Thursday, January 12, 2017

How Blockchain can completely transform the music industry

Written by Ben Dickson — Digital music really could use some help. Industry revenues are dipping due to piracy and illegal use of content. Singers and composers are being short-changed by music companies and streaming services. And business models built upon patterns and practices dating back to early 20th century, decades before the invention of digital and online services, are fueling a lot of bad will.

But a number of blockchain innovators are forging new solutions that could knock down inefficient intermediaries standing in the way and enable musicians to transact easily and directly with audiences.

We’re currently seeing solutions emerge to handle three key concerns:

1. Licensing and rights management

Digital rights expression is one of the biggest problems the music industry is tackling presently. It’s extremely difficult to clearly define which performers, songwriters, producers, publishers, and labels own the rights to songs and recordings and how royalties should be split between them.

This is the first place we can expect blockchain to bring change. The ledger stores a cryptographic hash representing the digital content of every new song registered on the blockchain, along with lyrics, musical composition, liner notes, cover art, licensing, and other relevant information.

Since they are immutable distributed ledgers owned by no single entity, blockchains will enable content creators to register ownership of their creations without the need for big record labels.
This concept is being tested and explored by several startups and nonprofit organizations. One key player is UjoMusic, based on the Ethereum blockchain, that enables artists to manage their identities, music, and licensing on their own terms. Combining the transparency of the blockchain with the innovation of smart contracts, the system also enables consumers to license the music for various purposes.

Ujo beta-tested the platform last year with “Tiny Human,” a song by award winning British singer and songwriter Imogen Heap, and it plans to go mainstream in early 2017.

Heap, herself a technologist, is pioneering her own blockchain-based offering, Mycelia, a fair-trade music business that gives artists more control over how their songs and associated data circulate among fans and other musicians.

2. Removing intermediaries

Another problem that blockchain-based services such as Ujo and Mycelia can solve is how content creators get compensated for their work.

Currently, a string of publishers, record labels, talent agencies, streaming services, etc., each take a cut of revenue before passing any remaining crumbs along to artists — after a 6- to 18-month delay.

“Shouldn’t it be possible in a digital world for the royalties to come directly to you, instead of through a slow, inefficient, and opaque chain of collection societies and publishing administrators?” reads “The Problem,” a statement published by the founders of Ujo Music.

As reliable peer-to-peer platforms, blockchains establish a direct relationship between artists and consumers, making sure they are instantly paid for their content and receive near-full payment instead of a tiny fraction.

Users place requests on the blockchain, and smart contracts give instant access to the requested song while directing funds to the crypto-wallets of the song’s rightsholders. That’s why Heap describes her platform as “trying to take away the power from top down and give power, or at least a steering, to the artist to help shape their own future.”

In addition to removing intermediaries, the transparency of blockchain and smart contracts enables artists to make suretheir music is properly licensed and enables consumers to prove ownership of their license on the ledger.

What happens to the record labels after this? Heap believes they can still benefit from this model, if they adopt and embrace change. “As with all new technology, blockchain creates a shift in skill sets and opens up new opportunities,” she said in an op-ed published in Fortune. “There is an ever-greater need for curation and marketing. Record companies could better help music lovers to sift through the hundreds of millions of hours of music and, along with the publishers and existing collection societies, verify that the data are indeed correct. At some stage, artists will invariably need to work with these and other parties.”

3. Piracy problems

A final problem blockchain will need to solve for musicians is piracy. As Matthew Hawn, Head of Product at Audio Network, says, “Consumers assume that music is free. Most of Spotify’s users, for example, are on the ‘free’ tier of the service. Aside from a small but growing group who pay monthly for access, the only people left paying for music are brands and businesses using music to sell other things.”

This is partly due to the fact that users have plenty of ways to copy, record, and distribute content without the consent and compensation of its owners.

PledgeMusic cofounder Benji Rogers presented a comprehensive design for a blockchain-based music database and a codec that could possibly solve the problem.

Rogers introduced the idea of .bc or “dotblockchain,” a codec and player that is tied to a blockchain in order to play content. Every instance of a song played is a unique record on the blockchain, and any content removed or “ripped” from the codec would be unreadable to the player.

BitTunes, a blockchain-based peer-to-peer file sharing platform, has another interesting approach. It uses incentives and rewards to encourage users to publish and distribute music via a blockchain platform, where both content creators and distributors are compensated.

And PeerTracks, another leader of blockchain implementation in the music industry, is offering a business model that could change how artists develop their fanbase and build relationships with their fans. PeerTracks is a download and streaming platform where artists get 95 percent of the revenues.

PeerTracks also introduces the concept of “Notes,” a sort of ICO token tied to artists’ profiles. While Notes do not give fans a stake in songs, albums or copyright, they can be bought, sold, and traded, and their value rises as an artist’s content is downloaded or streamed off the blockchain. Artists can also use them to identify their biggest fans and offer them rewards such as free concert tickets.

Notes give artists a tool to gain exposure and convince their fans to stick with the platform. It also creates a reasoned prediction market, where rising stars can be discovered by their Notes value.

Implementation challenges

It’s still too early to say how blockchain-based music platforms will perform since most of the bigger players still haven’t launched in earnest.

However, blockchain music solutions will have to overcome a lot of challenges, including the transfer of old license and ownership information to these new platforms.

“Record labels, big and small, have typically failed to keep proper records for the artists they sign,” notes Hawn from Audio Network. “Contracts have always been excessively complicated. There were very few standards, and these were often flouted by labels, leaving data entry to interns and IT departments. This doesn’t go away when you move the infrastructure to the blockchain; if anything, it gets worse and will cost millions to fix.”

For this reason, Hawn emphasizes that it’s important key players unite behind blockchain solutions in general rather than look to back a single company.

“A shift like this isn’t going to be achieved by a Steve Jobs-like figure who will magically solve this problem and build a new system overnight,” he says. “This is about laying the bricks, mortar, and plumbing of a new music industry.”

Hawn suggests more support for MusicBrainz, a non-profit open encyclopedia that collects music metadata, and Open Music Initiative, an open platform for licensing data, can help bridge the data gaps that are currently present in the music industry.

Blockchain is probably not a panacea to all the problems plaguing the industry, but it promises a way out of the current deadlock and offers a foundation that can bring together the entire community and give everyone, from amateur singers to platinum record selling superstars, the chance to offer their talent to the world and be compensated for it.

The point, as Imogen Heap says, “is that artists, as the source, will be sustained at the center of their own ecosystem, not starving at the edges of many others’.”

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Judge Dismisses Copyright Lawsuit against Justin Bieber and Usher

Written by Staff, Rolling Stone — Four years after Justin Bieber and Usher first faced a $10 million copyright infringement lawsuit over their song "Somebody to Love" – and nearly seven years after the singers released the single – a judge has dismissed the suit against the two artists.

In 2013, R&B singer Devin "De Rico" Copeland and songwriter Mareio Overton filed their copyright infringement lawsuit against Bieber and Usher, accusing the duo of copying the title, time signature and beat as Copeland and Overton's version of the track.

In their lawsuit, Copeland and Overton claimed that they provided the song, which they recorded in 2008, to Usher's mother and former manager Jonetta Patton in 2009, a year before Bieber recorded the track based off an Usher demo.

However, in the judge's explanation of the lawsuit's dismissal Thursday, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen said Copeland and Overton failed to prove that Bieber and Usher had access to that version of "Somebody to Love."

Allen was the same judge that initially dismissed the "Somebody to Love" copyright lawsuit in 2014; however, the following year, a federal appeals court revived the case after ruling that a jury could find both versions of the song "intrinsically similar," Reuters reports. Copeland and Overton also argued in their appeal that Allen should have allowed a jury – as opposed to the judge's own opinion – to determine whether the two songs were similar.

Allen ruled Copeland and Overton's objections were without merit. To avoid another appeal, Allen dismissed the case without prejudice, essentially ensuring the lawsuit could not be brought up again.

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How Megabucks-backed SESAC Plans to Simplify the Music Business

Written by Tim Ingham — SESAC, one of the most ambitious companies in music, is now officially backed by Blackstone – one of the most powerful private equity companies in the world.

SESAC hasn’t put an official figure on Blackstone’s buyout, which will take the for-profit collection/licensing society out of the hands of Rizvi Traverse Management.

But it’s pretty easy to estimate the pricetag: somewhere between massive-bucks and megabucks.

Blackstone’s average investment in portfolio companies totals hundreds of millions of dollars. Rizvi reportedly bought its 75% stake in SESAC for approximately $600m in 2013.

SESAC CEO John Josephson says that Blackstone’s money will, over the next decade, help fuel SESAC’s aspirations to become a truly global rights management powerhouse across performance, mechanicals, sync – and even master rights.

You can’t imagine the presence of $35bn-valued Blackstone will do much harm to SESAC’s mission to increase songwriter payouts from the likes of Google, Facebook and the US radio industry.

(Like BMI and Irving Azoff’s GMR, SESAC is currently preparing to fight the US Radio Music License Committee to shell out higher composer royalties. SESAC, though, will have do so through an arbitration proceeding – an agreed result of the settlement of prior litigation.)

Yet according to Josephson, the biggest immediate advantage of Blackstone’s takeover will be stability.

SESAC is Blackstone’s first investment under its new core private equity strategy.

This is ‘specifically designed to hold private equity investments for much longer periods of time than traditional private equity funds’ – expected to amount to a duration in excess of 10 years.

That suits Josephson, who says SESAC has much more to get done worldwide.

SESAC’s global game plan is two-fold: (i) expand its active presence as a multi-rights licensing group across Europe and the rest of the world; and (ii) pull together mechanicals, sync and performance rights in a manner beyond that of its US competitors.

Part (i) got a big boost last year when SESAC joined forced with Swiss collecting society SUISA to create Mint – a JV to administer and license rights across Europe.

Its EU ambitions were also boosted when SESAC hired SOLAR’s Alexander Wolf (pictured inset) to head up its International team.

Part (ii) became a reality with one of the most significant deals in recent music publishing history: when SESAC acquired US mechanical rights clearing house The Harry Fox Agency from the NMPA in 2015.

Impressive moves like these have helped attract 30,000 clients (‘affiliates’) to SESAC’s books, including Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Green Day, Kings Of Leon, Zac Brown and Neil Diamond.

MBW caught up with Josephson to ask him all about what Blackstone’s investment – which is expected to close in Q1 this year – will mean for SESAC and the future of music rights.

We also inquired about SESAC’s rivalry with ASCAP and BMI, the current state of global licensing – and how Josephson believes Facebook and YouTube should evolve their treatment of songwriters.

In a way, I see the acquisition by Blackstone as a coming of age moment for SESAC.

The first thing it does is create stable ownership: we now have an owner with a clearly stated intent to hold its investment in SESAC for an extended period of time.

Secondarily, Blackstone has both extensive financial resources as well as the desire to provide additional capital as we execute on our plan.

Obviously, we will need to reach a consensus with the team at Blackstone regarding any prospective investments we want to make but once we’ve reached that consensus, we know the capital is available.

We also believe that having a sophisticated investor like Blackstone aligned with the music rights community as we articulate our legislative agenda could be valuable not just for SESAC, but hopefully the entire music community.

For example, in the U.S., we’re in an ongoing dialogue with the legislative community about how to best achieve fair compensation for songwriters.

Our message is simple: music licensing should take place in a free and fair market.

It can’t be a bad thing to have a company with the resources and sophistication of Blackstone aligned with us as we pursue that dialogue.

It might not solve anything immediately, but it has the potential to level the playing field somewhat when you have the tech industry giants devoting enormous resources to pursue their own agenda in Washington.

There are two approaches: in the first case, you can try to issue “global” licenses today. I don’t disrespect the intent, but I think the reality is that we as an industry are still quite a way off being able to truly license seamlessly on a global basis.

In the alternative, you can take the checkerboard approach we’re pursuing by expanding, initially, on a territory-by-territory basis; focusing on the regions where the real bulk of the dollars are, and expanding from there.

Our goal is to be able to actively monetize musical works on behalf of our affiliated writers and publishers across multiple geographic territories, and we are building that capability.

Our SUISA JV represents a first step towards a new focus on Europe. And we’re also thinking over the long term about Asia, as well as other regions.

There is still an incredible amount of fragmentation which exists in the industry—both across geographic territories and, especially in the US, across different rights types.

I would hope that increasingly over the next five years you’ll see more and more of SESAC’s growth coming from outside the States.

In net terms I actually think they’re a hindrance to us.

They force ASCAP and BMI into a situation – and this isn’t knocking either of them – where they’re under enormous pressure to agree to rates in their negotiations with licensees that don’t necessarily represent the fair market value of the compositions in their respective repertories.

Notwithstanding the fact that we’re not a regulated entity and they are, we suffer from that because these rates become the benchmarks many licensees use when they’re negotiating with us.

We’re able to make decisions more quickly and on a more dynamic basis. That is because we’re smaller, nimbler and for-profit.

We settled our litigation with the Radio Music License Committee about a year ago.

Part of the settlement involved an agreement on the part of both parties to use binding arbitration to set rates in the event we are unable to reach a negotiated settlement.

Our first arbitration with the RMLC is coming up, and we’re investing a lot of management time as well as financial resources in that process.

We believe in making this investment because it’s part of the broader agenda of achieving fair compensation for writers.

I don’t see us as a threat. We’re trying to take steps to achieve greater efficiency in the marketplace and fair outcomes for rights holders. I think all industry participants stand to benefit as a result.

We come at it from two perspectives. First, we think the fragmentation of rights categories in the States has created inefficiencies in the marketplace – and that by re-aggregating mechanical and performance rights, you can achieve better outcomes for licensees as well as rights-holders.

Secondly, the major digital platforms operate their businesses on a global basis, yet the rights they need to secure are enormously fragmented across various territories.

We believe [there are] economic efficiencies that can be shared by both end users and rights-owners from having data about compositions across multiple markets.

I’m not so focused on who might think we’re a threat as I am on creating an outcome that serves both the interests of our clients and users of music worldwide. This takes time and focus, which Blackstone’s investment will support.

That’s not our objective, and it’s not one we focus on. We have a long runway of growth in our business before we begin to approach either of them in size or scale.

When you look at our market share across different categories of music today – we’re a very meaningful player, just as GMR is.

Our objective isn’t to be the biggest. It’s to achieve the best outcomes for our affiliates, provide the highest level of service in the marketplace and to operate in a highly efficient manner.

To do that, part of our strategy is to focus on the copyrights we believe have the highest value. That approach isn’t consistent with trying to be the market share leader.

I don’t think there’s any immediate opportunity. It’s a logical aspiration, but a long-term one.

I imagine we’re not alone and that some of the larger players in the market may also be thinking about this, and trying to figure out how over time they can position themselves to administer, if not license and clear, both masters and compositions.

But I think it’s still some way off, for a variety of reasons.

It’s a different answer for each of them.

For YouTube, it’s an issue of working with them to think more constructively about the value that music brings to their business.

YouTube’s effective revenue share with the music industry is much lower than other digital platforms. In addition, they often like to talk about how much of what’s happening on their platform doesn’t involve music. But the reality is that even if, in the first instance, something is not ‘music consumption’ per se, they’re using music to get people to their platform, before monetizing that in a hundred different ways.

I would hope over time they take a more collaborative, constructive view and recognise how valuable music is as a driver of their business.

For Facebook, it’s a question of the degree to which they integrate active monetization of music into their product offering.

Music is so elemental to what drives activity on social platforms. Facebook has so many opportunities to optimize the user experience and enhance engagement with product innovations that also involve active monetization of music. My hope would be that they begin to move more aggressively in this direction, and that they secure the licenses required to do so.

Ultimately, premium user experiences require premium music. We believe digital services will recognize this as their businesses evolve.

It’s had a de minimis impact on our business thus far. On a go-forward basis it will have some impact – that’s a reality of the marketplace: publishers who control rights should have the freedom to do what they want with them.

For us, it will be more a factor that reduces the growth we see from the digital platforms rather than something that leads to a decline in our digital revenue.

If you talk to digital platforms, many of them don’t want to do direct licensing with publishers – they would prefer to clear music through the PROs.

Our view is actually not to fight direct licensing, but rather to get on board with it – to innovate and embrace it.

Since we acquired HFA, we’ve been speaking with many independent publishers about how we can work with them to facilitate direct licenses for digital platforms that integrate their performance and mechanical rights, with HFA/Rumblefish acting as the administrator of these licenses.

This will also benefit licensees whose distribution models require rights that are not available through the PROs or traditional mechanical licenses.

Our focus is 100% on providing value added licensing and administration services to writers and publishers, at the highest level of service we can achieve. We don’t have any plans at present to own rights ourselves.

I’m optimistic because it can’t possibly get worse!

If you’ve studied the history of music, when you go back to the origins of copyright in music; it was all about the writers. The composers were the stars. The artists performing them were struggling to make a living.

The industry has subsequently evolved to a place where the artist, not the writer, is the one the consumer thinks about when he or she listens to a song. That’s created its own economic reality in terms of the split between writers and performers.

That shift, however, has been exacerbated by the fact that two-thirds of music publishing income is subject to governmental price controls.

I’m speaking from my own book here: I feel that the current allocation of value is often unfair to writers.

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Why is the 'Blurred Lines' Copyright Verdict Still Causing Issues?

Written by Alan Cross — I hate to say it, but I called this one. When the “Blurred Lines” verdict came down–the one saying that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams violated the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” simply by writing a song with a similar feel and vibe–I fretted that this would open the doors to all kinds of lawsuits. Ambulance-chasing copyright lawyers would team up with acts from the past to sue for infringement just because a contemporary song sounded vaguely like one of theirs. Other artists, fearing litigation, would proactively settle any possible claims–which is exactly what happened with the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson hit, “Uptown Funk.”

And the “Uptown Funk” troubles aren’t over yet. From Pitchfork:

Now “Uptown Funk” is facing another “Blurred Lines”-style challenge over its authorship. A lawsuit filed last month claims “Uptown Funk” lifts key elements from Minneapolis electro-funk band Collage’s 1983 single “Young Girls.” The “Blurred Lines” verdict was a big deal because it raised questions about inspiration and vibe—when does homage cross over into plagiarization? Collage’s case against “Uptown Funk” could move this line to new extremes, potentially stifling the very creativity that copyright law is supposed to protect. 
While popular music has been recycling itself more and more over the past two to three decades, intellectual property has become more important to the music industry as a revenue source, says Kembrew McLeod, a communications professor at the University of Iowa. The “Uptown Funk” case seems to be a symptom of those dual trends. “We’re basically heading down a path where people are getting sued over imitating styles, or sensibilities,” McLeod says. “If we continue down this path, the music industry is going to litigate itself to death.”

The whole music industry is now paranoid. This isn’t good for anyone except lawyers and musicologists-for-hire, of course.

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

YouTube pays $1B in 2016 & tells labels it's already paying them enough

Written by Mathew Ingram — YouTube and the music industry have been beating each other up for some time now about the amount of money the video platform pays to record labels in the form of advertising revenue. On Tuesday it was YouTube’s turn to get some punches in.

The music industry has been adamant that YouTube doesn’t pay enough for the music its users post, at least compared to streaming services like Spotify. But—not surprisingly—the Alphabet subsidiary disagrees.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Robert Kyncl—YouTube’s chief business officer—revealed for the first time exactly how much money the video service pays the music industry for the right to use some of those songs. Last year, he said, the company paid more than $1 billion.

Until now, whenever this argument came up, all YouTube GOOG 0.69% would say was that it paid the industry a total of $2 billion since it first implemented its “Content ID” copyright tracking system in 2007. Tuesday’s blog post appears to be the first time the company has provided an annual figure.

These payments demonstrate that “multiple experiences and models are succeeding alongside each other,” Kyncl said—a fairly obvious reference to the fact that Spotify and other streaming services such as Apple Music license music directly, whereas YouTube provides a share of the revenue from ads that are posted alongside copyrighted content.

Kyncl went on to say that as ad dollars shift away from TV and print to online sources, “the music business has an opportunity to look a lot like television, where subscriptions and advertising contribute roughly equal amounts of revenue, bolstered by digital and physical sales.”

For months now, music executives have been complaining that YouTube doesn’t pay them enough, mostly because the amount it pays doesn’t match what Spotify pays for licensing.

Among other things, the Recording Industry Association of America has argued that YouTube and other providers should lose the “safe harbor” protection they get under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That’s the clause that prevents copyright holders from suing for infringement, as long as the service takes down infringing material when it gets notified.

RIAA chairman Cary Sherman has argued repeatedly that YouTube doesn’t pay nearly as much as it should for the music its users post, and also maintains that the service encourages piracy by making it too hard to get infringing content removed.

“When you compare what we get when we get to freely negotiate, with a company like Spotify, vs. what we get when we are under the burden of an expansively interpreted ‘safe harbor,’ when you’re negotiating with somebody like YouTube, you can see that you’re not getting the value across the platforms that you should,” Sherman told Recode.

The RIAA boss also wrote a post that was published on Medium in March, in which he complained about the “value grab,” as he called it, that allowed ad-supported services like YouTube to pay far less per song than streaming services like Spotify (which paid $1.8 billion in 2015).

“Fans listened to hundreds of billions of audio and video music streams through on-demand ad-supported digital services like YouTube, but revenues from such services have been meager,” Sherman wrote. “Some technology giants have been enriching themselves at the expense of the people who actually create the music.”

YouTube’s argument, however, is that the video service is a fundamentally different beast than Spotify, where people specifically go to listen to music. In many cases, the music in YouTube videos is secondary to their intended purpose, the company says—and regardless, the Content ID system allows rightsholders to monetize those views if they want to.

And while the record industry likes to hold Spotify up as an example of a company that is doing the right thing, onerous licensing payments—which are equivalent to about 85% of the service’s revenue—have made it virtually impossible for the company to actually make any money. That doesn’t sound like a very sustainable model.

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Jay Z's Tidal in Hot Water for Streaming Prince's Music

Written by Steve Karnowski, Associated Press — Roc Nation, the entertainment company founded by rap mogul Jay Z, tried but failed to get chosen to manage Prince's musical assets in the weeks after the rock superstar's death, according to court documents released Tuesday.

The documents stem from a dispute between Prince's record company and Jay Z's music streaming service Tidal, which is playing out in both state and federal court in Minnesota.

The trust company overseeing Prince's estate says the dispute belongs only in federal court, where PRN Records is suing Roc Nation for copyright infringement for making a large part of Prince's catalog available to its subscribers. A closed hearing is set for Thursday in Carver County probate court.

After Prince Rogers Nelson died of an accidental painkiller overdose in April, the court appointed Bremer Trust to run his estate. The company then solicited requests for proposals for managing his music to generate cash.

The documents show Roc Nation, founded in 2008 by Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, submitted a proposal in May. That proposal, marked "Proprietary and Confidential," pitched Roc Nation as an "artists first" endeavor that would protect his artistic vision. It noted that Prince had already given Tidal rights to stream some of his recent work.

"Mr. Nelson spoke openly with Mr. Carter about the future of his music, and the future of the music industry overall," said the letter, signed by Roc Nation CEO Jay Brown. "Mr. Nelson's point of view on art, protecting rights and advocating for social good were directly aligned with those of Mr. Carter. He confided in and entrusted Mr. Carter and Roc Nation with his most prized possession, his creative expression."

However, Bremer Trust in June instead chose L. Londell McMillan, Prince's longtime attorney, manager and friend, and business executive Charles Koppelman to manage Prince's music.

Since then, a dispute has been brewing between the two sides over how Tidal is streaming Prince's music. Bremer Trust acknowledged that an Aug. 1, 2015, agreement, which remains sealed, gave Tidal the right to stream a new Prince studio album, "Hit n Run Phase One." However, the trust company alleges in court filings, Tidal in June began streaming many Prince albums without permission.

According to an October letter to the judge by Roc Nation attorney Rodney Mason, Prince and NPG "granted Roc Nation the exclusive rights to stream the Artist's vast and historic catalogue of master recordings and musical compositions exclusively on the TIDAL service. It was no secret that the Artist did not like competing streaming services and was publicly vocal in support of granting exclusive rights to TIDAL ... and there are many documents which support the parties' agreement to the same."

Bremer Trust disputes that. In a brief dated Monday, attorney Katherine Moerke wrote that the only agreement it knows of between Prince or his companies with Roc Nation or any of its affiliates covered only "Hit n Run Phase One." Roc Nation has failed to produce any other agreements despite several requests and a subpoena, she wrote. Roc Nation also has not responded to a request for an accounting of any payments, she wrote, suggesting that it still owes the estate royalties.

Moerke and Mason did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment Tuesday. Roc Nation has not formally responded to the copyright lawsuit, which NPG filed last month.

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

UMG posts Biggest Annual revenues yet lose market shares

Written by Tim Ingham — As MBW pointed out the other week, Universal Music Group is on course to post its biggest annual revenues since Vivendi acquired it a decade ago.

That’s obviously great news for Sir Lucian Grainge and his management team, but it doesn’t mean the company’s performance in 2016 entirely escapes scrutiny.

UMG parent Vivendi recently fielded questions from analysts about its music business… with its global market share put under the microscope.

MBW calculated in September that, on a global revenue basis, Universal’s recorded music market share had dipped by around 1% in the first six months of this year – a fall cushioned by Sony’s income suffering from the strong Japanese Yen.

Meanwhile, Hits Daily Double recently reported that UMG lost 3.8% US recordings market share in the first six months of 2016 in terms of all albums (including TEA).

In terms of frontline market share in the same period, concluded Hits, Universal lost 5% share year-on-year.

As you can see below, Sony, Warner and the independent sector all gained share in the same period.

Speaking to Vivendi on November 9, analyst Julien Roch from Barclays Capital suggested that UMG appeared to have lost global market share points in each of its past five quarters.

He asked the French media empire’s top bosses to explain UMG’s “fifth quarter of under-performance in a row”.

Obviously, one reason for UMG ceding ground to its competitors in this period is its release slate: the business has not released albums from many of its big hitting artists in 2016 – including Taylor Swift, Sam Smith and Katy Perry.

In addition, albums from the likes of Kanye West, Frank Ocean and Rihanna have been disrupted by exclusive streaming agreements.

However, Roch pushed Vivendi on the point – noting that UMG’s market share slip “has to be [down] to more than the release schedule”.

Vivendi CFO Herve Philippe responded that the French company monitors the market share of UMG “very closely” every month.

“Specific events not positive for Universal Music in 2016 are both the death of David Bowie and Prince, which benefited, I would say… which benefited other labels,” he commented.

“So we will see what will be the market share in the coming quarter, but this is something we are looking at clearly.”

Obviously, it’s not the deaths of Bowie and Prince per se that Philippe is referring to, but rather the jump in sales of both artists’ catalogues triggered by their passing.

The recorded music catalogue of both artists is managed by Warner Music Group.

The Bowie EMI catalogue formed part of Parlophone Label Group, which was acquired by WMG subsequent to UMG’s historic buyout of EMI in 2012.

The point about Bowie and Prince’s deaths was backed up by Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine.

“Market share doesn’t always show the whole picture,” he commented. “Quality of the revenue is just as important.

“If you take for instance in the US, UMG has had [the] top four most streamed albums year-to-date, through September with Drake, Rihanna, Justin Bieber [and] Kanye West.

“If you take in the UK, we had seven of the top 10 singles, led by Calum Scott – number two – and, within the UK, UMG had the biggest selling album of the quarter with Drake.”

He added: “It’s clear to say that the market has had an impact from the passing of Prince and David Bowie, which benefited the market share of a competitor.

“But we are tracking the evolution of [UMG’s] market share [and] we don’t see [its decline] as an ongoing trend.

“There are some special kind of reasons why it is what it is… We still are committed to grow market share again to reinforce our position as No.1 in the industry, but to do that in a way that is going to be based on profitable growth.”

De Puyfontaine makes a fair point on profitable growth: MBW calculates that UMG’s profit margin in the first nine months of this year is greater than at any point since Lucian Grainge took over as CEO and Chairman in 2011.

However, it’s perhaps a little unfair – although hardly surprising – that the Vivendi boss failed to mention the commercially significant performance of Universal’s rivals this year.

Sony Music Entertainment standouts have included The Chainsmokers, Solange, Beyonce and Adele (who, outside The Americas, would have also boost the independents’ market share significantly).

Over at Warner Music Group, major 2016 successes have included Twenty One Pilots (pictured), the Hamilton OST, Lukas Graham and Coldplay.

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Atlanta music industry recoils at recording studio ordinance

Written by Doug Richards, WXIA — Some in Atlanta’s music industry are angry about about a proposed ordinance that would restrict music recording studios in the city. But the ordinance’s sponsor say it’s designed to curb incidents of violence that have taken place around a handful of studios in the last few years.

Maze Studios is accustomed to making a racket inside its century-old brick building in Atlanta’s Edgewood neighborhood. But outside, its owner Ben Allen says it is all but invisible to the surrounding neighborhood of single-family homes and apartments.

"It’s not really disruptive to the community at all because nobody knows that we’re here, which is how we like it," Allen told 11Alive's Doug Richards Friday. "Most studios are designed to keep a low profile. We don’t want anyone disturbing us and we don’t want to disturb anyone else."

But a few Atlanta studios have been at the center of some violent disputes that have raised their profile – and drawn the attention of a proposed ordinance. It would require new recording studios to stay 500 feet away from residential areas – and to get special use permits from the city.

"(It's) So that you don’t have a conflict between the studio and the neighborhood," said city councilwoman Felicia Moore, who is sponsoring the ordinance. "This is for both of them, for the recording industry and the community, so that they can both co-exsist and operate."

But Allen, who won a Grammy for producing a Gnarls Barkley record a decade ago, thinks the ordinance would harm Atlanta’s music industry. He thinks the government should encourage, rather than dissuade new studios.

"It may be a legitimate problem, but it’s not a problem here," Allen said. "And it’s not a problem at most of the studios in Atlanta, and I could show you a list of twenty other studios in town that don’t have these kinds of problems."

Moore agrees most studios are problem-free. She says a special use permit would give the city leverage to shut down studios where trouble occurs.

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Have Radiohead and Streaming Services Kissed and Made Up?

2011’s "Supercollider / The Butcher" is on streaming services now

Written by Matthew Strauss — Earlier this year, a great deal of Radiohead’s music vanished from streaming services. The move was part of a streamlining effort when the band’s back catalog was transferred from Parlophone to XL. Slowly, their songs started to reappear–some music appearing on the sites for the first time. A Moon Shaped Pool has been on streaming platforms, and In Rainbows (as well as its bonus disc) later followed. Last week, a pair of 2009 tracks were put on Spotify and Apple Music. Now, the band’s 2011 single “Supercollider / The Butcher” is available to stream; hear the tracks below.

The appearance of any Radiohead music on Spotify, in particular, has been a bit of a revelation, given Thom Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich’s comments about the service. In 2013, they pulled their music from Spotify, which Yorke called "the last desperate fart of a dying corpse."

Click here to read more from this article's source.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

'We Shall Overcome' Copyright Case Pushes On

Written by Eriq Gardner — A group of plaintiffs have overcome the first major hurdle in a lawsuit that aims to establish that the unofficial anthem to the Civil Rights Movement is not really under copyright protection. On Monday, a New York federal judge rejected a publisher's bid to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that lyrics in the first verse of "We Shall Overcome" were copied from material in the public domain and that there's been a fraud on the U.S. Copyright Office.

The lawsuit was filed in April by the same legal team that got Warner/Chappell to back off from ownership claims over "Happy Birthday to You." The production company behind Lee Daniels' The Butler later joined the "We Shall Overcome" lawsuit as a co-plaintiff after being told by the publisher that to use the song as it wished in the film would require a $100,000 payment.

The defendants in the lawsuit are The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music, which have retained commercial control of the song since copyright registrations were made in the early 1960s.

At the time of the registration, according to the plaintiffs, the song had already largely been in circulation as an African-American spiritual used as a protest song by striking tobacco workers. Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer, had already founded an organization called People Songs, Inc., which had published a periodical that in 1946 included the entire musical composition with authorship credited to the FTA-CIO Workers Highlander Students.

Over the years, the words of the hymn changed and new verses were added. By 1959, the song was distributed on phonographs, and the following year, Ludlow filed for a registration for an "unpublished derivative work," crediting the wife of a member on PSI's advisory committee as well as a couple of other folk singers with authorship. Seeger would later record his own copyrighted version of the song in 1963.

Seeger would explain decades later the reason for seeking a copyright: "In the early '60s, our publishers said to us, 'If you don’t copyright this now, some Hollywood types will have a version out next year like, 'Come on Baby, We shall overcome tonight.'”

In defense of the lawsuit, Ludlow Music and the Richmond Organization asserted that the copyrighted version was sufficiently original to merit protection.

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote writes in her opinion that the plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged otherwise to survive a motion to dismiss.

"The copyrighted work differs from the 1948 version by only three words: (1) 'we’ll' for 'I’ll'; (2) 'shall' for 'will'; and (3) 'deep' for 'down,'" her opinion states. "The Plaintiffs have also plausibly alleged that the individuals listed on the 1960 copyright registration are not the authors of the changes that were made to the three words in the Song’s first verse. If they are not the authors, the Defendants cannot claim copyright protection. The Plaintiffs allege that the author of the underlying work is unknown, that it is unclear who changed 'will' to 'shall,' and that a Black tobacco worker named Lucille Simmons changed 'I' to 'We.' Simmons is not listed as an author in the application to register the copyright for the Song."

Cote adds, "The Defendants’ arguments to the contrary are unavailing. The Defendants’ argument that the copyright registrations are entitled to a presumption of validity does not compel dismissal of the claims. A certificate of registration does constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of a copyright."

It's also decided that more fact-finding will be required to figure out whether the defendants "deliberately omitted" from the copyright application all antecedents of their allegedly protected song and whether there was a sufficient basis for listing the authors being credited on the registration.

"These allegations of fraud are sufficiently specific, and provide enough information from which to infer the requisite intent, to survive a motion to dismiss," continues Cote, who also rules that even if "We Shall Overcome" was properly copyrighted, plaintiffs have plausibly alleged the song was subsequently published without a copyright notice as required by the 1909 Copyright Act. In other words, the defendants may have divested their rights.

As a result of Monday's decision, The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music will need to continue to fight for the song in court. Represented by attorney Paul LiCalsi, they've stressed to the public that royalties from the song are earmarked for the Highlander Research and Education Center to support art and research projects in the African-American community as well as the preservation of Civil Rights Movement documents.

Cote's decision wasn't a complete victory for the plaintiffs. The judge deems various asserted state law claims — money had and received, deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, rescission — as preempted by federal copyright law. The rejection of these claims could make it more difficult for the plaintiffs to collect substantial monetary damages outside of a settlement, though the plaintiffs' attorneys at Wolf Haldenstein have proven some deftness in their copyright-freeing pursuits.

Click here to read more from this article's source.