Taylor Swift and Adele were the top earning artists in the publishing sector of the music industry in 2015. Billboard’s annual Moneymakers rankings list the top 10 earners in four major revenue stream sources: Sales, Streaming, Touring, and Publishing. Taylor Swift topped all four lists, with a total revenue of $73.5 million for the year, followed by Kenny Chesney, the Rolling Stones, and Billy Joel.
Songwriter rights activist, David Lowery, is appalled at Tunecore’s latest survey to its clients regarding the settlement reached between Spotify and the NMPA. The survey asks Tunecore’s songwriters whether they would like to opt in to the agreement, and if so, disqualifies them from joining any class action lawsuits against the streaming service. Lowery’s concerns stem from the fact that the agreement itself is not included, nor does the survey mention the possible statutory damages that songwriters are waiving by opting in.
Despite losses, Pandora posted revenue of $297.3 million for the first quarter of 2016, jumping 29% from the corresponding quarter the year before. The service attributed some of the losses to increased product costs due to higher rates from the Copyright Royalty Board and from signing direct publishing deals at higher rates than what the company would have paid if it employed the compulsory license. As part of the company’s focus on improving relations with music companies and artists, it is also moving to dramatically improve listeners’ experience, the company said.
Max Martin was named Songwriter of the Year for the record-breaking 9th time at ASCAP’s 33rd Annual Pop Music Awards. The songwriter and producer co-wrote nine ASCAP pop hits this year, including Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.” CEO Jon Platt of Publisher of the Year winner Warner/Chappell Music told Billboard, “We’re seeing great songwriters from all over the world create huge global songs and culturally significant moments in music. In the modern music business, especially in the streaming age, the idea that talent has no boundaries is finally true.”
Nigeria’s music copyright collection society, COSON, will license sound recording rights exploited by users in commercial and public settings. COSON has been working with the IFPI for the last few months to enable the society to collect and distribute royalties to record companies and artists. SVP of Universal Music Group, Adrian Cheesley, says “this is a very important step to benefiting artists, the local recording industry, and the broader African music community.”
ASCAP’s annual report announced that the performing rights society reached a record high domestic revenue. This increase, up $61 million from 2014, resulted in a 6.2% increase in domestic royalties paid out to songwriter and publisher members. The society gained some top writers such as Fetty Wap and Kelsea Ballerini, and existing ASCAP writers penned hits that topped 18 separate Billboard year-end charts, such as The Weeknd’s “Earned It” and Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.”
Legendary pop/funk musician, Prince, has passed away. Fellow musicians and fans alike have expressed their shock, grief, and respect for the iconic artist on social media. Born Prince Rogers Nelson in 1958 into a musical household in Minnesota, Prince signed his first recording contract at age 17 with Warner Bros. Records, and went on to win 7 Grammy Awards and sell over 100 million records worldwide.
David Lowery has filed a motion to compel Spotify to turn over all communications regarding its forthcoming publishing settlement. The motion concerns the lack of access to the agreement reached between Spotify and the NMPA, as that may allow the streaming service to make misleading statements informing songwriters about their options for protecting their rights. Mona Z Hanna, one of the attorneys on the matter, says, “we are hopeful that this motion will allow for greater transparency…so that the putative class can be in a position to determine the…fairness of the proposed agreement.
Kendrick Lamar is facing legal action for copyright infringement. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Los Angeles alleging that Lamar’s song “I Do This” includes an uncleared sample of Bill Withers’ “Don’t You Want to Stay” released in 1975. The lawsuit was brought forward by Mattie Music Group, who claim they own the rights to the song used, and follows a string of copyright infringement lawsuits in the music industry such as the recent suit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ “Blurred Lines” by Marvin Gaye’s family.
At Facebook’s annual F8 Conference it announced the launch of its new Rights Manager tool. The tool is similar to YouTube’s Content ID, as it enables rightsholders to manage, monitor, and protect copyrighted video content uploaded to the site. The focus is currently more on tackling copyright infringement rather than monetising user-uploaded content, but the social network is expanding its current tests to share ad revenues with rightsholders.
Downtown Music Publishing has reached a licensing agreement with YouTube for performance royalties. The agreement means that Downtown will be paid directly for the performance of its controlled works on the platform, rather than through performance rights organizations. Downtown believes the deal will be beneficial in terms of the speed and accuracy of payments, as well as in the quality of data received.
Music’s creative community is seeking reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” provisions. Section 512 of the Act dictates how a digital service provider like YouTube is protected from copyright infringement by its users, and how it must deal with any infringement that does occur. Creators, rightsholders, and the people who represent them have long been unhappy with the Act, particularly the “notice and take down” process which is inefficient in the age of the internet, where content can easily be reuploaded.