|THURSDAY 28 JANUARY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition have again criticised collecting society PRS for announcing a licensing rate for livestreamed shows without widely consulting the artist and songwriter community. This time it's a new licence covering small-scale livestreamed shows with revenues of up to £500 that has sparked criticism... [READ MORE]|
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Artists, managers and venues hit out at new PRS royalty rate for small-scale livestreamed shows
Although livestreaming has been a thing for more than two decades now, the COVID shutdown sparked much more mainstream interest in ticketed livestreamed concerts. As a result, the music industry has now properly started to consider how such events should be commercialised, what specific music rights are being created and exploited, and what that means in licensing terms.
Clearly songs are being performed during these livestreamed shows, which means a licence is required covering the rights in those songs. That's where PRS comes in. Here in the UK, it licenses real world live shows on behalf of both its own songwriter and music publisher members, and the members of other collecting societies around the world with which PRS has a reciprocal agreement.
However, it's not quite as simple as PRS just issuing the same licence for a livestream as it would for a real world live show.
First, the livestream is both a live show and a stream, and streams are licensed differently to live shows - partly because streams also arguably include the copying of music, which is licensed separately by either a music publisher or the mechanical rights collecting society MCPS. And secondly, a livestream is usually available globally, and PRS only usually issues live show licences within the UK.
So, there is a debate to be had regarding what specific elements of the song copyright are being licensed, and who issues the licence, and whether a single global licence can be issued.
And that's before you get into what the rate should be for such a licence. PRS charges around 4% of gross ticket sales for live shows. But with streaming, PRS, MCPS and/or the music publisher would together collect around 15% of any subscription monies allocated to their repertoire. So should the livestream rate be 4% or 15%?
Last year, as the number of major livestreamed concerts started to increase, PRS announced a pilot scheme for licensing those shows on behalf of songwriters and music publishers. That scheme sees livestreamed shows primarily as a digital use of music. As a result, the rate on said pilot scheme starts at 8%, but increases up to 17% as ticket revenues reached certain levels.
In December, MMF and FAC published an open letter to PRS boss Andrea Martin calling the rates being charged as part of that pilot scheme "unworkable". Applied retrospectively those rates would make many of 2020's successful livestreamed concerts loss-making, they argued, and looking forward they could prevent the further growth of livestreamed concerts after the COVID pandemic.
Though MMF and FAC were most critical of the way the pilot licensing scheme had been developed, saying the rates had been "determined without consultation".
Everyone knew that licensing livestreams would require tackling the various challenges and questions outlined above, but - MMF and FAC argued - PRS should have involved the wider artist, songwriter, manager and live community in that process.
The same criticism was made yesterday when PRS announced a separate licensing scheme for smallscale livestream shows which generate revenues of £500 or less. Under that scheme organisers of livestreamed performances will be charged a fixed licence fee of £22.50 plus VAT for revenues of up to £250, or £45 plus VAT for revenues between £251 and £500.
Artists who are PRS members will still need a licence even if they only perform songs they wholly wrote - because when you join PRS you assign the performing rights in your songs to the society.
Of course, that money will then flow back to the artist, minus PRS's commission. Though if an artist has a publisher, some of the money will also be paid to them. If the artist is not VAT registered, they will also likely lose the VAT. And a self-published writer that's not an MCPS member would also lose out on any monies allocated to the mechanical rights under this off-the-shelf licence.
Seemingly recognising that the debate around the licensing of livestreaming has proven somewhat contentious to date - and that many livestreamed shows in the last year have been about helping artists and/or their touring crews stay afloat during shutdown - PRS did imply that it is building some flexibility into its livestreaming licences.
With small-scale live streams, the society said it would not be "actively pursuing licences for livestreamed events" that took place prior to the launch of this new licensing scheme.
It also added that, while PRS sees livestreaming as digital use of music distinct from real-world live shows, it also recognises that during the pandemic livestreams are operating as an alternative to actual gigs. Therefore, when it comes to larger livestreamed shows not covered by this new licence, it is proposing to apply temporary discounts until the live sector re-opens and "conversations are active and ongoing with major licensees about the details of such discounted rates".
PRS's statement yesterday also conceded that there are still issues to be addressed regarding tickets sold to livestreamed shows to fans outside the UK. The new licence definitely covers the global repertoire in the UK and PRS's own repertoire globally. But if songs controlled by foreign societies are performed and ticket buyers tune in from other countries, other societies around the world might also claim that they are due additional payments.
Despite those provisos and clarifications in yesterday's announcement from PRS, MMF and FAC were highly critical of the society for launching the new licence "with no prior warning and without consultation with artists or their representatives".
On the specifics of what has been proposed, they said that by "defining livestreaming as 'a form of video exploitation'" the new scheme "seeks to impose a flat fee equating to a minimum 9% tariff on events generating less than £500 - even at its lowest, this rate is more than double the tariff for 'in-person' events".
The CEOs of the two trade bodies, MMF's Annabella Coldrick and FAC's David Martin, added in a joint statement: "All of us want songwriters and composers to be paid fairly and efficiently for the use of their work, but this is not the way to go about it".
"Once again, we would urge PRS For Music to stop acting unilaterally. They need to urgently listen to the growing concerns of artists and their representatives during the pandemic, implement a waiver for performer-writers to opt-out of such fees, and commit to a full and transparent industry-wide consultation before issuing invoices to cash-strapped artists".
The Music Venue Trust, which represents many of the grassroots venues that have also got involved in small-scale livestreamed shows during the COVID shutdown, was similarly critical of PRS announcing this new licence out of the blue.
It said in a statement: "The live music industry, including grassroots music venues, artists and promoters, is in crisis mode and pulling together. The team at MVT have been in regular correspondence with the live team at PRS For Music throughout this crisis on how we can work together to ensure everyone at a grassroots level emerges from this crisis and we can all get back to work. At no time during those regular conversations across eight months has anybody suggested that a new tariff for streaming would be created. We have not been consulted on such a tariff, advised of it, or even notified of it prior to this press release being issued".
"The principal financial beneficiaries of paid streaming during this crisis have been artists", it went on. "The beneficiaries of charitable streaming, online broadcasts by artists to raise money for causes by donations from audiences, have included venues, crew, artists, and the wider community, including healthcare workers, food banks and homeless charities. It is unclear from their press statement whether PRS For Music wishes to reduce the financial returns for artists seeking to pay themselves or on artists trying to support charities".
"We would strongly suggest that neither should have been advanced to the stage of an announcement of a tariff without understanding the most basic fundamental economics of what streaming is actually doing during this crisis; how much money there is, where it comes from and who is receiving it", MVT's statement continued. "It is extremely important to the grassroots sector that the songwriters whose work sit at the heart of our ecosystem are adequately and reasonable paid for their work. A fixed rate tariff is not a mechanism by which that will be achieved, and the methodology and rate proposed by PRS for Music will not result in grassroots songwriters being paid for their work".
It concluded: "We remain available to discuss the realities of streaming during this crisis with PRS For Music if they wish to have an informed discussion on it. Unilaterally announcing ill conceived new tariffs in a crisis is not such a discussion".
Launching the new small-scale livestream licence yesterday - and an accompanying online resource where the licence can be acquired - PRS boss Andrea Martin said: "We recognise the importance of providing simple licensing solutions wherever possible and the licensing portal for small-scale online events is an example of this. We are continuing to work hard to agree a range of licensing options for providers of larger events, including a proposed discounted rate during the pandemic".
"This is a part of the market which has seen exponential growth and is itself constantly evolving", she added. "Meeting the expectations for worldwide blanket licences is alone no small feat, but we are committed to finding solutions which ensure members can be paid fairly when their works are performed".
Responding to the criticism from MMF, FAC and MVT, a spokesperson for PRS insisted that "in no way is PRS For Music seeking to prevent artists, many of whom are PRS members, from generating an income from online concerts".
However, they added, its songwriter and composer members - and especially those who are not also performers - "have seen a significant impact from the closure of the live music sector". With that mind, the spokesperson concluded, "it is essential that they can share in the value being generated by online live concerts which are using their works".
Sony/ATV extends and expands deal with Mark James
James originally signed with publishing firm Screen Gems in 1971, while it was still owned by the Columbia Pictures movie studio. It was then acquired by EMI in 1974, and then became fully part of Sony/ATV as part of its acquisition of EMI Music Publishing in 2018.
Of the new deal, Sony/ATV's SVP Business Affairs Jonas Kant says: "Mark's songwriting is a testament to the enduring power of music in our lives. Throughout the years, we have all heard Mark's iconic songs in the theatre, on the radio and TV, and of course at the karaoke bar – and his music will continue inspiring fans in the future. We couldn't be happier to extend our creative partnership with Mark".
James adds: "I've always stayed with something that works. My relationship with Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc goes back to 1971 and I've enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship working with Sony/ATV marketing and promoting my catalogue. I'm thankful that, in 2021, my songs are still being embraced by new generations of listeners around the world".
Liberty Media raises over $500 million for media and entertainment acquisitions
Liberty Media already has a significant presence in music, of course. It is the biggest shareholder in Live Nation, and controls US satellite radio firm Sirius and streaming service Pandora. Other businesses in the group's portfolio include Forumla 1, TV channel Starz and American internet service provider Charter Communications.
The snappily titled Liberty Media Acquisition Corporation has not yet indicated any specific companies that it has its eye on, only that it plans to focus on the "media, digital media, music, entertainment, communications, telecommunications and technology industries".
The acquisitions outfit is led by Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, along with other existing members of the parent company's management team.
Dissecting The Streaming Inquiry #04: Equitable Remuneration
Based on the five years of research CMU Insights has undertaken with the Music Managers Forum as part of the 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' project, we explain the background to the key debates, helping you navigate and understand each issue and the proposed solutions.
Our review of the submissions to Parliament's big streaming inquiry so far has focused on the digital pie debate - how do streaming monies get shared out between the streaming services themselves and each stakeholder in the music industry, including artists, songwriters, session musicians, labels, distributors, publishers and collecting societies.
When it comes to the approximately 55% of streaming monies allocated to the sound recording rights, how that money is shared out between labels and artists depends entirely on each individual record deal. When artists sign with a label, they are paid a share of all future income generated by the recordings the label releases under that deal. That royalty could be 5% or it could 95% - though 20% is a common rate on conventional modern contracts.
As previously discussed, many artists and managers argue that the digital royalty rates paid to artists on conventional record deals should be higher. And where heritage artists are being paid even lower royalty rates based on terms in old record contracts, those rates should be increased to be in line with what is paid out on modern deals.
However, because every record deal is negotiated separately, it would be tricky for even Parliament to force an industry-wide change on the digital royalties received by artists through copyright law. Unless, of course, equitable remuneration were to be paid on streams.
Such a proposal was a key talking point at the initial oral hearings as part of this Parliamentary inquiry and - unsurprisingly - it also features in a number of the written submissions.
Performer equitable remuneration is a performer right, which is to say, a provision in copyright law that benefits performers even if - and especially when - they don't own or control the copyrights in the recordings on which they perform.
The ER rule states that in certain scenarios when recordings are utilised, any performers who appear on said recording have a statutory right to payment under law. This applies oblivious of who owns the copyright in the recording, and any deals between the performer and the copyright owner.
Under UK law, ER applies when the performance and communication elements of the copyright are exploited - what are often referred to in the industry as the 'performing rights' or 'neighbouring rights'. In practical terms, that covers things like broadcast and when recorded music is played in a public space.
Where ER applies, performers as well as copyright owners need to get paid. This is managed through the collective licensing system. So, in the UK, that's PPL. Basically any monies collected by PPL from the broadcast and public performance of recorded music is split 50/50 between copyright owners - which are often labels - and performers.
In most countries ER is not paid on streams. This despite the fact it is generally agreed that streams exploit both the 'mechanical rights' and the 'performing rights' of the copyright.
However, it is argued that a stream actually exploits a different element of the copyright called 'making available'. And while making available is often considered part of the performing rights, under UK law ER specifically does not apply when it's the making available right that is being exploited.
But what if it did? Or what if we were to say that a stream was also a communication as well as a making available? Or what if we were to say that - when a stream is delivered via a playlist or algorithm - it's actually a communication instead of a making available?
In any of those circumstances ER would be due on at least some streams, meaning artists would have a statutory right to payment from streaming separate from any royalties they are due under their record contracts.
Several submissions made to Parliament's inquiry call for ER on streams. In his submission, Tom Gray of the #brokenrecord campaign says this should be achieved by simply changing the law so that ER is paid on making available as well as performance and communication.
He writes: "The #brokenrecord campaign has one key recommendation: amend UK legislation by extending the right to 'equitable remuneration' that already exists for 'communication to the public' (broadcasting) to cover the 'making available' right, so that artists can earn from on demand streaming in the same way they have long earned from radio and TV transmissions".
This, Gray reckons, would be a relatively simple legislative solution that would be a game-changer for many artists, including those stuck in old low royalty paying record deals; those still paying back advances and other costs to their label; and especially session musicians who currently earn zero from streams but would be due ER.
He goes on: "Artists, with such low royalty rates, often wait years (or forever) to earn from streaming what they received from analogous physical sales. Cashflow is, of course, a serious problem for any business and, in this environment, the tens thousands of small businesses and sole traders working in the sector desperately need a cash injection to survive".
"Equitable remuneration would help kickstart a skilled sector which, largely due to the application of old terms onto the new streaming model, remains in the doldrums".
"Equitable remuneration is already a right granted to performers of music when their recordings are played on the radio or in public", he continues. "It is possible extend this right for streaming to create an equitable and reliable stream of income (that cannot be affected by poor contractual terms). This would tip the scales (to some extent) back toward the entrepreneurial music-makers, providing much needed income and investment in the wider UK economy".
The Musicians' Union also calls for ER on streams. In its submission, it talks about the parallels between streaming and radio - especially where streams are pushed to users by playlists and algorithms. Those parallels are relevant to this debate twice over.
First, there is the legal dimension. The closer streams are to radio, the stronger the argument that an ER system that applies to broadcasting should apply to streaming too. Secondly, there is a practical dimension. If streaming services compete with radio, ultimately that might result in the radio industry going into decline, meaning the ER income from broadcasting that many artists - and especially session musicians - rely on might also take a hit.
The MU states: "Radio listening in the UK is in slight decline as evidenced by [official listening figures from] RAJAR. PPL royalties from radio and other broadcasting plus public performance help to sustain the incomes and careers of session musicians who currently receive no streaming royalties whatsoever".
Without ER on streams to compensate for any future dip in radio income, the logic then goes, those session musicians will find it even harder to sustain careers in music. "If UK law enshrined the principle of appropriate and proportionate remuneration, or an unwaivable equitable remuneration, on streaming", the MU adds, "this would provide a new and guaranteed income stream for all performers".
Labels in the main oppose the idea of ER being paid on streams - especially if it means the same system being applied to streaming income as to broadcast and public performance revenue, where there is a 50/50 split between copyright owners and performers.
Though that's not necessarily what ER on streams would mean. In Spain, where performers already have an automatic statutory right to payment when their music is streamed, an entirely different system is employed, with a few percent of the total digital pie being paid directly to performers via the collective licensing system.
There are other questions too about quite how ER on streams might work - enough questions, in fact, to make it a rather complicated 'simple solution'. And those questions would need to be answered before any ER system was introduced.
This is noted in the submission from the Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition, which does acknowledge that ER would be an option if "record labels are unwilling to address the inequities" in how artists - and especially heritage artists - are paid when their music is streamed.
Aside from working out what ER on streams would actually involve, MMF and FAC write, "there is also the issue of how efficient the collection and distribution of this money would be, especially if foreign societies administered ER income in other territories (as they do for broadcast and public performance)".
"If any form of ER was to be implemented, it is essential that it is done so in a manner which does not incur unnecessary administrative financial deductions", they go on.
"While artists on unfavourable record deals would likely benefit from this system either way, new artists who have partnered with their managers and distributors or label services companies on their recorded music might actually be worse off if an ER system created new administrative costs and the risk of lost income as a result of inefficiencies in other markets".
That said, the MMF and FAC submission adds, "despite these issues, many established artists and managers support the introduction of ER on streams. In some cases, this is because they do not trust labels to do the right thing regarding outdated and unfair contract terms. If label contracts were reformed then the need for ER as a solution would lessen".
You can follow all our full coverage of the Parliamentary inquiry into the economics of streaming via this CMU timeline here.
BBC will not replace James Purnell as head of BBC Radio
According to RadioToday, an email to staff from the BBC's Chief Content Officer, Charlotte Moore, reads: "We all know that radio and music is a hugely important and distinctive part of the BBC's content portfolio, and the more we can work together to collaborate on creative opportunities the better ... As well as delivering more value to audiences, this simpler, more streamlined system will encourage even greater collaboration and faster decision-making".
The BBC's various radio controllers will now report directly into Moore. That includes Controller Of Pop Lorna Clarke, appointed as part of an earlier streamlining of senior management within the broadcaster's radio division, and who in turn oversees stations like Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, 6music and the Asian Network.
A former minister in Gordon Brown's Labour government, Purnell joined the BBC as Director Of Strategy & Digital in 2013, having previously worked at the corporation in the 1990s. He was then put in charge of BBC Radio in 2016.
He announced he was standing down last October, to take up a role at University Of The Arts London. His departure came after he lost his place on the BBC executive committee when it was reduced in size by new-ish overall BBC boss Tim Davie.
Squid to release debut album in May
"'Narrator' was inspired by the 2019 film 'A Long Day's Journey Into Night'", say the band. "The song follows a man who is losing the distinction between memory, dream and reality, and [considers] how you can often mould your memories of people to fit a narrative that benefits your ego".
"Martha Skye Murphy, the track's guest vocalist, made the point that the unreliable narrator is, more often than not, a male who wishes to portray women as submissive characters in their story", they add. "After some discussions with Martha she thought it'd be a good idea that she play the part of the woman wanting to break free from the dominating story the male has set".
Of the album, vocalist Ollie Judge adds: "This album has created an imaginary cityscape. The tracks illustrate the places, events and architecture that exist within it. Previous projects were playful and concerned with characters, whereas this project is darker and more concerned with place - the emotional depth of the music has deepened".
"Reading Douglas Coupland's view that we're living in the 'extreme present' as well as Mark Fisher and Merlin Coverley's writings on 'hauntology' and the slow cancellation of the future made me realise we've been living in a dystopian and futurist landscape for a long time", he goes on.
'Bright Green Field' is set for release on 7 May through Warp. The band are also set to play rescheduled UK tour dates in September and October. Watch the video for 'Narrator' here.
Marketing agency Deviate Digital has hired Stef Pascual as Strategy Director and Andra Iszlai as PPC And Social Media Advertising Specialist. Meanwhile, Alex Rusted has been promoted to the role of Senior Digital Marketing Manager. "I am THRILLED to be welcoming Stef and Andra to the team today and very happy to recognise Alex's hard work with a well-earned promotion", says CEO Sammy Andrews.
Jonny Greenwood is scoring new Princess Diana biopic 'Spencer', according to Deadline.
Ghetts has announced that he will release his new album, 'Conflict Of Interest', on 19 Feb. Guests on the record include Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Giggs, Dave, Skepta, Jaykae, Emeli Sandé, Wretch 32, Pa Salieu and Moonchild Sanelly. That's quite a lot of guests.
Arlo Parks has released new single 'Hope'. "The song surrounds isolation, being present in your pain and knowing that you're not the only one on the planet feeling low", says Parks. "I think especially in times like these it's important to focus on the inevitability that things will get better".
Tune-Yards have announced that they will release new album 'Sketchy' on 26 Mar. The latest single from it is 'Hold Yourself'. "This song is about feeling really betrayed by my parents' generation, and at the same time, really seeing how we are betraying the future", says the duo's Merrill Garbus.
Idris Elba and Connor Price have released new single 'Courtney Cox', paying tribute to the 'Friends' star. She also features in the video.
Jenny Lewis and Serengeti have released new track 'Vroom Vroom'. It follows last year's 'Unblu'.
Benin City have released new single 'Freaking You Out'. "I wrote it as a soundtrack to doomscrolling – a 'doomscrolling disco', if you will", says the band's Joshua Idehen. "Staring at Twitter, constantly refreshing the screen for the next bit of bad news to blanket over me. Worldwide it's felt like an even more relentless wave of bad news – especially since 2016 – and hella hard to look away or tune out. My verse is a wish that I could".
Gary, Indiana have released new single 'Alien 3'. The song, they say, "is a dark tale of violence, defiance and rebellion. The words, almost whispered and monotone, are a declaration of power: I know what you're doing, the victim says, but I won't be on my knees anymore".
GIGS & TOURS
Bring Me The Horizon have announced three shows in small venues ahead of their planned arena date in September. In the diary are two shows at Pryzm in Kingston on 16 Sep and then one at Liverpool University's Mountford Hall on 18 Sep.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Goldie Lookin Chain get in on the sea shanty craze with Wellend
Described as "a song about wellends in the style of that sea shanty guy off the news", the new track sees GLC's Rhys Hutchings deliver a series of a capella verses about middle aged men with Paul Weller-style haircuts.
"There's a type of person that you see with a haircut that's pure comedy / You see this man in every town and he looks just like Paul Weller", he sings.
Having jumped onto the sea shanty bandwagon, I fully expect GLC to have a new major label deal by tea time. Meanwhile, the group's rescheduled 20th anniversary tour is set to head around the UK in April and May. Book tickets for whenever those dates get re-rescheduled to now.
Oh, and here's the video for 'Wellend'.