Go Ahead, Use My Music

By Deane Barker on April 24, 2007

Does the public’s ability to buy a single song immediately via iTunes or whatever make it easier to clear the rights to use songs in media?

On last week’s Saturday Night Live, there was a funny Digital Short that parodied the final episode of Season 2 of The O.C. (video of The O.C. scene). In it, people were getting shot in overly melodramatic scenes accompanied by some haunting music by Imogen Heap. I really liked the song, so I looked it up, and I was talking to Chris about it in the office last Monday.

Chris liked the song too, so he bought it on iTunes. I thought this was interesting, because I don’t think Chris would have done this if he had to (1) buy the entire album, or (2) go out and search Best Buy for it. But since he could buy the single song from the comfort of his chair, he did.

Do songwriters consider this when deciding whether or not to allow the rights to their music? If I’m Imogen Heap and SNL comes to me wanting to clear the rights to “Hide and Seek” for the show, do I consider that I’m likely to sell a lot of that song immediately on iTunes rather than having to wait for the delayed gratification of increased general exposure and perhaps a few extra retail album sales if iTunes didn’t exist?

Put another any: the strength and immediacy of a “bounce” is greatly enhanced by the fact that iTunes exists. Does this make me more willing to clear my music?

I say yes. If I’m a songwriter, I’d be giving SNL free rights to the song because I know that business has changed to the point where I’m going to see a lot more sales, a lot sooner. Thoughts?