A few times I have been watching Conan O'Brien's show and he has mentioned that there should be music at a certain section but there is not because they could not afford the royalties to use the song. I'm not sure how much of this is true and how much of it is a joke, but it got me thinking about how artists are paid money when their songs are used on tv shows.
I don't know all the specifics on percentages and the companies involved with collecting royalties, but I do have a strong opinion on this subject and that is that artists should not be paid money to have their music played on popular tv shows. Keep in mind, I have a background in making and selling music and I still hold this position. Allow me to explain.
There are 2 sides involved here, the tv network and their show and the artist and their song. A tv show can benefit by having music increase the mood and likeability of the show. An artist can benefit from having their song featured on a show by it getting lots of free exposure to people who have never heard it before. Weighing these 2 benefits, the artist has a lot more to gain than the tv show. They can potentially get a lot of new fans which can turn into sales in the long run. The tv show does not gain much other than maybe the show is a little better with the music in the background.
Another reason why artists should not be paid money for their songs to be in tv shows is because there are so many bands and artists that would love to have their music featured for free. Having your song used in a show that people like is one of the best forms of promotion. So many people will watch the show and think, "Hey, that is a good song." Then they will go find out who it is by and possibly buy the song or at least become a fan of this artist.
If an artist is asking for money to have their song used, the tv network should simply find another artist or band who would be happy to lend their music for free. Now, what if a network really wants to use a popular song and the artist will only allow it if they are compensated? In this case, the artist should be paid since the network really wants this specific song and the artist will not allow it without royalties.
Don't get me wrong, a tv network still needs to get permission to use an artist's song. As long as they get permission, they should be able to use the song free of charge unless the artist will not agree to these terms. If the artist does not allow the music to be used without a fee, the network should then seek out other music as there are tens of thousands of bands and artists out there who would love to have their music featured on tv for free.