Television production company Betty may have got more than they bargained for when they attempted to convince independent musician Whitey to let them use his music for free on one of their shows.

London-based musician Nathan White, or Whitey, has always been vehemently independent, funding his most recent album through Kickstarter to avoid the need for a label. He has licensed his music to some of the most important television shows of the last decade from The Sopranos to Breaking Bad, with those revenue streams important very important to a musician without the cushion of a label behind him. He was then rather less than impressed when Betty, a production company owned by the multi-billion dollar media giant Discovery Communications, asked for permission to use his music for free.

Since this has all gone viral, Betty has claimed that the whole not paying part was a misunderstanding and apologised for the confusion, with the request covered by standard PPL licenses. However, the track they wanted to use, Stay On The Outside, is not registered with PPL and so that is simply not the case.

Here is the email from Betty:

Thanks for emailing me, I have emailed your label but not heard back yet so thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately we don’t have any budget for music but would be great if we could use the track but it is up to you, but would appreciate anything you could do?

And here is Whitey’s reply:

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, allfuent global media industry.

Why is this? Let’s look at who we both are.

I am a professional musician, who lives form 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 Rockstar 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.

This practice is far too common.


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1 Comment

  1. Uppror Magazine on

    Entertainment industry executives expecting an independent musician to license their music for free – I bet those same executives are the first to complain when people pirate their work. The sheer hypocrisy of many inside the entertainment industry is astounding. They are bigger parasites than any ‘pirate’ illegally downloading a movie or TV show.