How Spotify (and others) Could Have Avoided Songwriter Lawsuits, Ask The Labels.

This is simply a story about intent. Daniel Ek is the co-founder of Spotify, he was also the CEO of u-torrent, the worlds most successful bit-torrent client. As far we know u-torrent has never secured music licenses or paid any royalties to any artists, ever.

Spotify could have completely avoided it’s legal issues around paying songwriters.  The company could have sought to obtain the most recent information about the publishing and songwriters for every track at the service.  The record labels providing the master recordings to Spotify are required to have this information. All Spotify (and others) had to do, was ask for it.

Here’s how it works.

For decades publishers and songwriters have been paid their share of record sales (known as “mechanicals”) by the record labels in the United States. This is a system whereby the labels collect the money from retailers and pay the publishers/songwriters their share. It has worked pretty well for decades and has not required a industry wide, central master database (public or private) to administer these licenses or make the appropriate payments.

This system has worked because each label is responsible for paying the publishers and songwriters attached to the master recordings the label is monetizing. The labels are responsible for making sure all of the publishers and writers are paid. If you are a writer or publisher and you haven’t been paid, you know where the money is – it is at the record label.

Streaming services pay the “mechanicals” at source which are determined by different formulas and rules based upon the use. For example non-interactive streaming and web radio (simulcasts and Pandora) are calculated and paid via the appropriate performing rights society like ASCAP or BMI. These publishing royalties are treated more like radio royalties.

The “mechanicals” for album sales from interactive streaming services are calculated in a different way. It is the responsibility of the streaming services to pay these royalties. CDBaby explains the system here and here. Don’t mind that these explanations are an attempt to sell musicians more CDBaby services, just focus on the information provided for a better understanding of this issue.

Every physical album and transactional download (itunes and the like) pays the “mechanical” publishing to the record label directly, who then pays the publishers and writers.  This publishing information exists as labels providing the master recordings to Spotify have this information. All Spotify (and others) have to do, is ask for it.

Record labels have collectively and effectively “crowd sourced” licensing and payments to publishers and songwriters for decades. Why can’t Spotify simply require this information from labels, when the labels deliver their masters? It’s just that simple. Period.

The simple, easy, and transparent solution to Spotify’s licensing crisis is to require record labels to provide the mechanical license information on every song delivered to Spotify. The labels already have this information.

The simple solution is for Spotify to withdraw any and all songs from the service until the label who has delivered the master recording also delivers the corresponding publisher and writer information for proper licensing and payments. Problem solved!

No need for additional databases or imagined licensing problems. Every master recording on Spotify is delivered by a record label. Every record label is required by law to pay the publishers and songwriters. This is known and readily available information by the people who are delivering the recordings to Spotify!

There is no missing information, and no unknown licenses. Why is this so F’ing hard?

This system would mean that the record labels would have to provide this information. It’s also possible that some of that information is not accurate. Labels would probably fight against any mechanism that would make them have to make any claims about the accuracy of their data, which is fine. If it’s the most update information it’s a great place to start.

Of course, we know that both sides (both labels and streamers) will reject any mechanism that introduces friction into the delivery of masters. However, with the simple intent of requiring publisher and songwriter info for every song master delivered there will no longer be a problem at the scale that currently exists.

To be completely fair to Spotify they did work to make deals with the largest organizations representing publishers and songwriters (NMPA and HFA). However those two organizations leave out a lot of participants. So back to square one. If publishing information is required upon the delivery of masters, the problem is largely solved. Invoking a variation on Occam’s Razor, the best solution is usually the most simple one.

You’d think that in the times before computers this would have been harder than it is now, but like all things Spotify you have to question the motivations of a company whose founder created the most successful bittorrent client of all time, u-torrent.

Oh, and of this writing Spotify is now claiming they have no responsibility to pay any “mechanicals” at all. Can’t make this up.

 

Labels / Spotify Admit Windowing is Streaming Solution (while cutting royalty rates)

It’s amazing how long it takes the industry to catch up to us. We strongly suggested windows and pay-gates at ad supported streaming services (Spotify) to drive conversion rates to subscription revenues back in 2014 and again in 2015, twice!

Well guess what is being reported in Digital Music News this week…

“According to details tipped, the Swedish streamer would restrict the biggest album releases to only paid subscribers for a period of time.”

Wow, windowing works! Who knew?!

But here’s the real kicker, the labels are LOWERING royalty rates in exchange for the ability to window hit records! It’s unbelievable that the industry must always take two steps back for every one step forward. Does it really need to be this hard?

Read the full story at Digital Music News below:

Spotify Finally Finds a Way to Lower Licensing Deals and Go Public

 

YouTube’s Value Gap is the Record Industry’s Biggest Problem To Fix, and Here’s Why…

If the record industry is serious about growing streaming revenues (and the digital economy in general) it must address the problems with the exploitative practices of Google’s YouTube. We’ve been lucky to be supplied with Content ID data from the same source as our previous data – so we added that into the mix to see where it would rank.

These numbers are just staggering.

If you combine Content ID to the YouTube Subscription numbers you arrive at a whopping 63% of total streaming market share that only contributes  11% of revenue. Ya’ll taking notes here?

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Look at the combined YouTube revenues of Subscriptions and Content ID together at 11% of revenue. That puts the combined earnings at #3 in market share behind Apple Music. However, Apple Music creates more earnings than the two combined YouTube Revenue streams with less than 4% of the consumption. You’ll also notice that YouTube is the only streaming service with three zeros following the decimal point. That means YouTube is paying hundreds of dollars per million streams while the other leading streamers are paying thousands.

Apple Music generates 12% of revenue with less than 4% of streams. YouTube generates 11% of revenue with 63% of streams. Does that sound like a problem to anyone else?

As of this writing we’re not factoring in the direct channel uploads for artists to YouTube or Vevo, however we just can’t imagine that those numbers are much different in terms of plays versus revenues. We hear from a lot of label folks that they are afraid to give up their annual revenue from YouTube sources, but all we can say is that you’d be gaining more much more than you would be giving up.

We’ve heard of at least one executive who met with resistance when faced with the prospect of potentially walking away from millions of dollars a year in YouTube revenues. But, it’s not walking away from millions, it’s giving up 10’s of millions in true revenue.

Let us not forget, that this devalued revenue will prevent the overall growth of streaming as a format. With streaming revenues (largely from Spotify and Apple Music) now accounting for approximately 40% of overall digital music revenues why should YouTube be able to pay 1/10th of the other major players? Oh, that’s right because of user pirated content uploads…

It’s time for the record business to get serious about cleaning up YouTube.

 

Updated! Streaming Price Bible w/ 2016 Rates : Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Tidal, Amazon, Pandora, Etc.

The last time we did this was back in 2014, so we thought it was time for an update. Not a lot of surprises but as we predicted when streaming numbers grow, the per stream rate will drop. This data set is isolated to the calendar year 2016 and represents an indie label with an approximately 150 album catalog generating over 115m streams. That’s a pretty good sample size. All rates are gross before distribution fees.

Spotify was paying .00521 back in 2014, two years later the aggregate net average per play has dropped to .00437 a reduction of 16%.

YouTube now has their licensed, subscription service (formerly YouTube Red?) represented in these numbers as opposed to the Artist Channel and Content ID numbers we used last time. Just looking at the new YouTube subscription service numbers isolated here, they generate over 21% of all licensed audio streams, but less than 4% of revenue! By comparison Apple Music generates 7% of all streams and 13% of revenue.

Speaking of Apple, they sit in the sweet spot generating the second largest amount of streaming revenue with a per stream rate .00735, nearly double what Spotify is paying. But, Spotify has a near monopoly on streaming market share dominating 63% of all streams and 69% of all streaming revenue. The top 10 streamers account for 99% of all streaming revenue.

streamrevenuemkrtshr2016

To put this list in the context of our 2014 numbers we’re adding the chart below with the data sorted by the quantity of streaming plays required to match the revenue of a single song or album download. This is important as we work towards defining and setting a fair per stream rate and also setting an accurate economic equivalent of streams to songs and albums for the purposes of charting.

Billboard currently calculates 1,500 streams to one album for the purposes of charting, which at current streaming rates actually matches an economic equivalent. However, that is most likely a highly excessive numbers of plays to achieve that economic equivalent. But, more on that later…

Keep in mind every streaming service has a key piece of data that would allow artists and labels to set a fair per stream rate. Every on demand streaming service, Apple, Spotify, Tidal, Google Play all know how many times a song is played (per person) on average over time. This is the data that is key to setting fair streaming rates. Who will share this information? Apple, Jimmy Iovine, we’re looking at you.

streamspersong2016

  • HOW WE CALCULATED THE STREAMS PER SONG / ALBUM RATE:
  • As streaming services only pay master royalties (to labels) and not publishing, the publishing has to be deducted from the master share to arrive at the comparable cost per song/album.
  • $.99 Song is $.70 wholesale after 30% fee. Deduct 1 full stat mechanical at $.091 = $.609 per song.
  • Multiply the above by 10x’s and you get the album equivalent of $6.09 per album
[EDITORS NOTE: All of the data above is aggregated. In all cases the total amount of revenue is divided by the total number of the streams per service  (ex: $5,210 / 1,000,000 = .00521 per stream). In cases where there are multiple tiers and pricing structures (like Spotify), these are all summed together and divided to create an averaged, single rate per play.]

[royalties][streaming royalties][music royalties][royalty rates]

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Gently Down The Stream (Songwriters Streaming Royalties Explained) | SONA [VIDEO]

Thank You Songwriters Of North America (SONA)

Windowing Works! 9 of the Top 13 UK Albums NOT on Spotify…

Windowing isn’t just for Adele and Taylor Swift anymore, Music Business Worldwide reports the following:

Four of the Top 5 current UK midweek albums aren’t on Spotify – and are, streaming wise, particularly fragmented.

A quick scan down the rankings, sent to labels today, shows that the same fact applies to five of the Top 6, six of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 13.

We started suggesting that windowing was one of several viable solutions to combat the negatives effects of streaming music ubiquity as early as 2013 when we stated “Why Spotify Is Not Netflix, But Maybe It Should Be“.

We were told we were “out of touch”, “luddites” and we “didn’t understand the new digital economy.” But we persisted on this point with additional writing in 2014, “How To Fix Music Streaming In One Word, Windows“.

Again, many resisted what is just common sense. The record industry always had utilized windows (or windowing as some prefer), but it just looked a little different than the way the film business did it. But it was there, and it always had been there.

In a December 2015 post we got more specific, suggesting that record labels experiment with more disruption and innovation following Taylor Swift and Adele successfully windowing off of Spotify during the initial release window of their latest releases. We wrote, “Three Simple Steps To Fix The Record Business in 2016… Windows, Windows, Windows…“.

In that post we included this:

This is not a philosophical discussion. This is financial reality. Respected stock analyst Robert Tullo who is the Director Of Research at Albert Fried & Company says this:

Longer term IP Radio and Spotify are good annuity revenue streams and great promotional tools. However, we believe the system works better for everyone when artists have the right to distribute their Intellectual property how they see fit.

Ultimately we think windows for content will form around titles that look much like the Movie Windows and that will be great for investors and the industry as soon as all these so called experts get out of the way and spot trading fashionable digital dimes for real growth and earnings.

So here we are in the spring of 2016. As simple math and economic reality effects more artists, managers and labels first hand the truth becomes self evident.

YouTube is the next windowing battle to a restoring a healthy economic ecosystem for artists. You can’t window if you can’t keep your work off of YouTube. That’s not YouTube, that’s YouLose…

Guest Post by @schneidermaria: Open Letter to YouTube, “Pushers” of Piracy

A must read. YouTube from an independent artist’s perspective.

MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

[We’re pleased to post this open letter to YouTube written by Maria Schneider, a five-time GRAMMY-winning composer and bandleader, a board member of the Council of Music Creators, and an active supporter of MusicAnswers.org.]

Open Letter to YouTube, “Pushers” of Piracy

by Maria Schneider 

Hank Green’s recent open letter in support of YouTube (that was in response to Irving Azoff’s open and scathing letter against YouTube) deserves a strong response from musicians and other creators.   I appreciate YouTube’s illegal business model might yield a few anecdotal success stories like Mr. Green’s and his videos of opening beer bottles with antlers, but for the vast majority of the artistic community, including me, and every musician I know (and I know thousands), YouTube is a resounding disaster.

MariaSchneider_GregHelgeson Maria Schneider in rehearsal

There’s no use in beating around the bush, so I’m going to cut to the chase…

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Fight For The Future Of Corporate Astroturf Ripping Off Creators!

Musicians, know who your friends are and are not. Here is another example of big tech money, corporate astroturf, attempting to remove your rights. In the last hours of the submissions to the Copyright Office for comments on the DMCA a webform was introduced.

Note the fear-inducing reference to “robots”–“robots” must refer to the tools that Google itself gives to big companies to automate sending DMCA notices to Google for infringing links.  So by definition, “corporations” use Google’s own “robots” at Google’s request.  80 million infringing links this month alone!  (And remember, the Google “transparency report” does not include DMCA notices sent to YouTube, Blogger or any other Google property, it just covers Google search.)  EEP! ROBOTS!  DON’T BREAK THE INTERNET!

Google DMCA 3-31-16

This letter is exceptionally misleading because Google doesn’t allow independent artists to use these tools.  That means even the handful of artists who can monitor Google search 24/7 have to send manual notices.  So what the astroturf group is really complaining about is that EVERYONE should have to send notices manually which would increase the amount of time that Google has to profit from links to infringing content by data profiling or advertising sold on pirate sites.

This webform did not even verify if those sending the automated letter to the US Copyright Office were actually US Residents or machines…or made an intelligible comment on the questions the Copyright Office asked for public comment.  So, we had some fun with it, see bel0w.

David Newhoff at The Illusion Of More has an excellent piece looking much deeper at how these corporations and their funded organizations are working aggressively to take away the protections granted to individual creators in copyright.

Read it here, at the link below.

Astroturf Organizations Typically Hysterical on DMCA | The Illusion Of More

 

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The Truth About Vinyl And Streaming – And It Is Not Pretty…

More talk about vinyl and streaming, here’s more clarity…

The Trichordist

vinylcu

There’s a romanticism about vinyl, and we share that enthusiasm of the format for obvious reasons. However it should be noted that the romanticism that surrounds vinyl, is largely that- romanticism. Below we’ve assembled a number of recent editorials and reports about the state of vinyl production to shed some light and much needed perspective on this subject.

There several important take-a-ways from our friends who are on the front lines of vinyl production that are also noted in the reports below.

1) Vinyl revenues are grossing more than free streaming receivables. This sounds impressive at first but said another way it means that free streaming is just not generating a lot of revenue in the aggregate of the total business (not a surprise, free streaming is a big problem).

Second, and more sadly is the fact that vinyl production is very expensive and miscalculations on selecting a title or…

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