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The Value Gap leads Canadian Music Week summit debates

By | Published on Friday 6 May 2016


Good news for fans of safe harbour griping, The Value Gap was the headline act as the Canadian Music Week music summit got underway in Toronto yesterday, with the bosses of record industry trade groups IFPI and BPI – Frances Moore and Geoff Taylor – battling it out to see who good deliver the most startling stat and the boldest bluster.

Taylor got off to an early lead, armed, as he was, with a superior take-away statistic. Streaming music is damn bloody exciting, he said (basically), and the growth of fine streaming set-ups like Spotify and Apple Music is fuelling new growth in the recorded music market, which enables labels to invest in some of those new artists people seem to like. In fact, the number of people streaming music in the UK doubled last year, he said, resulting in a 70% increase in payments into the record industry.

That was audio streaming though. As for “video streaming” (aka fucking YouTube), well that nearly doubled in the UK as well last year, but the increase in revenue? Fuck all. “While UK streams of music videos almost doubled the revenues paid to labels flat-lined, rising by less than half of 1%”. This disparity, says the BPI, “neatly encapsulates the market distortion characterised as The Value Gap”.

And if YouTube dares step forward one more time with the claim it’s a loss-making service that exists to help artists engage consumers worldwide as they build their direct-to-fan businesses, well, fuck that, what about all the data Google pulls off its video consumption platform?

“[Music] is being treated like a commodity to be strip-mined for big data”, Taylor told the CMW audience. YouTube and Google are fine innovators, he added, but they are “showing little respect or love for music or for the people who create it. [They are instead] using safe harbours like royalty havens, to avoid paying fairly for music when goodness knows they can afford to do so”.

Bold words Mr Taylor. But don’t be thinking your win here is assured. Let’s see what Ms Moore had to say first. The Value Gap, says she, “is the missing beat at the heart of our industry. It is the structural flaw in our marketplace. If it is fixed, I believe we will be looking at a future of sustainable growth for our sector for many years”.

Fix it then, why don’t you? Oh, “the value gap is not something our business can fix”. Touché. “It is for policymakers to legislate. It is a legislative issue caused by the misapplication of the so-called liability ‘safe harbours’ to user-upload services. This, quite simply, allows them to negotiate music licences in a way that is grossly unfair and devaluing of music. As a result they have an unfair advantage over other digital services, as well as depriving artists and labels of fair revenues”.

Noting the recent rallying call against those pesky safe harbours in the US – which has been joined by a number of prominent artists – and which follows prolific lobbying on the issue in Europe, Moore declared: “In Europe there will be legislative proposals to address The Value Gap later this year. A study on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is under way in the US”. Word is spreading about The Value Gap, Moore added. “One real cause for optimism in 2016 is that this [problem] is now beginning to be understood and articulated across our sector. And more importantly, by the policymakers to whom we look to deliver change”.

Bold words Moore. But bigger and better that Taylor’s stats? Who do you think won? Do you want do know the final score? Are you ready for the punchline? Well, as old timers may remember, home taping killed music, so there’s no record industry left, the IFPI and BPI don’t exist, and this entire news story is a figment of your imagination.