|WEDNESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Deezer has today formally backed the user-centric approach to distributing digital royalties. It has launched a consumer-facing website that explains what user-centric is all about and why it thinks it would be a fairer way of sharing out streaming income... [READ MORE]|
Deezer steps up endorsement of user-centric approach to digital royalties
The global streaming firm has been quietly lobbying for a shift to user-centric for some time, but the new website sees it go much more public on the issue. At the same time, it is seeking to persuade labels and distributors in its home market of France to switch to user-centric next year.
The streaming business model is, at its heart, a revenue-share-based-on-consumption-share model. And at the moment consumption share is calculated on a service-wide basis.
Each month - for each product type in each market - a streaming service calculates what percentage of total listening was of recordings controlled by any one label or distributor. It then allocates that percentage of its total income to said label or distributor, sharing that allocation according to its revenue share agreement.
So if one label's catalogue accounts for 20% of overall listening, 20% of total revenues is allocated to that label. If the label has a 55/45 revenue share agreement to its advantage, the streaming service then pays 55% of that allocation to the label. Which then needs to split the money between all the tracks streamed and pay whatever royalties are due to each artist.
With the user-centric approach, the same process is employed, but for each individual subscriber. So instead of every users' payments and plays going into one pot before the sums are done, each subscriber's monthly payment would be split between the artists whose music they actually listened to.
The two approaches result in a different distribution of the monies mainly because, on any one platform, you have high-level users and low-level users, ie those who are streaming 24/7 versus those who stream for a few hours per week. To an extent, when it comes to royalty payments, the latter are subsidising the former. Which is to say, a chunk of the money paid by the low-level user is going to artists streamed by the high-level user.
Deezer's new website championing user-centric royalty distribution attempts to illustrate the extent to which low-level users are subsidising high-level users, by allowing its premium subscribers to see how much of their monthly subscription fee is actually going to artists they listen to. The thinking is that most music fans would prefer - and possibly already assume - that money they put into the system goes to artists they actually listen to.
There has been plenty of debate in the music community in recent years about the pros and cons of shifting to a user-centric approach, especially since it became known that Deezer was both investigating and then championing such a shift.
Various people have been crunching the figures to ascertain what impact the shift would actually have on how all the money is shared out. Although different studies have reached slightly different conclusions, it does seem likely that user-centric royalty distribution would see top-level artists earn slightly less and lower level artists earn slightly more. User-centric would also likely benefit niche genres over mainstream genres, domestic repertoire over Anglo-American repertoire, and artists with older fanbases.
It wouldn't make any difference to the streaming services, although it would mean that digital deals could no longer include per-play minimum guarantees, as they sometimes did, especially in the early days of streaming. And it probably wouldn't make much difference to the bigger labels either, which - across their large catalogues - would likely see both the benefits and the downsides in a such a way that they would cancel each other out.
Many artists, songwriters and managers have argued that user-centric seems like a much fairer way to distribute streaming income, albeit usually with the proviso that they'd like to see more detailed figures as to what impact it would actually have.
Labels are more divided on the issue. And within the bigger labels there are differences of opinion across the group, because while the company at large might not really be affected one way or the other, individual units and departments could be winners or losers.
On its new website, Deezer identifies four main advantages of user-centric. Firstly, that it reduces "unfair revenue gaps that come from applying old ways of thinking to digital music". Second, it would better "support local creators and niche genres". Third it would promote "a diverse and vibrant music landscape". And finally, it could help in fighting fraud.
The latter benefit of user-centric royalty distribution has become more newsworthy of late after revelations about how certain people have been scamming the system, not just to artificially boost the stats of any one artist, but to unfairly grab a slice of streaming monies.
Scammers create and upload their own catalogues of short tracks and then set up a stack of premium subscriptions that listen to that music 24/7. Under the current system they get back significantly more than the subscription monies they put in. But under user-centric, they could only ever get back their own subs, minus VAT and the streaming service's cut.
Of course, there'll be other scams, but that particular method of gaming of the system for profit would be ended by the user-centric approach.
Critics of user-centric usually lead with the argument "be careful what you wish for", positing that there are more cons than people probably realise. Obviously, for starters, there is the fact that everyone - streaming services, distributors, labels, collecting societies etc - have set themselves up to calculate, administer and audit monies on a service-centric model.
What would the costs and implications be of shifting over to something new? Deezer argues that any challenges linked to switch-over will only increase as the streaming market continues to boom. Therefore, if the music community agrees it's a fair way of doing business, better to make the switch now rather than later.
Plus, with industry-wide streaming monies still rising significantly each month at the moment, superstar artists who will take the hit under user-centric will still likely see their overall income go up, just not quite at the level it would under the current system.
There is also the downsize that, arguably, user-centric is slightly more complex than service-centric. And, as we know, digital licensing is already pretty damn complicated.
At the moment, although the idea of there being a per-play rate on any one streaming service is actually very misleading, you can make approximations in each market. So that, in the UK, a million streams is probably going to generate about £4000-£6000 across recording and song rights. With user-centric, what any one artist earns from a million streams will depend on the kind of fanbase they have - ie are they low-level or high-level streamers?
Realistically, Deezer can only switch to user-centric if the majors buy-in, and - as referenced above - it seems that opinion is currently divided within those companies. But there are an assortment of indie labels and distributors already backing the streaming firm's proposal to shift to user-centric for recording royalties in France next year.
France, of course, is the one market where Deezer has enough market dominance to put pressure on its label partners. And the consumer-facing communications campaign launched today might increase that pressure because, if a sufficient number of fans understand and support user-centric, it becomes harder for the superstars and big corporates to oppose it.
If Deezer does manage to persuade the record companies in its home country to switch to user-centric next year, the industry at large will watch that pilot with interest.
Obviously, Deezer's ambition is to roll it out into other countries, and to also apply it to the way music publishers and songwriters are paid. If it did then have the positive impact that has been suggested on grassroots artists and niche genres, then pressure might mount on Deezer's rivals to look into shifting over to a user-centric approach too. Though there's still plenty of big "ifs" there.
Announcing the launch of the company's new website on all things user-centric this morning, Deezer's Chief Content & Strategy Officer, Alexander Holland, said: "Streaming has been the main innovation driver in the music industry for many years now. Digital technologies and data make it easier than ever to make sure that all artists and content creations have a fair playing field".
"A user-centric approach is the next logical step", he added, "and would mean that fans directly support the acts they love. Getting rid of bot fraud is a welcome added bonus and would make sure that your subscription money goes where it's supposed to - the acts you love".
Both labels and Cox seek summary judgement in ongoing safe harbour case
There has been plenty of back and forth between the Recording Industry Association Of America and the ISP ever since the majors and their trade organisation went legal hoping to benefit from a precedent arguably set in BMG's earlier legal battle with Cox.
The labels accuse Cox - and various other ISPs in separate litigation - of failing to enforce their own policies to deal with repeat infringers among their respective customer bases. This, the music industry argues, means that the net firms should be deprived of safe harbour protection, which in turn means they could be held liable for their users' infringement.
In its recent motion calling on the judge to rule in its favour without any court hearing, Cox principally lays into the evidence the RIAA has presented that supposedly shows its customers infringing the labels' copyrights. Because if they can't prove the direct infringement of any users, the labels can't hold the ISP liable for any secondary or contributory infringement.
The ISP's motion for summary judgement states: "Plaintiffs' claims suffer from a fundamental and fatal flaw: a distinct paucity of proof. They simply cannot prove their case".
It then goes into great detail picking holes in the ways that the RIAA and its anti-piracy partner MarkMonitor tracked the distribution of content over Cox's networks. On top of that, it also argues that the record industry trade group failed to properly submit copyright infringement notices for most of the tracks the lawsuit now says Cox users illegally shared.
Beyond the evidence and paperwork gripes, the ISP also says that the labels have "no evidence that Cox knew about the infringement, obtained any direct financial benefit from it, or had the practical ability to prevent it, such that it could be secondarily liable".
For their part the labels have also submitted a motion seeking summary judgement in their favour. They argue that, for all of Cox's nit-picking over the RIAA and MarkMonitor's evidence, it still stands that the ISP was aware that thousands of its customers had been accused of repeat copyright infringement and it chose to do nothing about any of it. Because, the labels add, it wanted to continue profiting from those infringing customer's business.
Dismissing Cox's claims about its liabilities, and insisting that the precedents set in BMG v Cox back up their arguments, the labels conclude: "By consciously continuing to provide internet service to known infringers, while ignoring its own copyright policies as written, Cox materially contributed to that infringing activity, and reaped substantial financial benefits as a result".
"Accordingly", they state, "summary judgment should be granted holding Cox liable for contributory infringement and vicarious infringement, and the court should reject its frivolous defences".
We await the judge's decision on both motions. Assuming both fail, and in the absence of any last minute settlement, we should then get some more quality court time on the liabilities of ISPs for their customers' infringement and the limitations of the copyright safe harbour.
Primavera abandons plans for London spin-off in 2020
The festival was seemingly planning to stage a total of five editions in 2020 to mark its 20th anniversary year. In addition to the main Barcelona-based event, spin-off editions have already been announced for Oporto, Benidorm and Los Angeles.
The planned UK edition would seemingly have taken place at Broadwick Live's newish Drumsheds venue. It seems that that edition would either have merged with or replaced the Broadwick Live-owned Field Day festival, the 2020 dates for which are yet to be announced.
IQ reports that that plan was put forward by Field Day founder Tom Baker, who subsequently announced earlier this week that he is no longer working on the festival he co-created.
Plans for the UK Primavera event were originally reported back in July by Pollstar, which added that the Spanish festival's organisers had been hoping to launch a UK spin-off for some time. A London edition of Primavera is still reportedly being considered for 2021.
The Primavera website is currently showing that a fifth site for its 20th anniversary celebrations is still to be announced. Whether another location has been found, or if this will ultimately be cut down to four, remains to be seen.
FKA Twigs announces new album and London show
She says of the album's inspiration: "I never thought heartbreak could be so all-encompassing. I never thought that my body could stop working to the point that I couldn't express myself physically in the ways that I have always loved and found so much solace. I have always practiced my way into being the best I could be, but I couldn't do that this time, I was left with no option but to tear every process down".
'Magedelene' is out on 25 Oct, and FKA Twigs will perform live at Brixton Academy on 25 Nov. Listen to new single, 'Holy Terrain', featuring Future, here.
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy announces new album, I Made A Place
Explaining the delay, he says: "In recent years, the whole world of recorded music, in the way that such music is conceived, perceived, recorded, released and distributed, has been atomized. I tried holding my breath, waiting for the storm to pass, but this storm is here to stay and its devastation is our new landscape".
"What else is a person to do except what he knows and feels, which for me is making records built out of songs intended for the intimate listening experiences of wonderful strangers who share something spiritually and musically?" he continues.
"I started working on these songs thinking that there was no way I was going to finish them and record and release them", he adds. "This was a constructive frame-of-mind that protected the songs until this frightening moment when we let go of them and give them to you".
The album is out on 15 Nov. Watch the video for new single '(At The) Back Of The Pit' here.
Ivors Academy announces Gold Badge winners
Crispin Hunt, Chair of The Ivors Academy, says: "For over 45 years we have presented Gold Badges to acknowledge those who have enriched and inspired the music creator community. The Ivors Academy is honoured to celebrate this diverse group of truly remarkable individuals, and pay tribute to their influence as highly influential champions of songwriters and composers in the UK".
This year's recipients are composer Odaline de la Martinez, former MPA CEO Jane Dyball, studio engineer Olga FitzRoy, pianist Nikki Iles, soul singer Omar Lye-Fook, pianist Thalia Myers, broadcasters Trevor Nelson and Chris Philips, Chair of Ministry Of Sound Lohan Presencer, and former PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed.
The prizes will be handed out at a ceremony at The Savoy in London on 11 Oct, presented by Edith Bowman.
Round Hill Music has signed a worldwide publishing deal with Duran Duran founder member Andy Taylor. "The decision to sign to Round Hill was a no-brainer", says Taylor. "Both Josh [Gruss, CEO] and Robin [Cass, MD] have a great command of what proactive creative relationships are".
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING
Help Musicians UK has opened the latest round of applications for its Do It Differently Fund. Artists can apply for up to £3,000 towards creative output, and a further £2,000 towards one-to-one business guidance. More information here.
Universal Music has named Cindy James Head Of Commercial Marketing for the US wing of its label services division Caroline. "I'm looking forward to delivering great results", she says.
Universal Music Publishing Group has named Thomas Vidovic as Managing Director, Germany and Senior Vice President, Austria & Switzerland. "I am THRILLED that Thomas is taking on this leadership role at our company", says overall CEO Jody Gerson.
Artist management company YMU Group has appointed Anna Gregorek to the position of Commercial Director. She joins from Warner Music. "We are delighted", says Managing Director Ian Watt.
Green Day will release new album, 'Father Of All...' next year. Here's the title track. The band will be out on a world tour with Fall Out Boy and Weezer next year that will hit the UK and Ireland in June.
Fall Out Boy have released new single 'Dear Future Self (Hands Up)', featuring Wyclef Jean. A new best of compilation, 'Believers Never Die Vol 2', is out on 15 Nov. The band will be out on a world tour with Green Day and Weezer next year that will hit the UK and Ireland in June.
Weezer have announced that they will release new album 'Van Weezer' on 15 May next year. That's quite a long way away, but here's new single 'The End Of The Game'. And by the way, this just in, the band will be out on a world tour with Fall Out Boy and Green Day next year that will hit the UK and Ireland in June.
Cold War Kids have announced new album 'New Age Norms 1', the first part of a trilogy of LPs. Here's first single 'Waiting For Your Love'. The album is out on 1 Nov.
Jenny Hval has released the video for 'Accident', which she has described as "a song that took ten years to write and a song that took 20 minutes to write".
Kero Kero Bonito have released new single 'When The Fire Comes'. "'When The Fires Come' is about the worldwide wildfires heralding the seemingly imminent climate change apocalypse", say the band.
Bass Clef has announced new album 'Hard Lessons Hardly Learned/Holy Days Wholly Dazed', which will be out this Friday. Then next week he will re-issue his first two albums, 'A Smile Is A Curve That Straightens Most Things' and 'May The Bridges I Burn Light The Way'.
GIGS & TOURS
McFly have announced plans to reunite for a one-off show at London's O2 Arena on 20 Nov. They are also planning to release a new compilation titled 'The Lost Songs', bringing together unreleased music recorded since their last album, 'Above The Noise', nearly a decade ago.
Bon Iver have announced UK and Ireland tour dates for next year. They'll kick off at Wembley Arena on 26 Apr, followed by dates in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin.
Five Finger Death Punch have announced UK shows in Cardiff and London in January next year. Support will come from Megadeth and Bad Wolves.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
S Club 7's Paul Cattermole says he was only hired to do interviews
"That got me down", he tells The Guardian when asked about his lack of vocal contribution to the band's music. He says that he was told that him singing would upset "the alchemy" of the group, with Jo O'Meara and Bradley McIntosh left to handle that area of things in the main.
And while, for pop set-ups in particular, it's definitely good having members who are comfortable doing the media circuit when you have new records to sell, he notes that most of the magazines interviewing S Club at the time tended to ask questions along the lines of "So Paul, what's your favourite colour?"
He may now be answering slightly more taxing questions in the media, but seventeen years after he quit the group, those questions are still usually S Club focused. "It was five years of my life", he says. "I definitely thought, when I was 20, that by the time I was 40 it would be a done thing. And it's not. I've been answering S Club questions for 20 years. It will be great - it will be bliss - to one day not have to, but it's part of it, and I totally accept that".
Of course, despite being the first to exit the group, he has been involved in various reunions (and attempted reunions) in recent years, and was a member of the ongoing S Club 3 venture from 2009 to 2015. All of which might have something to do with his continued association with the S Club brand. Either way, he does do good interviews. You can see more of him talking when he appears on Channel 4's 'First Dates Hotel' tomorrow night.