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.

 

The 21st Century Marketing Restriction: No licensing for Artificial Intelligence — Artist Rights Watch

If you let your record company license your recording for AI algorithmic music a la Orwell’s “versificator”, it’s like Silicon Valley making you train your replacement.

By Chris Castle

After the money, one of the most important parts of a recording artist negotiation is the “marketing restrictions”.  These are restrictions on what the record company or music publisher can do with your work–what type of licenses they can, or more frequently cannot, grant to third parties, for example.  Essentially, whatever is not prohibited is permitted.

Marketing restrictions also have a temporal element–during or after the term, recouped or not recouped.  There are some restrictions that are acknowledged to be verboten and are usually easy and unrestricted concessions.  An example of these would be licensing for certain types of commercials such as tobacco, firearms, grooming or hygiene products and alcohol.

Stewart Dredge has an excellent article this week in the Guardian which brings to mind Laura Kobylecky‘s post on MusicTechPolicy drawing comparisons between Spotify’s “fake artist” problem and “The Next Rembrandt” with echoes of the fictional  “versificator” operated by Big Brother’s “Music Department” in 1984.  According to Stewart, there are dozens of AI music startups getting funded that all essentially do the same thing.  Using a library of recordings (sometimes called a “corpus”), the algorithms “create” new recordings based on the songs and recordings in the corpus.  Google is, of course, a leader in the space (not that different from how they used Google Books to train their translation algorithm, a process called “corpus machine translation”–the librarians will be next).

Those recordings can then be sold or licensed at a very low price which, as Laura and others have noted, can be used to drive down the royalties payable to all other artists on digital music services.

This is, of course, not dissimilar to Silicon Valley companies hiring lower paid foreign workers and ordering the employees who they are to replace participate in training their replacements.  The difference is, of course, that those recordings have to come from somewhere.

It’s time to start adding to the list of marketing restrictions that the song or recording cannot be licensed for AI purposes of any kind.

via The 21st Century Marketing Restriction: No licensing for AI — Artist Rights Watch

If Only Artists and Managers Had Listened To Us : Spotify Per Stream Rates Keep Dropping

We hate to say we told ya so, but… Below is our post from September 2015. Two years ago we predicted the inevitable truth of the all you can eat Spotify subcription model. Like many of our predictions and proposals (example; windowing titles) we’ve had to wait for the industry to catch up to us. Today, two years later, Digital Music News confirms our prediction.

Read the report from Digital Music News by clicking the headline link here.

Exclusive Report: Spotify Artist Payments Are Declining In 2017, Data Shows | Digital Music News

Our original post from 2015 is below…


Spotify Per Play Rates Continue to Drop (.00408) … More Free Users = Less Money Per Stream #gettherateright

Down, down, down it goes, where it stops nobody knows… The monthly average rate per play on Spotify is currently .00408 for master rights holders.

PerStreamAvg_Jun11_July15

48 Months of Spotify Streaming Rates from Jun 2011 thru May 2015 on an indie label catalog of over 1,500 songs with over 10m plays.

Spotify rates per spin appear to have peaked and are now on a steady decline over time.

Per stream rates are dropping because the amount of revenue is not keeping pace with the  number of streams. There are several possible causes:

1) Advertising rates are falling as more “supply” (the number of streams) come on line and the market saturates.

2) The proportion of  lower paying “free streams”  is growing faster than the proportion of higher paying “paid streams.”

3) All of the above.

This confirms our long held suspicion that as a flat price “freemium” subscription service  scales the price per stream will drop.  As the service reaches “scale” the pool of streaming revenue becomes a fixed amount.  The pie can’t get any larger and adding more streams only cuts the pie into smaller pieces!

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: $4,080 / 1,000,000 = .00408 per stream). Multiple tiers and pricing structures are all summed together and divided to create an averaged, single rate per play.

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?

yt_istheproblem

 

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.

 

After 16% drop in Per Stream rates, Spotify asks for another 14% Reduction…

We can’t make this up. We’ve stated many times before, as the consumption of streams increase (and those services grow) the per stream rate will drop as revenues level off. This is simply because revenues can not keep up with consumption, and there is no fixed per stream rate.

In our latest look at streaming rates we found that Spotify streaming rates had dropped 16% from 2014 to 2016. Now, Hypebot is reporting that Spotify is asking for another 14% reduction in royalty payments.

Please someone break out a calculator… that would be a 30% reduction in per stream rates in two years! It’s just math. Wow.

Read the full story at Hypebot:

Spotify’s Latest Offer To Labels: A 14% Lower Royalty Rate | Hypebot

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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Spotify Retaliating Against Apple Music Exclusive Artists, Execs Say… | DMN

Nope… nothing to see here…

The Times dropped the bombshell after digging into the Frank Ocean situation, one that is actively causing the music industry to reinvestigate their practices around exclusives.  “Executives at two major record labels said that in recent weeks Spotify, which has resisted exclusives, had told them that it had instituted a policy that music that had benefited from such deals on other services would not receive the same level of promotion once it arrived on Spotify,” Sisario wrote.  “Such music may not be as prominently featured or included in as many playlists, said these executives…”

READ THE FULL STORY AT DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/08/26/apple-music-exclusive-spotify-sabotage/

Spotify might not suppress search, but that doesn’t mean artists with exclusives get treated equally | Tech Crunch

Hmmmm…

However, while Spotify has been clear about rejecting one part of the argument against the company, there is another piece of the story that remains unaddressed. Hidden in the details, the accusations are really twofold, including both the notion that

* Spotify directly suppresses tracks from artists that have previously signed exclusives with Apple Music or Tidal in search results.
* And, Spotify indirectly targets artists who have signed exclusives with Apple Music and Tidal but promoting music differently in playlists and banner ads.

READ THE FULL STORY AT TECHCRUNCH:
https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/26/spotify-might-not-suppress-search-but-that-doesnt-mean-artists-with-exclusives-get-treated-equally/

Spotify Is Burying Musicians for Their Apple Deals | Bloomberg

New boss, worse than the old boss…

Spotify has been retaliating against musicians who introduce new material exclusively on rival Apple Music by making their songs harder to find, according to people familiar with the strategy. Artists who have given Apple exclusive access to new music have been told they won’t be able to get their tracks on featured playlists once the songs become available on Spotify, said the people, who declined to be identified discussing the steps. Those artists have also found their songs buried in the search rankings of Spotify, the world’s largest music-streaming service, the people said. Spotify said it doesn’t alter search rankings.

READ THE FULL STORY AT BLOOMBERG:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-26/spotify-said-to-retaliate-against-artists-with-apple-exclusives