New York, January 31, 2023 – TIDAL, the global music and entertainment platform, and Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, today announced that the two companies will work together to explore an innovative new economic model for music streaming that might better reward the value provided by artists and more closely reflect the engagement of TIDAL subscribers with those artists and music they love.
Streaming has revolutionized music, catalyzed industry growth, transformed the entertainment experience and provided incredible opportunities for engagement, to the benefit of artists and fans alike. As it has gained mass adoption over the past decade, there is more desire from all parties to look at how to best economically align fans’ interests with those of their favorite artists.
TIDAL and UMG will research how, by harnessing fan engagement, digital music services and platforms can generate greater commercial value for every type of artist. The research will extend to how different economic models could accelerate subscriber growth, deepen retention, and better monetize fandom to the benefit of artists and the broader music community.
“From day one, TIDAL has stood out as artist-first, leading with a premium subscription tier to pay artists more and experimenting with new ideas like fan-centered royalties to see if there are fairer and more equitable ways to get artists paid,” said TIDAL Lead Jesse Dorogusker. “We are setting aside our current fan-centered royalties investigation to focus on this opportunity for more impact. We’re thrilled to partner and learn along the way about the possibilities for more innovative streaming economics. This partnership will enable us to rethink how we can sustainably improve royalties’ distribution for the breadth of artists on our platform.”
“As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it’s become increasingly clear that music streaming’s economic model needs innovation to ensure a vibrant and sustainable future,” said Michael Nash, UMG’s Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer. “Tidal’s embrace of this transformational opportunity is especially exciting because the music ecosystem can work better – for every type of artist and fan – but only through dedicated, thoughtful collaboration. Built on deeply held, shared principles about the value of artistry and the importance of the artist-fan relationship, this strategic initiative will explore how to enhance and advance the model in keeping with our collective objectives.”
For more information contact:
TIDAL: Sade Ayodele, Head of Communications – email@example.com
Universal Music Group, Global Communications: James Murtagh-Hopkins firstname.lastname@example.org
[This 2018 MusicAlly post by the great Stuart Dredge summarizes my “Ethical Pool” strategy as an intermediate step toward solving the unsustainable streaming artist royalty issue. The Ethical Pool can be implemented immediately–SoundCloud’s “Fan Powered Royalty” version demonstrates the immediate application potential while further engaging fans. It also blows past the complexity objection from streaming services which is the threshold rejection when user-centric (or what I call “artist centric”) is presented because the Ethical Pool is essentially bolted on to the existing royalty system so that services run both simultaneously. That’s what SoundCloud has done with FPR and that’s why it is an intermediate step. You would have to make some decisions about what business rules would allow the two systems to operate side by side, but because all participants in the Ethical Pool would be opt-in you would not have to amend any existing contracts, pass any laws, or change any existing royalty accounting systems. The “Big Pool” stays as is, the Ethical Pool is a new and separate license. The market will tell us if it flies or crashes and burns. It must also be said that there is a tremendous amount of fraud in streaming services–naturally, it’s on the Internet after all–and any royalty system like the Ethical Pool that encourages the existence of actual fans is likely to create natural barriers to fraud.
But know this–the status quo is not sustainable (as Professor Claudio Feijoo and I wrote in our WIPO study on streaming remuneration). Stuart returns to this topic in a recent MusicAlly post in light of Sir Lucian Grainge’s recent statements about sustainability.]
Industry blog Music Tech Solutions has been thinking about the debate around ‘user-centric’ streaming royalties. That’s where the royalties from every paying streamer’s monthly subscription are divided only between the artists they listen to, rather than going into a bigger pool divided by overall listening share on the entire service.
MTS’ new idea: let fans choose if they want their subscriptions to be divided up in this new way. “When the fan signs up for a service, let the fan check a box that says ‘Ethical Pool.’ That would inform the service that the fan wants their subscription fee to go solely to the artists they listen to,” it explains, suggesting that this would ensure streaming services don’t fall foul of contracts that require them to treat royalties in the traditional ‘Big Pool’ way. “Artists also would be able to opt into this method by checking a corresponding box indicating that they only want their recordings made available to fans electing the Ethical Pool. The artist gets to make that decision. Of course, the artist would then have to give up any claim to a share of the ‘Big Pool.’ Existing subscribers could be informed in track metadata that an artist they wanted to listen to had elected the Ethical Pool. A fan who is already a subscriber could have to switch to the Ethical Pool method in order to listen to the track.”
[Editor Charlie sez: The more interesting claim is against Spotify for inducing a breach and discriminating against all the artists who didn’t get stock, RSUs or something that represented the value of the stock. But the really interesting case is against the publishers for conspiring to keep streaming mechanicals at a “less than zero” rate while braying about how great a job they’d done in negotiating at the CRB with streaming and freezing the mechanical rate for physical over the same period that just happened to correspond to Spotify’s launch.]
Black Sheep have filed a class-action lawsuit against Universal Music Group, Rolling Stone reports and Pitchfork can confirm. The 1990s hip-hop duo allege that the label owes more than $750 million in royalties to numerous Universal artists due to an early “sweetheart” arrangement with Spotify, which allowed the streaming company to pay less in royalties in exchange for Spotify stock. The artists are suing Universal for breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs Andres “Dres” Vargas Titus and William “Mista Lawnge” McLean allege that Universal “is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties” due to a “previously undisclosed” agreement with Spotify. This “sweetheart” arrangement allowed Spotify to license music from the label at a discounted rate “in exchange for Spotify stock and lower royalty payments.”
Emmanuel Legrand has authored an important study for GESAC.Thinking Outside the Pie: @legrandnetwork Study for GESAC Highlights Streaming Impact on Choking Diversity and Songwriter Royalties — Music Tech Solutions