The Swedish Film industry deserves praise. Multiple international nominations and awards speaks for itself; Swedish films are considered to be of high quality and have been for quite a while. Often, the directors gets most praise but as most people know, there are many facilitators, stakeholders, and indeed co-creators behind a film.
Among the facilitators and stakeholders we find financiers – where (the state owned) Filminstitutet chips in about a third of an average Swedish film’s production budget, whereas public film funds, producers, public service media and distributors funds around 55%.
Among the co-creators we find ourselves – film score composers. Film music is widely acclaimed as a central part of a films creative footprint, which of course we agree with and constantly remind people of. We are simultaneously aware of our own exposed position – costs for original music are easy targets when film budgets are being revised. Often, we have to lower our fees, and where the saved money goes is quite clear: not to better the films in general, but to enhance the margins of production companies.
As art producers ourselves we can easily understand how ambitious production companies needs to turn every krona, finding creative ways to balance their budgets. However: this balance act has led to a practice that can only be described as mafioso in its way – we call it coerced publishing.
What happens is that several production companies in a criticised American manner demands ”publishing rights” when ordering original music for films and series. This is the result of a new kind of intermediaries, companies run by so called music supervisors. These don’t run any kind of proper publishing operation, but offer themselves to act as publishers so production companies don’t have to deal with ”complex” music publishing. These intermediaries forces the composers to publish their music with them, thus extorting them with a sort of mafia method – ”either you’ll let us handle your publishing rights, or you won’t get the commission” – no matter what the films creators themselves think about handling fellow creatives like this.
That the production companies commission these intermediaries to manage publishing rights is hardly because of ill will but because of ignorance; ”someone” has explained that music publishing is so complex that they need a streamlined partner to not burn through their music budget to quickly.
As composers we know the value of our publishing rights and do not want it to be left to a film company or a agile startup to take care of them for us. We want to be able to chose who gets to publish our rights and in the cases we sell parts of them it has to be our choice and not a demand to get a commission.
At the very base of this debate is a sound attitude towards copyright. To build business on exploitation of publishing rights may work – for a while – but the fact is that these business models are destructive for the film industry as they erodes its credibility when talking about copyright in general. It will be harder for the film industry to influence politicians and collaborate with other industries for broader appeal and potentially bigger margins. It also becomes harder to justify why the public should avoid piracy if the industry itself benefits from extortion of creators by ignoring copyright ownership.
So, what’s the solution?
Swedish film producers needs to introduce a new policy stipulating that Filminstitutet, public service and publicly financed film funds demand the production companies to let music creators always chose their own publisher and type of contract. Only then the stability and growth of the film music sector can be secured and enable composers to create long term business practices. Unlike many other film budget posts the music is integrated part fo the artwork, something all directors, screenwriters, musical directors and film consultants agree with, Now its time for the executives and owners of Filminstitutet, public service and, maybe most importantly: the production companies, to understand this as well.
Our demands for sustained quality in film music are:
1. Music creators can never be forced to signed a publishing deal with a company they themselves didn’t chose.
2. In the cases music supervisors run a publishing business, this company has to follow Musikförläggarnas (the Swedish music publishers) code of conduct. Failure to do so does not only break the code but also competition law.
3. Transparency to the taxpayers, whose taxes cannot subsidise shady businesses that are built on breaking publishing laws and ignoring composers rights.
Peter Adolfsson, Patrik Andrén, Matti Bye, Åsa Carlson, Jon Ekstrand, Fredrik Emilson, Karl Frid, Pär Frid, Ragnar Grippe, Sofia Hallgren, Anders Herrlin, Lisa Holmqvist, Leif Jordansson, Alfons Karabuda, Rebekka Karijord, Thomas Lindahl, Jennie Löfgren, Alexandra Nilsson, Anders Niska, Katharina Nuttall, Anders Nygårds, Örjan Strandberg, Magnus Strömberg, Per Störby Jutbring, Johan Söderqvist, Klas Wahl, Anders Wall och Jean-Paul Wall