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52% digital boom helped song right societies collect €8 billion in 2016

By | Published on Wednesday 15 November 2017


The collecting societies representing song rights saw the monies they collect worldwide rise by 6.8% to €8 billion last year – a jump in part fuelled by a 52% increase in digital income – according to new figures published by CISAC today.

CISAC, of course, brings together the collecting societies representing songwriters and music publishers from all around the world, and its annual Global Collections Report combines stats from all of its member organisations. And while it only includes income that moves through the collective licensing system, because the collecting societies are involved in most (though not all) aspects of the songs side of the music rights industry, the CISAC stats do provide a decent overview of the wider songs business.

Though to confuse things ever so slightly, CISAC also includes some collecting societies that represent non-musical copyrights – such as visual art and literature – and their revenues are also featured in the report. When you take all of that income into account as well, global royalty collections by CISAC affiliated societies topped €9.2 billion in 2016, a 6% increase year-on-year.

Across all its member societies, digital income was up 51.4% at just under €1 billion. CISAC notes that the boost mainly came from premium streaming services, and could have been more had it not been for the low royalties paid by CERTAIN VIDEO PLATFORMS. By which, of course, it means YouTube. Fucking YouTube. Value gap, value gap, blah, blah blah. Or, if you prefer, transfer of value, transfer of value, blabla blabla blabla, as that Jean-Michel Jarre might say.

That said, digital is one area where CISAC figures don’t provide a full picture, because the big five publishers have direct relationships with the streaming platforms for their Anglo-American repertoires in at least some markets. Where that is the case, not all the song right royalties paid by the streaming services flow through the societies. And in the US – while stats from rights agency HFA are included – the payment of mechanical royalties is such a fuck fest, who knows what’s going on there?

In terms of regional trends, the US market is, unsurprisingly, the biggest overall, despite the main two performing rights organisations there being arguably over-regulated which likely results in at least some licensees paying lower rates. Nevertheless, US collections totalled €1.76 billion, with digital income up 80% year-on-year.

In Europe – which in terms of continental regions is the biggest, accounting for 56.8% of all collections – royalties paid for the live and public performance of songs outperformed broadcast income for the first time, perhaps demonstrating the good health of live music.

As for emerging markets, monies are up, though in many countries copyright regimes are still in catch-up mode. CISAC reckons that in China, where collections are currently €23 million, only 105 of more than 2000 radio and TV stations currently pay any royalties at all for the music they use. If the entire broadcasting industry became properly licensed, tens of millions in extra revenue would be unlocked.

Commenting on all this gubbins, CISAC boss Gadi Oron says: “This year’s report shows the system of collective management of creators’ rights is robust, successful and ready for more growth. The big traditional revenue streams, led by broadcast and live performance, remain stable and strong. Digital royalties continue to surge and in some markets already overtake other forms of income. The figures we’re releasing today reflect our societies’ relentless effort to be more efficient and innovative, and drive income growth”.

As for CISAC’s President, which is that there Jean-Michel Jarre, he adds: “This is a vast sector of cultural and economic activity, worth an amazing €9 billion worldwide. Despite its growth, however, collections are nowhere near the level they should be. Large industries that use creative content are driving down the value of our works. A simple illustration of this is the ‘transfer of value’ in the digital market where platforms such as YouTube are paying mere crumbs to authors. There is no greater priority that we ask from governments today than a solution to the transfer of value”.