Image courtesy Digital Music News. See full DMN story here.
Music Managers Forum and its sister organization The Featured Artist Coalition are two UK based organizations that purport to advocate for managers and artists. These two organizations have in the past done some excellent work for artists. But over the last few years they seem to have become the PR mouthpiece for Spotify and to a lesser extent YouTube. One can confirm this judgement by going to the MMF website and searching “Spotify.” Some sample search returns:
“MMF and FAC Welcome Spotify Artists As A Big Step Forward”
“Recommended Reading: Spotify’s Financial Viability and Pernicious Fallacies (Op-Ed)”
“MMF event: Get the most from Spotify”
We were particularly concerned when they posted this piece which at times matches word for word press releases and comments from Spotify flacks. It also carefully creates the false impression that Taylor Swift withheld her album from Spotify, but “irrationally” DID NOT withhold her album from YouTube. (Swift DID withhold her album from YouTube and other free streaming platforms, she did not single out Spotify.) But mostly it was shocking to see an organization like MMF/FAC come out against an individual’s right to choose where their work appears and under what conditions. Instead MMF/FAC came out in favor of a streaming corporation’s “right” to have everyones music. I guess this is the UK version of “corporations are people.” Very odd.
Well, now we know why.
We have a high level source that is willing to confirm our long held suspicion that Spotify and Google are funding the Music Manager Forum and its dependency the UK’s Featured Artist Coalition. According to our source Spotify’s contribution is significant, ongoing “and quite a lot of money at that.”
This is very important because neither MMF nor FAC have sufficiently disclosed the financial support, yet have presented and continued to present events on Spotify and streaming AS IF THEY ARE NEUTRAL OBSERVERS. Last year MMF and FAC sponsored a round of public forums on Spotify in the US. They did another round this last month. On the flyer for last years events (see above) there is no mention that MMF and FAC are taking money from Spotify and Google.
While this non-disclosure and fake partiality is a problem, what really concerns us is that Spotify and YouTube appear to be setting the agenda now. Below is the official agenda of the Music Managers Forum. Like most artists I am in agreement with virtually every point. Except #4: “No windowing”. A “no windowing” policy would hurt artists and help only two companies, Spotify and YouTube. Let me explain.
“Windowing” can be used in many different contexts. Windowing can mean that an album is only available for sale and not streamable for a certain period of time. Windowing may mean that an album or song might be available exclusively on one service but not others. It may mean it’s only available behind a paywall. Regardless of what is meant by windowing, they are all important monetization and promotional tools for artists. For instance my last Cracker album Berkeley to Bakersfield was a two disc set, with the second disc being a country disc. Cracker “windowed” this album in two different ways:
1) Since we are not normally considered a country act we gave Rolling Stone Country the exclusive right to stream a track from the country disc for a month in advance of the album release. In exchange we were prominently featured on the website and gained valuable exposure in the country music world.
2) Similarly in exchange for prominent positioning (ie advertising), we allowed Amazon an exclusive “window” to stream/sell the album 1 week early.
Both of these in-kind trades are widely used by cash poor independent artists who can’t afford to put up cash for advertising. This important promotional tool would likely fall afoul of a “no windowing” policy. Meanwhile Apple and Amazon do not seem to have a problem with this kind of windowing, however Spotify and YouTube actively try to restrict this practice. Spotify has been especially vocal on the topic. It is not unreasonable to assume that this agenda item is there to please MMF’s and FAC’s financial backers.
But we don’t have to speculate, MMF and FAC could easily explain how this agenda item got there. For instance were the 4,000 artists that are members of the Featured Artist Coalition allowed to vote on this item? Were they even consulted? How about the rank and file manager is the MMF? How exactly did this come about? And why is the Featured Artist Coalition now run by a former city banker not a featured artist?
Has MMF/FAC become just another in a long line of fake artist advocacy groups secretly funded by technology companies?