Music license fees have often been thought of as almost immune to the worldwide drop in music and CD sales. While this has sometimes been the case, spending on ads has dropped and so have the music license fees paid to the artists. The music supervisors have taken advantage of this, aquiring music from young hopefuls for very low rates, tapping into the desperation many young acts have to try and get any sort of recognition.
Life for the wanna be rock star is tougher than ever, and the competition is fierce, a song in a big movie could mean the difference between a music career at some level or total obscurity trying to get noticed on iTunes or the Internet like everyone else. Even worse, many music acts resort to the X-Factor style shows to try and make a career, this type of manufactured plastic music that has any and all originality stripped from it to make it totally bland and mainstream so that Mr. Cowell can sell to the masses.
Even if an artist does get a song in a movie, unless it is on Twilight 8 or something similar, they may still have trouble forging a career. Who are the band that did the friends theme tune again? Many artists also find they have to resort to putting their music on the “trailer park” music websites that will accept any old music you submit to them, devaluing and diluting their precious brand and lowering the music license fees they eventually receive.
The license fees are shrinking, have no doubt about that, the large number of small acts trying to get in has enabled the studios to drive down the licensing fees, and even if they are lucky enough to get a track placed, they are often victims to a step deal, where they get a tiny or no fee whatsoever upfront, with the promise of money once the film gets released on DVD, but many times the fees are difficult to track and the artist is the one who gets shafted.
The networks are now also making deals with big name artists for music for multiple shows, making the opportunities and money for the no-name artist even less. They are also working exclusively with certain music production companies for a buyout fee, so there is no royalties to pay to the artists who produced the music.
Things are not all bad though, there is still money to be made in music licensing, but you need a huge catalog of quality cues out there, you are not likely to make a living out of one piece of license music.