CMU Insights Update

CMU+TGE Digital Dollars Conference 2019: In Context

By | Published on Wednesday 1 May 2019

CMU Insights has been working with the Music Managers Forum on the ‘Dissecting The Digital Dollar’ project for nearly five years now. For the first time at TGE this year we will present a full-day conference showcasing all of this work to date, backed up by insights, practical advice and expert viewpoints from across the industry.

The ‘Digital Dollar’ project began because – as the streaming revenue stream started to really build five years ago – artists, songwriters and their managers started to realise just how complex this new side of the recorded music business actually was. In the late 2000s the record companies, music distributors, music publishers and collecting societies had developed innovative new licensing models for the early streaming music start-ups, but hadn’t done a very good job of communicating all that to the wider music community.

The streaming business is complex for various reasons. Partly the result of copyright law. Partly the result of music copyright ownership conventions. Partly the result of record contracts and publishing contracts. Partly the result of collective licensing rules. And partly because a consumption-based business model is fundamentally different to a sales-based one. But for artists, songwriters and managers to have a role in further evolving the sector, it’s important everyone understands the basics.

Which is why MMF has invested in producing the various ‘Digital Dollar’ reports. The first explained how the model works. The second debated all the issues with that model. Then came the guides outlining how record deals have evolved with the shift to digital, what managers mean when they demand more transparency, and what artists and their teams should be doing with all the data that now flows in every day. And next week MMF will publish the very latest ‘Digital Dollar’ guide putting the spotlight on song royalties.

The CMU+TGE Digital Dollars conference will present all this knowledge in a super digestible form. I will explain how the deals work and how the money flows, on both the recordings and songs side of the business. In the latter domain, we’ll look at what labels and distributors have to do every month to make sure everyone gets paid, and also at how the world of music distribution has evolved, as distributors – and streaming services – diversify.

Then we’ll talk song royalties and the latest ‘Digital Dollar’ guide. The way songwriters get paid their streaming money is particularly complex. Which can sometimes mean that songwriters don’t get paid any streaming money at. We’ll explain why it’s so complicated and identify ways that songwriters – and their managers and accountants – can address the issues that routinely stop money flowing through the system.

Then, in the afternoon, we’ll look at how recent changes to copyright law might impact on the digital market, we’ll explain what the debate around user-centric royalty distribution is all about, and we’ll review why the lack of a central music rights database is a major problem as the streaming sector continues to boom. That latter issue was something we discussed at TGE a few years back. And this time we’ll check back in on some of the projects – both collecting society and start-up led – that have been trying to fix the problem.

The CMU+TGE Digital Dollars Conference will also be speaking to innovators in the market – on both the recordings and songs side – who are addressing some of the issues we will raise, and who are seeking to offer artists and songwriters more options in the way they manage and monetise their rights in the digital age. One of the big innovators is music rights firm Downtown, which also owns Songtrust and recently acquired CD Baby. And, rounding off the Digital Dollars day, we’ll be talking to its founder and CEO Justin Kalifowitz.

The CMU+TGE Digital Dollars Conference takes place on Thursday 9 May at Jury’s Inn Waterfront from 10am and is open to all TGE delegate and conference pass holders. You can read up on the ‘Digital Dollar’ project to date here. And you can check the full conference line-up here.