This is the Proper Way to Say ‘NO’ to Companies That Want Free Work
It has often been said that the rhythmicality of animation has much in common with music. The other, more unfortunate, similarity between the two arts is that the animation artist, like the musician, often has to contend with companies that believe the work they produce has no monetary value.
British indietronica artist Whitey finally had enough of the “there’s no budget for music” shtick after he was approached by the TV production company Betty, who asked to use his music for free in one of their shows. Whitey penned a biting response and promised to share it, which he did on his Facebook page.
The sentiment is not much different from what character designer Stephen Silver has preached to young artists, what writer Harlan Ellison has ranted and raved about, and what we’ve been saying on Cartoon Brew for years. It boils down simply to this: if you operate a company that earns money (and even if you don’t), don’t expect artists to work for free.
Here is the full text of Whitey’s letter to Betty:
Firstly, there is no label- I outright own my material, so I’m not sure who you’ve been emailing.
Secondly, 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.
In followup notes, Whitey clarified his stance on why he sometimes gives away his music for free:
I donate music all the time to indie projects, students and those who need it but cannot pay…I don’t want payment for everything. I don’t even care that much about money, I give away my music all the time. You and I live in a society where filesharing is the norm. I’m fine with that.
But I don’t give my music away to large, affluent companies who wish to use it to make themselves more money. Who can afford to pay, but who smell the filesharing buffet and want to grab themselves a free plate. That is a different scenario.
(Photo via Shutterstock. Story via Dangerous Minds)