So I just got my second email in less than a year from Music Licensing service Pump Audio, explaining that the fees (or in this case, percentage of master recording licensing) is increasing. Hilariously, one of the reasons they give for the increase is “the need to support 400+ Getty Images Sales & Support Staff”.
Let’s take a jump back in time -In 2006, Pump Audio were an innovative service who worked with artists of all stripes, taking your music and finding placements for the music in film, tv, advertising and digital media. They’d take 50% of any deal done (of the master side) and 50% of the publishers share of publishing royalties. Not a great deal, but not terrible, either. And as other players began to emerge in the space (Rumblefish, MuSync), this was pretty much the standard.
But in 2008, Getty Images bought Pump Audio. And that’s when the emails started coming in.
The “percentage of sales” model was, and still is, a popular model for these kinds of services. Indeed, distribution (both physical and digital), rely on it. But the real question is not “what percentage are you taking” but “what are you providing for that percentage?”
Where is the value-add that the company gives you and is it WORTH that percentage? When they tell you about their value add (e.g. marketing services, pitching to music supes or in Pump’s case “improvements in marketing technology” (huh?)), where is their track record for music like yours? And more importantly, for all the hoops you’ll be jumping through to sign up, will you simply get lost in the massive soup of music that exists on the services servers?
Reminds me of a quote by Ian Rogers:
“Any of us, myself included, that are not either the artist or the fan, are just potentially in the way. So it’s on us to provide value. To provide real value. And that’s fine with me. I’m very happy to say, OK, my company has to provide real value. My company is not about lock-in. It’s not about me owning your masters. It’s about me providing value to you, and if I can’t, well, then I should get the hell out of the way. So I really encourage you, when thinking about the music business, to think about marginal profitability for artists first and foremost, and to think about the companies that enable that, and to forget about the ones that don’t.”
So: would you, or have you, signed up and worked with companies like Pump Audio? What’s your experience? What could make them better for you, as an artist or label?