Collateral Damage Part 2: Adam Weber.

Everyone knows about that dude Tom Waits. Gravelly voiced, make your heart break in a million pieces singer songwriter artist with hobo beatnik persona.

You know what else he is? He’s smart enough to know that Tom Waits is also a guy with integrity, who knows the the thing he offers to the world--his talent--is unique, and shouldn’t be copied or stolen by anybody. And he’s willing to keep suing every time it happens to maintain that integrity.

Why won’t he get with the program? Music should be free for all, right? It’s not like this has any effect on him, or the ad industry. What’s the big whoop? He’s just a grumpy old man who should get with the times.

To this I say Bullshit. Followed by, way to go Tom Waits. Just because the times they are a changin’ doesn’t mean you have to change with them. In fact, you should rally against them if you want to maintain your own integrity, too. And thankfully other people still are.

Adam Weber

We already met David Lowery . Now let's take Adam Weber. He is a partner and co-founder of New York City based Agent Jackson: A music boutique that prides itself on finding and retaining the best roster of musicians it can get its mitts on. Whenever they can, they create original music. Original content. (Full disclosure: Kidsleepy has worked with them, and they do indeed make that happen.)

Adam had a pretty strong take on the Free Culture movement and what it’s doing to advertising. Namely, it sucks. It's a negative dip that started early in the aughts and picked up its downward spiral trajectory in 2008. Not just on the rich rock stars with familiar names and their own recording industry. But on the musicians Weber works with at Agent Jackson in the music production industry, too.

Launched in 2003, Agent Jackson prides itself on collaborating with active musicians. Weber said they built the business slowly with a great reputation. Have worked on big brands and small alike, with the same treatment and approach. Choosing to remain boutique. The equivalent of an indie label not wanting to get swallowed up.

And while some of the declines in music production can be attributed to the current economy, that creates smaller budgets, Weber is quick to point out too, that “people are now just expecting to pay less for it either way.” Maybe with incidences like soundalikes happening more and more as David Lowery holds, the ethics have dropped along with the price.

No so with Weber. Agent Jackson refuses to create sound alike songs. To him “…That VW spot was the last straw. That infuriates me to no end. We take pride in working with artists who actually create music.” Asking musicians to create knock off songs “devalue the integrity of people who still hold value in original music.” And it seems the question is coming up more and more.

What’s even worse, Weber mentions is the rise of new music houses who are looking at the art the same way a teenager with a empty terabyte hard drive does: They don’t hold any value in the music, an treat it as a cheap commodity.

This type of production house that commodifies music are as exploitive as the record companies from days of yore, and as the Megauploads and Pirate Bays of today. Music houses of this kind “…they’ll go to local bands to get tracks from them. They get the music pre-cleared at $1500-2500 a pop, already licensed and ready to go." Musicians are undervaluing the price of their own music fearing their work will be ignored, because they are thrilled to get “exposure”

Exposure at what price, though. What a lot of bands don’t realize is that is that in exchange for so-called exposure, they’re not only being short changed, but are part of a tiered pricing scheme. Would a band be as enthusiastic if they knew their tracks were falling under the “mid-range,” or “el cheapo” pricing point? Most likely not. Yesterday’s Ok Go . Today’s needle drop stock song.

The value of music drops. Not just in home sound systems and on iPods, but on licensing, too.
For the production houses, Weber says, even securing a chance to do basic music for a retail spot is getting tougher.

“There are more than 250 companies out there. And fifty of them could be cold calling for the same job. Plus the opportunities for creating original music that is married to the concept of the spot (as opposed to retail) in that situation are few and far between.”

Despite the doom and gloom scenario, Weber and Agent Jackson find the greatest success "by cultivating the same relationships with agencies and clients as we do with our musicians." Simply put, they work with like-minded people. Creative directors who can really get the ear of the client.
Clients who still understand the value of a TV spot with a concept, and music created to fit the concept, and not just a hit slapped on top. And both agency and clients who understand that yes, as much as it smarts, you should have a music budget because you’ll get something that is right for the spot. Whether it’s licensed or created just for the commercial. It costs. But then quality always does. And that's true of the director, the cinematographer, the agency and the song. And for Weber it's the one-on-one approach that keeps the train from riding off the rails.

How long those like-minded people will still be here though is anyone's guess. Musicians like Tom Waits will keep rightly suing to protect their image, their livelihood or their "Brand." And Weber will keep his ethics where they belong and continue to say no to knock-offs, and try to keep the ad industry and its relatives out of the gutter the only way he knows how: Leading by example.

Someone’s got to carry the torch of respect. Even if it gets heavier each year.

See also Collateral Damage Part one: David Lowery
Collateral Damage Part Three: Rob Levine

Collateral Damage Part Four: Britta Phillips.
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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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my Free Mickey's picture

Don't you believe artist should decide whether they give their music away for free. You can complain free culture is killing the advertising industry.
But maybe the advertising industry is dying because of those on-line service with a huge catalog of music you can get a cheap license for?

It's another way of thinking. You can't claim people today don't respect music because your industry can't compete. A lot of artist can make a living and give away their music.

Maybe it's just the advertising industry that need to adapt and find new ways to make money

kidsleepy's picture

None of these interviews is bemoaning the fact that the advertising industry is going to the poor house. We aren't. It has more to do with the prevailing ethics in society that are devaluing the creation of any form of content because the idea somehow is that everything should be free.

You proved my point in your comment: But maybe the advertising industry is dying because of those on-line service with a huge catalog of music you can get a cheap license for?

The online services with huge catalogs of "music" for free or at Wal-Mart prices are having collateral damage in two ways: the first is this practice causes music production houses like Agent Jackson to lose money. And in this case, Agent Jackson is a music production company not an ad agency. This means it is a company that makes its living by through music licensing, and by hiring other musicians to create original content, as opposed to buying generic needle drop music that isn't unique and wasn't created for any other reason except to fill a search category like "cool," or "edgy," or "1980's synth pop." My argument is that one stop shopping method for music, rather than creating original content values convenience over quality.

Perhaps you don't buy that because music is subjective and that generic Dollar Store stuff sounds okay to you. Fair enough. Music is subjective.

But try the second point: the prevailing attitude that artists should find another way to make money, is the very reason clients are using knock off songs, and plagiarizing songs rather than paying artists for their music.

By the way I don't understand why musicians are somehow not allowed to make a living by creating music. Is that such a horrible thought?

Let me put it to you a different way: If I'm a farmer, my job is to spend a lot of time growing food, and sell food. Are you going to tell that farmer "I'm going to take all of your crops for free, as much as I want to, and if you don't like it you'll have to find another way to make money?" Of course not. Do you know why?

Because farmers produce. And artists produce. If I'm an organic farmer, you'll actually pay more for what I produce. But if I produce original music, you want it for free. Why is that?

No, really. Why is that?

Are you really trying to tell me the artists that are constantly being ripped off by torrent sites have voluntarily put their music up there? Are you really trying to tell me they're okay with watching sales of their own music on itunes and amazon drop because someone can get it for free on the Pirate Bay?

Because I don't think so. Not at all.

Also I don't believe it is you who gets to make the decision that musicians or the ad industry for that matter get a second job (or as you call it "adapt") to get paid for what they produce.

I don't believe musicians should give away their music as I see value in that music. I don't believe Music Production houses should lower their standards to make a living.

And most of all I don't believe we should change our ethics to fit a technology that has made the world a candy store with no price tags.

my Free Mickey's picture


Well first of all i was taking about commercial license sale service. Maybe it's just you who can't compete.
Second, I did not mention torrents. And the fact is that those are sales you would never gonna make in the first place. I can't see the point why you have to complain about that. Your market is the commercial one.
When I was a kid we too made home tapes, in fact is just the same thing.

Third, me, I make music as a hobby, for the love of doing it; I distribute my music for free because in the first place I want it to get heard. Why should I not be able to do so. What doesn't mean I think others may not.

Beside, I still buy a lot of music. But when I do I buy it on a concert directly from the artist itself. I don't mind at all paying for it because there's a certain value in the music I buy. The connection with his performance.
For years the industry sold soulless music without adding a certain value in the work. So if people don't value their music it's because there is non.
Just buying a copy of the work hold no value because it's not something physical, it's a cold copy that don't give the fan a reason to buy. Also, like you said artist are like everybody else and need to get payed for their work.
But how much time exactly must they get payed for the same work.
You said yourself, artist are just like the rest of us. And we are payed once!
So why should artist getting payed for the same work over and over again. We all must work to make a living and so does artist. Same for everybody.

There are plenty examples from artists that can make a living. But if they wanna get payed they need to work for it, just like the rest of us.
They have adapt and using this situation in there advantage.

When the wind of change blows, some building shelter and other build windmills.

kidsleepy's picture

I suspect from your unverified user name, that you have an issue with Disney using Public Domain works to inspire their well known movies and make a lot of money. And I also suspect from your unverified name that you have an issue with the length of copyright deals. However, this article has nothing to do with the duration of copyright.

Having said that I am enjoying this discussion because it's nice to hear all points of view. So let me continue by asking you, when you were a kid and were making mix tapes, were you distributing them globally to millions of people at the same time? No you weren't. So to suggest that when you were doing so it was just the same, well, unless you grew up when the internet was available, it totally was not the same.

As for your music hobby: if you personally want to distribute your music freely because as you said, it's a hobby, then be my guest. no one is stopping you from doing so. no one. What we want to stop is people taking someone else's music who has set a price on it because they've decided to change their ethics to fit the availability of music, thanks to technology.

But the type of person, whether he or she works for a music production house, or as a band, is a professional musician. they have a vested interest in making music and making sure it earns their livelihood. repeat. these aren't people with a hobby. there's a big difference. being a musician is their job.

we can discuss the value of bon jovi or britney spears until doomsday but that's a moot point because music is subjective. you might call something soulless but someone else might like it. I was never a fan of "everybody loves raymond," but millions of people were. why should my dislike of culture be counted more than millions of other people who think otherwise?

your point about payment makes no sense. as far as i know, you personally buy an album one time. you don't pay for it over and over multiple times. you buy it once and that's it. so how does your buying an album one time to get enjoyment out of it have any effect on you beyond the 17 bucks you spent on the cd? Why does it bother you so much the artists are making a living selling their music?

As for "if they wanna get paid they have to work for it," that's just it. They ARE working for it. You said so yourself, you're a musician, right? Didn't you have to work to create a song? of course you did.

Now imagine you are a professional musician, as opposed to someone with a hobby. As a professional musician you hire producers to make an album, you have to rent out a studio, rehearsal studio, book recording time. All of this stuff costs money. It's not like every musician is using Garageband and some shitty microphone. So not only are you working to create a song, you are also paying for recording time and producers too-- all before anyone has even heard the song. That's a big gamble isn't it? I suspect if a band invests that much time and money they are doing so with an expectation they can pay the bills after the album is released.

It seems to me if we apply your last argument to another industry it seems a bit strange. Let's use your argument and apply it to car manufacturers.

"Why should Honda make money for selling the same car over and over again? It's a CRV. But they're all the same. So they should only get paid once."

Do you see how this rationale might not make a lot of sense to a lot of people?

Music Man Tyler's picture

I absolutely agree with kidsleepy on this one. But I wasn't always this way.

Thing is... as you grow up, and you realize that people actually do have a real right to their intellectual property, you begin to see things from a much more sane point of view.

Just because everyone else is stealing it does not make it right!!

People have a right to their content, and they have a right to make a living (and a very decent one at that) on the fruits of their labor. You can't just make the excuse that they make enough money already or that the industry is changing and they need to get with the times.

Ok yes, the industry is changing, and they WILL get with the times, but that does not excuse theft.

This reminds me of the free speech debate in a way. Why? Because it is the principal of the matter. Even if your practical mind wants to convince you of one thing...

You need to see the bigger picture here and realize that is something worth standing & fighting for!

AnonymousCoward's picture

Just after the minor victory getting Amanda Palmer to pay up, we now have ths to remind us that there's still more to do.

These things are related, because the free advocates seem to ignore that the copyrighted culture industry supports a lot of other people. Record stores are shuttering, meaning a lot of decent retail jobs are going away. Now session musicians are in trouble. Even advertising is bing threatened as a revenue stream.

Seriously, people need to pay if they want something.

helena Austin's picture

This type of production house that commodifies music are as exploitive as the record companies from days of yore, and as the Megauploads and Pirate Bays of today. Music houses of this kind “…they’ll go to local bands to get tracks from them. They get the music pre-cleared at $1500-2500 a pop, already licensed and ready to go." Musicians are undervaluing the price of their own music fearing their work will be ignored, because they are thrilled to get “exposure”

kidsleepy's picture

yes. the same way as musicians were not reading contracts back in the 50's and 60's because they were thrilled to get signed. it's sad. the artist is always exploited. thankfully there are people like Adam Weber and his production house Agent Jackson who are vehemently against this practice.

fairuse's picture

Music! OMFG
Anyone try to clear a track for projects. Who gets the income and how hard is clearing process.

Dabitch's picture

Yes I've cleared tracks for projects, why? Did you have any questions? The Estate of Esquivel were happy to help.

fairuse's picture

Fumble typing dumped the wordy first version of The Question on the floor when does its thing. Imagine that.

Radio -- "All kinds of audio abuse in Ads.", Says Mr.Picky, "The Ads ruin the mood." My answer is always -- Don't listen to Pop FM stations while doing the 'Getting from the sticks to "Elephant Plaza" routine. Never is the most popular reply. I call morning TV magazine shows, "Smiling Leg Show Theater", therefore, I think it is time morning AM/FM format (pre ClearSocket minions) hear my name or the format, The Magical Noise Machine.

Having rambled enough The Questioni is about Jingle Ads. I have read about the major Regional 'Jingle houses'. All I am wondering about; Foley, instrumental bed (if used) and lyrics. If a campaign"s audio was done by a jingles shop does that shop hold any rights, do singers demand a performance royalty on 15 sec x play count in 24hr?
Thanks, { stop for now }

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