Now I never said that Music Modernization Act was a self-licking ice cream cone. That was someone else.
The Google “license” in the MMA on pre-72 recordings allows a sound recording owner of a pre-72 recording to approve or disapprove a request for a noncommercial use of that recording. However ridiculous this whole thing is, it is the law, so we must deal with it. We will have more to say about the proposed regulation in coming days, but a couple points jump right out–most importantly, the obligation on the user to clear the song in the recording before burdening either the Copyright Office or the sound recording copyright owner with a no-money clearance request.
If you don’t have time for any other news this week, make sure you read Rob Stringer’s interview in Music Business Worldwide, which should be read side by side with Jody Gerson’s recent interview with Anne Marie Steele.
Rob Stringer (CEO of Sony Music Entertainment) is a long-time records man who brings that underappreciated touch to Sony. (And since I agree with a lot of his approach, naturally I think its refreshing.)
Here’s an example. Every now and then, a label runs across an opportunity for one of their artists that turns out to be a windfall, a true windfall. Sometimes those are driven largely by the artist’s own reputation and creative patina like a soundtrack, sometimes the label creates the opportunity. Either way, it’s not budgeted revenue and it’s both nonrecurring and unusually large, so there’s a strong argument for pass through treatment from time to time. “Pass through” meaning the label collects the money but pays the artist’s share of it out regardless of the artist’s recoupment status.
This generally gives the accountants heartburn, even if done sparingly. But in addition to being a good artist relations move, it’s also the right thing to do. I did that with Road Rash 3DO which was the first videogame to use “real” music, i.e., licensed music, and was also the first and last to actually pay a royalty (across all platforms). (Some games do pay a royalty, but not like the one we got.) I also did it with a soundtrack that was one of the last truly huge soundtracks and our artist had a featured slot. Both those instances put 6 figures into the artist’s bank accounts and we made plenty of money, too. Moral of the story: Leave some on the table.
The same can be said of Rob Stringer’s decision to “give back” to Sony artists on the sale of Sony’s shares in Spotify (more or less confirming that there was a tranche of shares issued to Sony as consideration for licensing the catalog):
“We gave back to the artists which was a deliberate strategy because we wanted to say to them, [you’re] the reason we have most of these shares…”
That’s a great attitude. And of course, is exactly right. (Sony also bought some shares, which, of course, should be Sony’s money as it was Sony’s risk.) I’m not so sure that someone didn’t have to…shall we say persuade…others in the company of the correctness of the sharing move, and it is an awful lot of money. But in the end Rob Stringer got the company to do the right thing, and it’s the kind of thing a good records man would do.
He also makes another excellent point that every artist should think seriously about when considering one of these various direct deals on offer:
“I don’t think Spotify wants to be funding the entire artist development process – we have thousands of people, literally, that we can get to face in the same direction on a global basis,” said Stringer.
“Spotify doesn’t claim to have those thousands of people globally [working in artist development], they are a digital distribution platform… sometimes the lines can become blurred and, quite frankly, we’re both learning as we go along.”
When a major is actually working for you and firing on all cylinders, they really do have that ability to get everyone around the world doing the same thing at the same time in multiple time zones and through multiple distribution channels relevant to their particular market. Or as Jody Gerson said, “[i]t takes a village to break an artist.”
By Chris Castle
When fans find out that their money gets paid for music they never listen to performed by artists they would never listen to, it may give cord cutting a whole new meaning. The ethical pool solution could give music subscription services a chance to get ahead of yet more negative fan reaction.
In the middle of what I think is a lot of hot air about Spotify becoming a threat to record companies–almost always a story promoted either by stock analysts who don’t know a trap case from a coke spoon or by overpaid Spotify executives–comes a very interesting story. According to Digital Music News, Led Zeppelin may be about to launch its own streaming service.
Editor Charlie sez: The current version of the Music Modernization Act can be found here. Don’t ask–there’s some parliamentary reason why it’s now got a different bill number (HR 1551) and has a weird title (“To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the credit for production from advanced nuclear power facilities”).
Disregard the nuke references, this is the “engrossed amendment” of the MMA.
Music Creators North America, Inc. (MCNA), a music creator alliance representing a US, Canadian and global coalition of over half a million songwriters and composers from around the world through its affiliates in the International Council for Music Creators (CIAM), applauded the passage today of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) by the US Senate. The Act, if signed into law by the President once a unified version is agreed upon by both houses of the US Congress, will reform and streamline the music licensing process and force digital music distributors to take greater responsibility in ensuring the equitable, proper, and timely payment of royalties to music creators for distribution of their works in the US.
According to the member organizations of MCNA, the benefits of the MMA strongly outweighed its shortcomings, and its passage is a welcome step forward. The Act, however, will require constant vigilance by the music creator community to ensure that all of the intended benefits to composers and songwriters are realized. This includes encouragement of music creators to claim the royalties owed to them, careful monitoring of distributions of so-called “unmatched” royalties, and especially close scrutiny of actions undertaken by the music licensing collective established under the legislation and controlled by a board of directors that has only a minority of music creator members. The members of MCNA have pledged their full energies in support of these and other efforts to safeguard songwriter and composer rights, including keeping a close watch on the process in which the US House of Representatives and Senate versions of the bill are reconciled.
WASHINGTON, DC – September 18, 2018 – The SoundExchange family of music creators today applauded the long-awaited passage of the comprehensive Music Modernization Act by the U.S. Senate. SoundExchange issued the following statement from President and CEO Michael Huppe:
“The future of the music industry got brighter today. Creators of music moved one step closer to getting paid more fairly. And industry forces that fought to maintain an unfair and harmful status quo were rebuffed. Now, SoundExchange’s 170,000-member community has just one word for the House of Representatives: Encore.”
“The Music Modernization Act proves what can happen when constructive industry leaders work together towards a greater good. The SoundExchange community joined a historic coalition of artists, labels, songwriters, music publishers, streaming services, performance rights organizations, producers, engineers and unions. The outcome of this collaboration is a law that sets a new framework to guide the future of the music industry. There are still issues regarding creator fairness that we need to address, but today we celebrate a new era of cooperation and progress across the industry.”
SoundExchange will monitor the progress of the Music Modernization Act. Follow updates on our Twitter handle @SoundExchange.