Why TV Musicians Get NOTHING for Streaming Content

YouTube video

Today we’re talking to my friend Ian Hendrickson Smith. He’s a great saxophone player who works on the tonight show with Jimmy Fallon playing with the Roots. You can watch the full video above to hear what Ian has to say.

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Here’s a clip you’ve probably seen…

YouTube video

60 million monetized views on YouTube alone and counting.

And yes, the musicians featured in that video get 0% of the millions of dollars generated in ad revenue on streaming platforms.

Right now the musicians who work on TV shows like the Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Stephen Colbert, and the Grammys are trying to negotiate a fair contract with the networks like ABC, NBC and CBS.

As it stands they are paid only for their live performance and the residuals from the network broadcast. But if you’re watching this video right now on YouTube… You are aware that that TV broadcasts are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

So this has been going on for a while.

An Open Letter to the Networks

In an , the TV musicians have outlined the conspicuous disparities. Particularly, between their contracts and the contracts of the writers, actors and producers.

This info graphic sums things up pretty well.

In addition to getting paid far less and not receiving the same health care benefits, the TV musicians haven’t had a raise in the past 4 years. Meanwhile, other guilds have been getting yearly pay increases.

Why would the networks offer a fair contract to the actors, writers and producers, yet insist that the musicians don’t deserve any income at all from the 10s of millions of dollars their content helps generate in ad revenue on streaming platforms?

In the video I mentioned just a few examples of literally billions of monetized views. This means they have paid advertising or subscribers paying for access outside of the network broadcast. Surely all the performers and content creators involved are entitled to some piece of that revenue. Why should the percentage for steaming be lower or zero as it is right now for musicians?

I’m not doing any union gigs these days. But when I lived in New York, I did them on a regular basis.

Nobody asked me to make this video. I saw posts about this issue in social media feeds of some of my saxophone playing colleagues and friends. So, I thought I could help get the word out since I think most people would be shocked to find out that you could be working one of the most coveted musical performance jobs in the world. Yet, you could still not qualify for health benefits or receive any residuals from streaming revenue.

The only way this is going to change is if the networks agree to a fair contract for the musicians. As you know public opinion has a huge influence on the behavior of these media companies.

How can I help TV Musicians get a fair deal?

You can do to help spread the word by sharing this video on your own social media accounts.

Personally, I’m writing to NBC to ask them why they think the musicians in their streaming content don’t deserve any compensation from ad revenue.

Leave comments on their YouTube videos, Instagram and Facebook posts. You can share the open letter link that I put in the description of this video, and say “I support the musicians who perform in this content I’m watching and want them to get their fair share of the ad revenue generated by my clicks.” You can also add the hashtag #respectus

Encourage some other music YouTubers like Rick Beato and Adam Neely to make a video on this topic as they will certainly reach a much wider audience than me.

No matter what job you do, you should always be negotiating for pay increases. If you don’t you’ll just get paid less and less over time.

Final Thoughts

In my 25 year career as a professional musician I have seen pay go down pretty much across the board. Some gigs I used to do 20 years ago are still paying the same dollar amount or less today. So while the cost of a drink in that bar I played at in 1996 may be 50 – 60 % more today, the musicians pay, if they even still work there, has not increased along with inflation and the cost of living.

Right now media is going through a transformative change. Musicians desperately need to negotiate for their fair share if we want music to continue to exist as a viable profession.

These days public support on social media platforms carries a lot of weight. I hope this video can help raise awareness and build momentum for musicians’ fight for fair compensation.

Looking for more on being a professional musician? Check out “How to Get Called Back for Gigs.”

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube. That way, you can stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks.

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Jeff says:

Hi Jay,
I’m unable to view the attached video and get a pop-up message stating “Video Unavailable – This video is restricted. Try signing in with a G Suite Account”. The “signing in” to G Suite currently requires a G Suite admin account…which I was unable to create with the instructions that I found. To the untrained eye, it seems as though Youtube does not want its users viewing this video.

See you on the Better Sax Members Forum!
Jeff B.

Jay Metcalf says:

Jeff, that is odd. Those are just embedded YouTube videos. What was really weird is that when I published this video. YouTube did not send out notifications to my subscribers who have chosen to receive them. So as a result, this video has far fewer views than I typically receive. I hate to speculate about these things, but it is suspicious given the subject matter. Probably just a glitch though…

Joel Pierson says:

The most outrageous part of the story is learning to play music and reaching the accomplishment level required to play TV gigs is by far more difficult than acting and writing.



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