Saturday, December 1, 2018

Spotify makes analytics available to music publishers

By Emmanuel Legrand

In what could be a game changer for the music publishing community, Spotify has opened up its data to music publishers, providing tools that were previously only available to record labels. The music streaming platform said the Spotify Publishing Analytics plan is "the first analytics tool from a music streaming service built specifically for publishers, so they can better serve their songwriters."

  Spotify put together a roadshow to inform publishers of the new analytics policy, stopping mid-November at an event in Beverly Hills, hosted by the LA Chapter of the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP). Spotify executives included Chris Crawford (Publishing Relations & Services, US), Jules Parker (Publishing Relations & Services, EMEA and APAC) and Adam Parness, Global Head of Publisher Licensing.

  “We want to make it work for creators and we are building tools that you can use," said Parker to a room packed of music publishers. He added that it was about setting up a partnership between the streaming service and publishers.

  Spotify started a few months ago to make song credits with the names of songwriters available to users. Crawford explained that this was the first step in providing more visibility to the publishing side of the music business. The next step was to "empower publishers" by providing new tools such as the possibility for publishers to create account with Spotify and access analytics pertaining to their repertoire through a dashboard and engage with listeners by creating specific playlists. 

Providing the same tools as labels

  "We want publishers to have the same tools as labels," said Parker. Spotify Publishing Analytics will give publishers daily streaming statistics for the works and recordings they have identified, including playlist performance, as well as the ability to view data for each of the songwriters on their roster, explained Parker.

  Crawford added that access to analytics could help publishers make better informed decisions with regards to marketing and promotional activity regarding their repertoire, while also being able to do predictive royalty planning. "These are purely analytics, and have nothing to do with royalty payments, but we want to give you results as we have them, in real time," said Crawford. "It is not a claiming portal."

  Parness said these developments are part of Spotify's strategy to be "more creative-focused." He added, "The idea is to enable publishers to better serve their songwriters and help [them] make better business decisions."

  During a Q&A with the audience, Parness was asked if Spotify planned to increase the royalty rates for songwriters and publishers. Parness said that Spotify was "taking a real look at growing the royalty pot for publishers and songwriters," but that will be through the overall growth of the streaming platform. "We want to grow the business and the pot of royalties," he said. 

Better business decisions

  Spotify's initiative has been positively received by a wide range of publishers. In a statement, Rich Scott DePerto, Director of Royalties & Copyright Administration at New York-based indie publisher Reservoir claimed that "access to daily global analytics for the leading DSP allows us to better track our catalogue’s performance and gives us valuable insight that we can use to make more informed business decisions in supporting our songwriters.”

  Patrick Joest, EVP Global Content Partnerships & Synch, at BMG concurred: “Armed with this level of streaming data, directly from Spotify, music publishers can gain insights into new opportunities for their songwriters, more efficiently collect royalties on their behalf, and more effectively market their works.”

From l-r: Michael Eames of PEN Music Group and AIMP LA, Jules Parker of Spotify, 
Chris Crawford of Spotify, Teri Nelson-Carpenter of Reel Muzik Werks and AIMP LA

Monday, September 24, 2018

RIAA's Mitch Glazier on the MMA: 'A telling signal of music's role in our culture'

The RIAA, which represents record labels in the US, was one of the organisations at the forefront of the industry's lobbying efforts to pass the Music Modernisation Act. Here, RIAA President Mitch Glazier talks to about the Senate vote, the agreement with SiriusXM and what the bill means for the music community.

RIAA's Mitch Glazier
 Q: What was your state of mind when the MMA got through the Senate with a unanimous vote?
Mitch Glazier:
At that point I was pretty relaxed and reflective (I can’t say the same for an hour before). It kind of felt like Congress was putting the cherry on top of a big milkshake – a perfect focal point to commemorate all of the cooperation and compromise inside that led up to some real common sense changes in the law. Listening to Senators Hatch and Alexander speak on the floor about music and its importance to our country was a proud and validating moment. A unanimous vote in the House and Senate for the value of music is a telling signal of music’s role in our culture, and a positive sign for future issues.

Q: What is the substance of the last minute agreement reached with SiriusXM?
SiriusXM agreed to give up its appeal and request for rehearing of the current rate it pays to artists and labels to play their music (15.5% of their gross revenues), which could have resulted in a reduction of pay, and instead will pay the current rate through 2027, at which point there will be a Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) proceeding under a market-based rate standard. By skipping a CRB in 2022, both sides will save on litigation costs. The compromise gives years of business certainty to SiriusXM, artists and music companies, while creating platform parity and fair competition, eventually moving towards a market-based rate standard for everyone.

Q: You quoted the Grateful Dead in your comments after the MMA passed. What Dead song would fit what's going to happen now? Could it be 'Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)'?
Ha! We were honored the band and Mickey Hart retweeted that quote. Such a cool moment – a good reminder of who and what this is all about. Now that the MMA is almost law, I think a fitting Dead song is one they did with Dylan, 'The Times They Are A Changing'. With a united music community, we have transitioned and public policy is no exception. Who knows what we can accomplish together next?

Major victory for US music industry as Senate passes the Music Modernisation Act

By Emmanuel Legrand
Sen. Lamar Alexander
It was the sound the music industry had been hoping to hear for so long: When on September 18 the speaker of the Senate called for the votes on the Music Modernisation Act, and asked if there were any nays, the answer came in the form of a resounding silence. And then history was made. What Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) described as “the most important piece of legislation in a generation” for songwriters, publishers, recordings artists, music producers and record labels had just passed the Senate hurdle with no less than 82 sponsors, and no opposition, out of a potential 100 Senators, just as it passed the House of Representatives 415-0.

This now sends the text back to the House for reconciliation as the initial draft has been amended by the Senate. Once confirmed by the House, it will eventually end up on the desk for the President of the United States to be signed into law. Rep. Doug Collins, who is one of the two lead co-sponsors of the act in the House tweeted that he was "hopeful that our chamber will send the Music Modernisation Act successfully out of Congress before the next recess."

At the suggestion of Sen. Alexander, the bill will now be known as the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernisation Act (H.R. 1551), named after the Senator, himself a songwriter, who is retiring from public office after 40 years on the Hill. Sen. Alexander said the bill will ensure that "songwriters in our country are paid and are paid a fair market value for their work."

He added, "It was a very complicated exercise, and it was in doubt until about an hour-and-a-half ago in terms of whether we would be able to do this tonight." Indeed the final couple of days prior to the vote were preceded by dozens of hours of behind-the-doors discussions until the very last minute to broker a deal with opponents to the legislation, primarily with satellite radio service SiriusXM who had the potential to derail the process. The compromise with SiriusXM freezes the rates paid by the service until 2027 (for more on the deal, Billboard has published these detailed reports here and here).

The MMA, which covers various pieces of legislation in a 180-page document, will be "bringing us one step closer to a music licensing framework that reflects how people listen to music today," in the words of Paul Williams, Chairman of the Board and President of ASCAP. The MMA calls for a more modern, market-based rate standard determination, the creation of a new collective to license and administer mechanical rights under a blanket license, a central public database to ease royalty payments from digital services, a new method to set PROs's rates, and "a clear and final determination that digital services must pay for the use of pre-1972 recordings," according to AIMP.

Many industry executives, such as
David Israelite, President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), pointed out that the MMA would have not achieved such a result if all parts of the industry had not been working together to reach the final goal. "This was a long and complex process but ultimately the music industry has come out stronger and more united than ever," said Israelite.

RIAA President Mitch Glazier concurred: "With a united music community, we have transitioned and public policy is no exception. Who knows what we can accomplish together next?"

Industry reactions to the Senate vote on the MMA
The US music industry reacted positively to the unanimous passing of the Music Modernisation Act by the Senate. Here's a sample of the reactions.

> David Israelite, President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA): “The Senate vote marks a true step forward towards fairness for the people at the heart of music who have long been undervalued due to outdated laws.
Now we anxiously await the House’s final approval of the MMA and seeing it signed into law."
> Mitch Glazier, President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA): “As legendary band the Grateful Dead once said in an iconic pre-1972 song, ‘what a long strange trip it’s been.’ It’s been an epic odyssey, and we’re thrilled to almost be at our destination."
> Chris Harrison, CEO of digital services trade body DiMA: “This milestone for the MMA demonstrates that with bipartisan leadership and a united music industry looking to the future, consumers, creators and copyright owners can all benefit."
> Michael Huppe, President and CEO of SoundExchange: "The future of the music industry got brighter today. Creators of music moved one step closer to getting paid more fairly. And industry forces that fought to maintain an unfair and harmful status quo were rebuffed."
> Elizabeth Matthews, CEO of ASCAP: "Today's unanimous passage of the Music Modernisation Act in the Senate represents a Herculean industry-wide effort to promote and celebrate songwriters and ensure their right to a sustainable livelihood."
> Paul Williams, Chairman of the Board and President of ASCAP: "We urge the House of Representatives to swiftly pass the Senate bill, so the President can sign it into law and music creators can begin to see the benefits of this critical reform."
> The Content Creators Coalition (c3) and MusicAnswers: “We are gratified that our two organisations, in collaboration and independent of other groups, were able to make meaningful contributions to the final legislation, including comprehensive and publicly available audits of the MMA’s new Mechanical Licensing Collective and ensuring that the Collective uses best practices to find the owners of unclaimed royalties."
> Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy: "The passage of the Music Modernisation Act by the Senate is a historic moment for the tens of thousands of music creators across the nation. When creators raise their voices for fairness, they make great progress."
> Martin Bandier, Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing: "This is a significant victory for all rights holders and we are confident that once the bill goes back to the House it will pass and become law shortly. It will go a long way to ensuring that songwriters and music publishers will be fairly compensated for their contribution to the streaming revolution, which has transformed music into a growth industry once again."
> Chris Israel, Executive Director of musicFIRST: “Through the CLASSICS provision of this bill legacy artists will finally receive the fair compensation they so rightly deserve. Today is a historic day for music creators of all generations and these much-needed reforms will properly value the music that we all love and enjoy well into the future.”
> Michael Eames, President of the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP); Alisa Coleman, AIMP New York Executive Director; and John Ozier, AIMP Nashville Executive Director: “With support from both sides of the political aisle, along with unprecedented cooperation between the music and technology industry, the MMA will be a massive step forward for the independent publishing community and the music industry in general, which has been hamstrung by antiquated copyright laws for far too long.”
> Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid: "The 185 page bill updates the music licensing system and brings it into the digital age, ensuring that music creators across the industry will get paid more equitably for their hard work and creativity. Today’s actions by the Senate demonstrate unprecedented bipartisan support amongst a diversity of stakeholders and industries."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Time for US music industry to speak with one voice?

By Emmanuel Legrand

This summer, a group of American songwriters mounted a scathing attack against SESAC, accusing the US rights society of using last minute tactics to derail the Music Modernisation Act, the one piece of legislation that the whole industry has been battling for over the past couple of years. SESAC was pushing for an amended version of the bill that would allow third parties to continue to administer mechanical rights, in order to save the business of its subsidiary HFA.

  The dispute went as far as songwriters calling for other songwriters (signed to SESAC) to leave the society since SESAC was allegedly working against their interests. Eventually, under the aegis of peace brokers (the NMPA and Senators who were urging for a compromise), the parties agreed to not only a cease fire, but to jointly promote a new version of the bill that would include a provision favourable to SESAC.

  The point here is not to say who was right or who was wrong, but to highlight the simple fact that the sad war of words was, to say the least, one of the most counter-productive sequence impacting the interests of the US music community in ages. It was pure appetite for self-destruction.

  It was an unwise event at a time when the MMA continued to faced serious challenges from Sen. Wyden, or SiriusXM, that have the potential to fully derail the over two-year process which saw the building of a full consensus in the industry, a unanimous vote by the House and a flying victory at the Senate's Judiciary Committee. The vision of one side of the industry bickering against another was devastating. There couldn't have been a worst image of the industry than one of divisions, rather than unity.

  To the foreign observer, it had a feeling of déja vu. In 2005, British record label's trade body the BPI sued rights organisations MCPS-PRS Alliance (as it was then called) about, surprise!, mechanical rates, arguing that the Alliance was imposing licensing rates that were "unreasonable and unsustainable." The irony was that in that battle, the BPI had serious partners n crime in Apple, which was challenging the mechanical rates it had to pay on its iTunes Store, and six other online services.

  Eventually, in September 2006, all the parties settled and agreed to a new rate. But during all these months the climate in the industry was despicable, with a war of words between the different sides that was clouding any other issue faced by the industry. And in the end, the only people who won anything from the cross-industry carpet-bombing were...the lawyers, as it transpired later that the litigation process cost over 10 million pounds to each party, for a zero-sum result. That money belonged to rights owners, not to lawyers.

  Needless to say that the British government was looking at the music industry's civil war with disbelief. Reflecting on such disaster, a few sane minds, including those who waged the war in the first place, decided that enough was enough and that the industry had to grow up and present a different front. So the leaders of the industry's main organisations gathered to not only discuss a truce but go one step further and set up a structure that would serve as the industry's platform for discussion and also be the voice of the industry in its dealings with the government. Hence the creation of UK Music, which still exists to this date and in over a decade has become indeed the voice of the industry and a formidable lobbying tool.

  Maybe time's up for such a similar bold move by the US music industry. It will not diminish the competition in the industry, but it will offer a position to reflect and to act, as one. It will strengthen the voice of the industry, and it will most certainly be welcomed by the bi-partisan members of Congress who are ready to support the industry's agenda.

  Interestingly, this week we've seen an embryo of what such a coalition could achieve when 18 US music groups signed a joint statement outlining their concern about the copyright provisions in the renegotiated NAFTA trade agreement between the USA and Mexico.

  By the way, UK Music worked because around the table you had the chief executives of all the organisations, not the second or third tier of executives. The high level representation on its board ensured that no time would be wasted in petty discussions, and solutions had to found internally before taking them public.

  So, has time finally come for USA Music?