This Week In Royalties: Feb. 20 - 24

Feb 24, 2017

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.

Coalition of 15 Music Organizations File Copyright Act Complaint (Billboard)
Benom’s Take:
We’ve been complaining about outdated copyright laws for decades and I fully support an overhaul of our copyright laws. The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is one of the reasons why music royalties in the internet age have been so elusive and complicated. It clearly gives more leverage and preference to the ISP’s for how creative content is used and paid for on their platforms. Because of the DMCA, YouTube got away with not paying a single penny in royalties to songwriters and music publishers - until the music publisher’s collectively settled a lawsuit against YouTube in 2011. It’s also important to note that the record labels and recording artists make exponentially more in YouTube royalties than publisher and songwriter royalties.

Are the Major Labels In Danger of Turning Music Streaming Into A Monopoly Owned By Apple? (Music Business Worldwide)
Benom’s Take:
I have been predicting this as one potential outcome of a Spotify sale. It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple gobbled up Spotify, liquidated the assets or somehow, incorporated it into their business models. This article states different Spotify financials than previous Spotify stories we’ve seen. Previous reports say that Spotify pays out approximately 55% of its revenue to rights owners. This article states 85%!! So, even if we split the difference and then add the heavy debt burden that Spotify must turn around quickly - Spotify may be forced to sell. History could repeat itself with Apple dominating the streaming market just as they did the iTunes download market. I have all kinds of anti-trust issues with that, but it’s a potential reality, again.

Rock Stars Legal Dispute Over Streaming Live Recordings (The Hollywood Reporter)
Benom’s Take:
The website, Wolfgang’s Vault, is a great idea - if they were licensed to stream the estimated 2 billion live concert recordings from the greatest acts of all time. I’m certain the website will get nailed on copyright infringement and the damages will be steep. The other legit streaming sites should market this idea of an eternal database of live concert recordings, though. Who doesn’t want to hear rare and intimate live performances of their favorite artists?

2017 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductees Announced  (CBS News)
Benom’s Take:
Talk about a “who’s who” list of creative talent and big royalty earning songs!! Statistically, music royalties and cash flow see big bumps whenever awards or inductions are celebrated. Especially for the Grammys and Hall of Fame awards. The mass attention and adoration stirs the soul of new and old fans alike. I’d love to see the royalty statements of these Hall of Fame songwriters, too. I mean, Max Martin has 22 #1 hits to his name - 22! Just...wow!