Monday, December 3, 2012

You Can't Just Fingerprint Money: Why A Carefully Considered Public Performance Tracking Strategy Is In Our Best Interest

There's nothing like a well-implemented technological innovation. Whether solving a problem or enhancing a process, when the creation is thought out in full and applied to the right situation the results can be astounding. Efficiency. Opportunity. Productivity. Equity. Transparency. Advancement. The benefits go on and on. And that, of course, is what drives society's continued investment in new technology.

But while the fruits of technology-done-right can be far reaching and plentiful, the shortcomings of half-baked creations can be equally detrimental (I'm looking at you, DRM from the immediate post-Napster era). When new technologies create new problems the benefits carry less weight, and at a certain point if it doesn't work well, it doesn't work at all.

This is the exact dilemma that sits at the heart of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC's strategy for using fingerprinting technology to track TV performances. The systems they currently employ to license the rights, identify usages, and distribute monies associated with the public performances of the works they represent are well established and proven. To put things in context, the three PROs together process hundreds of BILLIONS of performances and distribute close to $2 BILLION to songwriters, composers and publishers every year. The system clearly works. But that said, the PROs also acknowledge that there is still room for improvement and are carefully considering new technologies to aid in more accurate and transparent accounting.

Last month TuneSat, one of a handful of audio fingerprinting and usage detection companies servicing the television market, issued a press release that took aim at ASCAP and BMI's methods. Both ASCAP and BMI have so far refused to accept performance tracking data as collected by TuneSat, and TuneSat is spinning this to paint the PROs as entrenched, archaic institutions.

TuneSat states that "up to 80 percent of music on TV goes unreported or misreported" and that manual reporting is prone to error and manipulation. They believe that tracking through digital fingerprinting is the way of the future. Manual reporting, ultimately left in the hands of licensees, is prone to error. After all, we are only human. Likewise, it is prone to manipulation, as reported by the recent allegations against music supervisors and producers at CBS. But it's important to note that these are far and away the exceptions and not the rule. Before jumping to conclusions about ASCAP and BMI's refusal to accept TuneSat's data, it's important to look at both sides of the issue. Audio fingerprinting will be an important part of the PROs' strategies moving forward (a prospect we're very supportive of too), but only when the benefits are clear and inarguable. Unfortunately, the technology has yet to prove itself in this regard.

There are several considerations that must not be overlooked when considering how PROs employ audio fingerprinting technology. Many composers today rely on industry standard instrument and sound samples to create their compositions. With that in mind, it's not uncommon for a digital tracking service to mis-identify a composition based on a commonly used sample. In order to make the proper royalty distribution, these "false positive" IDs must be rectified, which can be a very costly and time-consuming process. In some cases, this reconciliation costs more than the value of the performance itself, which ultimately harms content owners instead of helping them.

But there's a larger issue here. A non-starter, if you will. As it stands now, digital tracking technology cannot identify the TYPE of performance (i.e. featured, background, underscore, commercial, promo, theme etc.). Since this usage type information is paramount in determining the value of the usage, additional work would again be needed to properly reconcile the IDs - making these systems unusable.

Like so many things, there are always several sides to an issue.  Ultimately, the PROs exist to serve their members, and every decision they make must be in their members' best interests. There are many potential benefits to a well implemented digital tracking service. The ability to analyze dirty audio, to instantly detect and report usages, and to quickly capture and post audio samples of every usage are all features with great potential. And make no mistake - we all want it to work. But the decisions that the PROs make regarding digital tracking services for television are not merely matters of adopting new technology. They have proven their willingness to do so in several other areas, including radio, promos and commercials. The decisions are matters of how well the technology works in serving their needs and their membership.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pandora vs. The Music It Relies On

Pandora has been drawing a lot of attention to itself lately. Unfortunately the attention is not artist-friendly. As a company built on the hard work and intellectual property of thousands upon thousands of music creators, they're going after the very people who make their business what it is. That's about as healthy as a tapeworm.

Unfair Play with Artists and Labels:
By now, most of you have surely caught wind of the "Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012" that Pandora, Clear Channel and others are working on pushing through Congress. The bill aims to change the standard used by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to determine the royalty rates that webcasters must pay to publicly perform sound recordings. More specifically, it calls for the application of the 801(b) guidelines, used to determine rates for satellite radio and cable, instead of the current "willing buyer, willing seller" guidelines that Pandora is held to. "Why?" you might ask? Well, to make things "fair", of course...

Pandora feels picked on. Why should other digital radio providers (i.e. satellite and cable services) be held to different standards? Well, that seems to be a fair point. After all, shouldn't the value of the right to perform a recording exist independently from the medium through which it's delivered? Maybe so, but as David Lowery notes, the distinction is made by HOW users interact with that medium. In Pandora's case, the relatively more interactive curation features (i.e. "thumbs up" and "thumbs down") justify a higher value placed on the right to perform the recording since, in theory, each performance is more actively sought out by the listener.

But the main issue is that, as you might expect, the 801(b) guidelines would result in Pandora paying significantly less royalties to artists. It may or may not be fair that Pandora is treated differently by the CRB, but it's certainly unfair that parity be paid for entirely on the backs of artists.

As one might expect, the RIAA is fighting back. They are working with Congressman Jerrold Nadler on a bill that also seeks to level the playing field for digital radio service providers. The major difference? They're seeking to subject satellite radio and cable music operators to the same "willing buyer, willing seller" standard that currently applies to Pandora. Instead of lowering Pandora's rates, they want to raise everyone else's. Needless to say, satellite and cable won't take kindly to this, especially as Sirius/XM and Music Choice present their cases to the CRB for even lower royalties under the 801(b) standard.

While taking this all in, it's also important to note that:

- Pandora claims hardship because it pays over 50% of its revenues to rights holders. By comparison, Spotify pays out 65%-70% and iTunes pays a steady 70% to rights holders

- Terrestrial radio broadcasters are not required to pay any royalties to artists for the performance of their recordings but make billions of dollars selling advertising against them

But that's not all...

Squeezing Songwriters and Publishers:
With so much focus on the royalties being paid to artists and labels, why not invite songwriters and publishers to the party too? After all, it's the "fair" thing to do, right? Pandora seems to think so. Last week the company filed suit against ASCAP in an effort to decrease the royalties paid to songwriters and publishers for the performance of their compositions.

Whether or not you think that the effort against artists and labels is unfair, consider that Pandora only pays 4% of its revenue to songwriters and publishers. Just 4%, and they want to lower this even more. Further, as Justin Kalifowitz notes in a guest post for Billboard, Pandora maintains one of the lowest songwriter to artist royalty ratios in the business, paying only 8 cents to songwriters and publishers for every dollar paid to artists and labels. Now that is unfair! Given all of this (and with no thanks to the consent decree by which ASCAP is bound), Pandora is already exploiting the rights to publicly perform songs at a bargain. Cutting deeper into the pockets of songwriters hardly seems fair.

Looking Ahead:
So the question remains - what is really "fair"? As we mentioned in a previous post, the ultimate goal should be a balanced approach. Any radio service relies first and foremost on the content that it plays. Squeezing this resource to the more immediate benefit of shareholders, advertisers or investors is short sighted and cannot be healthy for the industry in the long-term. But creators also need distribution services to promote and sell their content and should work to encourage healthy growth in this market. That said, creators should not subsidize this entirely. Getting terrestrial radio broadcasters to chip in with royalties on sound recordings would certainly help a lot, as would bringing up rates paid by satellite radio and cable music providers (perhaps this could also lead to more balanced songwriter to artist royalty ratios). If everyone pays a little bit more, Pandora could still pay a little bit less and EVERYONE in the industry would be a lot happier.


The Battle Over Sound Recordings:

"Pandora, Clear Channel, Others Form Advocacy Group for Lower Web Radio Payments; MusicFirst Pushes Back" from Billboard:

"A Good Deal To Do: Pandora Doubles Down Against Creators, Now Strikes At Songwriters" from Music Tech Policy:

"Tell Congress to Save Music and Stop the 'Pandora Bailout Bill'" from Grammy.org

"Four Simple Reasons Why the Pandora Radio Act Screws Musicians (EZ Reader)" from The Trichordist:

"Let's Get Ready To Rumble! 2013's Dueling Internet Radio Royalty Bills" from Billboard:

"Major Labels, Artist Managers to Meet in New York, Nashville To Discuss Webcasting Rates" from Billboard:

The Battle Over Compositions:

"Pandora Sues ASCAP for Lower Rates" from Billboard:

"Songwriters Are Left Out of Pandora's Royalty Plan: Guest Post by Downtown Music's Justin Kalifowitz" from Billboard:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Value Wars: Terrestrial Radio vs. SESAC

Last month, the Radio Music License Committee (which represents roughly 10,000 terrestrial radio broadcasters) filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the performing rights organization SESAC. In short, the RMLC feels that SESAC is engaging in anti-competitve behavior and violating several antitrust laws.

SESAC is the smallest of the three main performing rights organizations (PROs) in the United States, representing about 23,000 composers and publishers. It is a for-profit operation. The other two PROs, ASCAP and BMI, represent memberships totaling closer to 500,000 each. They are both not-for-profit operations. In 1941, the U.S. Department of Justice filed anti-trust lawsuits against ASCAP and BMI, ultimately binding them both by consent decrees that limit their abilities to license music and negotiate fees. SESAC, which has managed to fly under the radar for many years, has recently come under fire with lawsuits issued by the Television Music License Committee (TMLC) in 2009, and now the RMLC. By way of this most recent lawsuit, the RMLC is seeking "injunctive relief, requiring, among other things, that SESAC submit to a judicial rate-making procedure comparable to what the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI impose".


Clearly, radio broadcasters want to lower their licensing costs by imposing stricter regulations on SESAC's operations. But is this a fair objective? SESAC provides a service that is also offered by two other (much larger) organizations. Shouldn't they be allowed to charge what they want? After all, a free market dictates that if the price is too high, the buyer can just say "no" and take their money elsewhere. So, why not let economics run its course?

Well, the RMLC does not see this particular space as a free market. According to their claims, SESAC manipulates the system by creating a monopoly over certain "must have" songs, which they use as leverage to charge increasingly high license fees. SESAC is then allegedly able to court more songwriters and publishers with the promise of higher royalty payments. The valuable catalogs of these new writer and publisher members allow SESAC to raise license fees even more...and so on...much to broadcasters' displeasure.


So what does this mean for the music industry? If the RMLC gets a ruling in their favor, every PRO will then be subject to rate court intervention over license fee disagreements. To say that this scenario has been an inconvenience for ASCAP and BMI would be an understatement. The two PROs are constantly in negotiation with licensees, often for retroactive usage, and many times settle for less than favorable terms rather than face the potentially more permanent ruling from a full rate court proceeding (see our previous posts on ASCAP and BMI settlements). SESAC could be in the same boat. This ultimately limits how much money songwriters and publishers can make from broadcasters whose businesses rely on their music. This in turn limits the value of the services that PROs provide to songwriters and publishers, which begs the question - does a weakened PRO system encourage copyright owners to operate independently of PROs and license their music directly?

Direct licensing in general has certainly been a hot topic of late, with EMI's April Music dropping ASCAP for digital performances in 2011, Big Machine Records striking a deal with Clear Channel, and DMX winning direct licensing cases against both BMI and ASCAP. And while proponents cite reasons like cost savings and greater transparency, does this practice really only benefit the big record labels and publishers who have the large catalogs and administrative resources to manage direct relationships? If so, what happens to the smaller players? Are they left to rely on PROs further weakened by the loss of major repertoire and still crippled by consent decree stipulations?

Please - let us know your thoughts on this. What is the best solution to ensure that all music is fairly valued and still compatible with distribution models on which it also relies? Is the RMLC over-reaching, or is SESAC taking advantage of them? How do you see this case turning out, and what do you see as the implications of this decision? Speak up in the comments section below!


"SESAC in RMLC's Litigation Sights" from Common Law Blog:

"More Than 10,000 Radio Stations Are Now Taking Legal Action to Lower Their Royalties…" from Digital Music News:

Radio Music License Committee Press Release:

About SESAC:

Full RMLC vs SESAC legal complaint:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Standing Out in the Crowd: Making the Most of the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Conference

It's October in Los Angeles, and as sure as the cotton cobwebs with black plastic spiders adorning every bar and hotel lobby across this fair city, Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter produced yet another two-day Film & TV Music Conference, reminding everyone who already knows that...well...a big part of success in this part of the business comes from who you know.

Of course you need talent too. That goes without saying. But as evidenced by the droves of independent artists, freelance composers, catalog managers and licensing reps (including some acting as all four) milling about the upstairs conference area at the W Hotel Hollywood, there is a lot of talent out there. There is even more music out there. But there are only so many gatekeepers who will pay good money for music. And thus the challenge becomes getting the right music in front of the right people at the right time.


To that end, one of the conference's strongest features was the unique opportunity to meet some of "the right people". While it seemed that the majority of attendees this year were "providers" rather than "buyers", anyone who took a proactive approach to handshaking was sure to walk away with at least a handful of good leads. Many of today's top music supervisors and composers for film, television and advertising spoke on panels, and a quick post-panel race to the front of the room or a tap on the shoulder down the hallway was all it took to get their ear.

That said, with a floor full of people attempting the same approach, such ventures were often competitive and fleeting, and many found their time best spent chatting up fellow attendees. "Hi, I'm so and so. This is what I do. What's your name and what do you do?" It was amazing to see how far a simple intro like that would take people. And from what I could gather, this type of connection really makes up the core value of the conference. Bringing together a community of like-minded professionals and allowing them to tap into each other's expertise is what it's all about. The phenomenon was most evident during the lively "networking roundtables" that capped off the first day, where industry experts stationed at some 15 circular booths facilitated free-flowing conversation and networking for all.  Upstairs and poolside at Drai's Hollywood against a backdrop of Capitol Records and the Hollywood Sign, the environment could not have been more comfortable and conducive to a roomful of music folks trying to get their network on - like black plastic spiders building a vast, interconnected cobweb.


By comparison, the panels themselves served in complementary contrast to the all important socializing. With easy going moderators, light-hearted attitudes and plenty of audio-visual stimulation, the discussions were entertaining for sure, if perhaps a bit light on the cold hard info some attendees were seeking. But while industry fans and the uninitiated happily soaked in behind the scenes stories of inspiration and the "making of" each project, there were always a few insider gems that shook loose to the benefit of all. As a publication that first and foremost promotes the value of music, we'd like to share one gem in particular from composer Michael Andrews that really spoke to us.

Michael has had a very interesting career, straddling the worlds of both film/TV music and popular music (you can read all about it by clicking here), and he had some very prudent advise for those making a career writing music for film and TV: always hang onto your copyright. Too many composers give up the rights to their music without so much as a fight. Perhaps they don't know any better, or perhaps they're afraid that if they don't, they'll lose the gig. Further, too many composers work for free, or very little money, for similar reasons. There already exists a steady trend of downward pressure on music budgets for visual media, and practices like these hurt everybody by further devaluing both the music and the services of those who create it. So composers - stand up for the value that's inherent in what you do. Ask for the rates you deserve. If you're being asked to give up the rights to what you create, make sure you're getting paid more up front. And if the up front budget just isn't there, make sure you hang onto your copyright. Residuals can be a very good friend to you over the long run and should not be overlooked.


As many noted throughout the conference in tales of projects gone good and bad, film/TV music protocol certainly has its prescribed "do's" and "don'ts". But somewhere in the middle exists an area of creative opportunity waiting to be filled in. An opportunity that can be served equally by any number of musical solutions. Everyone at that conference seeks to serve these opportunities, and many of them can just as well as the next. But the ones who will are the ones who stand out in the crowd, both musically and professionally. So get out there. Take advantage of conference and networking opportunities such as these. Shake some hands and share some stories. Sell yourself with pride and back it up with great sounding music. Stand up for the value of what you do, and do everything you can to stand out in that crowd.

- Andrew DeWitt for AMM

View from the balcony of Drai's Hollywood at the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Conference. Wednesday, October 24, 2012.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

It Ain't Easy Being Green: Digital Music's Hidden Costs to Our Environment

UK-based music industry network Music Tank recently published a report by Dagfinn Bach that raises several interesting points with regard to digital music and the environment. The main takeaway - digital music consumption may be more energy intensive than you think.

At first thought, the shift to digital may seem like a no-brainer as far as the environment is concerned. No physical product to produce. No transportation required to distribute the product. No facilities needed to store it. No physical waste to dispose of when the product is thrown out. But the reality is, as Bach notes, "digital music isn’t distributed in an environmental vacuum". The rapidly increasing growth in online data traffic, he continues "depends on sprawling server farms and a complex, energy-sapping network infrastructure. This is on top of the energy consumed in device manufacture and operation of a vast array of devices." In other words, while it may seem like energy costs are disappearing, they may in fact just be getting shifted to new areas.

Bach estimates that the streaming or downloading of 12 uncompressed tracks just 27 times uses about the same amount of energy as is needed to produce and ship one 12-track CD. Using these figures, it would seem that once a consumer exceeds 27 streams of a particular 12 song set, streaming becomes more energy intensive than physical production. He then concludes, "it would therefore appear that repeated streaming of individual tracks may not necessarily be a desirable long-term solution with respect to energy consumption for the life cycle of a sound recording."

That said, this conclusion may be missing some key considerations. Most notably, Bach uses a 12-track CD to evaluate the "energy consumption for the life cycle of a sound recording". We're talking a single sound recording vs. a 12-track disc here. Consumption patterns have certainly changed with the shift from physical to digital, largely favoring a more singles based market. Music isn't necessarily tied to the album format the way it once was, and consumers now have the freedom to pick and choose individual tracks from across many more releases than they once could. Thus, for Bach to assume that "repeated streaming of individual tracks" may threaten to cost more in energy than physical production, he also assumes that the average digital consumer, with their entire digital consumption history divided into defined sets of 12 tracks, will stream each of these sets in total more than 27 times. Is this likely to be the case? It's hard to say for sure, but with so much new music being released so regularly, it doesn't seem too far fetched that consumers may instead tend to listen to more music less times.

There are other questions too. How does the energy used to consume the CD once it is received factor in? What about the energy needed to process the CD once it is disposed of? Is there any consideration for efficiencies gained in the hardware and processing of the server farms themselves? Or efficiencies in improved bandwidth and content delivery?

No matter the questions, it would be foolish to disregard the impact that an increasingly global digital economy has on our environment. There is always room for improvement - to lessen this impact - and Bach offers several ideas to this end. Caching content locally and improving search and filtering solutions can cut down on the need for repeated streams from the cloud. Similarly, more regional "close to consumer" cloud solutions, or services that utilize certain peer-to-peer file sharing technologies can cut down on on the distance that data needs to travel. As he notes, "the shorter the journey the more energy-efficient the transfer". Savings can also be found by utilizing more energy-efficient wireless protocols such as WLAN and Bluetooth. Much of making these solutions a reality may depend on the cooperation of infrastructure providers, delivery networks, ISPs and content owners, but the good news is there is plenty to work towards.

Have any thoughts on the future of digital consumption, its impact on our environment and how to maximize its energy efficiency? Leave your comments below!


"The Dark Side Of The Tune: The Hidden Energy Cost Of Digital Music Consumption" from Music Tank:

- Download a copy of the full report for free at:

More from Music Tank:

"Streaming media could have larger carbon footprint than plastic discs" from Paid Content:

"So much for Post-Scarcity, unless Electricity is free?" from The Trichordist:

"Streaming Music May Be More Environmentally Damaging Than CDs" from One Green Planet:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Secondhand Singles: Is Reselling Digital Music Legal?

It's such a 21st century question, and one we'll soon have an answer to. In January of this year, EMI filed a lawsuit against ReDigi, a one-year-old digital music service that aims to take the "first-sale doctrine" digital. The court case officially got underway earlier this month.

At a very high level, the "first-sale doctrine" allows the owner of a lawfully purchased copyrighted work to re-distribtute that work as he or she pleases. This doctrine is what allows a DVD rental service or used CD store to operate. Once a copyrighted product has been purchased, the buyer has the right to resell, rent, dispose of or otherwise "exhaust" their purchase. To be clear, the first-sale doctrine only limits the original copyright holder's right of distribution. All other rights remain wholly intact, meaning that a buyer has no right to make new copies of their purchase, perform it publicly, or otherwise exploit any other rights granted to the original copyright owner under copyright law.

Until the internet came around, this was a relatively simple concept to accept. By definition, any physical for-sale copyrighted work is available in tangible form only. This made re-distribution a zero-sum game - i.e. if I buy a CD and then sell it to someone else, I no longer have the CD and someone who did not previously have that CD now has it. Easy enough, right? But can the same be said for digital works? ReDigi thinks so. EMI and the RIAA do not.

ReDigi's service requires users to download a software application that, according to ReDigi, ensures users are only re-selling music that was purchased legally to begin with and completely removes music from the user's computer once they re-sell it. EMI argues that in order for music to be uploaded to the ReDigi service, a copy must be made which is not allowed under the first-sale doctrine. The company also notes that it would be very easy for someone to make a copy of their music collection, store it on another computer, then re-sell the first copy of their collection.

If the court rules in favor of ReDigi, the implications for copyright owners could be far reaching. Not only could a large new market emerge from which copyright owners would see no direct revenue, but it could also cut into copyright owners' current digital revenue streams as consumers look to services like ReDigi for new music instead of buying from traditional digital storefronts. The problem would only be compounded if users make backup copies of their music before re-selling them.

However, could a ruling that favors ReDigi act as an impetus for even greater investment in "streaming" and "access" services by copyrights owners? As consumption moves away from "ownership" in favor of "access", services like ReDigi may lose their appeal. Aside from the obvious monetary incentive, the only reason for someone to re-sell their music is that they no longer wish to hear it. Using the access model, there's nothing to re-sell. In theory, as "access" gains popularity, much of the money that would be lost to digital re-sellers would be re-captured by copyright owners as more and more consumers pay them for the perpetual right to hear whatever they want.

This court case has the potential to act as a major catalyst for the music business. We'll be waiting eagerly to hear how it turns out.

Read More
"EMI sues MP3 reseller ReDigi" by CNET:

"US court to rule on ReDigi's MP3 digital music resales" by BBC News:

"Labels await crucial EMI/ReDigi decision" from MusicWeek:

Learn about ReDigi on their website:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pandora's Plea: Treats Artists Like Un-Royalty

You may recall our previous post that highlighted AFM executive Ray Hair's position against the recently proposed "Internet Radio Fairness Act" now floating around Congress. In short, the act aims to level the playing field for internet radio services such as Pandora by adjusting how the music licensing fees that they pay are determined. If passed, every internet radio service would pay significantly less money back to content owners for the use of their music.

Satellite (i.e. Sirius/XM) and cable radio services (i.e. the really high numbered channels that play music only)  currently pay much less than internet radio companies like Pandora, and terrestrial broadcast stations don't even pay the owners of master recordings. According to Pandora founder Tim Westergren, "last year Pandora paid about half of all its revenue in performance fees alone." He also states that, aside from Pandora, "no radio service anywhere in the world pays more than 15% of its revenue in such royalties." The new act would apply the same standards used for satellite and cable radio royalty rates to internet radio. Perhaps not surprisingly, Pandora is turning up the heat in an effort to get this piece of legislation passed.

Anyone with a registered Pandora account has probably seen at least a couple of notes from Pandora and Mr. Westergren in the last few weeks. The letters detail the points mentioned above and more or less paint Pandora as the undeserving victim of outdated and biased legislation, then ask users to contact their elected officials in support of this act. In the end, they say they just want to be treated "fairly", like everyone else.

The concept of fair treatment isn't really so much the issue here. In fact, it does seem fair that providers of similar services be held to the same standards. The issue is how this "fair treatment" is implemented. The rates that Pandora operate against now were set in response to a modern, evolving music economy. How does reverting back to even older standards seem appropriate? Any radio service relies first and foremost on the content that it plays. Squeezing this resource to the more immediate benefit of shareholders, advertisers or investors is short sighted and cannot be healthy for the industry in the long-term.

Services and content owners must find a healthy, balanced solution that allow each to develop, grow and re-invest in themselves. This will benefit everyone with whom they interact and not just certain interested parties. Today's artists are clearly not the wealthy rockstars they're sometimes assumed to be. In fact, the music industry's revenues have shrunk by "about half" ever since digital music first came onto the scene. Based on Pandora's complaints above, it seems they would agree that this is an unhealthy trend. The last thing content creators need is even less money coming their way. So with all this in mind, wouldn't it be equally "fair" to increase rates paid by all of the other radio businesses instead of decreasing those paid by internet radio? As a starting point, how about giving labels and artists the right to earn performance royalties when broadcast stations play their music? If everyone else pays a little bit more, Pandora could still pay a little bit less and EVERYONE in the industry would be a lot happier.

So yes, be sure to contact your elected official, but do so to push for a solution that is TRULY fair for everyone.

Pandora's side of the story:
Analysis against Pandora's efforts:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Artists Create Awesome Content...and Everyone Else Gets Rich?

A few weeks ago, London-based Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) posted an engaging op-ed on the challenges that face creators given the influential "open rights movement" permeating today's internet culture. Using the widespread backlash against now-aborted anti-piracy legislation SOPA and PIPA as a central theme, writer Danuta Kean laments how those in protest "became the first generation in history whose rebellion left corporations and venture capitalists clapping their hands in glee."

Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, and at least 40 other highly trafficked internet companies took public stands against the proposed pieces of legislation. Some of these companies, including Wikipedia, Reddit and Mozilla, joined thousands of other websites across the internet in a coordinated "blackout" on January 18, 2012, denying access to their content for the day in protest of what they call "internet censorship". While this act was certainly a legitimate expression of first amendment rights, it's hard not to see the irony that was inherent in their actions. As ALCS deputy chief executive Barbara Hayes notes, "where is this freedom they’re all talking about, if they can pull the plug on their service when they can’t get what they want for free?"

The main issue here is copyright. Ever since Napster first took off at the turn of the 20th century, artists, publishers and owners of creative content have witnessed their copyrights being illegally distributed en masse across the web. Not only has this completely undermined the exclusive right to distribution protected by U.S. Copyright Law, but it has also generated an ecosystem in which everyone makes money off of this content except for the content owners themselves. Traffickers are the obvious beneficiaries, generating revenue through "paid-for premium subscriptions that enable faster downloading; and display advertising – often supplied through Google Ads – which appears as content downloads" (check out some examples of ads alongside music from Tom Waits). Much of this money then goes to infrastructure providers of servers, bandwidth, computer equipment and software - another beneficiary in the food chain.  But there are many, many others too, including "global corporations – computer manufacturers and service providers and venture capitalists – because users of stolen content need hardware, mp3 players, ebook readers, computers, and broadband services to download and use stolen books, music and films. Financial sector corporations benefit too because traffickers have to pay for servers and bandwidth. And for that they need revenue raised through advertising or subscriptions, and to process that revenue they need payment services. None of these corporations may actively target trafficking sites for revenue, but they do profit from them."

Kean goes on to expose several other noteworthy considerations. She references David Lowery's "utter bemusement at a generation happy to shell out money for hardware and gadgets or for Fair Trade coffee, but not to pay the artists whose work they profess to love." She observes that "the more Northern Californian VCs can drive down the value of content the higher the return on their investment in things that deliver content in one way or another." But she also offers up several suggestions for how content owners can fight back.

Is it really too much to ask that the content driving so much joy and so much business be given the respect it deserves? The fight is far from over so be sure to do your part. Spread the word. Lobby your elected officials. Educate your friends. Support a FAIR and open internet.

Read "The Big Online Rip-Off" from ALCS here (it's a great read):

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

FTC Approves Universal Music's Acquisition of EMI

Well, it's official. Last Friday, the FTC gave a "thumbs up" to Universal Music Group, allowing the company to move forward with it's acquisition of EMI's recorded music division. Needless to say, this has sparked a lot of discussion and debate within the music industry.

Many feel that, even with UMG's planned divestments, this approval puts too much power into the hands of UMG. Controlling such a large percentage of music copyrights could suppress healthy market competition, affecting the diversity of choices that consumers are exposed to as well as the prices they pay for this music. Similarly, UMG could have much more of an influence on the success of new music technology services as they decide whether or not to license music to that service, and if so under what terms.

The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) has been outspoken in their position against this merger. They recently posted a response to the FTC's announcement standing by their position, and linking through to more in-depth explanations about the negative effects this merger will have on the industry.

Read statements from both A2IM and IMPALA (A2IM's European counterpart) here:

Of course, UMG and other parties with aligned interests (i.e. Live Nation) see things differently. According to Lucian Grainge (CEO of UMG), "EMI has been underinvested for a long while", and he intends to pour a lot of money back into the brand and associated labels. "To have a healthy, strong Capitol Records and Virgin Music is a good thing for the music industry. We will bring more investments by entrepreneurs and musicians than there have been for a long time. We will be doubling the A&R investment these labels have been making in recent years, and that will work its way through the industry ecosystem.

Read Billboard's interview with Lucian Grainge here:

What do you think this means for the industry? Please leave your comments and any links to other good articles below!

More Coverage:

"Universal Music's Acquisition of EMI Approved by Federal Trade Commission" from Billboard

Monday, September 24, 2012

America's Perception of the Creative Class: Where's the Love?

Back in April, online publication Salon posted an article that took a close look at how the creative class seems to be viewed and portrayed by mainstream America. The over-arching theme of the article is that those in creative professions get no sympathy. They are seen as pampered and entitled, in the image of the few but widely publicized stars in their field. They are viewed "neither as the salt of the earth by the left, nor as a 'job creator' by the right." While jobs in the creative class were amongst the hardest hit during the years leading up to and during the Great Recession (“'Musical groups and artists' plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011"), the sympathetic plight of the "working man" seems reserved for those in manufacturing, farming, or general "business". Somehow, the idea that artists are supposed to struggle has become a commonly accepted near-truism.

Why is this? Why the disconnection and distinction between those in creative professions and those in more "tangible" professions? Scott Timberg of Salon explores several possible reasons, from the pragmatic principles of our country's early Puritan settlers to the falsely democratizing effects of technological innovation, in a wonderfully crafted editorial. Do yourself a favor and read this article. After all, in order to begin changing the discussions and perception that surround creative value, we must first try to understand where the existing assumptions come from.

Read "No Sympathy for the Creative Class" from Salon here:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

APIs: Advantages and Advancements

What's an API?

Many of you may be familiar with the concept of an Application Programming Interface, or API. For those that aren't, here's the basic idea: one company that controls a certain set of data provides to 3rd parties access to this data for specific uses. In practice, this allows 3rd party developers to create their own unique applications using the data they've been given access to. Those who control the data benefit from the extended distribution of this data. 3rd party developers benefit by having legitimate access to in-demand data sets upon which they can showcase and exploit their own engineering talents. And consumer benefit by have more access to more creative applications that make their lives easier and more enjoyable.

How are they used in music?

APIs are used across the technology industry. They have been gaining notable traction with regard to digital music over the last few years as owners and licensees of music catalogs invite developers to create applications that use their music in new and interesting ways.

At the end of last year, on-demand music streaming service Spotify announced the launch of its API platform, allowing "companies to build services and features atop Spotify's 15-million song music database". More recently, direct-to-fan music platform Topspin and the digital arm of music trade association NARM each announced new API initiatives of their own.

Topspin's "Artist Link API":
Topspin's "ArtistLink API" allows developers to tap into the metadata, media and offers enabled by the thousands of artists (ranging from up and coming indie acts to some of the biggest stars on earth) utilizing the Topspin platform. Learn more at:'s (NARM) "Music API Directory":
The "Music API Directory" from "gathers information on companies that provide APIs or other technology, features, and services that are essential to music-app developers of all kinds, including artists, labels, brands, and more. This information includes music-specific categories such as lyric providers, music identification technology, and playlist and recommendation services, as well as non-music categories such as social networking integration, location data, and game development. All this data is displayed in one centralized, searchable location, allowing developers to quickly and easily find exactly what they are looking for and speeding the creation of new music apps." It's a one-stop shop for music-related APIs!

Read the full press release from

Search the Music API Directory here:

Other Coverage:
Read Billboard's coverage of these announcements:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Give Fans the Credit!

Last month, the Recording Academy officially launched a campaign to "Give Fans the Credit". In short, most digital music services provide very little information about the music they distribute. Consumers can see the artist name, song title, corresponding album...and that's about it.


For so many fans growing up listening to physical music products (vinyl, cassette, CD, etc), liner notes were a major part of the experience. They helped fans discover music by connecting the dots between artists, producers, songwriters and musicians. The Recording Academy wants to bring this experience into the digital age. Fans benefit from knowing who the key "players" are behind their favorite music, and these "players" benefit from increased exposure through the work they have such an integral role in creating.


Sign the Recording Academy's petition and spread the word to every fan and musician you know. Help give producers, engineers, musicians and vocalists the well-earned credit they deserve!

More details on the "Give Fans the Credit" campaign:


- Give Fans the Credit - Frequently Asked Questions:

Analysis from the Blogosphere:

- "Sadly, Producers & Engineers Are Still Invisible on Digital Music Services..." from Digital Music News

- "Sign The Petition: Make Sure All Music Creators Are Credited On Digital Tracks" from Hypebot

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, U.S. Copyright!

Last week marked 225 years since the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution was drafted and submitted to the members of the U.S. Constitutional Convention. In honor of this anniversary, Terry Hart of the blog Copyhype posted an informative overview of certain key events that lead to this important initiative. Here are some of the high-level takeaways from his post:

     - The Statute of Anne, passed in 1710, established copyright protection in Great Britain but did not apply to the American colonies.

     - Authors, including Joel Barlow and Noah Webster (of Webster's Dictionary fame) are largely responsible for lobbying the many levels and incarnations of government to support the idea of copyright in the colonies and eventually the United States of America.

     - William Billings, a controversial but widely popular songwriter during the second half of the 18th century, was the first author (rather than a printer or bookseller), to apply for the exclusive privilege to sell and distribute his own work (a book of music that he had composed). He did so by petitioning the Massachusetts House of Representatives in November of 1770, and while he was able to convince the legislature to pass a bill in his favor, it was ultimately vetoed by the loyalist Massachusetts governor. While Billings's efforts set the tone for many important pro-author copyright decisions to come, he himself "never escaped poverty during his life. He was buried in an unmarked grave even though his music remained popular, reprinted freely without compensation throughout the States."

For a more detailed, but still easily digestible view of early copyright in America, it's well worth reading Terry's post. Read "225 Years of Copyright in the US" here:

Also check out "Internet Freedom and Protection of Authorship: A Winning Ticket" from Copyright Alliance for a few thoughts on how this anniversary ties into the copyright issues and political landscape of today:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Marketing is Everything That You Do

If you approach the marketing of your band, brand or business as just another "to do" on your task list, you may need to re-think your approach. Taking inspiration from the book REWORK by the founders of the company 37 Signals, music PR blog Ariel Publicity elaborates on the idea that "everything is marketing" with a list of "10 Ways You Are Unknowingly Marketing To Your Fans".

Here's the takeaway: from your choice of words used in emails and social media posts to the way you dress, interact with fans, handle criticism, approach your songwriting and more, a successful brand is made by truly living out the vision for what you want it to be. Everything you do is an extension of your brand. Marketing should not be a job, but instead should be the essence of how you approach your entire business.

Read Ariel Publicity's "10 Ways You Are Unknowingly Marketing To Your Fans" here:

Please note, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but instead a jumping off point to start thinking about how one can better build their brand. Feel free to share other thoughts and ideas below!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Music, YouTube & The Youth

Last month Nielsen released the results of their "Music 360" study - a survey of 3,000 individuals that covers topics including "where/when music is consumed, through which device(s), apps and services; digital vs. physical purchases;  the process of discovery, and how/when discovery converts to purchase; insights around spending, share of wallet, and retailer preferences; live events; and much more."

One of the more notable publicly released statistics says that amongst teens, YouTube (at 64%) is the most popular source for music consumption. 64% of teens listen to music through YouTube. This is a remarkable penetration figure and goes to show that YouTube, while not marketed directly as such, is in fact a music service.

For more coverage, analysis and insight on YouTube's role as a music service and the steps it took to establish itself in this position, check out the following:

"The Kids Think YouTube Is a Music Service — and They’re Right" from Evolver.fm

"The YouTube Dilemma" from Music Industry Blog

And read Nielsen's press release for the "Music 360" report here:

"Music Discovery Still Dominated by Radio, Says Nielsen Music 360 Report" from Nielsen:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

AFM President Ray Hair on Radio Royalty Fairness

Ray Hair, International President of the American Federation of Musicians, recently spoke out in response to internet radio legislation currently being crafted in Congress. Led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the "Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012" aims to level the playing field for digital radio services by holding them all to the same set of standards when determining the royalty rates that they are required to pay to content owners (currently, internet radio services are required to pay much higher rates than satellite or cable radio services).

While the concept seems fair in principle, the initially proposed solution calls for a reduction in the royalties paid by internet radio services to align with the lower rates paid by satellite and cable services. If passed, this would be a major setback for content owners. As Hair notes, "instead of ensuring that terrestrial radio stations pay musicians fairly – just as many digital radio stations already do – it would allow the digital platforms to pay musicians less too, at rates far below market value. The bill would effectively unleash a race to the bottom, with radio platforms competing to see which can pay musicians the least. Rather than emulating the one corner of the digital music industry that seeks to give artists their fair share, it attacks that example at the expense of struggling artists -- all with the goal of further enriching companies that already make their money off  artists’ backs."

Hair goes on to make several other arguments in favor of more pro-artist solution to radio royalty equity, and includes terrestrial radio broadcasters (who currently pay nothing to recording artists and labels, unlike digital services who pay songwriters, publishers, artists and labels) in his challenge to "support the musicians that give life to the songs we love, and bring joy to the world." As Hair states, "paying musicians isn’t an inconvenience to radio’s business model – it’s an essential part of it."

Read Ray Hair's full op-ed from The Hill's Congress Blog

Read more about the legislation-in-oppgrogess here:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Truth About Copyright

With so much discussion and debate taking place between copyright supporters and free culture advocates, it's easy to lose sight of the founding principles, key pieces of legislation, landmark court decisions and cultural relevance (both historically and currently) associated with the protection of intellectual property. Facts are often distorted or blown out of proportion, assumptions are made without questioning their accuracy and focus is given only to points that serve one's pre-determined perspective. With that in mind, it's important to take a step back and make an effort to become familiar with the truths behind copyright policy.

Copyhype recently posted a wonderful summary and collection of seven different law reviews that explore and debunk many of the most popular myths about copyright. Topics covered include the length of copyright protection (and the Sonny Bono CTEA of 1998), private interests vs. public good, the implications of copyright in the digital age and the socio-economic ramifications of the copyright system. These are in-depth reviews, not all to be read in one sitting. But it's important information for any advocate (one way or another) to be aware of. So please, bookmark the site, read what you can, and keep coming back to chip away at some more. We'll certainly be doing the same!

Read Copyhype's collection of "7 Mythbusting Copyright Law Articles":

Monday, September 3, 2012

Streaming: The Leading Global Revenue Growth Engine

On August 15, 2012, Strategy Analytics released a report forecasting the global performance of physical and digital music revenues over the next several years. Here are two key takeaways:

- In 2012, global streaming revenues will increase 40% over 2011, with downloads only increasing 8.5%. In dollars, streaming will add an additional $311 million to the pie, with downloads adding an extra $303 million. Downloads still make up the majority of digital revenues ($3.9 billion to streaming's $1.1 billion), but streaming is now the leading revenue growth engine.

- Digital music will now account for 39% of the global music market, and is expected to cross 50% (thus overtaking physical as the dominant format) in 2015 (Note: the US, Sweden, South Korea and some others have already reached this milestone in their respective countries).

Check out the press release along with some additional stats from Strategy Analytics:

You can also read additional coverage from Variety and Digital Music News below:

Digital Music News:

Monday, August 27, 2012

How Do You Discover Music?

Here's a fun post from Digital Music News that lists 62 different ways to discover music, plus a few additions in the "comments" section for good measure. What are your favorite ways to discover music? Leave your comments below!

Full List from Digital Music News:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Modern Musician

The publication "Electronic Musician" recently ran a very engaging article titled "Survival of the Artist". It features insight, analysis, professional opinion and recommendations from a diverse group of leading figures in today's music business. The topic? How to navigate the current music landscape and create opportunities for success as an artist.

"How can artists make money? What is effective social-media engagement? Is touring crucial? What are the missed opportunities? Electronic Musician set out for answers and enlisted help from The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, solo artist/Kickstarter queen Amanda Palmer, Chester French frontman/Spotify advisor D.A. Wallach, Glee music supervisor PJ Bloom, Linkin Park manager Ryan DeMarti, San Francisco alt rock radio leader Live 105 FM’s music director Aaron Axelsen, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, and Walk Off the Earth member/YouTube sensation Gianni Luminati."

Here are some of the key takeaways:

- Be a pleasure to work with and treat people with respect.

- Earning success takes time and hard work.

- Engage in two-way communication with fans. Don't be that "needy friend" who is always self-serving. But also don't under-estimate fans' willingness to help. They can be your biggest asset!

- You still need talent too!

- Don't put all your eggs in one glorified and coveted basket. Build momentum by piecing together smaller opportunities and work your way towards the big win.

But ultimately, this is all best heard from the featured men and women themselves, and their quotes resonate much deeper than the high level summaries provided above. Take a read for yourself! You won't regret it:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A2IM's White House Submission

As strong supporters of creative value and a healthy respect for copyright, All Music Matters has taken a special interest in the U.S. Government's effort to beef up its enforcement of intellectual property protection. We recently wrote about the open submission program led by U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, and followed up with some suggestions for submitting your own ideas and recommendations.

Today, AMM would like you to take a look at the American Association of Independent Music's (A2IM) submission to Ms. Espinel. As mentioned in our post about the proposed UMG/EMI merger A2IM is a not-for-profit trade organization that serves independent labels, artists and publishers around the country, and even the world. Their letter to Ms. Espinel does a wonderful job detailing many of the issues that affect independent content owners and creators as it relates to weak copyright protection. Informative and inspirational, it will surely speak to and benefit any independent artist, label and publisher who reads it.

A2IM's Top Concerns:

- Search engines and ad networks that link to and trade on websites providing access to unlicensed music

- User-uploaded content services that encourage consumers to upload their favorite content and then disseminate that content even when there is no license from the creators

- Loopholes in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) that put an unsustainable burden on copyright owners to act as "24/7 takedown notice servers, diverting resources from creating and marketing their artists' music"

- Insufficient education and awareness surrounding statutory digital royalties that content owners are entitled to receive, and sometimes unknowingly sign away

While these are a few of the major takeaways, there is so much more to the letter. Please read it in full at:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Google Announces New Effort to Downgrade Pirate Sites in Search Results

Last week Google announced that it has adjusted its search algorithm to account for copyright removal notices filed against infringing websites. In theory, this means that websites with high totals of copyright removal requests will be more likely to appear lower in Google's search results, thus favoring sites offering legitimate access to licensed music (which will appear higher up, in place of the pirate sites).

Read the initial coverage from the Associated Press, via Yahoo News:

Read Google's announcement on Inside Search - The Official Google Search Blog:

Given Google's tenuous relationship with the entertainment industry, some may see this as an olive branch offering, but others are skeptical at best. For starters, Google does not seem to be subjecting its own YouTube to these new rules.

First, take a look at this report released by Google which lists domains with the most takedown requests filed over the last 16 months or so:

While there are some familiar names high up on the list, YouTube is not one of them. Of course, the natural question is: why? Online publication "Search Engine Land" may have found one contributing factor: Google seems to treat YouTube takedown requests differently than search removal requests. For more details, follow "Search Engine Land" as they walk through the process step by step:

But YouTube may not be the only site that qualifies for special treatment. This follow up report by "Search Engine Land" suggests that Google's algorithm is actually considering much more than just the total number of takedown requests received, which ultimately may limit the effects on all sites with illegally posted content:

Finally, Billboard has shared their findings from a few casual searches for pirated music conducted one week into the new algorithm changes. So far, the results don't seem to be too different from before:

That said, these changes are only one week old, so there is a lot left to see. Mark Mulligan offers some interesting thoughts as to Google's real intentions behind this move and how it all may play out over the coming months (Hint: cooperation from content owners may become increasingly important to the success of "Google Play" - Google's paid content ecosystem). You can read Mark's projections here:

How do you think this will ultimately play out? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Money for Nothing? Well, Almost...

It may feel free, but you've earned it.

Back in July, we wrote a post about SoundExchange and the work they are doing to help make sure artists and labels receive digital streaming royalties due to them under statutory law. Well, if you didn't believe it before, it's hard not to believe now: they mean business.

Last week, SoundExchange announced that they are sitting on "tens of millions of dollars in unclaimed digital performance royalty payments", including "more than $31 million in royalties that are three or more years old." And guess what? They REALLY want to get rid of it all. The organization released a list of over 50,000 recording artists and labels to whom the money is owed. Amounts range anywhere from  $10 to over $100,000, but can't be claimed until the artist or label registers with SoundExchange.

Think you might be entitled to a piece of this pie? Why not check out the searchable database on the SoundExchange website to see if you're on the list? Regardless of what you find, be sure to register as an artist or label to help ensure any future royalties you earn make their way right to you.

Read the full press release from SoundExchange:

Friday, August 17, 2012

What Is Fair Use?

In short, there's no simple answer. But Christiane Cargill Kinney, entertainment law columnist for CD Baby's "DIY Musician" blog, has summed up some key things to consider for those attempting to claim, or combat, "fair use" of a copyrighted work.

The key takeaways are:

1) There is no hard and fast definition of "fair use". "Fair use" is determined by weighing each particular usage against a combination of categories and factors as used by the Courts. Every scenario is unique and may result in differing or inconsistent rulings.

2) There are six major categories of fair use: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Usage that falls into one of these categories doesn't guarantee a "fair use", but it's a necessary place to start.

3) There are also four factors to consider when determining "fair use": the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use upon the potential market. These factors are weighed both individually and collectively. There is no pre-defined combination that guarantees a "fair use" every time.

4) See #1

Learn more about each of the categories and factors on CD Baby's "DIY Musician" blog. It's a fun and informative read!