SUBSCRIBE FOR FULL CONTENT ACCESS: VIEW OFFERS
Connect with us

Collective Management Organisations

Cécile Rap-Veber (SACEM): ‘We are a solutions provider to create value, a tech company, and we are less and less seen as some sort of cultural institution’

Published

on

When Cécile Rap-Veber was appointed CEO of SACEM last October, replacing Jean-Noel Tronc who had been in the job for ten years, she became the first woman to run the French rights society since its creation in 1851.

Rap-Veber was not a newcomer to the society — she had been working there for the past nine years. She was hired by Tronc to as Director of Licensing. The shrewd negotiator was in charge of securing licenses for media (TV/radio) phono and video mechanicals, private copying levies, and digital. She was also handling digital mandates with US/UK publishers, such as Universal Music Publishing Group.

Two years later she added to her stripes international development, looking after reciprocal agreement, foreign collection and development. She was also Chairman of the Licensing Committee at Armonia, the digital licensing hub regrouping several European societies. Her new position allowed her to develop a significant international network.

In January 2019, she became Executive Director of Licensing, International & Operations, adding to her responsibilities documentation and distribution for members, mandates, and foreign societies. She also took charge of the development and implementation of the digital processing platform URights.

A trained lawyer, she started her career at law firm Cabinet Sylvain Jaraud where she was in charge of IP issues in the audiovisual and music sectors, working with dozens of France’s most prominent artists and filmmakers.

After almost five years she was hired in 2000 by Pascal Nègre, then CEO of Universal Music Group France, the country’s largest record company, to be Director of Legal and Business Affairs. Rap-Veber likes to share that Nègre told her he was tired of seeing her every time there was a negotiation with one of Universal’s artists and offered her to instead come and do the same job but from the other side of the table, which she accepted.

In 2009, she was promoted to Managing Director Universal Music Consulting & Content, Universal Music new business development division dedicated to brands and artists/music partnerships. “We did a lot of fun things,” she said.

In 2013, she joined SACEM and became a pivotal member of the executive board, with a reputation for being result-driven and a problem solver. These two attributes were crucial for her ascending to the top job at the society, as the board was looking for someone who would spend more time looking after the operations of the society and less with political action, which Tronc excelled at.

Six months ago, SACEM’s Board of Directors informed Tronc that they had decided to end his mandate and named Rap-Veber and Secretary General David El Sayegh as joint interim CEOs.

Six weeks later Rap-Veber was appointed Chief Executive officer, with El Sayegh as Deputy Chief Executive Officer. The Board gave her the brief to “reinvent” SACEM and “create the collective management of tomorrow.”

SACEM is one of the largest societies in the world. In 2020, it collected directly for its members €988.5 million in revenue, down 12% compared to 2019, and overall, collected €1.4 billion with the mandates it received from other rights holders (figures for 2021 have not yet been released).

Creative Industries NewsEmmanuel Legrand had a long video discussion with Rap-Veber to talk about the performances of the society since she took over in September and the challenges facing the society. (The interview was done in English)

How was 2021 for SACEM?

Cécile Rap-Veber: Better than expected, but unfortunately we suffered from a big decrease in revenues from live and public performance, something in the region of 200 million euros compared to a normal year. It was even worse than 2020, but when it comes to digital, we’ve seen a very big uptake. Digital collections will be better this year, but will not benefit all the rights owners in the same way. When it comes to digital, there is a large part that will be sent to our partners representing Anglo-American repertoire. Usually, live revenues tend to benefit our direct members, so digital will not offset the losses from live for them. We are still feeling the effects of the crisis, but we can also see some improvements. In the first quarter of 2022, there was a rebirth of live activity, focusing mainly on established acts. When it comes to newcomers, it is very difficult to make ends meet. That’s why we are going to launch mid-May a campaign with all the live music producers, the CNM [National Music Center], SACD [rights society for drama repertoire], and private theatres. The #RetrouvonsNous campaign was initiated by SACEM to explain to the public that artists are missing their public but also that we missed to be all together. We have scheduled it in May because at the moment it is too soon, as Covid is still here. When all the restrictions were removed a few weeks ago, cases have been going up so it is difficult to convince people right now to come back to concert venues. On top of that we have the economic crisis and inflation coming from the Ukrainian crisis, so it all these factors may prevent people to buy tickets when they focus on their rent, food, electricity and gas bills. It has an impact on the way people consume culture in France and also probably in Europe. To summarise, we had a better year than expected, but our direct members are still affected by the impact of the pandemic.

You’ve been in the job since September of last year. What are your plans with SACEM?

Cécile Rap-Veber: We have started a major reorganisation of the society because, as you may know, we had to put together a departure plan, mostly retirements, affecting over 150 people in the organisation. In the meantime we really want to transform the company to be more agile and more focused on members, services and innovation, as well as better collect and distribute. In addition, we want to develop new sources of revenues so we are setting up a department of development, under the responsibility of Julien Dumon, who is already in charge of phono mechanical and digital. We have set up a new entity called SACEMLab, under the responsibility of Adeline Beving and Julien Lefevre, which is focused on doing partnerships with start-ups, and developing agile tools for our members and see how we can improve our processes. The first deal in place is with La Plaine Images, based in Lille that will favour the interconnection with start-ups and delivery of new tools. And on top of that, to show how much focused we are on innovation and development, we have set up with the board a specific committee based on strategy and innovation with Jean-Michel Jarre as the “godfather” of the initiative. This committee is involved in NFTs, metaverse, all the new solutions that we hope will help us create new value for our members.

You have also restructured your international department, haven’t you?

Cécile Rap-Veber: Yes, pursuant to the retirement of Jean-Claude Chamoux, we have decided to regroup all our international activities, the relations with our sister societies and the development in foreign countries, under the responsibility of Caroline Champarnaud. We are going to be more strategic about the relationship with our sister societies, and also push for a better interaction between some societies. Caroline has been instrumental in building with me relationships with [Canada’s PRO] SOCAN or [South Korea’s rights society] KOMCA recently, for online digital collections. That’s also part of her remit because I think this is key and strategic for all of us to pool our resources when it comes to processing because we all receive, mainly for Europe, the same data and for me it makes sense to pool the processing. This will also allow us to decrease the commission for the digital exploitation for our members.

Can we go back very quickly to what happened in September and what led you to become the new CEO of SACEM?

Cécile Rap-Veber: In September, the board and Jean-Noël have decided to stop their collaboration and they asked me to take on the role of CEO.

You make it sound like it just happened like that, easy and simple. But it seems it was something that had been brewing for some time and I was wondering if that was a reflection of strategic disagreements or personal disagreements?

Cécile Rap-Veber: No, it was strategic. If you read what our chairman told the media at the time, there was a strong wish from the board — which had been renewed in June — that we should focus on operations and innovations. Because digital is key to our future, and since the deals with DSPs and GAFAs were important, it was a strategic move to ensure the future of SACEM. I think that after ten years, they were happy with what Jean-Noël had achieved, but they wanted to accelerate the transformation.

One of your board members summed it up for me as “less politics, more focus on money.”

Cécile Rap-Veber: It’s not only about money if I may say so, because our focus is also on operational issues and services so that in the end we have better collections, better distributions. We also want to consider members as the centre of society. Recently I discovered through a video I made with Fianso, a rapper, that it got a lot of reactions, more than 200,000 views. The urban music community used to say that they were not welcomed at SACEM. So I think there is on our side a transformation of the society to also show that this is their home, this is the home of creators and publishers. But we are still seen as an institutional organisation, which is not true. We are a private company, we are non-profit and we belong to our members. I come from a family of creators, 17 generations… In my family, I am the only one who’s made studies, when the others focused on creating, and from my early days as a lawyer, I have always been surrounded by creators and artists. They are my family and I think this relationship is important in the new way we want to see SACEM evolving in the coming years.

How would you describe your management style versus your predecessor’s?

Cécile Rap-Veber: The thing that makes the difference, for me, is that I am super operational, and I am still involved in deals — for example there is an important negotiation with a major broadcaster, and I am directly involved. I am personally involved to attract new mandates and building new partnerships. My chance is that I have been working with the team for nine years so they already know me, they know my management style and they know that they can rely on me for operational matters and not simply for management issues. I am close to them but when you become CEO, you are sometimes seen differently by your team. I think we still have a close relationship and I must admit that we have unbelievable exchanges at the executive board every two weeks — it is enriching and fun at the same time. I think we are creating a new mood. I really have trust in collective intelligence, with the board, with David [El Sayegh] my deputy, with my executive team and all the rest of the employees. I love to manage in sharing advices/strategy or gathering innovative ideas from the team to the point that I have implemented a new “shadow executive board”, formed by young employees who are 25 to 33 years old. This shadow executive board have submitted specific topics they’ve analysed as been instrumental for our future in the next years and will work on solutions and answers to implement. From the youngest to the most experienced ones, everybody is involved in the strategy and participate in its elaboration and execution. In a way, like web3, we are more decentralised and collective.

Your predecessor was a political animal, both in Paris and Brussels. How are you going to be dealing with the policy issues that come with the job?

Cécile Rap-Veber: I’ve already started. I want to highlight the fact that I was a lawyer, and when you see how many politicians and Presidents in France were former lawyers, I think I am able to talk to people at that levelI have a team with David, Blaise [Mistler, Director of institutional relations] and Héloïse [Fontanel, Head of European and International Public Affairs], and they have been introducing me to a number of deputies, senators, the ministry of culture. These people need real information to make good decisions when it comes to legislation. We have a lot of good meaningful exchanges about the cultural aspect of our activities. We do have concerns about presidential candidates like [Emmanuel] Macron who wants to put an end to the television license, which will create funding problems. We are really focused on that. Despite my new experience in that field, we already had concrete result in the way people listen to us.

If you were to do a SWOT analysis of SACEM — strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — what you you list?

Cécile Rap-Veber: First, that we are in a better position this year than last year. You could really see that during the pandemic, we were very dependent on the economic activity, but you can also see that other businesses have not suffered from the crisis. On our side, it was really tough, but we are now more agile, we are investing in tech, we have people that are really committed to make it happen, meaning that we are committed to collect more, and provide better services. We have threats that I would identify as coming from GAFAs. Compared to the United States or China, Europe is lagging behind when it comes to the new digital revolution. That’s why with others I am fighting to have a real European metaverse because this where creation and creators will be better protected compared to the metaverse in China.. But we have to secure that environment. We have to be cautious every day. As long as we protect our environment, I mean, we are in a better situation. If you look at what happened last year about the private copying levies, with refurbished mobile phones [which ended up paying 40% less than new phones], we are constantly under threat. We are trying to better communicate. We are trying to enlarge the scope of clients and partners, to better welcome our members coming from all around the world, and try to improve collective management in other countries where we can help them. This is the case with some local societies in Africa or in the Middle East where governments have asked us to provide some information and analysis about the implementation of CMOs. When I see what we have been able to achieve in a short period of time, the SWOT I would have made last year would have been very different.

Molly Neuman from Songtrust told us a few weeks ago, “We can talk about web3 but we are still trying to fix web1 problems.” Do you agree?

Cécile Rap-Veber: I am not going to say that I disagree with Molly. However, I would have a different view. I think we are already ready for web3, and I can tell you that we are going to release a solution for protecting works with blockchain, and we are also working on a solution for NFTs. I understand that everything is not fixed yet in web2 — because web1 was a long time ago —, and we have a lot of things to fix and improve. You can jump to the new environment even if you also still need to fix the old one. Trains are still late and yet we can go to the moon, but we can work on trying to get the trains to arrive on time.

You referred to an increase of revenues from digital but do you believe that digital revenues are where they should be?

Cécile Rap-Veber: The short answer is no. I still have a lot of concern about freemium exploitation; I still have concern about the level of monetisation for these free services; I have concern about very big tech companies that can sell very expensive devices, but they don’t increase the price for their subscriptions. So yes, I think there is still value to be created and extracted for the benefit of all rights holders. I am not saying that the sharing of the value should be split differently because there is a lot to say about that, but I would rather focus on how we can increase the overall value. When you see that subscription rates have not increased in over ten years, despite the inflation, it’s a concern. Netflix has been able to achieve great things and regularly increase their subscription rates. I agree that they have exclusive content but take music streaming services. When they started they were able to provide access to, say, five million tracks. And now they provide access to over 70 million tracks, podcasts, and other content, and they still charge the same amount! It’s a joke! So something needs to happen here. If we were able to implement a minimum per stream for all platforms, it would force them to seek better monetisation and value. In addition, it would make it easier for our members and artists to better understand the value of their works.

Switching to the US, what do you think of the creation of the MLC?

Cécile Rap-Veber: Well, we can already see revenue coming from the MLC, so that’s good news. Compared to the situation before, without any proper and systematic management of mechanical rights in the United States, it’s a vast improvement. We have participated in the analysis of the unclaimed royalties — we work with Muserk in that field — so we saw revenue from the unclaimed pot coming from YouTube, and our relationship with Muserk will also help us with the unclaimed royalties from pure players. The only thing that should be fixed — in particular in the context of web3 that Molly was talking about — is the quality of the documentation. There is still room for improvement.

And why is that? 20 years ago it was already the case. Why are we still talking about these issues?

Cécile Rap-Veber: If I understand correctly, the basis for the documentation was coming from HFA and HFA apparently had not been updated for a while. And, in the meantime, there was a massive increase in catalogues. Even in the 90s, HFA were not known for the quality of their documentation, so today we are dealing with that. I don’t blame the MLC because they have been able to achieve in two years something that we were not expecting. As a foreign society, it is a good starting point. I am more concerned by the CRB [Copyright Royalty Board] discussions. I mean, if we have been able to increase the rates in Europe, it is important that the rates are at the same level elsewhere. It is really weird for me to see that platforms in the United States would pay rates that are lower than what they pay in the rest of the world. I also saw that the CRB judges have decided to dismiss the settlement that would have frozen mechanicals on physical products and downloads. When you see the amount of money that some companies invest in music publishing rights, it shows that there is a real value attached to musical works. I am talking about compositions. So that should be reflected worldwide in how much songwriters and publishers get paid.

What are your views about making the music industry more diverse? After all, there are not that many like you who are CEO of big music organisations.

Cécile Rap-Veber: There are more and more women at the executive level, but not enough. I think that for us, at SACEM, it is vital to promote more women right now, at the level of the executive board, because the more you expose women with responsibilities, the more you recognise their value. On my executive board we have 45% of women, so we are getting close to parity. My role is also to have SACEM perceive as more than just a CEO, and therefore expose more the diversity and the profiles of our leaders. And if I were to leave the company, there would be already within the company a number of women who could potentially replace me as CEO. Diversity is key for me. Going back to that conversation I had with Fianso on YouTube, I said that my priority was to implement more diversity at SACEM , and you know why: How can you claim to represent one of the most diverse repertoire in the world if all the employees look the same? We must reflect the diversity of our members. We have hired a company that will do an audit and help us identify where there is a lack of diversity and by diversity I mean everything from gender to race, background or origin, and more generally CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] topics. We need to reflect our cultural environment. Why do we have the second most exported repertoire after the Anglo-American repertoire? It’s because of all the foreign creators that have joined SACEM. This is our force. We represent the first Arabic repertoire in the world, the first African repertoire in the world, we have a very strong representation of Brazilian creators, and so on. This is our chance. For me, diversity is one of the pillars of democracy.

What’s the rest of the year going to be like for SACEM?

Cécile Rap-Veber: As for the business, we are going to see more concerts, the digital growth will continue and we will announce soon an important partnership with a very big repertoire. We have a lot of partnerships already in place, with Universal Music Group, Warner Chappell, or IMPEL. IMPEL keeps growing, which is great. Overall, we now have mandates from over 50 different publishers. We are going to continue to improve our data platform. At the moment, we process more than 170 trillion lines of data, so we have to keep pace with the continuous growth of data. We are going to bring new tools to our members such as Musicstart, a 100% digital work protection service in the blockchain for our members and creators all around the world. We have a lot of expectations with our new development department under Julien [Dumon] to help grow our business. We have new sources of collections — for example we are trying to implement licenses to capture revenue from addressable advertising. We have also implemented a new CMO in France for the neighbouring rights for press publishers to collect their rights from Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Also, thanks to the implementation of the SMA Directive in France, we expect a rise in the local production of audiovisual products on SVoD platforms, which is good for our members. There are also uncertainties about what will be the policies of the next President of France, so we have to be cautious. There are some indications that innovation and creating value could be central to the policy in the future political landscape and we will be part of it. We are a solutions provider to create value, we are a tech company, and we are less and less seen as some sort of cultural institution but rather a real partner bringing value to creators and publishers and help the development of France’s cultural sovereignty in the world. Collective management will be one of the pillars of the new, decentralised and collaborative web3.0 environment. We need to be there to help our creators to be in a better place in this new environment, and create value directly with the audience, without having to be in a centralised GAFA solution. SACEM will be a key player in the coming years in that environment.

(Credit picture: Jean-Baptiste Millot)

Emmanuel is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist, blogger and media consultant, specialising in the entertainment business and cultural trends. He was the US editor for British music industry trade publication Music Week. Previously, he was the editor of Impact, a magazine for the music publishing community (2007-2009), the global editor of US trade publication Billboard (2003-2006), and the editor in chief of Billboard’s sister publication Music & Media (1997-2003).

Collective Management Organisations

GESAC report: Pricing of streaming services and its impact on authors and composers

Published

on

A new report, released by GESAC, the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers, and prepared by Emmanuel Legrand from Legrand Network and Editor of Creative Industries News, makes the case for a more sustainable and author-centric streaming ecosystem.

The report — titled ‘Study on the place and role of authors and composers in the European music streaming market’ — can be downloaded here.

This article is a summary of the report's secti...

A paid subscription is required to read more.
Log in below, or UPGRADE / SUBSCRIBE.

Continue Reading

Collective Management Organisations

GESAC study puts authors and composers at the heart of the streaming economy

Published

on

A new report, released by GESAC, the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers, and prepared by Emmanuel Legrand from Legrand Network and Editor of Creative Industries News, makes the case for a more sustainable and author-centric streaming ecosystem.

This article is a summary of the report — titled ‘Study on the place and role of authors and composers in the European music streaming market’ — which can be downloaded here.

Streaming is a song economy

The music economy is a song economy. Songs and compositions are at the origin of everything. Performers and musicians (who are often songwriters themselves) take the blank canvass of a composition and create a rendition of a song, and then recordings take the songs to the masses.

However, authors and composers’ role is not sufficiently reflected in the streaming economy as they are neither recognised nor remunerated to the scale of their contributions. This has generated an imbalance over time that needs to be addressed, especially as, today, streaming is the dominant way in which people enjoy music in the world. It allows access to over 70 million tracks everywhere, anytime, in all possible devices.

Dominated by global players, the streaming market has developed in the past decade with the help of collective management organisations, which secure the largest repertoire in one go by offering the necessary licence agreements, including sometimes at their embryonic stage, that allows them to start scaling up their businesses.

This report highlights the concerns and expectations of authors and composers when dealing with the music streaming experience. Concerns because they long for more visibility, and also have higher expectations from the growth of streaming environment.

A – The main findings of the study

As the report points out, there are several reasons why the music streaming market is currently failing to generate meaningful growth for creators. And they may be encapsulated in three primary issues that need to be addressed to create a more creator-friendly music ecosystem:

1 – Asymmetry between the goals of streaming services and the aspirations of authors and composers

The main objective of most streaming services is to increase their user-base, and in certain cases, to sell other services or devices that are related to their music offering (e.g., Apple audio equipment, Amazon Prime account or home assistance devices). This is usually done through business choices of the services that make streaming market uncapable of ensuring the value of creation and generating sufficient revenues for authors and composers, despite their growing user-base.

Firstly, most streaming services offer very extended free ad-supported tiers, which are still the preferred choice for most consumers due to their convenience, although the revenues generated from those versions are around 10-times less than paid subscription. As those services do not sufficiently motivate customers to move to paid subscriptions in time, the very-low- revenue-based free offers become the main exploitation.

Then, when it comes to paid subscriptions, the initial individual subscription fee of 9.99 (in Euros, US dollars, or British pound) set in 2006, has never increased, despite the exponential growth in the quality, amount of songs, and user-friendliness of music streaming services.

French rights society SACEM has provided data for this report showing that the share of the two main pricing plans (Individual and Family) has been following asymmetric trends in the past three years, with the percentage of total revenues from Individual subscriptions falling by 11 percent- age points between the first quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2021, respectively of 68% and 57%. Meanwhile, the percentage of revenue from Family Plans rose by 10 percentage points during the same period, from 28% to 38%. Student and Free tier plans remained stable, accounting on average for 3-4% each quarter.

Adding to that the shrinkage of ARPU (average money paid by each user) through several promotional and family plans, and the inflation in time, the value of a subscription per user has considerably decreased over the last 15 years. The consequence is a general decrease in value of music, making it difficult to grow the revenue pie, which is one of the primary requests of authors and composers.

2 – Structural issues about fairness in the streaming eco-system

The current hit-driven market of music streaming has resulted in a pyramid system, whereby a small number of songs capture a large portion of the listenership. For instance, 57 000 artists accounted 90% of monthly Spotify streams in March 2021. The use of algorithms, as well as bottleneck rep- resented by the most popular playlists, exacerbates this.

The use of algorithms, as well as bottleneck represented by the most popular playlists, exacerbates this. Furthermore, long-standing flaws in the operations of music streaming platforms, such as “streaming fraud”, “ghost/fake artists”, “payola schemes”, “royalty free content” and other coercive practices worsen the impact on many professional creators. The massive availability of content is overshadowed by the fact that these services are under no positive obligations to ensure visibility and discoverability of more diverse repertoires, particularly European works.

This report suggests solutions to bring greater transparency in the use of algorithms and invites stakeholders to undertake a review of the economic models of streaming services and evaluate how they currently affect cultural diversity which should be promoted in its various forms — music genres, languages, origin of performers and songwriters, in particular through policy actions.

3 – Systemic imbalance in revenue allocation

The growth of music streaming services has boosted the music industry but has primarily benefited the recorded music side rather than the authors and composers of songs. According to recent UK parliamentary committee report, due to several structural and economic reasons, the revenue split from streaming is currently curved in favour of the owners of sound recording rights.

The conventional wisdom among authors and composers in Europe is that they are not “fairly remunerated from music streaming services,” as expressed by the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA), which represents over 30,000 professional composers and songwriters in 27 countries, via 59 member organisations across Europe and beyond.

The #Fix Streaming movement further illustrates the feeling authors and composers have of being at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to music streaming while they are at the start of the creative process. The reasons for such feeling are multiple. Many creators surveyed for this report have highlighted it as one of the key issues for them.

The overall feeling from songwriters is that if the music industry has experienced a rebound for the past seven years thanks to the development of streaming, this boom has not yet reached songwriters, due to the rates applied to the remuneration of compositions.

Current split of the digital pie suggests that 30/34% of the price paid by subscribers are kept by the streaming service, out of the remaining 70%, 55% go back to the labels and performers, 15% to the songwriter and music publisher.

Current split of the streaming pie

As one European CMO explained: “For composers and lyricists, even more so when they are not performers too, streaming services have not been generous. Even though the unending availability of music has cut the level of online piracy, the revenues accruing to composers are still small. All statistics show that in order to receive an amount of royalties approximately comparable to minimum salary from streaming services, an author should have his or her song streamed millions of times. This is very hard to explain to authors when, on the one hand, the value per stream can be so low as to appear fundamentally unfair, and, on the other, we hear that the streaming market is flourishing.”

To give an idea of the scale necessary to earn a decent remuneration from music streaming, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek disclosed in March 2021 that 57,000 artists represented 90% of monthly streams on Spotify. Even though the number has quadrupled over the last six years, this is a small figure compared to the number of artists present on the site, which means that the vast majority of artists only account for 10% of the streams.

The study advocates for a better sharing of the value generated by streaming economy between all stakeholders and considers that after addressing the need to grow the overall revenue pie and the systemic imbalances and dysfunctions in the operation of online platforms, authors and composers should benefit more favourably from the resulting success of this growing market.

B – Towards a more author-centric streaming ecosystem

The music streaming eco-system could become more author and composer centric if several changes were applied throughout the three following pillars: Recognition; Remuneration; Identification & Attribution.

While most of these changes require a more responsible approach by services and/or rightholders to build a more sustainable and fairer streaming economy, some others would require further industry cooperation and in certain specific cases possible regulatory interventions. Such changes would imply and require that those at the heart of the streaming economy as the main providers of the “content”: authors, composers and their CMOs are part of the streaming debate.

1 – Recognition

Recognition of the role of authors and composers in the streaming economy is crucial to develop a fair and sustainable system that values their contributions to the eco-system and fosters cultural diversity. If the streaming economy is a song economy — based on the consumption patterns of users — then it must ensure that those who are at the heart of that economy are better recognised and they receive the appropriate reward for their contributions.

This means ensuring authors and composers get visibility for their works. There are two notable impacts linked to recognition:

– one is the ability for authors and composers to be identified for their creative contributions (i.e. the song or the composition);

– the other is the possibility for DSPs to build an eco-system for authors and composers within the wider eco-system of the services.

Authors also emphasise the importance of accessibility of lyrics — with identification — as a way to increase visibility and recognition. Several DSPs do offer access to lyrics covering the most popular songs, but there is the perception that more could and should be done in this area.

“[Lyrics] should be further supported,” said a music publisher, “in particular, as it is proven that consumers listen to songs longer if lyrics are pro- vided in parallel.” 28 In addition, efforts should be made to “push” niche repertoires or repertoire in languages other than English.

A CMO from a “small” European country said that “recommendation algorithms do not work well for smaller repertoires.” The same CMO suggested, for example, that contemporary “serious” music should be treated in a more dynamic way, with more classical music playlists, highlighting contemporary music pieces, or playlists similar to Spotify’s “pop rising” playlist, with a “classical rising” playlist, featuring lesser-known composers’ new works next to more popular composers’ works.

Analytics are also key to a better recognition, if they can help access data linking to users and their consumption habits.

Other suggestions include:

– Ensuring that DSPs put in place tools and systems to increase visibility and recognition

To ensure the visibility of authors and composers DSPs should create, develop or re-assign existing tools to showcase authors and composers. This in turn will give them a wider choice of services for their users, through direct use of the data in playlists or specific content pages, and by integrating it into algorithms.

The result should be a more diverse and richer output for users, opening doors to more choices and discovery through a wider set of entry points.

– Ensuring equal access to market for all authors and composers

Access to and use of data about authors and composers should not be limited to top tracks, but cover the whole repertoire, including more niche material. Cooperation between DSPs and CMOs should ensure the equal access to market. This is a critical condition to ensure a wider canvas for cultural diversity.

CMOs will be (and “are”) the guarantors that cultural diversity permeates the music streaming eco-system by ensuring that all repertoire is taken care of by DSPs, and not simply the most popular music genres. CMOs also have the ability to promote their repertoire through partnerships with DSPs, showcases, songwriting seminars, etc.

It is necessary to make more room for less popular repertoires to benefit a wider diversity of authors and composers.

– Improving discoverability

A lot of research has been made in Canada with regards to discoverability, in particular in the context of French-Canadian music, which is subject to quotas for over the air broadcasters which however do not apply to music streaming services. The research shows that while the lists of new releases from Québec, studied are present in a large proportion on streaming platforms, they are “not very visible and very little recommended.”

It further shows that the situation is even worse when it is not about new releases, including hit music, when the presence of titles “drops radically.” It is not very difficult to imagine that if we were to swap Québec in the above sentence with the name of any country from the European Union, and even with music from the European Union as a whole, we could find similar results.

– Monitoring diversity

Organisations such as the European Music Observatory, that the music sector is calling for, or within the European Commission itself, could help the music sector create tools to monitor the presence, visibility and discoverability of European authors on digital services. In addition, it is recommended to connect the notion of discoverability with algorithmic transparency, in order to take into effect lesser-known repertoires.

DSPs could also voluntarily agree to give more prominence via algorithms to the discoverability of European authors and less popular music genres or languages. As a recommendation, this study invites Europe- an stakeholders and the European Commission to consider commissioning a similar research to develop similar indexes, monitor European content and determine if there are similar restrictions in the exposure of European content.

2 – Remuneration

Authors and composers are expecting a better and fairer creation and sharing of value from the streaming market. The music streaming market has been expanding non-stop for the past 15 years. While the growth of new subscribers has slowed down in the most mature mar- kets, such as in North America and Europe, other parts of the world still enjoy steady growth rates in terms of further penetration of streaming services. Therefore the music streaming market is mature enough to take the next steps for a meaningful growth for the creators and rightholders by growing the revenue pie through more realistic market oriented pricing models and value-added services.

This would immediately benefit authors and composers, who will likely see an uptake in revenues as the overall volume of users and subscription fees grow with market conditions. Once the pie of streaming revenue grows, then the split of revenue allocated to authors, composers and music publishers within this additional pot should evolve in different and fairer ways.

– Ensuring that authors and composers are part of the debate on the remuneration from streaming

Authors and composers, as seen in the UK with the DCMS process, deplore that they have been left on the side of the road when it comes to the streaming economy. They feel treated like a minor by-product of a sound recording, when in fact without them, there would not be a song.

There is also a compelling reason for authors and composers to take a front seat in the discussions about the allocation of the revenues from streaming: the new streaming economy is song-based, and songs are written and composed by songwriters. If the streaming economy truly wants to be a song economy, it should then treat the music creators who are at the beginning of the value chain accordingly.

The issue of fair and balanced remuneration will remain on top of the agenda of authors and composers, with the view that progress needs to be made in this field.

– Set variable pricing models to attract new consumer spending

As described previously, pricing is the entrance door to a better remuneration of rights holders and as such of authors and composers.

Because subscription prices have not increased and are running to the bottom to attract new consumers, the remuneration of rights holders has greatly suffered. Prices should be set in order to make content and services more valuable and then attractive for music users.

DSPs could set variable pricing models based on the new offered features to attract new consumer spending in relation to streaming subscriptions: increasing quality of sound, access to NFTs, etc, this could in turn provide new revenue streams for rights holders.

– Re-balancing the value gap

The other issue expressed by rights holders relates to user-generated content platforms, that have historically remunerated rights holders below mar- ket rates, if at all, compared to what streaming services pay. The perceived value gap that ensued got its first correction with the adoption of the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, with its Article 17, which requires UGC platforms to make “best efforts” to identify rights holders, se- cure licences or take down the content.

The expectations from the creator’s side is that the obligation for UGC platforms, — and most notably for the largest, YouTube — to make “best efforts” to identify rights holders and license content will result in higher volumes of royalties paid to rights holders and more even playing filed in the streaming market. It is yet too soon to know to what extent this will be the case, but in any case, market conditions have changed in a way that is more ba- lanced towards rights holders.

– Create a set of best practices

The idea is to have authors and composers as parties to a set of best practices to which DSPs as well as CMOs, would adhere. These should consist in prohibiting or eliminating the following practices:

Avoid “Payola” schemes

DSPs should no longer offer schemes enabling authors and composers to have greater visibility on play- lists and through algorithms in exchange for lower royalty rates. Their remuneration should not be a variable against promotional visibility.

“Such promotional schemes are not compatible with collective rights management and risk undermining the collective bargaining power of authors,” said one European CMO.

Royalty free content

Similar to payola schemes, authors believe that royalty free content for which authors surrender their share of remuneration for whatever reason should be avoided.

Use of fake artists/ghost writers

Using ghost writers for music compositions that would be featured on playlists of certain music streaming services should be eliminated as well because of the ethical and economic concerns such practice raises.

Coercive practices

Music streaming services should not have recourse to coercive practices against authors and composers or their representatives. Such practices contravene the basic notion of fairness and equity. Especially in VOD production, broadcasting, advertising and video-games sectors coercive practices are quite common and significantly jeopardise the principle of “appropriate and proportionate remuneration” of creators guaran- teed by the Article 18 of the new Copyright Directive.

Streaming fraud

This study also recommends the commissioning of a study to evaluate the depth of streaming fraud and mechanisms to avoid their spreading, as well as the adoption of a code of good conduct between stake- holders, some of which is already in place in several countries to stop streaming fraud.

– Discuss music streaming distribution models

Deezer has introduced the debate of which one needs to be aware of when reflecting on authors and composers’ revenue from streaming exploitations.

The Market-Centric Payment System (MCPS)

The dominant payment model at the moment used by streaming services is the pro-rata model or Market-Centric Payment System (MCPS) which has been implemented since the very beginning.

The User-Centric Payment System (UCPS)

The other model, which is known as the User-Centric Payment System (UCPS) is based on what is consumed by the subscribers of streaming services and on the proportionality of what is used versus what is paid.

This study suggests that a future European Music Observatory can make more in-depth studies on this to evaluate the full impact of different distribution models, and their potential benefits for stakeholders, in particular for European authors and composers.

3 – Identification & Attribution

3. a Identification

Identification of authors and composers is crucial not only for their recognition but also for their remuneration. The following measures could improve the current situation.

Need to improve data from the point of creation

The key issue with identification has to do with data first and then the use of the data. Most music streaming services do not display the names of the authors and composers of songs because either they do not have the information or because the system is not designed to display this information.

The call for accurate and reliable data is among the main findings of the survey conducted for this report, and one that DSPs can also be attuned to, since it is also the best way for them to ensure that all the songs played by their users are identified.

The key to accurate data is to be able to source from the origin of the creative process. Driven by their awareness of this and their special relations with authors and composers, CMOs worked together to improve databases to the benefit of all parties and are at the origin, sometimes through start-ups, of various initiatives and projects – and The MLC in the US19 as well – to help build better and more accurate data.

A company like Session — involving ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, currently President of CISAC, producer Max Martin and entrepreneur Niclas Molinder — has for its part launched a platform for project collaboration in the audio space which follows a creative project at every stage of production, from songwriting to mastering, to ensures all credits are accurate.

Services such as Jaxsta, which is the largest database of song credits in the world, have also extended the sources of information available both for B2C purposes (their database can be licensed to services), and for consumers wishing to identify the “people” behind a song.

Young authors (and also established authors, songwriters and composers) do not always understand the ramifications of having proper data about their creations. Not documenting who did what in a recording studio or during a songwriting session, and who are the contributors to a song, can seriously affect the way they will be identified as the authors or co-authors of a song, and their ability to be remunerated for their work.

We suggest that stakeholders — from record labels and music publishers to CMOs and DSPs — conduct regular awareness- raising campaigns to ensure that songwriters better understand the value of proper data and its consequences on their careers.

Better dissemination of ISWCs and matching with ISRCs

A song usually comes with two identifiers:

– ISRC, the International Standard Recording Code, for the sound recordings and music video recordings. ISRCs are unique to each recording, regardless of the format (CD, digital audio file).
– ISWC, or International Standard Musical Work Code, for the composition. The ISWC is a code which connects accurately, efficiently and quickly authors to a specific musical work. According to the ISWC Network, it allows CMOs, publishers, DSPs and any stakeholder in the music value chain “to track, identify and ensure that music creators are attributed the remuneration that is duly owed to them for the use of each specific musical work.”

By linking the obligation to provide ISRCs with ISWCs, one major step could be made. But there are some limits to that process. For a start, ISWCs are often allocated after a song has been distributed to DSPs, as artists and labels tend to speed up the distribution of songs, sometimes before they have identified all the parties to a song.

Discussions are already taking place between stakeholders to improve the quality of metadata, but, as suggested by the DCMS, there could be an industry goal “to establish a minimum viable data standard within the next two years to ensure that services provide data in a way that is usable and comparable across all services.”

Strong obligation on DSPs to report properly and accurately

Metadata coming out from the DSPs is often as good as what has been ingested when DSPs are serviced by rights holders, but put- ting on DSPs an obligation to report properly and accurately data would ensure that both rights holders and DSPs have the quality of data in mind.

Especially on the UGC platforms, not properly ingesting authors’ data, not sharing proper usage data, or using identification tools for authors’ works that are not attached to a sound-recording are major issues that create bottlenecks for remuneration of creators due to missing links and information. The new Copyright in the Digital Single Market in the EU Directive contains, through Article 17, a specific obligation on the Youtube-like services to provide transparent information about the usage of music on their plat- forms.

Moreover Article 17 of the Collective Rights Management Directive provides a broader obligation to report in agreed format and time period on all users of protected works. This would ensure that quality of data would permeate throughout the whole chain.

EU funds for rights management

CMOs rely on data and therefore should be part of any solution improving the flow of data to and from DSPs.

CMOs have already engaged in programmes to improve the quality of data, through individu- al initiatives, partnerships between CMOs, or through CISAC.

The European Union can play a role in the improvement and wider use of data management technologies in the music sector by allocating resources for projects destined to improve capacities of CMOs in this respect. More specifically, as part of the Creative Europe or the Horizon programmes, a pilot programme to help CMOs to manage the digital transition would accelerate the ability for CMOs to capture the value from digital and redistribute to their members.

3.b – Attribution

The concept of attribution is linked to the need for identification. It may sound obvious, but you cannot attribute something that has not been identified. So, the foundation of attribution is proper and accurate data.

Authors and composers need to be properly identified at all steps of the process, and that data needs to flow throughout the streaming system, from rights holders to DSPs and vice-versa.

Attribution is also about making sure that all authors and composers — regardless of their origins and their music genre — receive equal treatment in the identification of their data. With the ubiquity of streaming, music content is now accessible anytime from anywhere. The licensing efforts made by DSPs, owners of sound recordings and CMOs to cover as many territories as possible has made all kinds of repertoires available globally.

Hence the need to be able to identify every single piece of musical works susceptible to be streamed. It has economic relevance and is also a guarantee of cultural diversity, as every single work will matter.

Another aspect of attribution is the often frustrating situation that authors face when their works are used on User Generated Content platforms. Aside from the licensing issues linked to UGC, works that are used in such content are rarely identified, depriving authors of the recognition they are entitled to.

In the context of smart devices, attribution is also a key element in ensuring that songs can be identified through their songwriters, composers or lyricists (Alexa, play me a song by Max Martin!).

Several steps could ensure a better attribution of credits to authors and composers.

Ensure that data on authors and composers is available to consumers

Data on authors and composers is not always apparent or even available on streaming services. In general, DSPs aside, data on songwriters accessible by consumers is hard to find. As described above, efforts by services such as Jaxsta to provide such data is only recent and for the moment their reach is limited.

DSPs argue that a lack of accurate data is often the rea- son why they cannot feature the names of songwriters.

Discussion among stakeholders — in particular DSP and CMOs — to find ways to better disclose to the public in- formation about authors and composers could lead to an increase in the data available to consumers.

Ensure that song data is included and available to DSPs

The discussions between DSPs and CMOs and interested stakeholders could lead to a better transfer of data to DSPs and also the creation of the tools necessary for DSPs to ingest data related to authors and composers. The benefits will be felt on both sides of the value chain. Authors and composers will have identification and the tools for attribution. CMOs and DSPs will have more accurate data to share.

More data transparency from DSPs

“More transparency is required” said IMRO CEO Victor Finn, “increased transparency in relation to streaming rates, usage reports, unidentified works is critical to ensure creators have full confidence in how they are remunerated from the exploitation of their works on streaming platforms.”

“Transparency should be a requirement,” stated a label and management company execu- tive, talking about the need for DSPs to provide more data about the usage of songs. Some bigger services provide daily APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) of information, but he says not all DSPs are required to deliver robust API of info to their suppliers. Another issue for rights holders is that they often have to wait for the quarterly distribution of royal- ties to have a picture of where the music has been played.

Transparency efforts could however clash with some privacy laws such as Europe’s GDPR, which could limit the access to certain type of data.

Create tools ensuring that authors and composers can be searched and incorporated in playlists and algorithms

DSPs shall tailor specific tools for consumers to access such data, with the knock-on effect on recognition and remuneration.

A music publisher suggested that search engines allowing to identify authors, composers and music publishers should be “a standard feature” on digital services.

A whole new layer of tools can be created around authors and composers’ data, multiplying the potential offers to DSPs’ subscribers/users, offering a wider possibility for searches, expanding the ability to build playlists centred around authors and composers, and feeding algorithms with additional data, leading to deeper capacity to address recommendations to users.

One CMO suggested that it would be “useful” for artists (and creators in general) to have “more specific and qualitative figures among those provided by the platforms, especially those related to their total streams and their follower bases.”

It added: “Ideally, for each artist’s or creator’s profile, the follower base could be segmented according to the nature and the quality of the users to get a clearer picture on their ‘quality’ fans, telling them apart from random followers or listeners.”

However, a data specialist warned that access to too much data could have unintended consequences for songwriters, if for example, all DSPs start providing data about usage of songs based on songwriters in different formats, and without some consolidation.

C – Conclusion

The inexorable growth of the music streaming business creates a lot of expectations from authors and composers to see a valuable improvement in their relationship with DSPs as well as in the way they are identified and exposed by digital platforms.

This study was prepared in the midst of turmoil as the incomes of authors and composers are still affected by the health crisis and as usage has definitely shifted to streaming, highlights the need for creators to take back control for a fairer ecosystem.

As mentioned at different places in this study, the issue of fair remuneration will remain on top of the agenda of authors and composers, with the view that progress needs to be made in this field. For sure, CMOs with their authors and composers will play a big role to counter the ‘race to the bottom’ payment models by DSPs.

Besides describing the place and role of authors and composers in the streaming market, this study also tried to demonstrate how to value and protect them, keeping in mind that regulation of these services could be considered to remedy some imbalances in the way they operate. But the spirit of dialogue should prevail.

Continue Reading

Collective Management Organisations

The MLC unveils new portal for independent music distributors to help them identify unmatched recordings and claim royalties

Published

on

The MLC has launched a new portal for distributors to see the publicly available data for the unmatched recordings they’ve released and claim any unmatched royalties for their songs that The MLC has accrued..

This new tool will allow distributors to work with their customers to register their songs with The MLC and claim unmatched royalties. The Nashville-based rights society said the new Distributor Unmatched Recordings Portal (DURP) is part of The MLC’s "growing suite of tools that leverag...

A paid subscription is required to read more.
Log in below, or UPGRADE / SUBSCRIBE.

Continue Reading

Trending