Last week the New York Times ran an article detailing Warner Music Group resurrecting their photo archives to try to inventory what they have in dusty old boxes all over the world.
“I wanted to take an inventory of what we had,” said Edgar Bronfman Jr., the chairman and chief executive of the Warner Music Group. “We thought it was important from an artistic standpoint, from a corporate culture standpoint and potentially from a consumer standpoint.”
I had to chuckle at that one! Over the course of my career, I have, on occasion, entered into a buy-out contract with a major label for photos used on album packaging. In almost every case, this was for an artist that I figured would never amount to any thing, so there would be almost no reason to lower my price and retain ownership. Only one time did I regret this move. That was the evening that legendary bassist Bootsy Collins drove up to my house in a Cadillac filled with clothes and instruments! Man, I wish I still had some of those images.
I understand the rationale behind the major labels insistence to own all the images. They are always banking on the artist becoming famous, or staying famous, and they don’t want to have to hunt down images from early in the artist’s career and renegotiate usage fees with a bunch of photographers when the are putting together greatest hits and career retrospectives. So it was very humorous to read this:
In close to a year of digging, the company has only pricked the surface: there are still 14,000 boxes in New Jersey alone that haven’t been touched, and tens of thousands more elsewhere in the United States and abroad in places like Brazil, Japan and Australia.
So, when they do a greatest hits package, they still have to call photographers all over the world to negotiate usage rights and fees, because they have no idea what they already own.
Just example number 5010 (approximately) why record companies are nearly extinct dinosaurs!