Where have all the good guys gone?
Well, as predicted, the European Copyright Directive is descending into chaos as the battle continues to rage over Article 13. Despite the fact that the text was finalised on 13th February we are still no nearer to adoption as many labels, publishers and even top industry organisations such as the IFPI are now calling for the cancellation of the directive altogether. On the other hand some PROs, including Germanys GEMA are fully behind the text and the big digital platforms are still in there battling for their own position and trying to protect their profits.
This week I was going to write about all of this and try to clarify the situation but to be honest, I've given up! As with so many EU Directives, corporate and industry lobbying has taken the focus of attention away from the real world where the problems really are and turned it into another quagmire of debate that has lost touch with its original, albeit admirable objectives. At best we will end up with a watered down agreement that doesn't really address the issues as they should be addressed and the whole thing will be an expensive compromise that benefits the big players at the expense of everyone else.
So imagine my pleasure at discovering gotohear.com and finding a truly innovative, creative-centric platform that understands and encompasses the big tech systems such as Blockchain and Crypto Currency but also knows what it takes down here in the trenches to get your music out there and to earn a buck or two in the process. Here is a platform tailor made not only for artists and musicians but also for their fans (and future fans) and industry professionals alike. gotohear.com is a crowd driven music ecosystem that aims to not only fairly reward creators for their work but also to reward their fans for actively supporting them. Right now, they are still in the development phase but there are some serious tech brains in there working alongside industry professionals to create what, to me, is what all of the other digital platforms could have been and should have been from the start. To quote John McClane in Die Hard - who was misquoting Eldridge Cleaver - "If you're not part of the solution, then you must be part of the problem" - gotohear.com is a solution you really should be a part of! Visit the site, join in, get involved and help them get to where we all need them to be - click the donate button and give them $10, they deserve it and you won't regret it. When gotohear.com goes live it will be a game changer, offering rewards for musicians, listeners and promoters alike - a true community where everyone benefits.
Where have all the good guys gone? Well, a few of them are in North Yorkshire making preparations to change the music world forever!
Label Services Deals
OK, I guess most of you have an interest in how to operate as an independent artist these days, either releasing your own music or working with an indie label, or maybe you are an indie label looking for ways to increase your market share and tap into those huge numbers that the majors have posted for last year - Sony, for example, posted streaming music revenues exceeding $2bn in 2018, more than 50% of their total music revenue! (MBW Jan 2019)
This all looks pretty encouraging and there are other reports that indicate that over 80% of digital music revenues worldwide are generated by streaming with download sales at only 20% and falling. So, streaming is the way to go, right?
Well, yes, it is but let's take a look at some other figures coming out of the industry recently. In fact, let's look at what the two highest paying streaming services are doing with their stream rates. Spotify is the market leader in music streaming, with over 29% of the overall market. The stream rate Spotify now pays to content owners is a lowly $0.00331c, down 16% from the recent $0.00397c. Apple Music, with a market share of less than 10%, are similarly guilty of reducing stream rates - down from $0.00783c to $0.00495c, a drop of a pretty massive 36% but still considerably more than Spotify, (something you might want to consider when planning your next marketing campaign).
And now let's look at the YouTube Content ID rate. Over 48% of total streams in 2018 were generated on YouTube but with a stream rate of a truly miserable $0.00028c that 48% market share accounted for only 7% of the total market value in 2018 whereas Spotify and Apple Music combined only showed just over a 39% market share but generated 74% of market revenue (Trichordist Jan 2019)
So what has all this got to do with label services agreements? Well, I'm sure some of you have come across these and are wondering whether or not to go down that route. Very simply, a label services agreement is very similar to a standard label deal for an artist in that it (usually) involves the service provider offering a services agreement for all of the things you would expect a label to provide to a signed artist - distribution and sales / pressing (sometimes) / marketing and promotion / rights management and data reporting / sync (in some cases) - but not, you will notice, studio time or mastering. As an independent artist or label this is still an attractive offering as it gives you access to all of that high level industry expertise and promotional muscle that you will need whlst retaining master ownership. Some companies out there even offer a degree of investment into the project, too, although this will be based on some serious due diligence before any agreement can be reached and this is often a process that is out of reach of most indies.
Those of you who have attended any of my lectures in the past will know that I do tend to bang on a bit about business plans and these days, I'm afraid, it is more important than ever. Artists, managers and indie labels really do need to take both financial and commercial responsibility for their products and for the huge amount of data administration that the digital age presents us with and, as we have just seen with the shifting landscape of stream rates, financial management is becoming a vital function within any independent project release.
Label services deals range from simple distribution plus some basic promotion, product management and maybe pressing through to full service agreements with investment. Either way, the financial responsibility is on you. In-house business management is now a vital function, something that very few label services providers offer and something that, in fact, you should have under your own control, not theirs!
Want to know more? Drop me a line.
Making the right life choices
I had a very pleasant meeting in London yesterday with someone who really got me thinking about a lot of the problems that young artists, producers and composers face these days and, as we are starting a new year and a lot of you are thinking about the direction you will be taking over the next 12 months, I guess now would be a good time to raise the subject of life choices and how they can be supported.
In my capacity as a guest lecturer for a number of independent audio and music colleges I often face the dilemma of advising students who have paid good money to gain an education but whose expectations are, more often than not, not matched by the real world they are about to enter. As we all know, sadly, a good qualification does not lead to instant employment or to instant career prospects and, in fact, often it can lead to disillusionment.
And in my capacity as a consultant and mentor I find myself helping people who are simply lost in the whole big, bad world of the music business and leading people through the minefields of label deals, publishing contracts, management and all the other business necessities that they find they now face can be daunting for the talented but inexperienced creative mind.
In addition, the business itself is evolving at an alarming rate. I recently heard a label owner describe his company as a "traditional digital label"..... as opposed to what, for Heavens sake? Label services agreements are becoming commonplace - more on that topic very soon! - and the very structure of the industry is changing as labels, publishers and hybrid companies fight for market share or to break into new media markets and market sectors.
So yesterday I met with the charming Kate Craker, an accomplished musician and former studio and label owner who has reinvented herself as a life coach. Our meeting had nothing to do with me needing life coaching myself - though, on reflection, maybe that's not such a bad idea :-) - but was more about how to support upcoming talent. Kate's own life experiences together with her kind and gentle nature give her an understanding and an insight into the issues facing creatives in all areas of the media industry and she struck me as someone who really could make a difference.
Maybe this is not the usual subject matter that you expect from me but I really think it is relelvant these days so don't just take my word for it - check her out for yourselves at Kate Craker Coaching, you won't regret it.
More on that pesky Article 13. As YouTube now seems to be preparing for war with the music industry and the EU it is maybe worth taking a different perspective on the whole issue. It might be a good idea to read the entire proposal before taking a stance on this as there are pro's and con's on both sides but the real issue (as far as YouTube are concerned) centres around the change of onus from the uploader to the online platform to ensure that uploaded content does not breach copyright law.
Currently, in very simple terms, it is the job of the uploader to ensure that he/she is not uploading content that they do not have the rights to. YouTube (and similar platforms) are only required to remove content if they are notified by the original rights owner or if the content contravenes the tracking systems they already have in place. And let's be fair here, YouTube already does a pretty good job of monitoring copyright content. However, with Article 13 the responsibility will now be on the platforms to put control systems in place AND be responsible for the consequences if these systems fail to catch illegal use of copyright content.
Apart from the additional costs involved for all of the platforms, not just in tech but also in legal counsel, administration and reporting, there is the really fundamental issue of identifying where copyright actually resides and how that would be determined by any AI system. In effect, Article 13 is mandating the use of AI and filtering technologies but are those technologies sufficiently advanced enough to handle, for example, a remix with multiple composers / rights owners? There is a danger here of the big players such as YouTube having to play safe and adopting a policy of "when in doubt, block it" which would be bad enough but what about individual websites or smaller systems who may well be sufficiently intimidated to decide not to accept any copyright content at all and thereby avoid the risk of any legal backlash.
Article 13 also states that there should be "adequate reporting on the recognition and use of works...." which, on the face of it, sounds ideal from a rights holders point of view so that, in theory, the ultimate decision on use remains with them. Personally, I wholeheartedly support that proposal but, again, we have additional costs placed on the platforms which they might just decide are too high and start to look for ways of covering them - decreasing the revenue shares they pay out, for example?
And so now we are leading up to the dreaded "B-word" - blockchain technology could well be the answer here and maybe we could say that the EU are being very forward thinking in asuming the blockchain will solve all of these issues but blockchain technologies are nowhere near universal adoption with the PROs or anyone else for that matter and right now looks like being a long time coming................... This is not over!