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Commercial Composers: What are you making?
Old 30th April 2015
  #1
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Question Commercial Composers: What are you making?

I've recently been getting a lot of "big name" commercials (soda pop, department stores, dolls) that are all household names. But my take is usually about 3 - 4k. This seems kind of low to me. What's everybody out there making on a 60 second national spot on average?

Also, they usually ask me to sign the music over BEFORE I know my take. What gives?
Old 30th April 2015
  #2
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Whilst I didn't land them, the fees I've seen are from £1k to £5k for 60 seconds. Also sat in on a session with a member here who was working on something for a £12k fee.

I recently licensed a track for web commercial for 3 figures though. I think the company are going under though. Depressing.
Old 30th April 2015
  #3
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I've done em for 600 quid all the way up to 70k. Averages around 12k here.... but I tend to get approached for live playing stuff so that might be why.
Old 30th April 2015
  #4
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I have a smaller national brand spot coming up. :30 spot with about :15 of gospel music. 8 person choir, keys, guitar, bass, drums. About $6k inclusive. I play bass, guitar & keys so I have that in my back pocket. The singers & drums will come out of the package rate - non-union singers. We don't have an AFM presence here. I retain writer's share. Publishing & master recording ownership to the client.

When you guys do national stuff are you still doing 13 week "buys" based off the union backend model? Or year long license? Or perpetual? Most of my commercial work is statewide or deep south regional rather than national.

Best,
Sam
Old 30th April 2015
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunshy View Post
I've recently been getting a lot of "big name" commercials (soda pop, department stores, dolls) that are all household names. But my take is usually about 3 - 4k. This seems kind of low to me. What's everybody out there making on a 60 second national spot on average?

Also, they usually ask me to sign the music over BEFORE I know my take. What gives?
This is a loaded question...because there are a lot of variable that effect the price. If you are doing just ONE 60 second spot... that is different than what I'm used to dealing with. When I work on national ads, its for the entire campaign, which usually includes several different 60 and 30 second edits of the same spot. When doing this, add another zero to your number. And the terms are usually for 6 months on TV (so 2 ad buys), and 1 year on the internet. If they want to keep running the ad after 6 months, they have to come back and renew the license.

But if you were to break it down and try to figure out how much the license is for each specific 60 and 30 that they had cut. it might come out to a figure close to yours.
Old 30th April 2015
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunshy View Post
I've recently been getting a lot of "big name" commercials (soda pop, department stores, dolls) that are all household names. But my take is usually about 3 - 4k. This seems kind of low to me. What's everybody out there making on a 60 second national spot on average?

Also, they usually ask me to sign the music over BEFORE I know my take. What gives?
I've been doing commercials a long time and have never been asked to sign music over before I know the music budget. Never. Rates are all over the map these days and depends on if it is union, buyout, length of buyout etc.

If it is a :60 second spot, that usually is radio unless it is a high profile rollout TV campaign piece or pharmaceutical company, which by law those ads have to spend time on a 'major statement' describing the risks and side effects of their product. Radio these days pays WAY less than TV most of the time. Finally, did the ad agency come directly to you, or are you an independent composer hired by a music house. That makes a huge difference. The music house may 1st be sending out demos and might not know the actual final budget until they are awarded the job...
Old 30th April 2015
  #7
kdm
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I've seen national TV spot fees run from over $100k all the way down to $1500 for major chains/retailers in both instances. The former is far less common (usually only McD campaigns, and the like).
The latter troubles me and is becoming more common. $3k-4k is low for where national advertising should be.
Old 30th April 2015
  #8
007
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Pretty much what most are saying.

There is no one formula that computes the many parameters of a spot to end up with one monetary figure, regardless of product/name and terms.
I've seen surprisingly small broadcast figures for high profile brands and products, just as I've seen high numbers for more modest products web-only spots.
Certainly a bit baffling but that's just how the dice rolls anymore, I get briefs ranging anywhere from $500 to $50k all inclusive.

Composing for a spot and signing it over without knowing what the cash prize is: never

Last edited by 007; 30th April 2015 at 09:48 PM..
Old 1st May 2015
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kdm View Post
The latter troubles me and is becoming more common. $3k-4k is low for where national advertising should be.
Agreed. It's tough in that many composers willingly and often unwittingly devalue our business by accepting top-shelf jobs at these bargain basement rates. What can you do?


____________________________________
https://soundcloud.com/3-onions-music
Old 1st May 2015
  #10
kdm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catsass View Post
Agreed. It's tough in that many composers willingly and often unwittingly devalue our business by accepting top-shelf jobs at these bargain basement rates. What can you do?
It's easier to negotiate a reasonable fee when working direct. But one problem is that many of these high profile projects are bypassing (or "augmenting") their direct contacts and going out to publishers/placement companies as cattle call requests, even for custom/semi-custom scores. And the budget is fixed going to the placement agent who has no interest in negotiating anyway. They are just looking to place it and move on to the next. If they have no one-on-one relationships with their artists/composers, there is no motivation to do more than send out a call for music and wait for responses.

I've had this discussion with some of them advising that building relationships is the only way we (composers and artists) will survive, and the only way rates remain reasonable. As long as there are dozens of placement reps wholesaling these gigs, competing with each other by building larger and larger rosters of artist/composer contacts, rates will continue to plummet.

And this model also leaves plenty of room for skimming along the way down to us...
Old 1st May 2015
  #11
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Well, I'd love to call BBDO directly and say "Hey, I'm the guy that's been writing all these commercials for you so feel free to call me direct next time OK?...OK?...Hello?" But I'm guessing it doesn't work that way. While I agree that 3k is low for a national commercial, the trade off is that I'm getting a few hundred dollars demo fee for every spot I turn in. That plus taking the diminishing budgets on pretty much every aspect of the music/entertainment industry...
Old 1st May 2015
  #12
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You're working for/through a music house a la HUM, Stimmung, Elias, etc. You should expect to be paid about 25% or less of the total budget.

Had a friend that worked for one of these companies. They would string him along, just like you are saying, tell him the creative fee after the music was done/accepted, etc. Well, he was getting pretty sick of working with them. So, a BIG commercial came up, totally elaborate ad concept based on an over the top stage production. It was all about the music and the call was for pit orchestra, big group of chorus girls, etc. Anyway, he nails the demo and gets the job, which will require quite a bit of additional work- lyrics with the agency, recording the orchestra, and coordinating with a premier chorus line to sing this thing. They start getting pushed right up to the deadline, because they have to film the commercial to the finished music, and you know, the Superbowl is coming up. Oh, yeah, did I not mention this was a Superbowl ad? So, right before it's time to shoot the commercial, my friend says to the music house, oh, we need to discuss my fee. They said, don't worry, dude, we'll take care of you. Thing is, he got to know the "dudes" at the agency while working on lyrics together and they told him the total music budget was $100K. Armed with this knowledge, he kept pushing the music house to give him a number. They came back feeling generous and offered him $12K (They had been paying him the 3-6K for national spots, like the OP mentioned). He said, actually I'm gonna need 50K, and I'll cover the orchestra (he knew he could get the job done very well for a few grand). They freaked. Being one who knows how to burn bridges with extreme prejudice, he said, $50K or I walk- no money, no contract, you got nothing. He got $50K and never worked for them again.

Fun stuff.
Old 1st May 2015
  #13
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Haha. Some balls. It's a small world. Hope he invests wisely. I've thought about quitting the music biz and when I do, I want to go out like THAT. At least I'm not alone in getting boned. Seems like it's the same at every "jingle house."
Old 2nd May 2015
  #14
Blerg.

I make a big enough percentage of my living from music that I'm comfortable calling myself a professional, but it's stories like that that make me VERY grateful I have other strings to my bow.
Old 26th July 2015
  #15
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It's all over the place... I've only been in this business a few years, but I've done all kinds of ads from Super Bowl commercials to short run web only spots. I can never seem to make sense of how the money side of this industry works. Music houses seem to keep so much for themselves, and often only give you a few grand all in. On top of that they put themselves down on multiple lines of the AFMs, despite having nothing to do with the writing or recording of the track. Is that even legal, when you have written and played everything yourself? I don't know, and it's hard to talk about it without potentially burning bridges. Thankful for the work, but don't want to be taken advantage of. How do you guys deal?
Old 26th July 2015
  #16
How do you guys get these placements? Through libraries? or contacts?
Old 28th July 2015
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ameetnsharma View Post
How do you guys get these placements? Through libraries? or contacts?
long term networking and luck.
Old 24th December 2015
  #18
Here for the gear
Writing for Commercials

The money is all over the place.

1) Fees are pretty good if you work directly with agencies.
2) A ton of money is to be made with residuals.
3) Publishing is a hit or miss. Sometimes good, sometimes not.

I started working full time and found that you had to do a lot of spots to make a very good living. Volume & quality (of work) were the key.
I have scored over a thousand commercials (on air) and only did 5-6 buyouts. Buy outs are bad for a composer's financial health.
The SAG & AFM session pay & residuals are excellent. Also, you earn an excellent pension & health care.

I have worked for production companies & had a big production company myself for 10 years.
You can make more by being the owner, but with that comes increased responsibilities. Can be a burn out.

Great profession for a working musician.

Good luck
Old 26th December 2015
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VitaEtMusica View Post
You're working for/through a music house a la HUM, Stimmung, Elias, etc. You should expect to be paid about 25% or less of the total budget.

Had a friend that worked for one of these companies. They would string him along, just like you are saying, tell him the creative fee after the music was done/accepted, etc. Well, he was getting pretty sick of working with them. So, a BIG commercial came up, totally elaborate ad concept based on an over the top stage production. It was all about the music and the call was for pit orchestra, big group of chorus girls, etc. Anyway, he nails the demo and gets the job, which will require quite a bit of additional work- lyrics with the agency, recording the orchestra, and coordinating with a premier chorus line to sing this thing. They start getting pushed right up to the deadline, because they have to film the commercial to the finished music, and you know, the Superbowl is coming up. Oh, yeah, did I not mention this was a Superbowl ad? So, right before it's time to shoot the commercial, my friend says to the music house, oh, we need to discuss my fee. They said, don't worry, dude, we'll take care of you. Thing is, he got to know the "dudes" at the agency while working on lyrics together and they told him the total music budget was $100K. Armed with this knowledge, he kept pushing the music house to give him a number. They came back feeling generous and offered him $12K (They had been paying him the 3-6K for national spots, like the OP mentioned). He said, actually I'm gonna need 50K, and I'll cover the orchestra (he knew he could get the job done very well for a few grand). They freaked. Being one who knows how to burn bridges with extreme prejudice, he said, $50K or I walk- no money, no contract, you got nothing. He got $50K and never worked for them again.

Fun stuff.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sounds just like it was in the 90s!
Old 26th December 2015
  #20
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My gut reaction... talking money outside of the deal is almost always misleading and should be avoided. But...

Good thread and true stories. Everything I've read aligns with my experience.... give or take. The rates mentioned are what I see... nationals starting around a few thousand and up. A smaller number of those hitting around the $10k mark. I've never seen a white elephant ($100k). Usually at those budgets your competing against stock tracks by AC/DC or other extremely experience and well equipped competition. I've seen A LOT of "opportunities" with very low budgets.... but those aren't usually national 60s.

Also... I never give up publishing unless it's a jingle or something they plan to use as a brand identity. All other background music deals are usually exclusive to this campaign for a term, all media, buyout no residuals.... but after the term, I still own the publishing and can push that into the stockpile. Starting the deal here, I can sell the publishing for a fee.... but that's a separate line-item inside the package breakdown. There's definitely a value that's definable in the publishing rights, and they need to pay extra or understand that value you're willing to include. IMO... never just give it away because someone asked for it. Saw this mentioned earlier.... Curious where you guys stand on the terms and publishing rights.
Old 26th December 2015
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
Curious where you guys stand on the terms and publishing rights.
I've never done a deal with a big agency where it wasn't a work-for-hire and they and/or their client didn't end up owning it outright in perpetuity. But that's part of what they're paying for. Residuals for being a player and singer is a separate deal, of course. There have been a few times when I got a lot more for singing on something than I did for writing it.
Old 26th December 2015
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I've never done a deal with a big agency where it wasn't a work-for-hire and they and/or their client didn't end up owning it outright in perpetuity.
Could you be more specific? Anytime I'm signing real "work for hire" agreement (where you actually sign a WOF doc as required by law), the budgets are $10k and up.

Personally... I've seen some low-end agencies with "everything we do is work for hire" on their PO or as an off-handed comment or part of their signature in an email. Neither of which complies with WOF legal requirements.... These are the spots that I see around $3000, and these are also the one's where I politely ask why they want the publishing. I can't remember a time that the answer wasn't "avoiding reuse fees"

As long as the client is covered without reuse fees... they rarely care about actually owning the publishing rights exclusively for perp. A guarantee in writing that they'll not pay anything else.... that's all they want to achieve unless it's brand ID and jingle work.... in my experience
Old 26th December 2015
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
Could you be more specific? Anytime I'm signing real "work for hire" agreement (where you actually sign a WOF doc as required by law), the budgets are $10k and up.

Personally... I've seen some low-end agencies with "everything we do is work for hire" on their PO or as an off-handed comment or part of their signature in an email. Neither of which complies with WOF legal requirements.... These are the spots that I see around $3000, and these are also the one's where I politely ask why they want the publishing. I can't remember a time that the answer wasn't "avoiding reuse fees"

As long as the client is covered without reuse fees... they rarely care about actually owning the publishing rights exclusively for perp. A guarantee in writing that they'll not pay anything else.... that's all they want to achieve unless it's brand ID and jingle work.... in my experience
Right -- what they mostly want is a guarantee that they won't be hit up for more money later, plus they want to keep their business-affairs chores as minimal as they can.

Most of what I've done has been for bigger agencies, and usually songs/jingles, not underscores or beds or post scores. I've had to sign a couple WOF's, but mostly not. Nevertheless they know and I know that "outright forever" is the understanding, and the relationship is way more important than anything else. That said, when it's a song-type thing, getting on the singers contract is often a good tradeoff.
Old 26th December 2015
  #24
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Interesting... I'm probably losing out big time on the vocal scene. I don't sing and am 95% instrumental beds only.

Last edited by spiderman; 26th December 2015 at 07:01 PM..
Old 27th December 2015
  #25
Gear Nut
 

Just read this thread and foud it very interesting. I'm a drummer but trying to get my foot in the composing door for film / tv and adverts.

I wondered if any of you guys have any asvise for finding out about this work / getting your foot in the door. I'm based in London, but a lot of it seems to be who you know. (Same with the drumming world) but getting to know the right people seems to be almost impossible.

Any advice / people or companies you'd suggest I contact would be very gratefully appreciated.

Here's an example of my first classical composition I wrote which I would love to pitch for the right film. Should you be interested, please listen here:

www.ashhall.mu/composing

I have more stuff but have just got my new site sorted and haven't out anything else up there yet.
If you think I'm wasting my time too and it's really not of standard then I would also appreciate any constructive feed back. As I said, I'm a drummer but a stickler for sad/ meaningful music...

Cheers guys
Ash
Old 27th December 2015
  #26
kdm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
I can't remember a time that the answer wasn't "avoiding reuse fees"

As long as the client is covered without reuse fees... they rarely care about actually owning the publishing rights exclusively for perp. A guarantee in writing that they'll not pay anything else.... that's all they want to achieve unless it's brand ID and jingle work.... in my experience
Exactly the same experience here. Based on the actual legal definition as I understand it, "work for hire" (and "publishing") have been greatly misused and misunderstood in our industry. I have sent a contract back to a client's lawyer with a detailed explanation how reuse fees/perpetual rights is a separate component from publishing rights. The lawyer and client then had no problems altering the agreement. Everyone was happy, and the relationship strengthened as a result.

Most work for hire music production/composition agreements can and should be replaced by other options - such as exclusive use agreements. There is no reason for an "all rights, publishing and copyright transferred to the buyer" agreement in most cases - at least for freelance/independent contractor work.
Old 15th July 2019
  #27
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Hello I want to get started in this field because I usually work only on movies and short films. Any advice on how to get started and find jobs?
Old 16th July 2019
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexLisi View Post
Hello I want to get started in this field because I usually work only on movies and short films. Any advice on how to get started and find jobs?
Get to work.
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