Business News Deals Digital Labels & Publishers

SOCAN buys Audiam

By | Published on Friday 22 July 2016


Having bought old timer digital music provider MediaNet back in May, mainly to tap its extensive database of sound recording information, Canadian collecting society SOCAN has further expanded its data credentials by acquiring Audiam, the digital rights company set up by Jeff Price which has been involved in several songwriters and publishers working out what cash they’re missing as a result of America’s shoddy mechanical rights framework.

Says the performing rights organisation: “[This] acquisition empowers SOCAN to provide a unique global music industry solution with respect to licensing digital services and royalty payment for songwriters, composers and music publishers. With Audiam, SOCAN now has a comprehensive database and metadata of all musical works and commercially released digital sound recordings, and the technology and business understanding to match and connect the two, issue licenses and get rights-holders paid all they have fairly earned”.

Music rights data, of course, has been a big talking point in the music community of late, as labels, distributors, publishers and collecting societies have to process ever increasing amounts of usage data from the streaming services, and then work out who needs to be paid.

As much previously noted, this challenge is bigger on the songs side of the business, because while the streaming services assume that whoever provides a recording represents the copyright in it – and therefore is the person to pay when a track is streamed – the digital platform doesn’t know who owns the accompanying song copyright.

With the exception of mechanical royalties in the US – where it is left for the digital services to work out who to pay (or not as the case may be) – generally the collecting societies accept complete lists of every single track that has been streamed in any one month, and then work out which were of songs they control, or part-control, and therefore what they are due. It’s a big data-crunching task, certainly by music industry standards, and is hindered when music rights data is poor, or is heavily reliant on song titles rather than song form.

Lots of societies are trying to boost their data credentials – both in terms of the structure of their databases and the data contained within – but with its MediaNet and Audiam acquisitions, SOCAN is arguably getting a head start.

The two acquisitions are also possibly a sign of another trend that is happening in the collective licensing domain, which is that societies which traditionally stuck to their own sets of rights and home territories – wary of treading on the turf of other collecting societies elsewhere in the world, many of which they worked with through reciprocal agreements – are starting to more overtly compete.

For example, by buying Audiam, SOCAN – a performing rights organisation in Canada – is getting itself involved in mechanical rights in America. “With the Audiam acquisition”, said SOCAN yesterday, “[we have] expanded into collection of royalties for reproductions of music (“mechanicals”), licensing and royalty distribution in the US and Canada”.

Audiam will continue to be run by Price, who has an existing relationship with SOCAN, him having consulted for the society after being pushed out of his original start-up business TuneCore. Says the official statement: “Jeff Price will remain Audiam’s CEO and will work closely with SOCAN group CEO Eric Baptiste and his team”.

Confirming the deal, Price was as ambitious as ever, telling reporters that the formal joining of the two organisations would “allows us to finally fix the global industry problems, remove liability for services and get rights-holders paid”. Bigging up his company’s new owner, Price added: “SOCAN is not only the most technologically advanced, efficient and transparent music rights organisation on the planet, but its board of directors and executive team are singularly focused on assuring all the works of composers and publishers are licensed and that rights-holders are paid for the use of their music”.

Meanwhile SOCAN boss Baptiste said: “In 2013 Audiam shook up the music royalties system by identifying and correcting serious gaps in the digital music rights value chain, particularly with music used in YouTube videos, by correctly matching data to the rights-holder. By acquiring Audiam, SOCAN steps even further ahead with our vision to lead the global transformation of music rights with substantial new tools for our more than 135,000 member songwriters, composers and music publishers, dramatically expanding our ability to ensure that creators are properly and fairly compensated”.