Business News Digital
By Chris Cooke | Published on Thursday 1 June 2023
Following the announcements earlier this week about the economics of streaming work being coordinated by the UK government, CMU has been speaking to representatives from some of the organisations that have been involved in those projects. Unsurprisingly, while everyone sees positives in that work, there are disagreements about what has been achieved so far and what should happen next.
The government instigated a number of projects in response to the inquiry into streaming undertaken by the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee in the UK Parliament. MPs on that committee raised various issues with the way streaming currently works, especially from a music-maker perspective, and called for a “complete reset” of the digital music businesses.
There were three main government-led projects, overseen by the Intellectual Property Office, respectively putting the focus on data, transparency and music-maker remuneration.
Expert working groups were convened to discuss the issues around data and transparency, and to identify and discuss possible solutions. Meanwhile research was commissioned to consider copyright reforms that had been proposed by the select committee to address music-maker remuneration issues.
To help coordinate all of that a ‘music industry contact group’ was created mainly made up of the organisations that represent each stakeholder group within the music rights industry. So that includes organisations representing artists, musicians, songwriters, producers, managers, labels, publishers and the streaming services.
Those organisations have canvassed their respective members on the various issues that were raised by the select committee, and have fed back what they learned. They also nominated experts for the two working groups and have led the negotiations on the codes of practice on data and transparency that came out of those specific projects.
The big two announcements this week in relation to all this were that the code of practice around music metadata has now been agreed and signed, and that the government has agreed to convene another working group focused on music-maker remuneration.
On the metadata code, all the trade organisations we spoke to agree this is an important and positive step.
Currently when recordings are delivered to streaming services, it’s common for no data to be provided about the producers and session musicians who worked on the track. Songwriter names are now often included, but not always with complete accuracy. And the code that identifies the specific song contained in the recording – the ISWC – is rarely supplied.
This missing data means many music-makers go uncredited. Meanwhile on the songs side it can delay or even stop payment being made to the songwriter.
The metadata code sees everyone involved in the making, release, distribution and streaming of recorded music committing to raise their game when it comes to gathering and providing data. And pretty much everyone agrees that it is a step in the right direction. And everyone plans to provide training and support to their members to help them do the game raising.
In some cases that work is already underway. The Ivor’s Academy co-launched the Credits Due campaign in 2021 to educate the music community about the key categories of music metadata. And beyond education, the Music Publishers Association stresses that some of the work to deliver the code, such as ensuring ISWCs are issued sooner, is already underway.
Though some of the music-maker organisations stress that the metadata code is very much a starting point. For starters, key performance indicators to assess the extent to which data provision improves are still to be agreed, though that task is next on the agenda for the IPO.
But even once the KPIs are in place, more changes will be required in the future to fix all the problems, especially around songwriter payments.
The Music Managers Forum points to the ‘Song Royalties Manifesto’ it published last year which set out a much more ambitious and extensive plan. Though, the MMF does add, the first step towards achieving that grander plan involves the sorts of things set out in the code. So it is definitely a good first step.
It’s no secret that music-maker remuneration is the most divisive of the three areas of focus identified by the IPO. And in some parts of the industry, the mere convening of a working group to discuss that topic is seen as controversial.
For the music-maker organisations, remuneration is by far the biggest issue, even though the specific grievances and challenges are different for artists, songwriters and session musicians, and for artists releasing music today and those still earning from records releases years or decades ago.
The big question now is what the scope of the remuneration working group should be, and there are differences of opinion there too. Though – labels and publishers in particular – say that all and any discussions must be “evidence based”.
That’s because the labels and publishers aren’t convinced that every grievance raised by the music-makers around remuneration is justified. Or, at least, those grievances aren’t the result of the deals done between artists and labels, and songwriters and publishers.
And in some cases they’re right. Sometimes the issues are caused by the steaming services. Or the fact that an artist’s music doesn’t get that many streams, given success in streaming comes from millions rather than thousands of plays.
But, the music-maker groups would argue, while some grievances don’t stand up to scrutiny, plenty do. And the former should not be used to distract from the latter.
So, while there were some key developments in the economics of streaming work this week, there is plenty more to be done. And the trickiest conversations are still to be had.
You can read our interviews with representatives from each of the following organisations by clicking the links below…
Association Of Independent Music
Featured Artists Coalition
Music Managers Forum
Music Publishers Association