Friday, June 26, 2020

A2IM Indie Week Dives Into Data: Mechanical Licensing Collective, What Numbers Matter Most & More

Written by Ed Christman — In the third quarter of this year, the still-being built Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) plans to launch its portal so that music rights holders will be able to scrutinize its data to ensure their copyrights are correctly listed -- a key ingredient in making sure everyone receives proper renumeration from streaming services.

That was one of many key developments discussed during A2IM’s IndieWeek, which is being held June 15-18. During this week, the trade group featured a slate of virtual panels aimed at helping indie labels traverse the exceedingly complex music business.

On Tuesday, since many indie label owners also own music publishing assets, the group’s CEO Richard James Burgessconducted a conversation with MLC CEO Kris Ahrend where Ahrend said that rolling out the portal ahead the MLC's official launch in January 2021 will allow copyright owners to “engage with data” and improve and correct that data where needed.

First royalty payments won’t go out until the spring 2021, so it sounds like copyright owners will have six months to ensure that the MLC song database -- which is supposed to matches compositions with recordings -- has the correct data, including ownership shares of each song.

Beginning in January, the MLC will license digital services that apply for a blanket mechanical license. And when it gets play reports from services, it will begin the process of sorting out payments to keep that spring 2021 timeline. But he also noted the MLC's work is never done. “Data is constantly changing,” Ahrend said, noting the creation of new works and new recordings of old works and the transfers of ownership through acquisitions and reversions.

“With whatever changes that occur, we want the data to make sure it is as current and accurate as possible,” Ahrend said. With copyright owners having the ability to monitor the database, their reward will be in “getting paid properly” -- something that was not always guaranteed under the old system before the blanket license.

Data Overload?

Later in the day was a panel on marketing in the digital age. With an onslaught of data from digital services, as well as metrics from social media and old-school music industry data like airplay and sales, labels have more tools than ever at their disposal in marketing their music, hence the topic of a seminar: “Drowning In Data.”

First off, its important to start by looking at historic data to help determine goals and which metrics to track in releasing new music from an artist, said Mariah Czap, the digital manager at Redeye, the Haws River, N.C.-based distribution company.

And since there is so much data now available, that means determining which data feed needs to be look at multiple times daily, like streams at accounts like Spotify and Apple Music, to which data only needs to be checked weekly or quarterly, added Lindsey Schapiro, senior director of digital marketing/streaming at Mom and Pop Records.

“This allows you to be efficient with your time,” Schapiro said. By comparing data from different feeds and comparing it to airplay, she said that can be used as a guideline to “show us to where to spend advertising dollars. In comparing data feeds, she said that streaming data might not follow airplay that closely but there is more of a connection between radio airplay and downloads. Czap added she sees a stronger connection between Shazam data and radio airplay.

Labels are not the only music industry component look at how different data feeds correlates, according to Czap. For example, she said looking at how the different types of data streams correlate now contributes into how artists routes tours.

Making Most of the Repertoire Data Exchange

With the emphasis still on data, a panel on the Repertoire Data Exchange informed indie labels how they too will soon have a tool that will allow them be the beneficiary of being able to collect neighboring rights revenue (master recording performance royalties) from around the globe.

Charlie Phillips, chief operating officer of the Worldwide Independent Network, said that RDx launched in March with the goal of getting better quality data to the various collecting management organizations around the globe. Up to now, collecting these type of royalties has been “a pain point” for indie labels because they may have a few offices but it's hard to cover the now more than ever global nature of the music business. “The key message today, here is a system that will solve a problem,” Phillips said.

“A track gets released in one country but it could be played the same day on a radio station on the other side of the world. How will an indie label get paid when that happens?

RDx, which is set up on Digital Data Exchange (DDEX) -- the music industry’s recording data and rights standards -- is “not trying to be a global database,” but is meant to be a data exchange, according to Matt Phipps-Taylor, chief operating officer of PPL, the U.K. collection organization for sound recordings that was chosen to run RDx. RDx will act as a hub, he said, passing data from labels onto licensing and collection organizations around the globe. Or if a label is still early in its development and doesn’t feel it has the tools to work in RDx, it can work with its own distributor or local collection organization to pass through sound recording data to RDx.

Where the RDx will come in handy is transmitting information back and forth on where there is conflicts in rights or if sound recordings are missing information. Moreover, the RDx will allow labels to monitor that their data reached the many collection management organizations around the globe, Phipps-Taylor said. Where there are data conflicts, RDx doesn’t resolve it but passes that information onto the various parties so they can resolve the conflicts among themselves.

IFPI chief technology officer Richard Gooch reported that in addition to selecting PPL as the technology partner, IFPI and Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) also asked four record label-oriented companies and four collection-management organizations to “spearhead” the user experience to make sure things worked properly, and they have been working through things for a full year already. “The testing was completed in March," he said.

In order to help RDx to get to the next phase, Phillips asked labels to lobby their local collective management organizations to participate in RDx. He also reminded labels, it's important to get their own data ready, whether they plan to participate directly or through their distributor or the local CMO.

After All, "It Is Your Data"

In the final panel of the day, Entertainment One senior VP of digital operations and innovation Bill Wilson reminded labels that it is always important for labels to maintain their own data and that includes WAV files of all the music they release. He warned that when searching for a distributor, always look for companies that allow you to retain and maintain your data, because, after all, “it is your data.”

Otherwise, you might get stuck with a distributor who doesn’t play nicely, if you decide to leave for another distributor. He then proceeded to tell the story about a label that had to take on the onerous task of creating new WAV files for all of its music and rebuild the metadata when swapping distributors.

How to Value Assets:

Earlier in the day, former Concord chief operating officer Glen Barros, who earlier this year started a new company called Exceleration Music, hosted a panel on how to value assets. During it, he ran through all the financial ratios that investors look at when buying at stake or acquiring music assets outright; or that owners measure when considering selling or looking to raise money through debt.

While running through key valuation terms, Barros also explained what kind of investors would rely on which ratios more heavily. This included spending time on the main headline multiples that acquisitions are usually quoted at, among them net publisher’s share, and the more complicated net label share.

He also looked at how genres and age of the copyrights play into the valuations.