Scott Munro, guitarist in Happy Hollows and Product Operations & Support Manager at Tone, has a unique perspective as a lifelong musician. It has helped him understand how the music business can better support the artist royalty process. These are his thoughts:
Tone: When did you start playing music?
Scott: When I was 16 and living in Belfast. Ever since then, I’ve been playing in indie bands.
My wife founded Happy Hollows, but I wasn’t part of the original line-up. I met her in London when she was mixing one of her albums. We started dating, then got married, and I ended up in the band! We’ve had incredible highs, like working with notable producers and touring in Japan. That was a massive highlight. We did seven shows in six days. It was exhilarating, a dream.
What surprised you most about being a working musician?
I can’t think of another art form so widely treasured yet so financially undervalued. Every piece of music I’ve recorded with Happy Hollows, we spend a whole lot. Paying for the practice space, the studio, working with a good producer.
It can cost a lot of money to have a song realized to its best potential. And we know it’s going to be a long time before we recoup. Very few artists get into music for the money but it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve any. When it comes to getting paid, artists and songwriters wait forever and receive the last slice of the pie.
Why do you think it's so hard for artists to fight for the value of their music?
Right off, it’s just so difficult to understand how royalties are calculated. Most artists don’t have any visibility into what their streams are worth. It’s hard to track and extremely unclear. Also, consumption of music was devalued with illegal downloading, listeners then got used to it costing nothing. Then, to avoid paying bands, the “e-word” often gets thrown around – exposure.
The rights landscape, especially in the US, doesn’t help either. It’s incredibly convoluted, which makes it challenging for indie artists and songwriters to navigate, which is why there are hundreds of millions of dollars of unclaimed royalties.
Do you think there’s any hope that this might change?
Platforms like Stem and Tone give artists insight into their royalties. There are other free platforms that help songwriters and artists register their works or sell merch. Social media is also a massive help, giving artists free marketing they previously had to pay for.
Technology is really helping. It’s having a positive impact on the lives of artists. Because money keeps you going. Sometimes we get a playlist placement, and we’ve had a few syncs over the years that have generated good income. These wins are highs. They help with the practice, recording, and marketing costs. It hits home that what you’re making is pretty cool.
Want to take a first-hand look at how the artist royalty process is done on Tone? Book a demo today.