of income for a successful composer working in TV over a 10-year period: $500,000 from initial fees, $1.2 million from US royalties, and $280,000 from foreign royalties.
Beginning December 31, Discovery is moving to direct source licenses, which would mean composers would no longer collect US royalties for all future and past work — they would only collect upfront fees and foreign royalties. If they don’t take the deal, Discovery plans to strip the composers’ music out of existing shows, according to Your Music Your Future.
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“This 90% drop of income will not only affect composers. It will dramatically affect the income of musicians, recording engineers, studios and affect the purchase of music gear, music and sample software, etc.,” he [Michael Giacchino] wrote. “There will be a big ‘downstream’ effect.”
Giacchino is a longtime collaborator with J.J. Abrams, beginning with “Alias.” Abrams has long held that music is a crucial part to his work — in 2006 when Giacchino was conducting an orchestra recording the score of Abrams’ “Mission: Impossible III,” the New York Times reported that the filmmaker told the musicians that growing up he felt “movie music was always 51 percent of the movie.”
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