Can This Company Increase Royalty Payments From Live Performances?

Music tech startup seeks to add more transparency to performance royalties for all involved.
February 16, 2018

VNUE Inc. Acquires Soundstr to Streamline Live Performance Royalty Tracking (Billboard)

The Soundstr acquisition this week is certainly of interest to all who have a financial interest in public performance royalties.

Since the very nature of attempting to track live performances of songs across every bar, club, restaurant and concert venue throughout the country can be a major challenge, any progress to make this process more fair and transparent is always welcome.

I’ve been involved in this issue of live performance royalties since 2007. I can say firsthand that it can get pretty messy.

Most venues complain they are overcharged for blanket license fees. These licenses grant them access to millions of songs, but most will never actually be performed in their establishment. For example, a venue that features mostly independent Folk or Americana music really has no need to pay a high license fee for access to millions of non-folk songs.

The venues want to pay only for what they play. And the performers and songwriters want to know their songs are being tracked correctly to receive fair compensation for live performances of their music.

In my experience, unless the songwriter or the artist directly reports which songs were used, some live performances generally go unnoticed. Therefore, the live performance royalties go unpaid.

Each of the PRO’s have their own live concert performance reporting system. It usually requires the writer, artist, or their representatives to register each individual song, for each individual concert date, complete with venue name, address, capacity, headliner/supporting act data, ticketing info, artist name, tour name, etc.

Most writers and artist don’t actually complete these registrations, but their publisher or management team should. If their representative didn’t have the correct concert data, many times there were errors that resulted in inaccurate payments.

Enter Soundstr, a music technology startup that created a tracking technology allowing concert venues to identify the songwriters and their performing rights organization for every song performed in their establishment.

The very idea of this is revolutionary, but the fact someone actually figured out how to do it is pretty impressive. Essentially, a concert venue can plug in the Soundstr tablet device into the soundboard and their system can identify the songs performed that evening, and tell the venue which PRO(s) control the rights to that song.

With this kind of data, venues could just pay for what they use, and the songwriter more directly benefits. Theoretically, we should be able to follow the license fees paid from the folk venue and watch it go directly to the folk songwriters whose songs were performed there.

VNUE Inc., a publicly-traded live entertainment and technology company, clearly saw the Soundstr technology as a way to add value to its core business. VNUE’s company overview on Bloomberg shows that it is in the business of capturing and delivering professional quality audio and video recordings of live performances. It also manages the content and copyright clearances for those recordings and videos.

As the Billboard article mentions:

“VNUE hopes Soundstr will help streamline the process for rights clearances around its digital and physical live addition to refining the in-venue tracking process itself."

Real-time performance royalty tracking is the future. Even though the music industry is still evolving from analog systems, reliable royalty and metadata tracking technologies will only improve the licensing and royalty payment process. If the technologies work, using these systems can make license fees more fair for music users, while also providing better transparency and more accurate payment for songwriters.

And now for this week’s other headlines:

Benom Plumb, Assistant Professor of Music Industry Studies at the University of Colorado Denver, reviews the biggest stories of the week affecting music royalties. He is a music industry professional, not an attorney. For more info about Benom, visit his website at

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