Must Read: @musicbizworld Rob Stringer Interviewed by Tim Ingham

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.”

Amen.

Must Read: @RobertBLevine_: What a Google Email to News Publications Means for the Music Business

The battle over the proposed European Union Copyright Directive is heating up — and technology companies have returned to their usual playbook. That means mobilizing nonprofit groups and academics they support, warning that policies will “break the internet,” and trying to get some creators and media companies on their side.

The latest example: An email from Google to news publications in its Digital News Initiative, a program the company established to help journalism online, asking them to lobby against parts of the Copyright Directive that are intended to help them. The email, from Google director of strategic relations Madhav Chinnappa, argues that giving publications an ancillary right to articles that they need to license content and requiring platforms to takes some responsibility to minimize the amount of copyrighted material uploaded by users would harm publications, as well as the internet. The email, obtained by Billboard, urges recipients to contact members of European Parliament to prevent the directive from passing parliament’s legal affairs committee with these provisions intact — which happened last week.

In layman’s terms, Google is asking a group of partners who have come to depend on its largesse to take action that will make them even more dependent.

Read the post on Billboard

Must-Read by @LizPelly: Discover Weakly: Sexism on Spotify

ON MARCH 2, SPOTIFY ANNOUNCED the most Spotify thing imaginable: The Smirnoff Equalizer, a brand partnership in the form of a woke algorithmic discovery tool. Together, Spotify and Smirnoff claimed that the app would analyze users’ listening habits and “equalize” the gender ratio of their listening experience. Applying a binary understanding of gender, the Equalizer would quantify the user’s past six months of streaming, display the percentage of male-versus-female artists in their history, and provide them with a personalized, more “balanced” playlist. The Smirnoff Equalizer will be live through this summer, available for Spotify users of a legal drinking age in the United States and five additional countries, which should serve as reminder enough: this tool is meant to sell vodka.

Read the post on The Baffler

Must Read: @ChrisRizik: How Spotify Is Killing Jazz, Soul, Classical Music

[This is a must read post on the growing revolt against Spotify as the first known example of Orwell’s versificator.  As Chris Rizik notes, Spotify and its ilk are hardly saviors of music, more like destroyers of music and any popular culture that is more than a foot wide and an inch deep and a few years old.  There’s a reason why 10% of the music accounts for 90% of the revenue–and I think it’s more like 5% acccounts for 95%.]

Two events happened recently that caught my attention:

  • Lil Pump, a 17 year old Miami rapper, signed an $8 million recording deal with Warner Bros.
  • Around the same time, one of the leading modern soul singers in the US celebrated on social media the one millionth stream of her latest song on Spotify. Her financial haul on it? Likely around $3,000.

Though these two stories appeared unrelated, they are instructive of the strange new world of music streaming payments, and the inherent bias against soul, jazz, classical and other genres of music aimed at adult listeners….

And while there has been a lot of press about how streaming initially reduced the overall payments to record companies and artists (which has since turned around), what hasn’t been addressed as much is how streaming has changed which artists get paid. And, without a doubt, streaming has stacked the deck toward hip-hop, pop, and other genres whose listeners are teenagers and twenty-somethings.

Read the post on Hypebot

 

 

Must read: @TerrenceHart: Does the ACCESS to Recordings Act violate the Constitution’s Takings Clause?

“I do believe that the intellectual property that you create is just that.  It’s property and you ought to be protected in the property that you create and that we all enjoy.”

Senator John Cornyn, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, May 15, 2018.

On May 23, without the benefit of any studies, hearings, or stakeholder input, Senator Wyden introduced the “Accessibility for Curators, Creators, Educators, Scholars, and Society to Recordings Act” (“ACCESS to Recordings Act”).1 The bill would preempt the state and common law protections that sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972 have always enjoyed and make them subject to federal copyright protection. In doing so, it suffers fatal Constitutional flaws.

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution establishes that the federal government cannot take private property “for public use without just compensation,” a principle stretching back at least 800 years to the Magna Carta.2The Takings Clause, as this provision is referred to, applies just as much to intellectual property, like copyright, as it does to other forms of private property….

Unlike the CLASSICS Act and the approach recommended by the Copyright Office, the ACCESS to Recordings Act falls far short of Constitutional requirements and would likely open the federal government up to liability for takings claims.

Read the post on Copyhype

Must Read by @lizpelly: The Problem with Muzak

The music world continues to be exceedingly vulnerable, and there are looming questions that desperately need to be addressed. Most important: How can artists distribute and sell their work in a digital economy beholden to ruthlessly commercial and centralized interests?

Enter Spotify, a platform that is definitely not the answer.

Read the post on The Baffler

Must Read: @zvirosen Critiques Florida Flo & Eddie Ruling: Another Season, Another Common-Law Copyright Opinion

This one from the Supreme Court of Florida, finding that Florida common law does does not recognize an exclusive right of public performers for the holders of common-law copyrights in sound recordings made before February 15, 1972.  The 11th Circuit certified a series of questions to the Florida Supreme Court…Instead of addressing these questions, the Court chose to address a reformulated question of its own, “Does Florida common law recognize the exclusive right of public performance in pre-1972 sound recordings?”

The obvious problem with this is that it fails to address whether pre-72 sound recordings are protected under Florida law more generally.  The Court notes (pp. 19-20) that Florida criminal law provides penalties against commercial bootleggers of sound recordings, but those criminal provisions do not impact a range of activity including noncommercial infringement.

This could be excused as judicial minimalism if it wasn’t central to the case – Flo & Eddie sued in Florida specifically because SiriusXM has servers there, and alleged that copying was ongoing on those servers in violation of their exclusive right of reproduction.

Read the post on Mostly IP History