Music Rights – Without Fights! Richard Kirstein’s Excellent New Book Reviewed

We’ve got a couple of new books to review for you for the New Year, and the first is an enjoyable as well as useful read from our occasional guest writer, Richard Kirstein. Many of you will have read his articles here describing the fascinating issues around music rights and licensing, and his first book, published by Rethink Press, is titled “Music Rights – Without Fights” and subtitled “The Smart Marketer’s Guide To Buying Music For Brand Campaigns”.

As a professional musician (he still plays and records, and has two talented musician sons) and marketing / agency person himself, Kirstein has deep expertise and is probably the world’s leading expert in his field. His book is highly recommended for anyone involved in this area; that includes procurement practitioners involved in marketing services procurement, marketing and brand managers, agency people and indeed the music industry folk themselves who want to sell their music into the marketing and business world.

The subject matter makes this far more enjoyable than the vast majority of procurement-related books. The attitude of US artists to foreign music markets; the difference between “featured” and “non-featured” artists; the dangers of “sound-alike” compositions; it is all fascinating stuff to anyone with an interest in music, never mind marketing or procurement! And the final section on the risks involved in this area should and will scare anyone who is using music for marketing purposes without understanding the issues.

If you have read his articles here, you will also know that Kirstein writes well, with an engaging style. There is a lot of serious content here, but it is presented in a very reader-friendly manner. But what struck me is how this seemingly esoteric area actually follows some very fundamental procurement principles. Use competition, the author says – look at alternative options, don’t get locked into the idea that you “simply must have that particular song” for the campaign. Run competitive processes as you would in other spend areas – but do realise that there are some very specific issues that must be understood here.

He also talks about the classic procurement issues of incentivisation and accountability; how to make the agency accountable for their recommendations; and why the practice of agencies using brokers to buy music rights is not sensible. (The brokers are paid a percentage commission on the spend, so the greater the cost to the client, the more money the broker makes!)

Our only criticism would be the lack of an index, although there is a useful Glossary of Terms. But this is essential reading for music buyers and everyone involved in this growing, complex and at times challenging area of spend.

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