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Whitey hits out at media firms playing the “we have no budget for music” card

By | Published on Thursday 7 November 2013


Electro maker Whitey yesterday kick-started a debate online about the use of music by TV and media companies, which, he reckons, are too prone to claim that they don’t have a budget for music, even while they are making serious money from their output, and even though modern TV shows rely ever more on their soundtracks.

Chatter began after the producer posted a screengrab of an email he had sent to TV production firm Betty, which had seemingly requested to use one of his tracks, ‘Stay On The Outside’, in a new reality show that is in development. Whitey says that in an approach to him about using his track, a rep for the TV firm had claimed that “unfortunately there’s no budget for music”. The implication being that the company wanted to use the track for free.

Given that Betty is actually a very successful and profitable independent TV producer, apparently working for the BBC on this latest project, this angered Whitey, who pointed out “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”.

Whitey says that the letter from Betty is by no means the first to request to use his music while pleading poverty on the budget front, though it was the one that made him go public about the issue. He told CMU: “Once I’d Googled the production company and seen the scale of their success, I wrote my reply quickly [a resolute “no”], sent it and posted it up”.

He added: “What we have here are perfectly solvent companies who have smelled the file-sharing buffet, and muscled up to the table to grab a plate. Well they were not invited, and I refuse to feed them any more. I suggest we all do the same. If it is of value to their company, or to their client, then it is clearly of financial value. And that’s that”.

For its part, Betty insists that there has been a miscommunication here, and that its representative was never suggesting that Whitey would go unpaid if it used his track. UK television programmes can actually licence songs and recordings for sync via the collective licensing system, and Betty says that Whitey would have received payment via PPL and PRS (for recording and publishing rights respectively) if it used his work.

A spokesman told CMU: “We use the collective licensing system through which we gain access to music in a way which ensures both the recording artist and composer are paid. We apologise for any confusion and we have contacted the artist to clarify this. We would never use music without permission and going through the proper procedures”.

Whatever the specifics of this particular spat, the response to Whitey’s post yesterday amongst the creative community – and beyond just the music space – again demonstrates that creators are increasingly angry about big companies trying to tap their skills and content for free. Of course “we’re on a tight budget” and “think of the promotional benefit” are standard negotiating tactics when any deal is done with a creative, though richer brands and media operators may find an ever increasing backlash to those lines in the future.

You can read Whitey’s letter and the resulting debate on his Facebook page here.