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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, May 12, 2017

By Anna Miceli, Songtrust Royalties Coordinator

Wikimedia Commons / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NYC_Times_Square_wide_angle.jpg

For the first time in more than a decade, the Grammy Awards will be returning to New York City for the airing of the 60th anniversary ceremony. The Grammy celebration had previously rotated its location in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, until 2004, when it resided in LA for the next 14 years.

The award show will be held at Madison Square Garden, the site of many legendary moments in New York City and music history. Madison Square Garden hosted the Grammy’s twice, in 2003 and 1997, and will be home to the 2018 ten day production.

The fight for the Grammys to return to New York City began in 2014, and flourished shortly after Julie Menin was appointed commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment last February. Julie Menin and her department worked hard to bring the celebration of music back to New York, and defray the costs associated with moving productions to the East Coast. Costs were successfully offset by the forming of a host committee, of which includes local unions, Adidas, and Downtown Music Publishing.

The 2018 New York Grammy location is an important part of the city’s new initiative to celebrate its diverse musical culture. The city announced that June will be the first-ever New York Music Month, celebrating with 30 days of concerts, workshops, and programs for music creators and appreciators alike. New York Music Month will be produced in partnership with New York Is Music, co-founded by Downtown Music Publishing and Songtrust CEO, Justin Kalifowitz.

Julie Menin stated, “Music has never been housed in any city agency before, so this is a real seismic change. We think people know the work we’ve done to negotiate to bring the Grammys back; we feel that, with our music industry report and New York Music Month, we’re going to continue to support the music industry.”

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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, April 28, 2017

By Julia Pernicone, Songtrust Account Associate

Pixabay / https://pixabay.com/en/spotify-streaming-music-1360002/

Spotify has acquired Mediachain Labs, the core team behind the open source Mediachain protocol, to develop a decentralized network for sharing data critical to getting songwriters paid–in other words, a blockchain.  “Blockchain” has been a bit of a buzzword in the music industry lately, specifically within the publishing sector.  It’s certainly been a point of contention and debate amongst various industry players–publishers, songwriters, digital service providers, labels–but the adoption of a secure-but-shared hub where rights holders can enter and update their data and users of music can access that data has become inevitable to propelling the music industry forward.  From Songtrust partner DotBlockchain to ASCAP, SACEM, and PRS teaming up with IBM, it seems that members from all different sectors of the music industry are trying their hand at solving its biggest problem: ensuring transparent, accurate, and open data for music users and creators to properly pay rights holders.  George Howard, Associate Professor of Music Business/Management at Berklee College of Music and Co-Founder of Music Audience Exchange, recently wrote in Forbes of the importance of artists adopting blockchain technology in order to claim (and reclaim) control of their copyrights.

In a blog post announcing the acquisition, Mediachain noted their vision for “the future of media metadata: a shared data layer is key to solving attribution, empowering creators and rights owners, and enabling a more efficient and sustainable model for creativity online,” and described Spotify as a “champion of transparency and open data for artists.”  The partnership with the digital streaming service will leave Mediachain open source and openly licensed.

Mediachain was launched in 2016 with backing from Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures.  In an interview with George Howard in 2015, Andy Weissman of Union Square Ventures laid out a concise framework for applying blockchain technology to the music industry:

“1. Assume no change in copyright laws in the US.

2. To afford yourself of those protections, you must ‘register’ your copy on the Blockchain. In that way, the ‘rights’ will be publicly listed. As those rights may be transferred, the chain of ownership will as well.

3. One benefit here could be that one could also stamp your own rules on that copy. Programmatically, we would see what you desire as to that piece of media and how it may be used. These of course could change over time, as you desire.

4. This would then be a decentralized registry, but even more as the rules would be machine-readable. This could enable apps and services to be built on top of them.

5. This could achieve the end state of being the ‘Nirvana music API.'”

Billboard describes the relationship between blockchain technology and the music industry as a “ledger that connect data ‘blocks’ containing data about every song and its rights holders.  The ledger is ownerless, with multiple participants able to contribute.”  The music industry news source also noted the music industry’s historical problems with messy and inaccurate metadata, and that Spotify’s new team of blockchain efforts can speed up the process of applying blockchain technology to the music industry, therefore “transform[ing] and streamline[ing] publishing and royalty payments to artists and rights owners.”

 

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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, April 21, 2017

By Julia Pernicone, Songtrust Account Associate

Motown Records / http://www.ebay.com/sch/sis.html?_nkw=1973+Stevie+Wonder+Musician+Headphones+Press+Photo&_itemId=190745169144&_trksid=p2047675.m4099

ASCAP’s 12th annual “I Create Music” Expo took place last week in Los Angeles.  The national conference dedicated to songwriting and composing provides a unique opportunity for songwriters, composers, artists, producers, publishers – and those in the industry that support them – to come together to share their knowledge and expertise. The programming offered to attendees includes celebrity Q&A’s, master classes, songwriting and composing workshops, publisher and business panels, one-on-one sessions, DIY career building workshops, showcases and performances, song feedback panels, state-of-the-art technology demos as well as leading music industry exhibitors.

On the opening day of this year’s conference, Billboard senior writer Melinda Newman moderated the “We Create Music” panel, featuring five of today’s most successful songwriters, Sam Hollander, Dave Pirner, Ashley Gorley, Jeff Cardoni, and James Fauntleroy who offered insight to the aspiring songwriters in attendance.  Hollander, who has written hits for acts such as Fitz and the Tantrums, Train, and Pentatonix gave the following advice: “Dare to suck.  You have to start somewhere and you have to be fearless.”

On another panel, “Getting Credit Where Credit is Due,” songwriters Desmond Child, Aloe Blacc, Alex Shapiro, and founder of independent song data web platform/app Auddly Niclas Molinder discussed the importance of crediting songwriters and producers in the age of streaming.  Blacc said, “If I fall in love with a songwriter, I should be able to type that name into a service and listen to those songs regardless of who the singers are. The story behind the song is just as important.”  Molinder stressed the responsibility of creators to take charge of their data and know their splits.  Not only is this important for creators to receive their well-deserved public credit, but also for them to be able to properly collect their rightfully earned royalties.

On the topic of songwriter royalties, congressional legislator Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) joined the “Music Licensing Reform: Fight For Your Rights” panel to discuss the issue of reforming the U.S. music licensing system.  The two legislators, though from opposing political parties, both agreed that the current system, anchored in 76-year-old consent decrees, is antiquated, inefficient, and stifling free market competition.  The panelists discussed the Department of Justice’s denial to review the consent decrees, and how songwriters need to continue to be involved, meeting with legislators to educate them about the impact reviewing these decrees could have on their ability to make a living as songwriters.

Finally, at the Expo’s closing keynote session, Stevie Wonder was presented with ASCAP’s first Key of Life Award.  For two hours, Wonder reflected on his 50-plus year music career, what inspires his songwriting, and the stories behind some of his classic songs.  On staying committed to music, Wonder said, “You have to put work into that which you love. Then you’ve got to listen objectively. It’s fun to get to a place where you can challenge. When I was doing Songs in the Key of Life, I had this little transmitter that I hooked up and would listen, listen and listen. It’s all about the feeling every time.”  At the end of the keynote conversation, Wonder offered the opportunity for ASCAP to select emerging songwriters to collaborate with him on four songs he’s been developing.

 

 

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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, April 14, 2017

By Anna Miceli, Songtrust Royalties Coordinator

ASCAP_Logo
ASCAP / http://www.ascap.com/

There has been significant buzz around three of the world’s largest member-owned collection societies – ASCAP, SACEM, and PRS. Together they have announced a partnership to prototype a shared system of managing copyright information using blockchain technology.

These American, French, and British societies have also included IBM in their partnership. Elizabeth Matthews, CEO of ASCAP, noted, “ASCAP is always looking for opportunities to exploit new technology platforms to specifically address the needs of our members and the music industry.”

The partnership aims to model a new system for managing the links between music recordings and song compositions via ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) and ISWC Codes (International Standard Music Work Code). Although these two pieces of data were intended to create unique identifiers for music, there are issues of duplication. The blockchain initiative will help increase the accuracy of the data that both codes provide.

So what does this mean for songwriters? The stronger link blockchain aims to create between ISRC and ISWC info will speed up the process of international royalty matching, reduce errors and lower costs, ultimately improving speeds that publishing royalties are paid to songwriters.

The blockchain prototype also allows for greater transparency and accuracy of music usage by third parties, especially across streaming services. Songwriters and artists would potentially be able to view accurate data of what music is being used and played, and when it is delivered across new music formats.

All three societies involved have agreed “the project is proving to be an exciting reference point for future industry blockchain solutions.”

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Weekly Music Publishing Update: Friday, March 24, 2017

By Julia Pernicone, Songtrust Account Associate

thecomeupshow / http://www.flickr.com/people/22257051@N07
thecomeupshow / http://www.flickr.com/people/22257051@N07

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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