US performing rights organization SESAC is now officially backed by Blackstone, one of the most powerful private equity companies in the world. SESAC says that Blackstone’s money will help the company to become a truly global rights management powerhouse across performance, mechanicals, sync, and ever master rights. SESAC, like other US PROs BMI and GMR, is also currently preparing to fight the US Radio Music License Committee to pay out higher composer royalties.
French rights management organization SACEM has pledged to build an online platform that aims to better track online music usage and return more revenue to rights owners. The platform, names URights, is being built via a 10-year partnership with global tech firm IBM, and will be available for use to other rights organizations and partners worldwide. SACEM wants to better track the use of audiovisual content hosted on services like YouTube, in particular.
Performance rights for Prince’s catalog will be represented by Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights. Prince and his team had been administering his publishing catalog since the artist left ASCAP in 2014, and the estate, represented by Bremer Trust, concluded that GMR’s philosophy of providing an elite group of writers with heightened customer service and control was most consistent with Prince’s values. Azoff said, “Prince was an iconoclast, who never settled for second best, and now his Estate has ensured that the public performance rights are protected in a way befitting their significance.”
2017 will bring with it a number of court cases that will affect music publishers, songwriters, and copyright as a whole. First, the Radio Music Licensing Commission and performing rights organization Global Music Rights are suing each other over licensing fees to be paid to publishers and songwriters for radio play. Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke are appealing the verdict that they infringed on Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” in their song, “Blurred Lines,” a decision which many in the music industry have spoken out against as it discourages creativity. And ASCAP and BMI are battling the US Department of Justice over its ruling that the PROs are required to abide by 100% licensing.
The music industry pays tribute to artist George Michael who passed away on Christmas Day. The British singer/songwriter sold approximately 100 million albums in his career with Wham! and as a solo artist, including Faith (1987) and Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1 (1990), mostly via CBS/Sony labels. Jon Platt, CEO & Chairman of Michael’s long-term publisher, Warner/Chappell, called Michael “the epitome of the consummate pop star…who enthralled the world, always keeping us guessing where his music would take us next.”
BMI has filed an action in Federal Rate Court to set interim fees for radio stations during negotiations with the Radio Music License Committee. The RMLC has proposed an interim rate well below that of its previous deal with BMI based on what BMI calls “incomplete and incorrect information regarding BMI’s radio performances” and that “significantly undervalues the work of BMI’s songwriters.” BMI is asking the Court to maintain its most recent rate while new terms for a five-year deal beginning this year are discussed.
Nielsen Co. has purchased Tribune Media Co.’s Gracenote video, music, and sports for $560 million (in cash). Metadata giant Gracenote, acquired by Tribune Media in 2014, provides reference information for more than 200 million music tracks. John Batter, Gracenote’s CEO, said, “Nielsen is a natural home for Gracenote. Both companies have entertainment data at their core and have spent years delivering services to the world’s top media brands. Bringing together our data for driving discovery and tune-in with Nielsen’s deep insights about what people are watching, listening to and buying makes a formidable combination.”
Unsigned artists are begging Facebook to reach an agreement with music publishers on the use of copyrighted content on the social media platform. In October, covers of popular songs began being pulled down from Facebook following a spate of copyright infringement notifications from music rights-holders, and the takedowns have only gotten more vigorous since then. In the meantime, artists who have had great success posting covers on Facebook–like UK-based, unsigned artist Samantha Harvey, who has 1.97 million “likes” on her official Facebook page–have been encouraging their fans to migrate to YouTube.
Mechanical licensing and administration service Loudr has distributed over $1 million in royalties to music publishers worldwide over the last few years. Since the sale of their digital distribution business earlier this year, Loudr has focused on solving the problem of how to identify music publishers, songwriters, and other rightsholders and issue royalty payments and statements for the use of their compositions. Loudr CEO Chris Crawford said, “Loudr’s goal is to provide infrastructure to address rights and royalties in the real world. Since we’re well past the brick-and-mortar era of music distribution, it’s important to make sure that the systems for paying creators and rights holders keeps up with the pace of digital music.”
The global music copyright business was worth $24.37 billion in 2015, growing by nearly a billion dollars from the year before, according to a report put together by Spotify Director of Economics, Will Page, and Music Business Worldwide. The biggest contributors to 2015’s overall music copyright figure was CISAC’s performing rights collections, claiming 28% of the total. Publishing accounted for just over half of the global value of music copyright at 57.3%, while labels accounted for the remaining 43.7%.
Australia right management organizations APRA AMCOS and PPCA have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a single public performance licensing system. The new system, called OneMusic Australia, will be a one-stop show for its clients to more simply obtain, manage, report on, and pay for the music licenses they require to run their businesses. OneMusic Australia, announced three years after the introduction of OneMusic NZ, will be rolled out across the market in the second half of 2018, and will cover both recording and musical work rights.
Canadian mechanical collection society CMRRA announced a reduction in their online licensing administration fee, from 10.% to 6%. The one year fee reduction, which will apply to CMRRA’s licensing and royalty administration services related to music download and streaming services, is a result of the society’s recent recoupment of its significant investment in pursuing the certification of online music tariffs. The investment in tariffs by CMRRA has resulted in higher online royalty rates for its music publisher clients.
YouTube has reached a settlement with the National Music Publishers’ Association over unpaid songwriting royalties. Similar to the NMPA’s recent deal with Spotify, this estimated $40 million settlement addresses the large numbers of songs with missing or incorrect data about their songwriters and the music publishers that represent them, leaving potentially millions of dollars unpaid. Tamara Krivnak, YouTube’s head of music partnerships for the Americas said, “The revenue earned by the music industry on YouTube continues to grow significantly year over year, and we’re committed to making sure that publishers are paid for the usage of their works on our platform.”
The nominations for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, to be held in February 2017 in Los Angeles, were announced this week. As in previous years, the most nominated artists have also been the most talked about over the past year, with Beyonce, Adele, Drake, Rihanna, and Kanye West as likely frontrunners. The nominees show that the music industry’s commercial and critical center lies with pop, hip-hop, and R&B music, though Sturgill Simpson’s presence in the coveted Album of the Year category indicates that the Grammys is acknowledging music that moves the cultural needle.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and committee member John Conyers (D-Mich.) have released a proposal to reform copyright in the US. The proposal would give the U.S. Copyright Office more autonomy, although it would stay in the Legislative Branch of government. Most importantly, it would subject the Register of Copyrights to the same Congressional nomination process as other government officials; the current process for selecting the Register became a matter of considerable concern this October, when the former Register, Maria Pallante, was unceremoniously sidelined by the Librarian of Congress and subsequently resigned.