This Week In Royalties: March 20 - 24

Mar 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.

How The Battle Over Control of the U.S. Copyright Office Could Affect the Music Industry (Billboard)
Benom’s Take: “COULD” affect the music industry? It WILL! This is an issue I’ve been talking about with students and clients for a long time. The Register of Copyrights is in charge of the U.S. Copyright Office and an incredibly important position when it comes to shaping government policies on copyright. They have a voice with the President and Congress in policy decisions and are therefore influential in how the music industry operates. In my personal opinion, the removal of Maria Pallante as Register of Copyrights last October was a suspect move and was not welcomed by the music industry at large. I say this because the Obama administration was considered to be too “cozy” with the likes of Google (and other media giants) and Obama’s Librarian of Congress appointee, Dr. Carla Hayden (who essentially fired Pallante) certainly favors “looser copyright laws.”  

Ms. Pallante had been considered a strong advocate for creators, as well as a strong proponent of necessary copyright reforms. Chances are that whoever Dr. Hayden appoints as the new Register of Copyrights, the appointee will not come from a background friendly to the music industry. Without having read the bill discussed in the article (the devil is in the details), I do support the idea making the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee, as well as moving the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress. Regardless of what happens here, the Register of Copyrights is absolutely essential in moving copyright reforms forward. Whoever is appointed (one way or the other), they must show a firm understanding, empathy and sense of urgency for U.S. copyright reform.

Warner/Chappell Music Publishing Inks Deal With Mint Digital Services (Billboard)
ASCAP Re-launches Royalty Admin Services Arm Songwize (Music Business Worldwide)
Benom’s Take: As discussed in last week’s blog in the article “Streaming Accounting Costing More Than Royalties?” it can be a pain to collect all of those online micropennies. Both of these articles highlight the industry-wide progress toward streamlining licensing and royalty collections from various online services. The overall result of the two competing administration services (Mint = SESAC, Songwize = ASCAP) should mean more efficient royalty collection and payment services from digital platforms such as YouTube, Pandora, Amazon and iTunes. The advantage here is that these administration services pool together collective data and resources, something copyright owners cannot do alone.  My hope is that these administration services will indeed provide higher, quicker and more transparent royalty payments from digital platforms that use music as part of their core business models.

Business-Savvy Chuck Berry Left Behind An Estimated $17 Million Music Asset Estate (Billboard)
Benom’s Take: Chuck Berry’s passing is a loss for us all. A true American icon and the “father of rock n’ roll,” Berry learned from past mistakes to take control of his business. His business-savvy allowed him to be more than just a prolific songwriter/musician. As the article states, Chuck Berry negotiated a lot of contracts himself and handled his own business more than most musicians could. Because of this, Berry was able to leave a financial legacy that all of us strive to leave behind to our loved ones. Today’s artists can learn a lot from Mr. Berry’s example by educating themselves and taking control of their own business matters.

Case in point: The musical and business legacy Chuck Berry leaves behind is the perfect example of why I teach music industry studies and why Royalty Exchange provides services to increase the value of royalties for creators and investors alike.