Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The 'palace of data' is taking shape -- An update on the GRD

by Emmanuel Legrand

Is the GRD starting to get sexy? If judged by the attendance at the January 29 Midem session aimed at informing the music community about the latest developments regarding this project, the answer is yes. The Global Repertoire Database is the holy grail that will allow the music industry to jump into the digital world with the tool that will help – at least in theory – to identify all the musical works ever composed or written.

Yet, this initiative – probably the biggest and most complex joint project ever undertaken by the music industry – has remained so far a virtuality. Started four years ago, the project was first discussed and then discussed even more with the various stakeholders, namely authors' societies, music publishers, creators and digital services, with the support of Deloitte as the operator. It involved hundreds of people and dozens of companies and societies. And it was discussed so much that some in the industry started to doubt that it would ever see the light.

The message at Midem to the naysayers was: The GRD is alive and well, and significant progress has been made. To steer the project, a GRD Working Group was set up with a limited number of stakeholders to devise a strategy and a plan. It launched a Requirements and Design phase of work in October 2012 which is due to conclude in May 2013. The R&D phase will be followed by a phase of implementation of the database.

The session's moderator Stephen Navin, chief executive of the British Music Publishers Association, described the project in more than lyrical terms: The GRD is bound to become “the palace of data” and “ a new Jerusalem of data that will drive us forward”. History will say if it has also the potential to become a 'Gilded Palace of Sin' or not...

The task, said Navin, is one of massive complexity because it consists in combining the diversity of the data from collecting societies and other rights owners into one single set of data. Navin proceeded to ask very specific questions to panelists. I kept the same format, and left the verbatim answers from the speakers.

What's the point of having a GRD?
“It will be much more than just a database. It is going to be the single point of contact for publishers for agreements, a sort of holy grail for publishers. What's really going to be useful is that there will be a single acknowledgement feedback. Once registrations are in, there's going to be a single operating area that will reconcile the data, one centre from where multiple sources will be pulled together. The fact that it takes place in a single place will help us deal with conflicts. They will be spotted on the way in and the suppliers of data will solve the conflicts instead of having 50 or 60 sub-publishers having to deal with the conflict.”
Michael Battiston, Vice President, International Business Development, ASCAP

How much will it cost and who will pay for the GRD?
“During the process we asked the big questions about cost, funding and governance. How much, who pays and how is it run? We came with the figure of €30m euros, but it will probably be a refined figured. It will be funded by creators and rights owners through collecting societies.”
Jackie Alway, Director of Legal & Business Affairs International, Universal Music Publishing

Who will govern the GRD?
“In terms of governance, we recommended it to be a membership society with separate entities: A general assembly, a board of directors and a management board. There will be equal representation between creators, societies and rights owners.”
Jackie Alway, Director of Legal & Business Affairs International, Universal Music Publishing

What repertoire will the GRD incorporate and how?
“The world repertoire of music has to be there. Throughout the previous phase we thought of a big bang approach but decided that it was no the best approach so we went for a soft approach. We will start with the Anglo-American repertoire plus some continental repertoire. The sources of repertoire are STIM (Sweden), PRS for Music (UK), GEMA (Germany), APRA (Australia) and SACEM (France)."
Thimo Prziklang, Director of Corporate Development, GEMA

Who are going to be the users of the GRD?
“The key users are the core music industry: publishers, collection societies and the various licensing bodies and users [of music], but also record labels, ad agencies and print publishers who need licenses to use lyrics and notation. There will be different ways of using it.”
Pekka Sipilä, Executive Director, Finnish Music Publishers Association

What services will the GRD provide?
“Once data is in the GRD it will not do any good is stays there, so the idea is to get the data back out. The GRD is going to make possible for music users to have easy access to data. For example, if a producer is looking for synch rights, it will be there and it will be possible to do the search. Someone who is interested in using music will have far less trouble in identifying works.”
Michael Battiston, Vice President, International Business Development, ASCAP

What will be the benefits of the GRD?
“The digital age is global and for the first time we will have a tool that is global. For publishers, this is an opportunity to do it once and do it right. This will become the single point of registration for publishers, and rather than register in 200 societies, we will do it once for all. It will benefit all publishers, large and small. Their data will be distributed around the world and it will prevent the duplication of databases.”
Jackie Alway, Director of Legal & Business Affairs International, Universal Music Publishing

“There is real value in the fact that you have a shared copyright operation. The same kind of work was made within multiple societies so if we can have economies of scale through reconciliation of data, there is potential for major savings. But it is also a no brainer that if we have a clean, reconciled set of data that everyone can agree on, it will make all our lives easier.”
Michael Battiston, Vice President, International Business Development, ASCAP

“There is no database in place that people can refer to when it comes to licensing for digital services. Each and every licensors will have access to data rather than having to create their own repository of works. And there will also be just one place to identify conflicts before getting to market.”
Thimo Prziklang, Director of Corporate Development, GEMA

“From a licensee perspective, when we do licensing we have no idea what we are licensing. Now, we can actually see it. Getting rid of conflicts will be huge, since we spend to much time on small conflicts. And will be able to make the money flow much faster to our content partners who can also turn it around faster to authors, composers and publishers.”
Sami Valkonen Sami, Head of International Music Licensing, Google Play

What are the benefits for creators?
“Data access is high on our agenda. The GRD is the tool to make that part of the system transparent. We are determined to make life easier for rights owners and users.The GRD will be a tool for inventions not yet invented and music not yet composed. The GRD will be a facilitator for future inventions and for business models to be invented. It will also legitimate authors rights and copyright. It is extremely important.”
Alfons Karabuda, Executive Chairman, ECSA

What are the next steps?
“The R&D phase ends in May [2013], then we will move into building phase, and that will be a massive task. Before we go live, there could be a 13-month period but the complexity of data injection is something we have all dealt with. And we want to get it right so if it means that we need to push it back for a while, we will do it. It will be a very carefully managed process.”
Jackie Alway, Director of Legal & Business Affairs International, Universal Music Publishing

“We need to build it and fill it. It is all extremely complex but the progress is incredible. We are now past the point of no return. We've made huge progress: Last year the GRD was just a power point. We knew we needed to build the warehouse, and now there are now real people involved. But how long did it take us? Four years! Could it have been faster? Yes. But the fact that we resolved all the issues is fantastic and, as an industry, we should be proud of it. This can't fail any more. That is why important to have everybody on board. Let's get in done and deliver and if we do not deliver something in 2014, we fail.”
Sami Valkonen Sami, Head of International Music Licensing, Google Play

[Typed while listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers's 'The Gilded Palace of Sin' (A&M) and Local Natives's 'Hummingbird' (Frenchkiss Records)]

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