BRUSSELS, Belgium (CelebrityAccess) — PRS for Music Deputy Chairman Simon Darlow took issue with buyout contracts during an event at the 2020 edition of the Creators Conference in Brussels on Monday, claiming they are unfair to creatives.
“The buyout of the mechanical right has become standard practice in the US and the UK. Although there are still companies which will share mechanicals with the composer, buyouts are becoming increasingly common here in Europe.
“More and more, however, we hear of composers also being forced to surrender their performing rights. This is also against a background of shrinking fees, which makes the situation intolerable.”
Buyout rights are a practice in which a producer obtains the full rights for a song from a creative for a one-time fee. However, these buyout rights are often an immutable precondition of the commissioning process, creating an all or nothing situation for music creators.
“Young composers are the most at risk of being exploited, eager as they are to get work and build their careers. The next generation of composers face a bleak future, where they no longer own their rights and their works generate no income for them. To be balanced, however, an upfront payment for rights is not always a bad option for a composer,” Darlow said.
Darlow acknowledged that there are situations were buyout rights make sense based on the specifics of the deal.
“As an example, I’m in the middle of some work for a Middle Eastern TV company where performing rights are barely recognized, so a good fee and the maintenance of all my rights should there be any further international exploitation was the best deal I could do,” he said.
Darlow, who is a songwriter and composer himself, with credits that include songs by Grace Jones and Shirley Bassey, has created music for some of the most popular shows on British TV today including BBC News, the Premier League and Top Gear.
Darlow said he’s never accepted a deal with a complete buyout rights clause.
“For the record, I’ve never done a complete buyout and would not, but in general buyouts devalue the composer’s worth considerably. The key is that it must be the choice of the creator to decide, not for the producers to dictate,” he said.
“It’s the very purpose of copyright, to allow the rights holder the freedom to control the use of their work, their property,” Darlow added.