Music Reports has launched an unnamed rights administration platform aimed at clearing up publishing information for the millions of songs, largely from independent artists, that are digitally distributed through platforms like CD Baby and TuneCore.
Music Reports estimates 500,000-750,000 new recordings are released on streaming services every month; the company hopes to ensure that the publishing data on these songs is registered, up-to-date, and can be matched against commercially released master recordings.
Since most digital distributors don’t provide publishing information when placing music on streaming services, when the publishers and songwriters are not known those works are directed to a rights administration system, where songwriters or their publishers can claim those songs, allowing for publishing payments to be made.
A song doesn’t just happen. There are composers, lyricists, performers. Rights of ownership are divvied up across those parties, labels, publishers, distributors and possibly other entities. And the sale of one company to another means a small forest worth of paperwork to keep the records current and ensure all parties are properly paid for their work.
What if there were an easier way, one that not only allowed all the rights and ownership privileges of a song to remain together in an open, publicly readable and researchable database, but also gave artists the ability to post their song directly and collect payment every time a download or album was sold?Welcome to the world of blockchain.
Source: A Journal of Musical Things
2016 is proving to be tricky year for streaming rights. No sooner did it start to look like artists and labels were beginning to feel comfortable with streaming then along come a veritable flood of songwriter class action suits in the US, against TIDAL, Rhapsody and Spotify, twice.
At the heart of the legal action is the issue of streaming services not paying mechanical rights to songwriters because they have not identified and / or not been able to identify, all of the the songwriters.
The streaming services counter that they a) have been adhering to the rules as they stand and b) that it is difficult / impossible for them to track everything. It is a complex issue that may even have some of its underlying assumptions turned upside down (in favour of streaming services). For a good introduction to the issues see this balanced MusicAlly piece. Whatever the legal intricacies though, there is a crucial underling issue: bad data.
Or, to be more precise, a complete lack of data.
International music licensing is highly complex and anyone who tries to tell you differently is either wrong or lying. That is not to suggest for a moment that music services should somehow not have an obligation to invest time, effort and resource into licensing music, far from it. But it does mean that the current system is not fit for purpose.
Source: MIDiA Research
Streaming services say that they can’t identify or find some songwriters in order to pay them.
That may be true — although Lowery can be found easily enough online — but the Copyright Act requires streaming services to get a mechanical license before they use a song. Indeed, in the event that Lowery’s case goes to trial, Spotify’s decision to set aside money for future royalty payments could potentially demonstrate either that the company has been acting in good faith or that it knew it did not have mechanical licenses for at least some of the songs it was streaming.
“The law is pretty black and white,” says Donald Passman, a veteran music business lawyer and the author of All You Need to Know About the Music Business. “If you’re using someone’s songs, you have to pay them.”
Rather than argue these cases in court, streaming services will probably try to prevent classes from being certified — Spotify already filed a motion to dismiss Lowery’s case on jurisdictional grounds. The high cost of federal litigation would make it impractical for the vast majority of songwriters to pursue legal action on their own.