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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, March 24, 2017

By Julia Pernicone, Songtrust Account Associate


By now you’ve probably heard–or at least heard about–the momentous latest release from hip-hop artist, Drake, More Life.  Drake describes the work not as an album or mixtape, but “a body of work bridging the gap between major releases,” a playlist of sorts.  The work features 22 tracks of varying genres, featuring many guest artists and some not featuring Drake at all.  In this way he fills the role of artist and producer as well as curator.

Zach Fuller of Midia Research explored the possible reasoning behind Drake and his team’s decision to release the project in this way.  He references the “3-minute pop-song,” which was created to fit the mold of emerging radio formats.  Drake is making use of the emerging digital formats–streaming, and more specifically, playlisting–to express his artistic vision as well as reach more listeners, creating a new musical product.  He also mentions that we’re currently in an “era of the always-on fan who can access an artist at any time” and a need to consistently provide content.  Marketed under the “Drake” name, the project keeps him in the public consciousness, while also bringing attention to lesser known artists.

One of these artists is Australian neo-soul band, Hiatus Kaiyote, whose song “Building a Ladder,” released in 2015 on their sophomore LP Choose Your Weapon, is sampled on More Life‘s opening track, “Free Smoke.”  Drake is reportedly a long-time fan of the group.  Hiatus Kaiyote’s Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield told Billboard, “The fact that somebody like Drake, as prestigious as an artist, experiencing so much of life, all the time, found sanctuary in [our song], there’s beauty in that.”  In a video posted to Drake’s Instagram account with the caption “December,” he’s seen singing along to “Building a Ladder.”  The video has gotten over 2 million views in just 3 days, with many commenters shouting out the song from where the sample originated.

Hiatus Kaiyote, as well as the other artists featured on More Life, will no doubt be seeing a surge in streams on their own music, but also reap the rewards of publishing shares on Drake’s release.  The release is heading to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart next week, and has broken first-day records on both Spotify and Apple Music.  In the first 24 hours of release, More Life was streamed over 150 million times on those two services alone.  The project, not premiered exclusively on any service, is specifically catered to streaming audiences, curating a playlist of differing genres and influences tied together by a common thread, and sets a precedent for future releases from artists across genre boundaries.

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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, March 16, 2017

By Isaac Assor, Songtrust Publishing Operations Coordinator


Over the past week, sources around the internet have been buzzing about Spotify’s acquisition of UK-based audio detection technology startup Sonalytic. There are many theories circulating about Spotify’s plans to use this new technology to compete with services ranging from Shazam to SoundCloud. However, while not the most exciting possibility from the consumer-facing perspective, Spotify’s announcement that it will incorporate Sonalytic in its efforts to “improve [its] publishing data system” is a significant step forward for songwriters. Arguably one of Sonalytic’s most significant breakthroughs is its ability to identify the musical stems of not just a recording, but its underlying composition. While Shazam relies on recording fingerprints, TechCrunch reports that the technology can accurately identify live performances. Taken a step further, Spotify may be able to use Sonalytic to link a recording to its composers and publishers using the key musical features of the composition.

Falling exactly a year after the $30 million settlement between Spotify and the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) over unpaid royalties due to tracks with unidentified songwriters, the acquisition demonstrates Spotify’s commitment to accurately matching recordings with their composers. At the very least, the move is certainly an interesting development that could improve Spotify’s standing in the NMPA’s ongoing proceeding before the Copyright Royalty Board, which will determine the mechanical royalty rate paid out by digital streaming services for the next five years.

Taken together, Sonalytic’s audio detection innovations and efforts to use blockchain technology to create a global, decentralized metadata library represent converging approaches to solving one of the most frustrating challenges in managing copyright in the streaming music age: incorrect and incomplete metadata.

While these developments are necessary steps forward in the effort to properly document the music world’s ever-growing song catalog, songwriters and publishers must take active steps to make the most of these innovations. After all, databases are only as useful as their entries. Songwriters must keep accurate records of titles, writer shares, dates and terms of publishing deals, and recording information (ISRCs, performing artists, album titles, release years, and record labels). By the same token, publishers must keep track of effective and termination dates, pre- and post-term collection periods, controlled percentages, and controlled territories.

With myriad revenue streams already on the books and new ones constantly emerging, the industry is full of new opportunities for independent musicians. However, the globalization of music usage has also made artist and writer compensation more complicated than ever before. This is where publishers come in. At Songtrust, we are working every day to stay ahead of the changing industry and track down these fragmented royalties. We encourage writers to play an active role in their publishing deals; global song usage can only be effectively tracked when interested parties provide clean, accurate, and up-to-date metadata.


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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, March 10, 2017

Tell the Copyright Royalty Board you want fair rates for songwriters. (3)

By Kyle Thiede, Songtrust Manager of Publishing Operations

A question we often receive from clients is “I have x amount of streams, how much in royalties am I owed?”  Unfortunately, the answer is quite complex.  Digital service providers (Spotify, Apple, Google Play, etc.) have given consumers and artists incredible platforms for our musical preferences. There is something to be said and applauded for having access to millions of songs from platinum selling artists to the jam band down the street. If you haven’t already come to this conclusion, streaming services are here to stay and that is a great thing for the industry.

However, they, along with the entire music industry, have work to do.

The first and most pivotal begins in Washington.  On March 8th, the National Publishers Association and many of the music tech services brought their respective arguments to the Copyright Royalty Board.

“The tech giants are expected to argue to reduce the amount they pay, while the National Music Publisher’s Association and the Nashville Songwriters Association International will lobby for an increase”

Currently, a stream on average equates to roughly $0.005 while only about 20% of that goes to the publisher/songwriter. Per many situations in music, the artist is often favored over the songwriter.  Since 1909, mechanical royalty rates have been set by Congress which also allows compulsory licenses to be issued.  Simply, this means that anyone can record your songs, as long as they agree to pay the rate.  Currently for a physical or digital download that would come out to $0.091 per song in the United States.  Your first reaction must be the discrepancy in those rates. The DSP’s argues that they are paying tremendous fees to license the master (artist) sides of music, which is true. Labels/distributors hold considerable power in allowing these services to have your favorite artists music available. With that said, the NMPA and publishers agree that we can no longer sit idle and allow songwriters to be subject to shrinking royalty statements. Songwriters don’t often get the fame or recognition but are an invaluable part of the industry and it is time they are treated as such. Especially when the conversation of money is revolving around multi-billion dollar organizations, who are utilizing these songs in far more ways than for consumer enjoyment.  There is a clear opportunity for publishers and songwriters alike to make their mark in Washington and the argument is sound!

“As any songwriter looking at his or her royalty statement knows, current interactive streaming rates—set over ten years ago when digital streaming was just beginning—pay very little to song creators. These low royalty rates have immensely benefited large digital companies who have built thriving music services used to deliver your songs and to draw consumers into their larger “ecosystems.” While royalties paid to songwriters have remained small, giant tech companies have used your songs to sell not just music subscriptions, but also other products and services such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, iPhones, Beats headphones and Amazon Prime subscriptions.”

As a songwriter, it is import to monitor what is happening in Washington regarding this situation. Be vocal and be present.  This affects all songwriters and if their voices are not heard, who knows when this opportunity to even the playing field will come around again.  It is time songwriters are equally compensated and respected for the art they provide to us all!

Sign a letter to the digital service providers encouraging them to work with songwriters, not against them.


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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, February 17, 2017


It’s clear that streaming is the present and future of music consumption.  Chance The Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’ was the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy this past weekend, Prince’s Warner Bros. catalog was streamed almost 5 million times in two days (up 6,323% from the previous two days) after being released onto more streaming platforms, and more and more services are popping up to compete with streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music.  According to a report published by Parks Associates, there is a dark horse in the streaming market: Amazon Prime Music.  The company’s senior analyst says, “Nearly one-half of streaming music subscribers, the equivalent of 15% of all broadband households, indicate they have a subscription to Amazon Prime Music.”  In the Middle East, streaming service Anghami–which co-founder Eddy Maroun says was created when he figured out that piracy was the only option for music consumers in the region–has 33 million users.

So the question is no longer whether streaming is going to survive the music industry, it’s how the music industry is going to survive streaming.  The monetization of music, and specifically monetization of composition copyrights and compensation for songwriters, is under turmoil in the digital age.  Streaming services are finally starting to embrace the industry where they derive the value for their businesses, with Spotify hiring former manager Troy Carter, and more recently, Amazon hiring Alex Luke, former Executive Vice President of A&R at EMI Music, to serve as Global Head of Programming & Content Strategy.  Partnering with digital service providers is the only way for rightsholders of music to make streaming work for both consumers and creators of music alike.

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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, February 10, 2017


Arguably the best part of the Super Bowl each year is the slew of new commercials advertisers put together for the largest single television broadcast event in the US.  Market Track, parent company to advertising tracking firm Competitrack, found that 62 brands advertised in 77 unique commercials throughout the four quarters and halftime.  Combined, the ads made up for nearly 46 minutes of air time.  Estimated ad spend was $460 million, with 21 brands spending at least $10 million each on TV spots.  92% of advertisers integrated their ads with social media either before or during the game.

So where does music come in?  More than 30 commercials featured during Super Bowl LI used music, 26 of which licensed music for the uses (rather than having custom music composed).  Not including TV show promos or movie trailers, the major publishers provided music for 17 ads.  That means there was a huge uptick from previous years in independently published music.  Billboard reported that 12 commercials acquired music licenses in one-off deals directly from self-published artists or boutique firms.  Kevin Patrick, manager for Matt and Kim, whose song “It’s Alright” appeared in a Buick spot, said, “The extensive exposure we get from synch licensing through commercials has an intensively greater reach than we’ve gotten elsewhere. So synch has been a big focus for us.”

Check out Synchtank’s 10 favorite music placements from Super Bowl LI, and tell us which ads were your favorite!

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