Sony Music Entertainment has filed a joint agreement along with US publishers and songwriter organizations with the Copyright Royalty Board concerning proposed new statutory mechanical royalty rates. SME has agreed to will withdraw its input from the section of the proceedings regarding on-demand streams, quelling the bad blood between the major and publishers who had accused it of following a label-led agenda to reduce songwriters’ potential share of streaming payouts. The joint statement from SME, the NMPA, and the NSAI notes, “Sony Music and the music publishing community value their relationship.”
German collection society GEMA has finally reached a licensing agreement with YouTube, finally making previously unlicensed music videos playable in the region. One of the biggest stand-offs in digital music history began in April 2009 after YouTube’s 17-month deal with GEMA came to a close and GEMA attempted to negotiate a higher per-stream fee for its licensed videos. YouTube says the agreement “reflects a long-held commitment that composers, songwriters, and publishers should be paid fairly, while ensuring fans can enjoy their favorite songs and discover new music on YouTube.”
One-stop pan-European online rights hub ICE has signed a multi-territory license with SoundCloud. This agreement will enable right holders across Europe to receive royalties from SoundCloud’s services, including the recently launched subscription offering, SoundCloud Go. This deal follows a licensing agreement between SoundCloud and UK collecting society PRS for Music last year that ended a lawsuit against the service over unpaid royalties.
ASCAP and BMI have joined forces to release a statement against the Department of Justice’s decision to mandate 100% licensing. BMI also announced that it was taking legal action to challenge the decision in Federal Court, while ASCAP is “tak[ing] the lead for the two PROs in pursuing a legislative solution to ensure the continued availability of fractional licensing as well as other remedies to the outdated consent decree regulations that disadvantage songwriters and composers in the digital age.” In a letter to ASCAP members, President Paul Williams urged songwriters to stay united to fight the DOJ’s decision and lend their support to ASCAP and BMI initiatives.
The European Commission will allow Sony Corp to take 100% ownership of Sony/ATV worldwide, bolstering the major music company’s market power. With the masters and the publishing that Sony controls, combined with its partial ownership of EMI Music Publishing, the EC approval sets Sony on track to quickly meet, or perhaps even surpass, UMG’s $5.7 billion combined publishing/master revenues last year. President of the National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite expressed his concern, saying that this acquisition is in the best interests of recorded music rather than songwriters, and that Sony Music is “driven by an outdated mindset that somehow if songwriters get less from digital music services there will be more for [its] record label.”
SESAC and Swiss PRO SUISA have created Mint Digital Licensing, a joint venture that will license and administer rights for the use of both of their repertoires on digital services. The initiative is in response to the European Commission’s wish for cooperation among music rights organizations to enable users to negotiate licenses with as few companies as possible. This new joint venture will allow for better data management, improved transparency, and faster royalty payments, as SESAC advances in its “plan to build a multi-regional licensing platform at scale.”
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.”
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.