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« The Most Underrated Things in a Musician’s Career | Main | MusicThinkTank.com Weekly Recap: Going Nowhere & More »
Monday
Apr152013

Red Bull stole my music! 3 important lessons for indie artists. 

It was towards the end of a long, cold, 2 month tour around Europe promoting my new album, just about to head to Portugal to finish off and enjoy a bit of sun. I got an email from a fan in Switzerland saying something like “Hey, check out this video, it’s pretty cool but the best part is the music ;-)” 

I clicked the link and it lead me to a video on Eurosport/Yahoo Europe. The video was by Red Bull and was of a guy called Daniel Bodin doing an amazing 220ft jump on a snowmobile, from an Olympic ski ramp. The music behind it was my song “What Am I?” from my second album “The Rooftop Recordings.”

I was very flattered that they had used my music and so posted the video on all my social media sites etc. Then I found the same video on Youtube, which had already garnered an impressive 250,000 views and noticed people in the comments asking who the song was by.

Why didn’t they know who the song was by? Well because Red Bull hadn’t mentioned me in the credits, nor in the Youtube description box. I called my publisher and he knew nothing about them using the music and assured me they had not asked for permission.

That’s when it dawned on me…. Red Bull had stolen my music!!! 

I had to do something about this. The video was getting thousands of views a day, had already been up a week and I needed to get some kind of promotion from all this. So I sent a mail to everyone my mailing list asking them for a favour, explaining what had happened. I asked them to go to the YouTube video and leave comments with my name and the name of the song, so at least someone who was interested in the music could find me and/or my albums. 

Well they really came through for me and throughout that day around 25 comments appeared on the  video thread, some very angry that Red Bull hadn’t given me credit nor paid anything. This seemed to work as Red Bull promptly put a link to my album on iTunes and my name in the video description.

This certainly helped things along as that song shot up to being my most played song on Spotify the day after and downloads from iTunes went up a lot too. BUT, just imagine how much promotion I lost from the beginning! Eurosport.. Yahoo… 250,000 YT views! Yes, Red Bull had really screwed me over good and proper. 

My publisher is still in talks with IODA/Orchard about what, if any, legal action to take. They also put in a claim for the YouTube video to be monetised on our behalf… I’m still waiting to see what happens. 
 
You can see the YouTube video here. Feel free to leave comments for Red Bull! ;-) 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gybe0tOyAA8  
 
So what are the lessons to be learned from this little story? 
 
1. Don’t be complacent. It’s easy to think “Aaah that won’t happen to me” and not bother copyrighting your music. Well it could happen to you and it could be a huge multinational company like Red Bull. Get your music copyrighted so you stand a flying chance of doing something about it if it does happen to you… these people have no scruples. 
 
2. Build a loyal fan base and communicate with them. Gone are the days of the aloof rock star. Your fans are your best friends and the more you communicate with them the more they will be inclined to communicate with you. In this case this fan alerted me to something pretty damn important. Reply to their comments and questions of Facebook/Twitter etc, talk to them after shows, take time to be human and forget all that “hard to reach” rock star rubbish. 
 
3. Don’t be afraid to ask your fans for help. This follows on from point 2 in that, once you have a good relationship with your fans then they will be more inclined to help out. Mine attacked Red Bull’s video thread and got me some well needed attention which resulted in downloads, Spotify plays and general attention for my music. 
 
If you can think of any more important lessons to be learned from this, let us know in the comments and watch your back.. these people will screw you if they can… “just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you!” ;-) 

 About the author - David Philips is a singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist and producer from Nottingham UK. His third album “December Wine” was released this February on Black and Tan Records. You can find out more at http://www.davidphilips.net

 

Reader Comments (12)

Consumers get the majority of the blame for musical piracy and improper use, but this proves that major corporations are guilty of doing the same. It also showcases how important it is to connect with your fans and legally protect your music. Thanks for sharing it here so that others can benefit!

April 15 | Registered CommenterPenny Leitow

I think this article is missing a very important step. I've had my music used in commercials and TV without my knowledge perhaps 6 or 7 times and this is what I do: have your attorney send a firm letter to the ad agency and their client. The letter should remind the company that they broke the law but state that you're willing to execute a licensing agreement and discuss the terms with them. You'll get a prompt reply...with a check.

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterZoe Keating

I'm assuming a lawsuit is in order.
You'd have to go after the ad agency that they hired, as well as anyone the ad agency may have farmed out some of the work to.

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterRJB

Comparable, but not exactly the same. I "lucked" across a video called "Gde si sad ti" last year. It is a note-for-note remake of 2 Unlimited's "Where are You Now" (which I co-wrote) in Serbian. It had been released without our knowledge 15 years ago, and without the writers being credited. I contacted the guy who posted the video (an archive from a TV show) as contacting the record label at the time drew a total blank. With my PRO and the cooperation of the Serbian PRO we rapidly established ownership of the song and secured future royalties.

In this case, we didn't bother chasing past rights as I doubt that there were many to recover (Serbia was going through a civil war and the music business was only starting to develop).

So yes, it's worth raising your hand and it doesn't necessarily involve expensive litigation. Always try a clear letter first. Red Bull might not even be aware that they didn't have the rights. The error might be further back in the chain.

April 16 | Unregistered Commentermichael

Same goes for photographers - if anyone ESPECIALLY a large For-profit uses your material without written consent, go after them for more than credit... if they don't want to pay to use it, then don't use it. If artists (of all kinds) stick together and call bullshit on stuff like this, maybe the Arts would be worth more. Good article. Def go after them for financial compensation.

April 16 | Unregistered Commenterdonnam

So how does one "Copyright" their music?

There is no registration procedure for copyright protection in Australia for instance. An original musical work is automatically protected as soon as it is recorded in some way but is this enough? Especially when dealing with international corporations?...

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterWol

Natural copyright is demonstrably not enough; you need to register your copyright, and if your country has no established procedure, the easiest next best thing is to register in the US. for more info: http://www.copyright.gov/

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

That sounds like a huge headache of a legal case. Best of luck trying to figure that out.

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Weis

Happen to me once as well. Unfortunately it wasn't a big company that did it. Just an independent author that was trying to push his book using a slick book trailer. It *was* pretty cool, but there was one of my songs in the background throughout the video and no mentioned of me at all. I just emailed him and asked him to add my info which he promptly did. Not too much harm done, I think the vid had 3,000 views or so.

April 18 | Unregistered CommenterHeirToMadness

How about this for a lesson: Expect it.

Because it will happen, probably. If your song sounds good enough, it just may happen. In that case, expect some ad agency to stumble across it, love it and - if you aren't "big" enough - just stick it on stuff without permission.

When it happens, cause a stink. Of course, cause it isn't fair, that's understandable. But don't expect that it won't happen. Be prepared for every eventuality.

And another lesson: You aren't a brand, you're a band.

April 18 | Unregistered Commenteryes/no music

UPDATE - Just had a very cool conference call with the heads of Red Bull media, one in a taxi in Hong Kong and another in Austria. Very nice guys. I'll post more news soon in the form of another post but just to say that the Red Bull situation has been cleared up and it turned out to be an honest mess up with neither Red Bull nor my publishers to blame.. a legal limbo you might say. We are in talks about them using more of my music (this time with our 100% permission) on something else they are producing. More news soon.

April 19 | Registered CommenterDavid Philips

I posted a follow up to this to explain what happened in the end but for some reason MTT has deleted it. So it's here on my website if you'd like to read it. It explains why Red Bull actually did nothing wrong in the end and why I thought they did. Also makes some important points about music blanket licenses and stock music libraries and what to be aware of.

http://davidphilips.net/RedBullstolemymusic.html

April 23 | Registered CommenterDavid Philips

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