|WEDNESDAY 3 MARCH 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: SoundCloud yesterday gave a significant boost to the campaign that is promoting a user-centric model for streaming royalty distribution by, well, confirming recent rumours and announcing it was shifting over to a user-centric model for royalty distribution. Although only for the creators who have a direct relationship with the platform. Royalties due to the labels and distributors that have licensing deals with the company will continue to be paid under the existing model... [READ MORE]|
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SoundCloud announces shift to user-centric royalty distribution for its 100,000 independent creators
At its core, streaming is a revenue share based on consumption share business. So streaming services commit to share up to 70% of their monthly revenues with the music industry via their deals with record labels, music distributors, music publishers and collecting societies. Those licensing partners, of course, then share the money with artists and songwriters.
There are two stages to the royalty payment process at the services.
First, all the money that a service has made by selling subscriptions or advertising needs to be allocated to individual tracks and songs. This is done on a pro-rata basis, so if your track accounted for 1% of all streams, it is allocated 1% of all the money.
Then, secondly, the revenue share agreement kicks in. The service pays whoever controls the rights in that track a percentage share of the allocated money. A label or distributor would usually get 50-55% of the allocation, and a publisher or songwriter collecting society would get 10-15%.
The service-centric versus user-centric debate relates to the first stage of that process. Currently the services pool all the money made by any one subscription package - so, for example, all premium subscriptions in the UK - and takes data for all the streams serviced to that group of subscribers.
The pro-rata-ing then happens at that level. If your track accounted for 1% of total streams, 1% of all the pooled money is allocated to your track.
On a user-centric model, the maths is done separately for every subscriber. So you take the money paid by each user and the streams serviced to each user, and you allocate that user's money to the tracks they specifically streamed. Under the current model low-level users of a service are basically subsidising high-level users, with some of the former group's money being allocated to tracks streamed by the latter. That doesn't happen with user-centric.
In recent years there have been increased calls for the streaming music business to shift to user-centric approach. Advocates of user-centric argue that the system is fairer; it benefits middle-level artists over top-level artists; it's what most fans assume is happening to their money anyway; and it also cuts off various scams that have been employed that exploit the current model to pull money out of the system by having machines repeatedly listen to tracks uploaded by the scammers.
Deezer, of course, has been the biggest advocate of user-centric to date, even launching a consumer-facing website explaining why it's a better system. It has been trying to persuade labels and distributors to agree to a pilot, adopting user-centric in France - and possibly Germany - allowing everyone in the industry to see exactly what impact such a shift would have.
There are, however, critics of user-centric. Although most of those critics do actually concede that the user-centric approach seems fairer at a basic level and would certainly stop some of the scams.
However, it does make an already complicated royalties system even more complicated, in that average per-play rates would not only differ from service-to-service, country-to-country and subscription-type-to-subscription-type, but also from user-to-user. So that two artists could be getting similar levels of streams on a platform, but wildly different royalties, because one artist's fanbase is mainly low-level users and the other mainly high-level users.
That also makes auditing streaming royalties harder. And there may be other additional administrative costs with user-centric, certainly when first shifting over to the new model, but also possibly on an ongoing basis. That would arguably be more of a problem on the songs side, where the industry generally incurs more of the costs associated with processing payments.
During the recent inquiry into the economics of streaming in Parliament, independent record companies raised various concerns about the user-centric approach, including the added costs and complications.
They also pointed out that while some high-level users on the streaming services are young pop fans who are streaming mainly major label released mainstream music from pop stars twelve hours a day, other high-level users are classic full-on music fans who spend their twelve hours a day delving deep into the catalogue, seeking out new and alternative music. Therefore independent artists and labels could actually lose out with a shift to user-centric.
At the majors, opinion seems divided within the companies, possibly depending on whether a senior executive is running a division whose specific catalogue or roster is likely to be a winner or a loser. However, via the Parliamentary inquiry, each of the majors' have basically adopted a position along the lines of "we're agnostic on this, but here's list of reasons why user-centric could be a problem".
All three majors, in their recent written submissions to that inquiry, also cited the recent study in France looking at how a user-centric approach would change things. The conclusion of that study is that the impact of shifting to user-centric wouldn't be all that significant. Yes, there would be a slight redistribution of monies from top-level artists to middle-level artists, but in financial terms, the benefit for those middle-level acts would the nominal, to the extent that it would almost be unnoticeable.
If the benefit for middle-level artists is as nominal as that report suggests, critics ask, is it worth incurring the costs and increased complications of user-centric, especially if some independent artists and labels would actually see their streaming income go down? The indies, of course, have also proposed an alternative approach called the artist growth model, which would benefit lower-level and middle-level artists in a different way.
That said, the current position of many in the music industry is that we should further test the user-centric approach, and then scrutinise the resulting data to make a more informed decision along the line. Which brings us back to SoundCloud's big announcement.
The consensus to date has been that to test user-centric, the entire record industry would have to sign up to a pilot. No platform could be operating both a service-centric and user-centric system at the same time. But, it turns out, that assumption was incorrect.
SoundCloud is arguably unique in the audio streaming domain in that it already concurrently operates a number of different models, having one side of the business providing services for individual creators who set up their own profiles on the platform, and another side of the business that licenses music from labels and distributors, like Spotify et al.
That already requires some extra complexities behind the scenes when it comes to managing and processing royalties, and working out how to share subscription and advertising revenues with the creator community and the wider music industry.
However, with those extra complexities comes some flexibility. This means that SoundCloud can move one side of its business - that built around the independent creators on its platform - to user-centric, while keeping the other side - that built on catalogues licensed from labels and distributors - on the existing service-centric model.
That basically adds a third stage into the royalty process.
First, a SoundCloud Go subscriber's subscription money will seemingly be split between the independent creator side of the business and the label/distributor side of the business, approximately based on what percentage of listening came from each catalogue. The monies allocated to the label/distributor side will then go into a central pot and be allocated to tracks on the current model. The monies allocated to the independent creator side will be allocated on a user-centric basis.
It means that, if a consumer had a Spotify subscription and a SoundCloud Go subscription, and only used the latter to stream music from independent creators, all their SoundCloud subscription money would allocated to independent creators, and only the independent creators whose content they consumed.
A similar system will also apply to any ad income on the recordings side. On the songs side, things aren't quite so simple, so the big shift seemingly won't be happening there just yet. There are extra complexities with songs because an independent creator may be posting recordings of songs owned or co-owned by other people. And if the independent creator is a member of a collecting society like PRS, technically they're not empowered to license all the rights in even their own songs.
SoundCloud is calling the new system for paying its independent creators 'fan-powered' royalties. It will apply, it says, to "the nearly 100,000 independent artists monetising directly on SoundCloud through SoundCloud Premier, Repost by SoundCloud or Repost Select", and will "level the playing field for independent artists by tying payouts to fandom".
Given that the user-centric approach probably has most support in the artist and songwriter communities - and given that SoundCloud has been prioritising the creator services side of its business again in recent years - launching the 'fan-powered' royalties systems seems like a shrewd move. And for labels and distributors, it provides an actual real-world pilot scheme that can greatly inform the wider debate.
Announcing the shift yesterday, SoundCloud CEO Michael Weissman said: "Many in the industry have wanted this for years. We are excited to be the ones to bring this to market to better support independent artists. SoundCloud is uniquely positioned to offer this transformative new model due to the powerful connection between artists and fans that takes place on our platform".
Bigging up again the differences between SoundCloud and the other major audio streaming services out there, Weissman went on: "As the only direct-to-consumer music streaming platform and next generation artist services company, the launch of fan-powered royalties represents a significant move in SoundCloud's strategic direction to elevate, grow and create new opportunities directly with independent artists".
Of course, by going live with 'fan-powered' royalties next month, SoundCloud has somewhat stolen Deezer's thunder - given that it's still trying to persuade labels and distributors to take part in its French pilot. Nevertheless, Deezer welcomed the announcement yesterday. Although stressed that its proposed pilot would be bigger, if it can get the whole music industry on board.
The firm's Chief Content And Strategy Officer, Alexander Holland, said: "It's great to see SoundCloud moving towards a user-centric model for artists who monetise directly on their platform. We think it's a step in the right direction and we're happy to welcome SoundCloud as a supporter of user-centric payment, a model that we've been spearheading since the beginning".
"The pilot is a great first step", he added, "but only captures independent and self uploaded artists. Deezer stands ready to launch a full [user-centric] pilot and we look forward to having SoundCloud on our side in convincing the labels to do it".
UK music industry welcomes further financial support for the COVID-hit creative industries, but says individual creators need to benefit
Of course, it is now hoped that light is at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic, with Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson's road map for relaxing COVID restrictions in England aiming to have things pretty much back to normal by late June.
However, many of the pre-existing COVID support schemes - such as the furlough scheme for employees and VAT cuts for the hospitably and entertainment sectors - are currently due to end next month. And specific grants provided to cultural organisations by the government were designed to help them survive until the end of March.
With that in mind, reps for the music industry - and the wider live entertainment and night-time sectors - have been calling on Sunak to ensure those various support initiatives are extended. In the last day or so ministers have been teasing such extensions ahead of Sunak's big budget speech later today.
The furlough scheme - whereby the government subsidises the salaries of employees unable to work because of COVID restrictions - is set to be extended into September.
Welcoming that development, Michael Kill of the Night Time Industries Association said last night: "Extension of furlough until September beyond the proposed re-opening date for night time economy is a positive move by government. This will go a long way to safeguarding sector jobs until we are able to re-open, allowing a level of flexibility through the phases of market re-engagement".
Though more will need to be done to ensure night-time business can survive this final phase of lockdown, he added. "We hope that the initial announcements from government on the budget will set the tone for further positive news in support of businesses, which without support will be unable to deliver the furlough scheme which has protected millions of jobs during the pandemic".
Elsewhere, Culture Minister Oliver Dowden has confirmed that another £400 million of sector-specific support will be made available to the cultural and heritage industries, a significant portion of which will be distributed via Arts Council England's Culture Recovery Fund. Dowden added on Twitter: "It's a relief we can look ahead now so this funding is not just about survival, but planning and preparing for [the] reopening of theatres, galleries and gigs".
That extra funding to help creative businesses survive the final few months of shutdown will be welcomed by the music industry, although - of course - issues were raised with the way previous Culture Recovery Fund monies were distributed.
While plenty of venues and music organisations that would not usually seek or get Arts Council funding did benefit from the programme, in England individual creators, performers and practitioners were generally not eligible. Some of those people may have already benefited from the general COVID support schemes for the self-employed, but there were big gaps in that support programme too, meaning some individuals have so far received no support at all.
That's a problem that Sunak should seek to address with this new round of monies being made available to the creative sectors, reckons the Musicians' Union.
It said yesterday that the new funds were good news, "but this new round of money must include funding for freelancers. Unlike in Scotland and Wales, individual freelancers in England have not been able to apply for CRF money, which has left them at a real disadvantage". 38% of MU members, it added, have not qualified for the general COVID support schemes either, making it even more vital they can access this culture-specific money.
MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge added: "We urge the Chancellor to invest in musicians in [his] budget announcement by making it clear that individual freelancers in England will finally be allowed to apply for some of this latest round of Culture Recovery Fund money. Whilst we are obviously pleased that venues and theatres will be receiving additional support over the next few difficult months, we find it extremely unfair that a big proportion of the workforce that make these institutions what they are continue to be excluded".
"With 38% of musicians still ineligible for other financial support", he went on, "the Chancellor must act to protect the future of music in this country. Allowing freelancers to apply for project funding from the CRF would be a good start, but we also urge him to look again at the huge numbers that are excluded from the [general freelancer support] scheme and make some adjustments".
Entertainment retail saw highest growth levels within the wider leisure sector during COVID-hit 2020
Indeed, the specific strand of the wider entertainment and leisure industries represented by ERA - ie music, video and gaming products consumed at home - saw the highest growth rate in 2020, with revenues rising 18.3%.
Also up were entertainment hardware sales (3.7%), gambling (1.3%) and purchases related to gardening and home improvement (1.2%). Meanwhile, most heavily hit were overseas holidays (down 65.8%), UK holidays (43.8%), local live entertainment (40.8%) and eating out (40.2%).
That's based on number crunching by Sheffield Hallam University's Leisure Industries Centre, and ERA's own stats relating to the music, video and gaming sectors, the latter of which have now been aggregated into the trade group's annual yearbook.
Those ERA stats have been tweaked slightly since provisional figures for 2020 were published at the start of the year, with total revenues for the combined music, video and gaming retail sectors topping £9.3 billion now that all the maths has been done. Of that figure, 48% is generated by gaming, 35% by video and 17% by music.
Commenting on this year's figures - and the extent to which music, video and gaming retail out-performed the other entertainment and leisure sectors in growth terms - ERA CEO Kim Bayley says: "The entertainment market was already growing without coronavirus, but with much of the leisure sector shuttered due to lockdown, music, video and games were in the right place at the right time".
BBC Three to return as broadcast channel
"BBC Three is a BBC success story, backing creativity, new talent and brave ideas [resulting] in hit after hit, from 'Fleabag' and 'Man Like Mobeen', 'Ru Paul's Drag Race UK' and Jesy Nelson's 'Odd One Out', to 'Normal People' and 'This Country'", says Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore.
"The BBC needs to back success and make sure its programmes reach as many young people as possible wherever they live in the UK", she goes on. "So regardless of the debates about the past, we want to give BBC Three its own broadcast channel again. It has exciting, groundbreaking content that deserves the widest possible audience and using BBC iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value".
Aimed at young adults, BBC Three in many ways seemed like a sensible choice if the Corporation had to make any of its channels online only. However, the broadcaster says that there still remains a linear TV audience for its output. The channel's core audience will be 16-34. The younger end of this demographic does still watch conventional TV, reckons the BBC, although not so much the BBC's services at the moment.
From January 2022, it is proposed that BBC Three share broadcasting space with the CBBC children's channel. This will mean that CBBC's broadcast hours will be cut, making way for BBC Three at 7pm. This, however, says the Beeb, will allow BBC Three to air some pre-watershed shows aimed at a thirteen plus audience.
Bunny Wailer dies
Born Neville Livingston in 1947 in Kingston, Jamaica, Bunny Wailer co-founded The Wailers with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in 1963. They had their first hit with 'Simmer Down' the following year, and released their debut album, 'The Wailing Wailers', in 1965.
The band went on hiatus after Marley moved to the US and Wailer received a prison sentence for marijuana possession. However, they reconvened for 1970 album 'Soul Rebels', and released a further four albums between then and 1973.
After the release of their sixth album, 'Burnin' - which included the songs 'Get Up, Stand Up' and 'I Shot The Sheriff' - Wailer and Tosh left the band. Wailer said that a diet of processed foods and gigs in "freak clubs" on tour clashed with this Rastafarian beliefs.
Marley continued with a new line-up, under the name Bob Marley And The Wailers. Tosh and Wailer, meanwhile, embarked on solo careers. Wailer released his debut solo album, 'Blackhearted Man', in 1976 and went on to release many more solo records, most recently 'Dub Fi Dub' in 2018.
Marley died of cancer in 1981, while Tosh was murdered in 1987.
Isle Of Wight Festival postpones to September, while Primavera Sound cancels 2021 editions
The Isle Of Wight Festival was due to be staged from 17-20 Jun, just missing the 21 Jun target that British Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson recently gave as the earliest possible date for largescale events.
In January, organisers said on Twitter that they were "continuing to work behind the scenes to get ready for the Isle of Wight Festival this summer". And that is still technically true, as its new dates of 16-19 Sep just fall within the summer months.
"The Isle of Wight Festival is a summer staple and two years without being together on the island is too long", says a statement. "That's why we're so excited to announce that we're moving the festival to 16-19 Sep 2021".
"We're THRILLED to be able to welcome everyone to the island in September", it goes on. "We're aiming to bring back as many of the artists as we can, but whatever happens, rest assured, you'll enjoy a stellar line-up over the festival weekend. It will be the perfect place to see out the summer in spectacular fashion".
Headliners for the June event included Lewis Capaldi, Lionel Richie, Snow Patrol and Duran Duran. It's not yet clear how many acts will move to the new dates, but tickets are on sale now. Existing tickets will remain valid.
Primavera Sound, meanwhile, has said that it will not go ahead in Barcelona on 2-6 June or Porto on 10-12 Jun, as had been planned, due to "uncertainty surrounding the legal framework for large events". However, its music industry conference Primavera Pro will hold a "hybrid event", taking place in person and online, from 2-4 Jun.
"We have reached this painful decision [to cancel] due to the uncertainty surrounding the legal framework for large events on the original dates of the festival, which, added to the restrictions that currently exist, mean that we cannot work normally on the preparation of the festival nor ensure that, once the date arrives, it can be celebrated", say organisers in a statement. "Although it is painful, we know that this is the right decision, especially for those of you who have to plan your trip in advance".
On the efforts the event made to try to go ahead, the statement goes on: "We have left no stone unturned: we led the clinical trial [for a full capacity show amid COVID] carried out at the Apolo in Barcelona last December and we have been in constant contact with the health authorities to explore all possible solutions. But the 20th anniversary of Primavera Sound deserves a party like the ones we are used to, and the global situation does not seem favourable to allowing something like this to happen this summer. At least not in a way in which we can live the full Primavera Sound experience".
Tickets already purchased for 2021 can be carried over to 2022. Refunds will also be available to those who want them in early June, when the 2022 line-ups will be revealed.
Music credits database Jaxsta has signed a deal to access Kobalt's songs data. "Adding and marrying publisher data with existing record label data to provide a deduplicated and deep-linked set of credits creates a unique world of new data integration possibilities for API data agreements with potential commercial partners", says Jaxsta CEO Jacqui Louez Schoorl, in a well formed if rather complex sentence. Keep up, everybody! "This de-duplicated data is part of our works product within Jaxsta Pro which we will be releasing in the coming months".
Sony Music Publishing has extended its worldwide deal with singer-songwriter Ilsey Juber. "I've been with Sony Music Publishing since day one and I'm so happy to be moving into this new chapter with a team and a company who are passionate and committed, not just to the songs I write, but to using the platform for social change and the greater good", says Juber.
Universal Music Publishing has signed songwriter Feid to a worldwide publishing agreement. "I'm so happy to be part of my UMPG crew, they've always shown me love and have introduced me to new producers who have been crucial for the development of my career", he says. "I'm going to keep pushing harder and writing so many more songs to become a better artist, producer and songwriter. I'm so grateful for the opportunity".
BRANDS & MERCH
Tommy Cash has collaborated with Adidas to create his own limited edition version of the company's Superstar shoe by making them about two feet longer than usual. They are available in black and white. Commenting on it all (well, except the bizarre length of the shoes), he says: "Yes, these sneakers are different colours. After all, they reflect my mood, which changes every day. And I will proudly wear both versions of the iconic silhouette at the same time". You can enter a raffle in the Adidas app to be in with a chance of buying a pair.
Do you like Efterklang? Do you like socks? Well, maybe you'd like to sign up to Efterklang's new sock subscription service! Yes, you read that right, for £6.50 a month, you'll receive a new pair of socks every three months. I tend to change mine at least once a day, but I guess it's up to you. More info here.
Anti Ariandini has been appointed General Manager of the newly launched Sony Music Publishing Indonesia. "With the expansion of Indonesia's digital markets, having a dedicated international ... publishing company established in the country for the first time that can work with a wide range of record companies, music publishers and associations, is a huge win for Indonesian songwriters and composers", says Carol Ng, Regional Managing Director, Asia for Sony Music Publishing.
Former SoundCloud exec Joe Armenia has joined social radio app Stationhead, as Director Of Creative Partnerships. "I have always had a passion for finding innovative ways for creators to connect with fans, and Stationhead uniquely offers that", he says. "Stationhead has first to market advantage and has built the patented technology to revolutionise the traditional radio model into a truly social audio experience".
Jessie Ware has released the video for recent single 'Remember Where You Are', starring her "lookalike" Gemma Arterton.
Jhené Aiko has released new song 'Lead The Way', taken from the soundtrack of new Disney movie 'Raya And The Last Dragon', which is out on Disney+ this Friday.
Japanese Breakfast has announced that she will release new album 'Jubilee' on 4 Jun. Here's new single 'Be Sweet'. "For me, a third record should feel bombastic and so I wanted to pull out all the stops for this one", she says. "I wrote 'Be Sweet' with Jack Tatum from Wild Nothing a few years ago. I've been holding onto it for so long and am so excited to finally put it out there".
Mike Patton's revived Tomahawk have released a video for new single 'Dog Eat Dog'. "Dogs patiently wait, obediently, for humans to snuff each other out… so they can take over the world", says Patton of the video. "Dogs rule!"
Penelope Trappes has released new single 'Nervous'. Her new album, 'Penelope Three', is out on 28 May.
Kojaque has released new single 'No Hands'. "There seems to be a pretty universal feeling when you're young and that's wanting to make your parents proud", he says. "At least that's what I remember, searching for approval, wanting that reassurance, the track for me says, 'look at me now, look how far I've come, imagine what else could happen'".
Recently signed to Kartel's new EMK label, Defset has released new single 'Deadlines'. "Writing this in my bunker when the world felt like it was ending, I guess it took on a sombre, dark tone", he says. "I was listening to a lot of Trentemøller, Apparat and other artists who lean towards the darker, cinematic, electronic spectrum. It's dark but not without hope".
GIGS & TOURS
Mogwai have announced that they will play a hometown show at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall on 7 Nov. There will be a limited pre-sale for fans who had tickets for the band's cancelled Hydro Arena show on Thursday, before tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Robbie Williams to be played by CGI monkey in biopic
He may not have been keen to reveal all to the press about a film that is yet to be made, however this week he's (virtually) at the annual European Film Market, where he is providing more detail to international buyers. Which means more info is being shared. And, yeah, I'll say it again, because I think it's worth saying again, the word is that Williams will be portrayed by an animated monkey.
In an interview with Deadline last week, the 'Greatest Showman' director said: "How we represent Robbie in the film, that bit is top secret. I want to do this in a really original way. I remember going to the cinema as a kid and there were films that blew me away and made me say, as I sat there in the cinema, 'I've never seen this before'. I just want the audience to have that feeling".
"It's so important when they watch this story, and look at the screen, that they literally think, 'I've never seen this before'", he went on. "All I can say is the approach is top secret, but the goal is to generate that feeling I just described. It's this fantastical story, and I want to represent it in its harsh reality all the way to these moments of pure fantasy".
He's probably right that audiences would not have seen a CGI animal representing a musician in the story of their life before. And maybe this is actually a great idea.
Biopics can be a bit tedious at the best of times. Sure, 'Walk The Line' won a load of awards, but wouldn't it have been better if Johnny Cash had been played by a wolf or something, instead of Joaquin Phoenix? And maybe the tedious contract disputes that made up the bulk of the runtime of 'Straight Outta Compton' would have been easier to sit through if the onscreen NWA had been a whole menagerie of computer-generated beasts.
Whatever, it's not clear if Williams will be a monkey for the whole film or just a portion of it. Or, indeed, if any other characters will be cartoon animals too. Gary Barlow as a donkey, perhaps. We do know that Williams is involved in the film though. Gracey's script will be based on conversations with the musician and Williams is set to record new versions of his songs for the film.
"All Robbie's songs will be re-sung, for the emotion of the moment", Gracey explained to Deadline. "If in his life he's in the depths of despair, he's not going to sing a song [with] cabaret flamboyant showmanship; it's going to be broken, a cappella, stripped down, because that's where he is emotionally. In moments of pure joy, you'll get songs sung in this whirlwind of hysteria".
Anyway, I hope this project attracts lots of interest at EFM and they hurry up and make this movie already. It's either going to be the best or worst biopic ever made, and I want to watch it either way.