The new rules of music licensing
Richard Melville Hall, a.k.a. Moby, is one of the most important dance music figures of the early '90s, helping bring the music to a mainstream audience both in England and in America.
Born in Harlem, New York in 1965, and raised in Darien, CT, he played in a hardcore punk band called the Vatican Commandos as a teenager before moving to New York City, where he began DJing in dance clubs. During the late '80s, he released a number of singles and EPs before, in 1991, he set the theme from David Lynch's television series Twin Peaks to an insistent, house-derived rhythm and titled the result "Go." The single became a surprise British hit single, climbing into the Top Ten, and was named one of Rolling Stone's top 200 records of all time. Moby, his first full-length album, appeared in 1992. Since then, Moby has recorded eleven studio albums, including his multi-platinum breakthrough Play (1999), 18 (2002), Hotel (2005), Go: The Very Best of Moby (2006) and Last Night (2008).
In addition to his musical endeavors, Moby is the proprietor of teany cafe and teas. He is also a well-known advocate for a variety of progressive causes, working with MoveOn.org and PETA, among others. He actively engages in nonpartisan activism.
Topic: The News Rules of Music Licensing
Moby: If I were a smart musician, I would have done what the other smart musicians did, which is only license your music in places where they don’t speak English. I mean, all the credible musicians, I don’t want to name names, but they don’t license their music in the UK or the States, they license it in Portugal, or they license it in South Korea or Japan, and that way the tastemakers, you know, the music journalists never hear about it. But it is a strange phenomenon because, I mean, I have been criticized for licensing my music to commercials, but it is odd for a few reasons. One, that most of the journalists who criticize me, write for publications that are wholly funded by ad revenues, so there will be an article criticizing me for liscensing my music to commercials, and on the next page, an ad for Ford or Budweiser or what have you, and the same journalists or people who criticize me for licensing my music, actually buy the products that are being advertised. And I don’t know, I maybe feel the punk rocker in me, I always thought it was cooler to take money from a big corporation than to give money to a big corporation. So I have regrets that I did too much licensing, and I should have, as I said, been smart and done what everyone else does, only license in South Korea and Japan.
when “Play” came out, at first it didn’t have any success, you know, the reviews were not very good, it didn’t sell very well, and then it sort of picked up momentum and became a successful record. So at first the only way I had to make people aware of the music was by licensing to movies, TV shows, advertisements, so we did a lot of it. In hindsight, I think I did too much of it. There is another ironic aspect of it which is that at the time people in the music business, be they musicians or record executives, keep scoring on me for doing this, and now those same record executives are all working at licensing companies or they are working at record labels where they are desperate to license anything. And a lot of the musicians who also criticized me are now bending over backwards and prostrating themselves trying to get their music licensed. So I think that, unfortunately, I don’t mean this in a positive way, I was sort of the avant-garde of licensing, you know, I was like the shock troop of licensing, so as a result I got killed first. So now everyone does it and no one is really criticized for it. But, yes, in hindsight, I definitely did way too much of it.
the only reason I got involved in the music business was because I love music and I want to make music, and selfishly, I would like people to hear the music that I make. I’m not too concerned with the commercial ramifications of producing music and putting it out into the world. If people want to buy my music, fine; if they don’t want to, that’s fine with me, too. Again, my only interest in the commercial side of the music business is to try and get people to hear the music that I have made. So I don’t look at the music business and think how can I make a lot of money from it; I look at it and I think how can I strategically try and get people to hear the music that I have made. So when I look at the fact that the record companies are falling apart and revenue streams are drying up, and royalties are a tenth what they used to be for a lot of people, it doesn’t concern me from some sort of fiduciary perspective, it only concerns me from a musician’s perspective, where I just hope that in the future I am able to make music that people will be willing to listen to.
Recorded on: 6/16/08
Moby regrets not licensing his music to the non-English world.
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