Steve Albini Explains Why Royalties Don't Make Sense
from the get-paid-for-your-work dept
"Royalties are a means to pay producers in the future -- and in perpetuity -- based on record sales," said Albini, who is also a music journalist. "If a band does a show, blows a whole bunch of minds and a bunch of people become fans and go out and buy millions of records, the producer gets paid. I think that's ethically unsustainable.I'm guessing that we'll get a fair amount of disagreement in the comments, but I think it's a point worth considering. So many creative industries get really hung up on royalties and collective licensing and other aspects -- when those are basically lottery tickets, relying very much on what other people do, not on the work you actually do. And it leads to this entitlement mentality that we see all the time, where certain content creators feel they need to get paid every time their content is used -- even if they didn't do any additional work on it. This is what all the ongoing legal battles about collective licensing and royalty rates are about. This is what the Hollywood writers' strike from a few years ago were about. They're ongoing attempts to keep getting paid over and over again for one thing you did in the past. Most jobs don't work that way -- and that's the point that Albini is making.
"I don't think you should pay a doctor extra because a patient doesn't die. I think the doctor should be busting his ass for every patient. I don't think I should get paid for someone else's success."
Now, some will argue, of course, that the entertainment industry is "different," because it involves more speculation: no one knows if the content you create will be a hit, so the concept of royalties is a way to deal with that. But that assumes a rather static market, and pays little attention to the entitlement mentality that it creates. If you have a hit, charge more for future work -- rather than focusing so much on getting paid over and over and over again just for that one piece of work you did in the past.