Press Release: @UMG and @TIDAL Partner to Work on Artist-Centric Royalties — Artist Rights Watch

New York, January 31, 2023 – TIDAL, the global music and entertainment platform, and Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, today announced that the two companies will work together to explore an innovative new economic model for music streaming that might better reward the value provided by artists and more closely reflect the engagement of TIDAL subscribers with those artists and music they love.

Streaming has revolutionized music, catalyzed industry growth, transformed the entertainment experience and provided incredible opportunities for engagement, to the benefit of artists and fans alike. As it has gained mass adoption over the past decade, there is more desire from all parties to look at how to best economically align fans’ interests with those of their favorite artists.

TIDAL and UMG will research how, by harnessing fan engagement, digital music services and platforms can generate greater commercial value for every type of artist. The research will extend to how different economic models could accelerate subscriber growth, deepen retention, and better monetize fandom to the benefit of artists and the broader music community.

“From day one, TIDAL has stood out as artist-first, leading with a premium subscription tier to pay artists more and experimenting with new ideas like fan-centered royalties to see if there are fairer and more equitable ways to get artists paid,” said TIDAL Lead Jesse Dorogusker. “We are setting aside our current fan-centered royalties investigation to focus on this opportunity for more impact. We’re thrilled to partner and learn along the way about the possibilities for more innovative streaming economics. This partnership will enable us to rethink how we can sustainably improve royalties’ distribution for the breadth of artists on our platform.”

“As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it’s become increasingly clear that music streaming’s economic model needs innovation to ensure a vibrant and sustainable future,” said Michael Nash, UMG’s Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer. “Tidal’s embrace of this transformational opportunity is especially exciting because the music ecosystem can work better – for every type of artist and fan – but only through dedicated, thoughtful collaboration. Built on deeply held, shared principles about the value of artistry and the importance of the artist-fan relationship, this strategic initiative will explore how to enhance and advance the model in keeping with our collective objectives.”

For more information contact:

TIDAL: Sade Ayodele, Head of Communications – sayodele@tidal.com

Universal Music Group, Global Communications: James Murtagh-Hopkins  james.murtagh-hopkins@umusic.com

Read the press release

h/t Sharkey Laguana and Artist Rights Symposium II panelist Michael Nash.

Are Songwriters and Artists Financing Inflation With Their Credit Cards? — Music Tech Solutions

If streaming mechanicals are the most important income for songwriters, why doesn’t streaming get inflation protection?

Are Songwriters and Artists Financing Inflation With Their Credit Cards? — Music Tech Solutions

By Chris Castle

Recent data suggests that songwriters and artists are financing the necessities in the face of persistent inflation the same way as everyone else–with their credit cards. This can lead to a very deep hole, particularly if it turns out that this inflation is actually the leading edge of stagflation (that I predicted in October of 2021).

According to the first data release for the US Census Bureau’s recent Household Plus survey, over 1/3 of Americans are using credit cards to finance necessities at an average interest rate of 19%. Credit card balances show an increase that maps the spike in inflation CPI over the same time period. This spike results in a current debt balance of $16.51 trillion (including credit cards). There’s nothing “transitory” about credit card debt no matter the helping of word salad from the Treasury Department. Going into the Christmas season (a bit after this chart) U.S. credit card debt increased to the highest rate in 20 years

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

These balance increases, being practically across the board, are not surprising given the strong levels of nominal consumption we have seen. With prices more than 8 percent higher than they were a year ago, it is perhaps unsurprising that balances are increasing. Notably, credit card balances have grown at nearly double that rate since last year. The real test, of course, will be to follow whether these borrowers will be able to continue to make the payments on their credit cards. Below, we show the flow into delinquency (30+ days late) grouped by zip code-income. Here, it’s clear—delinquency rates have begun increasing, albeit from the unusually low levels that we saw through the pandemic recession. But they remain low in comparison to the levels we saw through the Great Recession and even through the period of economic growth in the ten years preceding the pandemic. For borrowers in the highest-income areas, delinquency rates remain well below historical trends. It will be important to monitor the path of these delinquency rates going forward: Is this simply a reversion to earlier levels, with forbearances ending and stimulus savings drying up, or is this a sign of trouble ahead?

What does it mean for artists and songwriters? It is more important than ever that creators work is valued and compensated. When it comes to government-mandated royalty rates like webcasting for artists and streaming for songwriters, due to the long-term nature of these government rates, it is crucial that creators be protected by a cost of living adjustment. (Remember, a cost of living adjustment or “COLA” is simply an increase in a government rate based on the rise of the Consumer Price Index, also set by the government.)

Of course, songwriters are in the position that the MLC could issue low to no interest credit cards to help them through hard times at least until the MLC was able to distribute the $500 million in black box they are sitting on.

Thankfully, the webcasting rates (set in “Web V”) are protected by the benchmark cost of living adjustment, as are the mechanical royalty rates paid to songwriters for physical and download. 

The odd man out, though, is the streaming mechanical rate which has no cost of living adjustment protection. This is troubling and exposes songwriters to the ravages and rot of inflation in what we continue to be told is the most important income stream for songwriters. If it’s the most important royalty, why shouldn’t it also have the most protection from inflation?

Urgent call to action! Call @SenatorLeahy to Support the American Music Fairness Act (202) 224-4242

We have a chance to make history today––the American Music Fairness Act, our bi-partisan congressional bill, is on the runway to pass but we need the support of just one Senator who is holding it up:

Call @SenatorLeahy and tell him to support The American Music Fairness Act: (202) 224-4242

We don’t ask you to take time out of your day to support legislation very often, but this is one of those times and YOUR CALL MATTERS!

We have all worked together on the #IRespectMusic campaign towards this moment for years, and our moment has finally arrived. Make your voices heard, please call @SenatorLeahy and urge him not to turn his back on American artists in our hour of need!

DID YOU KNOW the USA is the only democratic country in the world where artists don’t get paid for radio airplay? DID YOU KNOW only Iran & North Korea share the USA’s position on this issue? Tell Senator Leahy that it is time to get America off this list!

@repdarrellissa on #AMFA: The right number is not zero #IRespectMusic

Starting with Frank Sinatra on December 12, 1988–nearly 34 years ago to the day–artists have campaigned for fair treatment in line with the rest of the world and get a performance royalty for broadcast radio. The House Judiciary Committee led by the stalwart Rep. Jerry Nadler moved that goal a little closer this week by passing HR 4130, the American Music Fairness Act, out of committee.

Almost as significant as the vote was the comments by Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Darrell Issa (the remaining author of the bill after the wonderful Rep. Ted Deutch announced he would not run for reelection). Given the party change in the House next session, Rep. Jordan is the front runner for Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He was very clear that the committee will be taking up the bill if it doesn’t pass in the lame duck, because it is time to resave this unfairness. Rep. Darrell Issa summed it up: It is time for bipartisan compromise so that America is not in the same category as North Korea, Cuba and Iran, and whatever the right number is it is not zero. 

This is not where we needed up before on prior versions of the legislation. We are in a much, much better place than before. I would say that’s for two reasons. First, because the legislation itself addresses radio’s objections and makes the NAB’s mean-spirited lobbying tactics ring hollow and cheap. That dog just won’t hunt anymore.

The other reason is because of a superb messaging effort by the MusicFirst Coalition under new management. MusicFirst under Joe Crowley took their job seriously and understood their job to be very simple: We win, they lose. Too often, lobbyists view their job as perpetuating the conflict so the money keeps flowing. You can tell when you are in one of those because the organization doesn’t seem to quite get it that when you have fewer points when the clock runs out, we call that losing. Even in Washington.

Turning this beast around was a tough job and the entire MusicFirst team deserves recognition and appreciation. We’re not done–there may still be some magic tricks left in this session. But as Congressmen Jordan and Issa said, if the bill doesn’t pass this session, they are committed to taking it up early next session and getting it passed in the House.

Godspeed to everyone who has worked so hard for so long to make this a reality for all of our artists and musicians who need it. It’s what Frank would do.

Artist Rights Symposium III at @TerryCollege at UGA, Keynote by @MMercuriadis of @HipgnosisSongs

We’re back! David Lowery hosted the third annual Artist Rights Symposium at the University of Georgia’s Terry College in Athens on November 15 as an in-person event. The Symposium is an all-day event that allows students in the Music Business program to participate and interact with panelists as part of the music business program.

Our keynote speaker was the inspiring Merck Mercuriadis, long time songwriter advocate, manager and music industry veteran who founded and runs the Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Merck is an active songwriter advocate around the world, particularly with the recent inquiry into the music streaming economy by the UK Parliament’s Digital Culture Media & Sport Committee and the UK Competition and Markets Authority. As Kristin Robinson reported on Billboard

Merck explained why he feels the industry is in the “age of the songwriter.” “There has been a massive paradigm shift,” he said. “Forty years ago, the power was in the artist brand,” but now, most songs that top the Billboard charts are written by a larger number of songwriters than ever, meaning the demand has never been higher for good hitmakers. “But songwriters have to have a place at the negotiating table now,” he said, citing that in the United States, rates for mechanicals are set by the government’s Copyright Royalty Board, barring “free market” negotiations. “Let’s face it, [the government controlling rates] is insulting to songwriters.”

This year’s symposium topic was “The Future of Authorship and the US Copyright Office” and Merck and the stellar panelists had a lot to say about the many advocacy issues facing contemporary songwriters.

Fortunately, thanks to Terry College the symposium is available on YouTube at no charge and you can watch it in its entirety.

Welcome/Opening remarks

9:00 AM -9:10 AM David Barbe, Director, Terry College Music Business Program

Georgia Legislative Overview and Agenda 9:10 AM- 9:30 AM

Panel 1: Libraries vs Authors: The Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” and Fair Renumeration for Authors. 9:35 AM- 10:50 AM

Panelists

Janice Pilch.  Rutgers University
John Degen:  Writer, Head of Writers Union Canada.
Stephen Carlisle: Copyright Officer Nova Southeastern University,Florida
Mary Rasenberger, CEO, Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation.

Panel 2 Managing a longer Table at the Copyright Royalty Board 11:10 AM to 12:25 PM

Dr. David C. Lowery Moderator
Rick Carnes, Songwriters Guild of America
David Turner, Penny Fractions, SoundCloud
Crispin Hunt, Songwriter, Ivors Academy, #BrokenRecord

Lunch and Fireside Chat with Merck Mercuriadis 12:45– 2:00 PM

Panel 3 #DoubleStat: The Future of Compulsory Rates 2:20 PM – 03:35 PM

Chris Castle Moderator, Founder Christian L. Castle, Attorneys, Austin and MusicTechPolicy blog
Richard Burgess, CEO of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM)
Helienne Lindvall, President, European Composers and Songwriters Association
Samantha Schilling, Songtradr, IAFAR

Metadata, Matching and Claiming at the MLC 3:55 – 5:10 PM

Moderator Abby North, North Music Group
Erin McAnally, Artist Rights Alliance
Helienne Lindvall President, European Composers and Songwriters Association
Melanie Santa Rosa, Word Collections, The MLC

Please leave a comment if you have any questions!

Trickle-Down Streaming Mechanical Royalties Will be Be Up for Discussion

You may have noticed that a cost of living adjustment for statutory royalties was front and center in the recent (and still ongoing) physical mechanicals rate setting. Unfortunately, the idea of a COLA seems to have disappeared in the streaming mechanicals proceeding.

Note that it’s different music users on the physical mechanicals than on streaming. The physical mechanicals are paid by record companies and streaming mechanicals are paid by some of the biggest corporations in history, namely Amazon, Apple and Google and other wealthy public companies like Spotify and Pandora/SiriusXM. All these companies have market capitalizations greater than the gross national product of some countries. 

You may have also noticed that after years of frozen subscription rates, Apple is the first of the streaming subscription services to raise rates by $1 on several of its services including Apple Music. Tim Ingham is asking if Spotify will follow (you know, one of those price fixing agreements inferred from conduct). Who knows, but what’s interesting about this is the effect it will have on streaming mechanical rates, or more pointedly the effect that the Big Tech cartel would like you to think it will have.

The calculation for streaming mechanicals is absurdly complicated. You do have to wonder which of the genii came up with that one. About the only thing that is certain is that the negotiation of that rate every five years (and judicial appeals occasionally) guarantees employment for lots of lawyers and lobbyists on both sides, although definitely skewed toward Big Tech’s share of the 46 lawyers on the docket.

The streaming rates are so bizarre that the Copyright Royalty Judges seem to have lost trust in the process and have issued two separate orders instructing the participants in the streaming mechanical proceedings to either disclose or “certify” that they have come clean with the Judges as to any side deals that may have artificially lowered the rates–the second order makes for interesting reading.

Unlike the physical mechanical, the settling parties rejected a cost of living adjustment in these historically inflationary times. Why they rejected a COLA is hard to understand aside from the fact that they thought they could get away with it.

One thing that is clear, however, is that any argument that a COLA is not necessary with streaming mechanicals because the rate is theoretically based on increases or decreases in revenue is a particularly insulting form of trickle down gaslighting. 

It must be said that the record company group of music users that pays the physical mechanical rate voluntarily agreed a COLA on their rates that is currently pending approval by the Judges. There really is no excuse for the streaming services to rely on the discredited trickle down theory to pawn off their Rube Goldberg royalty structure on songwriters for streaming mechanicals.

Must Read by @ebakerwhite: TikTok Parent ByteDance Planned To Use TikTok To Monitor The Physical Location Of Specific American Citizens — Artist Rights Watch

[Well, here it is. Two years ago we warned everyone who would listen that TikTok were apparatchiks for the Chinese Communist Party–by law in China because of the CCP’s civil-military fusion–“If Google is the Joe Camel of data, then TikTok is the Joe Camel of intelligence.” We did panels warning about TikTok including the CEO’s struggle session and the CCP constitution–facts, you know. Tim Ingham warned that on top of everything else, the deals suck. And then there’s Twinkletoes, who is in our view a walking, talking Foreign Agent Registration Act violation.

Emily Baker White warns of the harms from TIkTok we identified 2 years ago coming home to roost.

[According to Emily Baker White writing in Forbes:]

China-based team at TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, planned to use the TikTok app to monitor the personal location of some specific American citizens, according to materials reviewed by Forbes.

The team behind the monitoring project — ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department — is led by Beijing-based executive Song Ye, who reports to ByteDance cofounder and CEO Rubo Liang. 

The team primarily conducts investigations into potential misconduct by current and former ByteDance employees. But in at least two cases, the Internal Audit team also planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a U.S. citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company, the materials show. It is unclear from the materials whether data about these Americans was actually collected; however, the plan was for a Beijing-based ByteDance team to obtain location data from U.S. users’ devices.

Read the post on Forbes

Will the Copyright Royalty Board approve Big Tech’s attempted cover-up? 

By Chris Castle

[This MusicTechPolicy post appeared on Hypebot]

There’s an old saying among sailors that water always wins. Sunlight does, too. It may take a while, but time reveals all things in the cold light of dawn. So when you are free riding on huge blocks of aged government cheese like the digital music services do with the compulsory mechanical license, the question you should ask yourself is why hide from the sunlight? It just makes songwriters even more suspicious. 

This melodrama just played out at the Copyright Royalty Board with the frozen mechanicals proceeding. Right on cue, the digital services and their legions of lawyers proved they hadn’t learned a damn thing from that exercise. They turned right around and tried to jam a secret deal through the Copyright Royalty Board on the streaming mechanicals piece of Phonorecords IV. 

To their great credit, the labels handled frozen physical mechanicals quite differently. They voluntarily disclosed the side deal they made with virtually no redactions and certainly didn’t try to file it “under seal” like the services did. Filing “under seal” hides the major moving parts of a voluntary settlement from the world’s songwriters. Songwriters, of course, are the ones most affected by the settlement–which the services want the CRB to approve–some might say “rubber stamp”–and make law.

To fully appreciate the absolute lunacy of the services attempt at filing the purported settlement document under seal, you have to remember that the Copyright Royalty Judges spilled considerable ink in the frozen mechanicals piece of Phonorecords IV telling those participants how important transparency was when they rejected the initial Subpart B settlement.  

This happened mere weeks ago in the SAME PHONORECORDS IV PROCEEDING.

Were the services expecting the Judges to say “Just kidding”? What in the world were they thinking? Realize that filing the settlement–which IF ACCEPTED is then published by the Judges for public comment under the applicable rules established long ago by Congress–is quite different than filing confidential commercial information. You might expect redactions or filings under seal, “attorneys eyes only,” etc., in direct written statements, expert testimony or the other reams of paper all designed to help the Judges guess what rate a willing buyer would pay a willing seller. That rate to be applied to the world under a compulsory license which precludes willing buyers and willing sellers, thank you Franz Kafka. 

When you file the settlement, that document is the end product of all those tens of millions of dollars in legal fees that buy houses in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vinyard as well as send children to prep school, college and graduate school. Not the songwriters’ children, mind you, oh no. 

The final settlement is, in fact, the one document that should NEVER be redacted or secret. How else will the public–who may not get a vote but does get their say–even know what it is the law is based on assuming the Judges approve the otherwise secret deal. It’s asking the Judges to tell the public, the Copyright Office, their colleagues in the appeals courts and ultimately the Congress, sorry, our version of the law is based on secret information.

Does that even scan? I mean, seriously, what kind of buffoons come up with this stuff?  Of course the Judges will question the bona fides and provenance of the settlement. Do you think any other federal agency could get away with actually doing this? The lawlessness of the very idea is breathtaking and demonstrates conclusively in my view that these services like Google are the most dangerous corporations in the world. The one thing that gives solace after this display of arrogance is that some of them may get broken up before they render too many mechanical royalty accounting statements.

To their credit, after receiving the very thin initial filing the Judges instructed the services to do better–to be kind. The Judges issued an order that stated:

The Judges now ORDER the Settling Parties to certify, no later than five days from the date of this order, that the Motion and the Proposed Regulations annexed to the Motion represent the full agreement of the Settling Parties, i.e., that there are no other related agrements and no other clauses. If such other agreements or clauses exist, the Settling Parties shall file them no later than five days from the date of this order.

Just a tip to any younger lawyers reading this post–you really, really, really do not want to be on the receiving end of this kind of order.

Reading between the lines (and not very far) the Judges are telling the parties to come clean. Either “certify” to the Judges “that there are no other related agreements and no other clauses” or produce them. This use of the term “certify” means all the lawyers promise to the Judges as officers of the court that their clients have come clean, or alternatively file the actual documents.

That produced the absurd filing under seal, and that then produced the blowback that led to the filing of the unsealed and unreacted documents. But–wait, there’s more.

Take a close look at what the Judges asked for and what they received. The Judges asked for certification “that there are no other related agrements and no other clauses. If such other agreements or clauses exist, the Settling Parties shall file them no later than five days from the date of this order.”

What the Judges received is described in the purportedly responsive filing by the services:

The Settling Participants [aka the insiders] have provided all of the settlement documentsand, with this public filing, every interested party can fully evaluate and comment upon the settlement. The Settling Participants thus believe that the Judges have everything necessary to “publish the settlement in the Federal Register for notice and comment from those bound by the terms, rates, or other determination set by the” Settlement Agreement, as required under 37 C.F.R. 351.2(b)(2). The Settling Participants respectfully request that the Judges inform them if there is any further information that they require.

Notice that the Judges asked for evidence of the “full agreement of the Settling Parties”, meaning all side deals or other vigorish exchanged between the parties including the DSPs that control vast riches larger than most countries and are super-conflicted with the publishers due to their joint venture investment in the MLC quango.

The response is limited to “the settlement documents” and then cites to what the services no doubt think they can argue limits their disclosure obligations to what is necessary to “publish the settlement”. And then the services have the brass to add “The Settling Participants respectfully request that the Judges inform them if there is any further information that they require.” Just how are the Judges supposed to know if the services complied with the order? Is this candor?

It must also be noted that Google and the NMPA have “lodged” certain documents relating to YouTube’s direct agreements which they claim are not related to the settlement to be published for public comment. These documents are, of course, secret:

[And] are not part of the settlement agreement or understanding of the settling participants concerning the subject matter of the settlement agreement, and do not supersede any part of the settlement agreement with respect to the settling participants’ proposed Phonorecords IV rates and terms. Further, the letter agreements do not change or modify application of the terms to be codified at 37 C.F.R. 385 Subparts C and D, including as they apply to any participant. Rather, the letter agreements simply concern Google’s current allocation practices to avoid the double payment of royalties arising from YouTube’s having entered into direct agreements with certain music publishers while simultaneously operating under the Section 115 statutory license.

You’ll note that there are a number of declarative statements that lets the hoi polloi know that the Data Lords and Kings of the Internet Realms have determined some information involving their royalties is none of their concern. How do you know that you shouldn’t worry your pretty little head about some things? Because the Data Lords tell you so. And now, back to sleep you Epsilons.

So you see that despite the statements in the group filing to the CRB that the “Settling Participants” (i.e., the insiders) claim to have provided all of the settlement documents required by the Judges, Google turns right around and “lodges” this separate filing of still other documents that they think might be related documents with some bearing on the settlement that should be disclosed to the public but they apparently will not be disclosing without a fight. How do we know this? Because they pretty much say so:

Because the letter agreements are subject to confidentiality restrictions and have each only been disclosed to their individual signatories, each such music publisher having an extant direct license agreement with Google, Google and NMPA are lodging the letter agreements directly with the Copyright Royalty Judges, who may then make a determination as to whether the letter agreements are relevant and what, if anything, should be disclosed notwithstanding the confidentiality restrictions in each of the letter agreements.

Ah yes, the old “nondisclosure” clause. You couldn’t ask for a better example of how NDAs are used to hide information from songwriters about their own money.

The Judges noted when rejecting the similar initial frozen mechanical regulations that:

Parties have an undeniable right of contract. The Judges, however, are not required to adopt the terms of any contract, particularly when the contract at issue relates in part, albeit by reference, to additional unknown terms that indicate additional unrevealed consideration passing between the parties, which consideration might have an impact on effective royalty rates. 

So there’s that.

What this all boils down to is that the richest and most dangerous corporations in commercial history are accustomed to algorithmically duping consumers, vendors and even governments in the dark and getting away with it. The question is, if you believe that sunlight always wins, do they still want to hide as long as they can and then look stupid, or do they want to come clean to begin with and be honest brokers.

As Willie Stark famously said in All the King’s Men, “Time reveals all things, I trust it so.”

@jemaswad: Senators Introduce American Music Fairness Act, Which Would Require Radio to Pay Royalties to Musicians [thanks to Senators @MarshaBlackburn and @AlexPadilla4CA] #IRespectMusic

[Introducing AMFA in the Senate is a huge thing and a major win by MusicFirst over the evil NAB and their $50 handshake. The bipartisan legislation has to pass both Senate and House to become law.]

Since the dawn of radio, the United States has been and remains the only major country in the world where terrestrial radio pays no royalties to performers or recorded-music copyright owners of the songs it plays — a situation that is largely due to the powerful radio lobby’s influence in Congress. While the more than 8,300 AM and FM stations across the country pay royalties to songwriters and publishers, they have never paid performers or copyright holders, although streaming services and satellite radio do.

On Thursday morning, Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced the bipartisan American Music Fairness Act, which aims to rectify that situation by “ensur[ing] artists and music creators receive fair compensation for the use of their songs on AM/FM radio. This legislation will bring corporate radio broadcasters up-to-speed with all other music streaming platforms, which already pay artists for their music.”

Read the post on Variety