BMI Made Composer Mike Post Feel ‘Counted’

Aug 23, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Editor’s note: Mike Post’s name is synonymous with music on TV. The Emmy Award-winning composer’s list of TV credits is nothing short of phenomenal. To name but a few: “Law & Order,” “The Rockford Files,” “NYPD Blue,” “Wiseguy,” “Magnum, P.I.” and “Hill Street Blues.”

As it happens, Mr. Post is a big fan of BMI and Frances Preston and was kind enough to share with TelevisionWeek his thoughts and feelings about them:

First of all, BMI and ASCAP represent structure in which people like me can write music and know that not only is our music protected by copyright law, which is very important, but someone is making sure that when the music is performed we actually get paid for it. The secret of all secrets is that we would be writing the music if we got paid for it or not, and we would be writing it if it paid one-tenth of what it pays. And the other secret-and it’s not such a secret-is that those of us on the songwriting side are not known to be the best business people in the world. We tend to spend our time thinking about melodies and chords and textures, musically; we don’t tend to spend our time thinking about how to collect money, how to get paid or what to do with it after we’ve been paid. So to have organizations that are dedicated to protecting the copyright and collecting the money for people like myself is extremely important.

Now you have a choice of three organizations that are structured to do that job-ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. What happened is there was a particular time, years and years ago, when I had been with ASCAP and felt that I didn’t have a voice, or if I had a voice it wasn’t a very loud voice. So I switched to BMI when a man named Ed Cramer ran it. I felt I had had a very good experience switching, but very soon after I made the switch Ed retired.

Soon after that there was an evening meeting of a group of disgruntled composers out here in Los Angeles. I went to the meeting with my late partner Pete Carpenter. We were there because we wanted to hear what all our friends and contemporaries were saying-they were all up in arms about certain payments and structures. The fact that BMI was not an association like ASCAP, but that it was indeed a corporation and it was actually owned by the people who were paying us. There was all this rhetoric being thrown around the room about how this was a conflict of interest and that the structure was wrong.

And then, almost magically, this woman got up in the middle of all this negativity and started to speak and everybody just stopped talking and started listening. And as soon as they started listening, they understood this was a person, yes, a businessperson, and yes, someone who could talk in our interest to people in government. And yes, this was a person who could deal with the broadcasters. But most of all it just became immediately apparent that this was a person whose whole life was directed toward taking care of and protecting creative people. It was written on her face. It was written in her heart. And readily apparent on her lips-as if she almost had a sacred calling to represent and speak for those of us who don’t speak so well on this subject. And that person, that woman, was Frances Preston.

BMI from the beginning has made me feel like I counted. It’s not only Frances that makes me feel that way, but it started with Frances, and fortunately-and to her great credit-it has not ended with Frances. But Frances is really special. I’ve always felt that she is a person who really understands what it’s like to do what I do for a living and is representing me accordingly.

To be honest with you, to have your back-end covered-and by that I mean the royalties we get-by somebody like Frances Preston allows a person like me to go in and write without worrying about things like that. I’m truly grateful to her for all these years of just being there. Knowing somebody is taking care of the back-end has allowed me to do my job.

Has it been perfect? No. Because cable came along and Frances and BMI and all of us are not happy with what a break cable got from the government. But has it been pretty close to perfect. Absolutely. Have they done a really, really good job? I swear to you they’ve done a great job. This stuff pays a lot of money in syndication. This stuff pays a lot of money in foreign usage. And it’s not because of me. It’s had nothing to do with how good my music has been. It’s had to do with how good Frances and her team has been at doing their jobs. And I’m thankful for that.