9 Dec 2015

Are the PROs fairly remunerating struggling songwriters?


Back in June of this year, at the UK's Music Publisher Association's AGM, the keynote interview was the Financial Times' pop critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney interviewing Wayne Hector. "Wayne Who?" you say? Well, I had no idea either, but apparently he is a songwriter who has (co-)written more than 30 Number One hits for artists such as One Direction and Westlife.

The MPA interview (and the whole AGM) was all about "celebrating British songwriting", and Ludovic was doing his best to help celebrate.

Then, in yesterday's FT, Ludovic wrote a column entitled "From Adele to Coldplay, ‘Hello’ to bland British pop" (Click here to read it). It's behind a paywall, but a key quote from the article is:
British pop is not only phenomenally successful - it is also dispiritingly bland.
I agree. I find commercial pop even worse than "bland". I find most of it extremely boring and highly irritating. I own a few thousand CDs, but none by One Direction or Westlife, nor any by Whitney Houston, Chris De Burgh, or even Adele.

Commercial pop may be a great export product for the UK, and it may generate a large chuck of the revenue of the global music industry, but people-wise it is only a tiny fraction of that industry. For every successful commerical-pop songwriter, there are thousands of artists who write and perform their own music. They don't write music to sell millions of copies. They write music as their way of expressing themselves artistically, and it is that kind of music that appeals to me much more.


A pure songwriter like Wayne Hector needs a publisher to get his music recorded by famous artists. Artists who write and perform their own music don't need a publisher for that purpose. But those artists still have their music played on radio and in clubs, and their music is being sold on download stores, and streamed on streaming services. Therefore, artists who write their own music still need to participate in the music publishing ecosystems to get the writer-part of the earnings generated by their music. The one and only way to do that successfully is to sign a publishing deal with a music publisher.

But their needs are very different from what traditional publishers offer. The main requirement from artists who write their own music, is for the publisher to accurately register their repertoire with all PROs worldwide, and collect all the royalties due to them for the use of their music. (Synchronisation licensing is another important function of a publisher, but any artist who sign a publishing deal solely for the purose of getting his music into big TV commercials, is highly likely to end up extremely disappointed)

Fortunately, there are many different publishing companies in the world, including ones such as my company Musiqware, whose primary focus is on getting the artist/writer his performance royalties and mechanical licensing fees out of the existing ecosystems. But none of them can guarantee to get every last penny out of the system, because the PROs passively discriminate against everything that is not commercial pop.


Over the past year, I have been getting increasingly annoyed with the MPA, and the NMPA, and ICMP, and most of the PROs. They seem to be stuck in the traditional songwriting model. They "celebrate the art of songwriting", and appear to believe that publishing is only about writing songs for others.

This attitude is reflected in the rules and regulations of the PROs, and the processes and procedures that implement those. PROs wish to collectively license as much music as possible, in order to maximise the collective revenue. But they then severely limit the spending on the administration of that revenue. When talking with PROs, I constantly hear phrases such as "activity-driven priorities", "threshold values", "manual processing", "black boxes" and "minor sums". The net effect of all these together is that the small number of big players who produce commercial pop get roughly the right amounts of money, whilst the vast majority of other PRO members do not receive all that they are entitled to.

Despite all their rhetoric about the need for "fair remuneration for struggling songwriters", the PROs themselves still have a long way to go in building a fairer ecosystem that caters for ALL people who create music.

21 Nov 2015

Let's Face It: The Ad-Funded On-Demand Music Experiment Has Failed

It's been another interesting week on The Net with regards to the music industry's income from streaming services. Or more to the point: The lack thereof. Many different accusations are being made about numerous different parties in the various streaming ecosystems. It is hard to find common threads between all of these, except for "We're not being paid enough".

That lack of common complaints is no surprise, because it is a set of extremely complex interlinked ecosystems, and there are multiple failures happening in parallel. The only way to gain some understanding of all this, is to look at each of the issues separately, one by one.

This post is about YouTube's ad-funded model. YouTube has the largest user base of all the streaming services, but the music industry is increasingly unhappy with the YouTube deal. But are YouTube the "bad guys"? Are they really intentionally screwing the entire music industry? Or is it just an experiment that didn't quite work out? Let's look at how we got to where we are now with Google and YouTube.

Google started off as a search engine, offered for free to the world. To fund the search engine, Google started to experiment with displaying advertisements next to their search results. Advertisers were willing to pay small amounts of money for those displays, and Google was happy with the combined total revenue from that, so everybody was happy. The experiment was a success.

Google then expanded into offering advertising to third parties, by "partnering" with bloggers and website owners. Most of these had been offering their content for free, and welcomed the opportunity to earn some money from their free-to-the-user content. Everybody happy again. Another successful experiment.

Then Google bought YouTube, and expanded the partnering options to makers of videos. This resulted in another type of free-to-the-user content being monetised, with everybody happy all round. But it also got them into trouble with the rightsholders in music, movies and TV shows, because they had by accident also created the opportunity to monetise pirated copyright content. Intially YouTube dealt with this through the US DCMA and EU Safe Harbour provisions, allowing rightsholders to issue takedowns for content they owned.

Then Google decided to expand the YouTube partnering options to the music industry. By doing this, they believed they were doing the rightsholders a big favour by enabling them to monetise their content on YouTube, in the same wasy as they had done bloggers a big favour by offering monetisation.

But here Google missed one very important point: On-demand access to music was not free to the user before YouTube came along. Music had value. Music was being paid for by those that listened to it. People were paying for CDs and downloads. Some people had just starting to pay for on-demand streaming services. The content that Google offered to monetise was already being monetised in various other formats and on various other platforms.

The goal of Google's partnering option was for advertising revenue to replace the users' spending on on-demand access to music. That's all good and well, and noble, and positive, (and "not evil"), and was for many rightsholders an interesting avenue to experiment with.

For Google the move was doubly positive, because it also legalised the vast amounts of music uploaded to YouTube by its users, by offering the rightsholders a share of its advertising revenue in return for a license.

Unfortunately, the advertising revenue turned out to be way below market value. The value of a free-to-the-user view on YouTube is miniscule when compared to the value of a subscription play on Spotify, Deezer or Rhapsody (and many people already deem those subscription per-play values to be much too low).

The people at Google appear to still honestly believe that they are doing the music industry a big favour with the YouTube partnering program. They recently proudly announced that they have generated 3 billion dollars of revenue for the music industry. That's a big sum of money.

But hang on...: YouTube has one billion users. So they have generated $3 per user. Three dollars... for six years of unlimited on-demand access to all the music in the world. Is that really fair value?

Let's compare this to Spotify: Spotify has also recently announced that they have paid 3 billion dollars to the music industry. That equals YouTube's big sum of money. But Spotify's $3bln came from just 75 million users, which equates to $40 per user. What's more... More than 90% of Spotify revenue (ie. $2.7b) comes from its 20 million paying subscribers. That equates to $135 per user. That is 45 times as much as YouTube's per-user revenue.

Google/YouTube's intention was/is to replace rightsholder revenue from music consumers with revenue from advertising. This is clearly not working. The revenue generated from advertising is a tiny fraction of what consumers are willing to pay for music.

From this we can draw only one conclusion: The experiment with ad-funded unlimited access to on-demand music has failed. Badly.

18 Oct 2015

How Much is a Stream Actually Worth?

Last week, the UK's Music Managers Forum published a report "Dissecting The Digital Dollar", which "set out to explain [...] how digital income is shared between each stakeholder in the wider music industry". It is a good report, in which they outline seven key issues and raised 15 questions for the industry to think about.

But they failed to include the most important issue: The value of a single stream. Without that point, all further discussion is rather meaningless. Whatever percentage is applied to nothing, it'll still be nothing.

The music industry will need to consider the per-stream value that any percentages are going to be applied to. The MMF report totally fails to address that point, and puts the "Division of streaming revenue" at the top of their list of issues.

So let's look at a number of different price points that are currently floating around the industry:


1) Same as a download?

On the one extreme, we still have people who compare per-stream rates to download prices. But streams are to downloads as rental is to purchase. The monthly rental value of a house is only a fraction of the purchase price of that same house. The daily rental value of a car is only a fraction of the purchase price of that same car. But property owners make ends meet, because they can rent the property month after month. Car rental companies make ends meet, because they can rent the car out day after day.

A stream is a short-term rental of a track, whereby the rental term equates to the duration of that track. When that user wants to listen to that track for a second time, it counts as another stream which results in another payment to the rightsholders of that track.

The value of a single stream ("rental") is therefore only a fraction of the price of a download ("purchase"). Basing expectation on 79p/99c per stream is unrealistic.


2) As much as advertisers are willing to pay?

On the other extreme are the providers of ad-funded services. I have no issue with the idea of ad-funding. Ad-funded models can work. Ad-funding works fine with commerical radio, because advertisers on commerical radio are willing to pay enough to fund the radio stations' costs for the music they play.

But it appears that in the streaming world, advertisers are not willing to pay enough to satisfy the rightsholders, artists and writers. Should non-music companies such as Coca-Cola, Ford and McDonalds determine the value of music? No! It is up to the music industry to decide that value, and if an ad-funded business model's advertisers are not willing to pay enough to cover that value, then that business model is not going to work. Such a model is simply broken.

A lot of ad-funded streams earn absolutely zero. This happens when an ad-funded service has no "advertising inventory" available to sell against a particular stream for a particular user at a particular time. But that should not mean that the stream has no value. Somebody is listening to the track, and (hopefully) getting some enjoyment out of that. Rightsholders should get an amount of money for that, irrespective of "available advertising inventory".

The music industry can enforce that by setting an absolute minimum rate for an individual stream. To make ad-funded models viable, the services may need to sell more advertising and/or rise their advertising rates. If they then can't afford the minimum rate, then they don't have a viable business model.

They are supposed to be "ad-funded music services", but some behave more like "music-funded advertising networks".


3) A penny per track?

Somebody recently pointed me in the direction of streaming service with an alternative model. That service follows a "metered" approach: The user buys an amount of credit, and then each stream uses 1p of that credit. When somebody buys £5 credit, he can listen to 500 streams, and then needs to buy more credit to keep on listening to more music.

This is a much more reasonable approach, as it takes into account how much a consumer is willing to pay for the product.

Whether it is enough for the rightsholder is a different question. The 1p includes VAT, and (under the current 55/15/30 split) a label would thus get 55% of 0.83p per stream, which is 0.46p. That is probably not quite enough for many people in the industry, but it is already significantly better than the current rates from ad-funded models.


4) As much as the subscribers are willing to pay?

In the early days of mobile phones, users would get charged on a per call basis. Then, about a decade ago, the mobile phone companies worked out that consumers are willing to pay more for subscriptions, bundles and unlimited plans. They found that users on a subscription will make far more and longer calls, and are willing to pay a higher price for that, often to the level of a higher per-unit price.

The same principle has already been proven in the world of streaming music. Users on a subscription end up paying more than the 1p per track from the previous metered service. There is sufficient data floating around to show that an average premium subscriber to a streaming service listens to around 500 to 600 streams per month. Do the maths and you will see that such a premium subscriber pays more than 1p per stream. (Don't forget the VAT in the calculation).

Is it enough? That is still open for discussion, but at least this price point is purely based on what consumers are willing to pay for music.


Conclusion

There is a big variation in the value people put on a single stream. For me, the per-stream values from paid-for subscription services are acceptable. But the per-stream values from purely ad-funded services (and from ad-funded tiers in freemium models) are much much lower, often to a ridiculously low level.

Sorting out that discrepancy should be the music industry's top "Key Issue".

25 Jun 2015

Open Letter to Robert Ashcroft (CEO of PRS)

Dear Robert,

I read your letter in today's Financial Times with interest.

You wrote:
[...] the vast majority [of the 111,000 PRS members] neither perform live on stage nor sell sound recordings - indeed most do not even have a record label.
Is that so? Really?!?

I find it hard to believe that there are 100,000 people in the UK who write music, but do not perform or record that music.

You are probably going wrong by assuming that everybody who joins PRS is a dedicated songwriter. But that is not the case. PRS for Music doesn't actually know how many of their members are more than just composers or songwriters, because it's not something PRS asks their members about.


I run a global music rights management company. We do many things, but above all we publish artists who write their own music, and we administer labels who publish the music they release. Many of those artists are members of PRS, but they are not dedicated songwriters. Many of those PRS-member artists also own the labels whose publishing rights we administer. They are artist, composer, label and publisher, all in one.

To us, "publishing" is about licensing the compositions embedded in the music from those artists and labels. The largest part of that involves plugging in to the existing frameworks for licensing musical compositions, either through collective licensing bodies such as PRS for Music, or through direct blanket licenses with companies that use music.

We continually run into all sorts of problems with this, because the PROs and MROs have rules, regulations, processes and procedures that are designed around the traditional model of dedicated songwriters, who engage with publishers, who in turn find artists and labels to record and release those compositions. But the needs of our artists are very different, and many aspects of the rules, regulations, processes and procedures are incompatible with what those people need from collective licensing bodies such as PRS for Music.

I am not alone in experiencing these problems. I meet a lot of fellow publishers at PRS, MPA and AFEM events, many of whom are complaining about the same problems.


So why do those artists-who-write-their-own-music actually bother to join PRS?

When their music is played in clubs, PRS charges those clubs "on behalf of the songwriters". When their music is sold as downloads, the download stores have to withhold money from the sales revenue, to hand that money over to PRS and MCPS "for the songwriters". Similar situations exist when their music is streamed online, or used on YouTube, or played on radio, and so on. This is all money taken away from the artists to "pay the songwriters".

But these artists are the songwriters of their music. The only way to recover those withholdings is to join PRS (and possibly MCPS, and/or get a publisher involved). But when we enquire with PRS for Music about why these people are not receiving the money they are entitled to, we get comments about being "insignificant", or even "irrelevant", and that "PRS does not deal with artists, but only works on behalf of the songwriters".


I really believe in the principle of collective licensing for musical works. For a small company such as us, it would be impossible to direct-license every company in the world that uses music. But the collective licensing agencies need to adjust their rules, regulations, processes and procedures to suit ALL people who write music, and not focus solely on the select few that earn a living from writing music for others to perform and record.

If the societies do not change, then large chunks of the music industry will need to find (or create) alternative ways to collectively license their compositions. We would prefer not to do this, because doing so is likely to undermine the existing collective licensing ecosystems, and may well do damage to the businesses of dedicated songwriters and their publishers.

It is time for PRS for Music to adapt to the realities of the 21st Century. You run that organisation. Please ensure fair treatment for ALL people who write music.

Regards,
Herman Verkade
CEO of Musiqware Ltd

21 Jun 2015

SoundCloud Introduces API Limits to Fight Piracy

SoundCloud are getting a lot of bad press coverage again. This time it's around an announcement they made last week, which certain journalists have totally mis-interpreted. It's time again to de-bunk some myths...

As many artists and labels are aware, SoundCloud has been growing as a source for piracy. There are some dodgy people out there, who rip tracks from SoundCloud, and make those rips available on various pirate sites. This problem has increased to the level where more and more artists and labels are no longer putting full tracks on SoundCloud, but uploading short low-quality clips instead. This defeats the purpose of SoundCloud, and is not good for the artists and labels, but also not good for SoundCloud.

The pirates who abuse SoundCloud this way, are getting increasingly sophisticated. You may think of guys sitting behind their screens all day to find and rip tracks, and then uploading those rips one by one to pirate sites. Unfortunately they are much cleverer than that. They have written little applications that use the SoundCloud API (Application Programming Interface) to browse and search SoundCloud to find new tracks. Those applications then use a different part of the SoundCloud API to play those newly found tracks, hooking the output thereof into another piece of software that rips the audio to an MP3, after which a final bit of code then automatically post all those illegal rips to numerous pirate sites. These little applications run 24 hours a day. seven days a week, and just suck everything new out of SoundCloud into their piracy sites, without any human intervention whatsoever.

SoundCloud are now trying to stop this abuse by limiting the number of tracks an API-based application can request, thus limiting the number of tracks these pirates can steal. The limit is still high, because it still allows an application to grab a new track every six seconds. I can only guess that the problem has gotten so bad that this limit will actually have some negative effect on those rogue applications, and I would not be surprised if this limit is going to be reduced some time later on.

Despite what the various press reports have been saying, this change has no effect on the number of plays a track can get on the SoundCloud site, from the official SoundCloud apps, and/or from the standard SoundCloud widgets for embedding tracks on websites and social media.

Rate-limiting APIs is not unusual. Here at Musiqware, we make extensive use of the APIs from numerous sites and services, mostly to verify that our new releases appear on all the legitimate services correctly. Most of these APIs have rate limits to avoid various types of abuse. None of those limits cause a problem for our legitimate use of the APIs. Now SoundCloud have also imposed a limit on their API to avoid abuse. They should be applauded for doing something to reduce the pirates' abuse of their service...!

30 May 2015

That Sony Spotify Contract

Two weeks ago, The Verge published a leaked contract between Spotify and Sony Music Entertainment, which detailed the US deal between those two parties. A lot has been written about that already, but here I will add a few more points that I haven't yet seen discussed.

The contracts contain various bits about IODA. At the time of the contract, IODA was partly owned by Sony. Since then, IODA has merged with The Orchard, and is now wholey-owned by Sony. Any indie labels that do their distribution through The Orchard, and wish to moan about this contract...: Be careful what you moan about!

The sections about IODA do seem reasonable though. Basically, IODA content will earn the same as original Sony content, but those earnings are treated separately and are excluded from advance recoupment. Sony simply doesn't want to have to pay IODA customers parts of their advances, and IODA (and their customers) will get paid, even if Sony hasn't recouped its advance.

The topic of whether Sony artists would see any benefit from the advances -whether recouped or unrecouped- has been debated at length, and Sony has publicly stated that they DO share such advances and breakage with the artists on the same basis as actual revenue, which is a good thing. For completeness: Warner has also publicly stated that they share such advances with artists, but Universal has yet to make any statement on this.

But the Sony/IODA link gets more interesting in light of the $9M of advertising credits that Sony received as part of the deal. I would expect that Sony's first point of use for those advertising credits is their own repertoire. When it comes to the option of re-selling the remaining advertising credits, it would be logical to think of IODA. Sony aren't in the business of selling online advertising, but that IS one of the things that IODA does. Are there any IODA-distributed labels who have bought Spotify advertising through IODA during 2011 or 2012, and would care to comment on the pricing thereof?

Whether Sony credited their artists with any of such advertising resale money is of course a totally separate point, which also comes after the question of whether -and how much- IODA paid Sony for those credits. We know details of neither of these, so I will leave that to others to investigate further.

Another interesting point is the 60% royalty rate that Sony receives. Spotify claim to pay out around 70% of their revenue to rightsholders, which is generally considered to be about 55% to labels and the rest to publishers. This 60% therefore raised a red flag here. But this contract is about the US and Canada only, and we all know that the publishing-side streaming royalties for the US are considerably lower than in the rest of the world due to those damned Consent Decrees and Rate Courts. I am curious about the rate Sony receives in other territories, but this contract does not necessarily imply anything on that matter.

The Verge made a rather weird comment about the per-stream minima in the contract. They made them sound somewhat irrelevant, because "these rates only come into play if the usage-based minimum exceeds the revenue sharing model". This is correct, but approached from the wrong direction: The minimum is fixed and the variation is in the amounts based on the sharing model. Sony will get paid on a revenue-share basis, unless that revenue share falls below the minimum, in which case they then get that per-stream minimum. Thus, Sony is protected from Spotify's potential failure to sell sufficient advertising, and Spotify is willing to give such protection. That's kind of fair on both sides, not? Furthermore, I have been reliably informed that all Spotify contracts with labels and aggregators contain such minima for the advertising-funded tiers. These minima do not give Sony an unfair advantage, except for perhaps the actual level of the minima, but I can't comment on how these compare to the minima for other content providers.

The most interesting part of the contract is how the revenue share is calculated. The contract shows that the revenue share is calculated separately for the different plans that Spotify offers. Actual earnings from the subscription tiers are therefore not brought down by any low per-stream rates for the advertising-funded tier. The free tier may bring down the average per-stream rate, but not the total. As I argued recently in my "Spotty Maths" post on this blog, the average is an irrelevant statistic. It's the total amont of money for the total mix that matters.

Finally, The Verge wrote about the MFN clause, and on the 15% on ad sales by third parties. But those comments were so dumb and ill-informed that I am not even going to get into these here. They may become the subject for another "Spotty Maths" post some other time.

16 May 2015

The Digital Pie Debate

I have been a member of the UK's MPA (Music Publishers Association) for quite a few years. Joining was one of the best things I have done for my business, because being an MPA member has given me access to a lot of information and contacts that I probably would not have had otherwise. I am so impressed and involved with the MPA, that I am standing as a candidate for the Board this year.

I'm not very impressed by comments made by the new interim CEO Jane Dyball as a panelist in "The Digital Pie Debate" at The Great Escape yesterday. You can read about her comments here:
http://www.musicweek.com/news/read/jane-dyball-there-is-not-enough-advertising-revenue-in-the-world-for-every-digital-service-to-launch-based-on-ad-revenue/061797.

Jane apparently "refuted the concept of a 'digital pie' to be shared out between publishers and labels". I don't get this. There IS a pie to be shared. That pie is 100% of subscriber revenue. It's been generally accepted that the service provider takes 30%. The other 70% of the pie is to be divided between labels and publishers. Whether the current division of that pie is fair is a different matter. The division varies between countries, which makes that a very long topic that I defer to address another time.

Jane continues by stating that "We are still very early into the digital market". I wonder where Jane has been recently, because we have been in the digital market for more than a decade. That does not qualify as "very early".

What annoys me most is this: "[...] we're not yet at the stage where you can easily track money coming out of a digital service and going into a royalties statement". The services, aggregators and labels are all capable of dealing with all of this. Various commercial companies that deal with online mechanicals in the US also manage to deal with it. Those are all companies that are legally and/or contractually obliged to deal with every fraction of a penny, and manage to do so, whilst the PROs and MROs (societies that rightsholders join voluntarily) all suddenly complain about how complex it all is, and do half-baked jobs. Some are better than others, but PRS for Music are among the worst offenders on that front. They generally blame "bad data", which is indeed a problem, but there are a number of other more significant problems in PRSfM's processing of data from digital services. (Another long topic that I may address another time).

She also mentions the animosity between publishers and labels. For Musiqware, close to 100% of our publishing revenue comes from recorded music. There is a tiny slice of money for live performances, but those are usually by an artist who has recorded a particular song, and is thus also related to the recordings. Even our synchronisation revenue comes from recorded music, because we place existing commercially-released tracks into TV, film, adverts, and so on. The labels are the organisations that generate revenue for us publishers. We should treat them as our friends and allies. The only revenue we have that is not related to recorded music, is sheet music. And just how much money do we all make from sheet music these days??


But these comments distract from what may have been her core message: I do agree that ad-funded revenue on its own is not going to sustain the music business. Fortunately, the majority of streaming services are freemium, meaning that they have an ad-funded free tier to atrract new users, whilst most of the income they generate is from premium subscriptions. Notable exceptions here are YouTube and Pandora. The subscription-focussed mixed models of Spotify, Deezer, Rdio, Rhapsody all generate good income for the music industry, including the publishers.

As such, advances from new services could be an option, but I believe that minimum per-stream values are a much better option. The ad-funded tier is a marketing strategy, and we must make sure that the music industry does not pay for such marketing costs. Per-stream minima solve that problem, and the label-side contracts with streaming services do include such minima. I hope the publishing-side contracts also include these.

13 May 2015

Spotty Maths #1: Freemium

My friend Mark owns 50 CDs. He's gone totally digital now, and is a bit short on cash, so he has decided to sell his CDs in order to buy a new phone. Ten of his CDs are really good and somewhat rare, so he wants to sell those for £12 each. The other 40 CDs are less valuable, so he thinks he will only be able to get £2 for each of those.

Q: Should he only sell the somewhat-rare ones, or should he sell them all?

If he were to only sell the somewhat-rare CDs, he would make 10 x £12 = £120. That's an average of £12 per CD.

If he were to sell them all, he would make an additional 40 x £2 = £80, bringing the total up to £200. But adding these cheaper ones to the mix, results in much lower average of only £4 per CD (£200 / 50).

I would advise Mark to sell them all, because he would end up with more money to spend on his new phone.

But if somebody were to ignore the quantities, actual prices, and total amounts, and only look at the per-CD price, then that person would incorrectly conclude that it's better to only sell the rarer ones, because "that results in a higher per-CD price". But that is simply a bad application of maths.


To apply these maths to streaming services, replace the rare CDs with "premium subscribers", and the others with "free tier users" (1). Offering a premium service results in a certain amount of revenue at a certain per-stream rate. Adding a free tier to that, increases the total revenue, but reduces the average per-stream rate.

The anti-freemium lobby seems to look mostly at the average per-unit revenue. They argue that freemium is bad because freemium services tend to have lower per-stream rates than services without a free tier. But that is not all that matters.

What really matters in this debate is: What would those free tier users have done if there hadn't been a free tier? Nobody knows for sure, because there has always been a free tier. A small group of them would just subscribe to the premium service. But most of them would simply opt for other free services such as YouTube and piracy, which pay even less, or nothing at all, reducing the total income for the music industry.

If the music industry wants to see growth again, they will need to allow freemium models. Those arguing against it are either bad at maths, or may have some hidden agenda.


(1) Freemium users don't pay anything, but they do generate revenue through the advertising they get thrown at them.

1 May 2015

What makes a proper publisher?

In a recent committee meeting with fellow publishers, I was accused of not being a "proper" publisher. The accuser said this in response to my comment that I was not particularly interested in "securing Swedish covers of our songs", but far more interested in making sure to get paid for airplay on Swedish radio and mechanicals from online services in Sweden. (This exchange was in a discussion specifically about Sweden, but applies equally to other territories).

It highlights how not all publishers are the same.

The publisher who made the offensive remark, is a very traditional publisher. He works with songwriters who provide him with songs, which he then pitches to artists and labels to get recorded and released. That is a perfectly valid business model, but not the one and only "proper" publishing model.

I work with artists who write their own music, most of whom are DJ/Producers. Publishing is one of a number of services that I offer them through my company Musiqware. Those services are not about securing cover recordings, but much more about securing payment for all uses of their music, wherever in the world such uses occur. We make sure that their music is registered with numerous collecting societies (and various other organisations that license direct), and that those registrations contain as much as possible additional data to assist with identifying all uses of the tracks. It also involves sending all music to music recognition technology companies to ensure that uses are reported. We also pitch and license music to film, TV shows, commercials, corporate presentations, online videos, and so on, either direct or through third party agencies.

But we do not look for covers, because that is mostly irrelevant to the artists we work with.

Not all publishers offer the same services, nor do they all have the same priorities. There is more than one "proper" publishing model.

29 Apr 2015

Hello, World!

I have been meaning to start writing a blog about music rights for a long, long time. And that is now, finally, happening.

Back in 2006, I founded my company Musiqware, a music rights management company specialising in electronic music (from dark techno to jungle to synth-pop to chill-out). Musiqware manages rights for artists, composers, publishers and labels, with a global focus, and relying heavily on technology.

In my day-to-day work I deal with a lot of collecting societies and digital service providers. On this blog I intend to write about my experiences with those organisations. There are good ones, there are bad ones, and there are some absolutely atrocious ones.

Stay tuned for more.