Music Industry Rant: ‘Rights’ Is Not A Buzzword
I think it is quite disingenuous and frankly misleading to slap on the term “rights” to every music tech platform that collects some minimum amount of metadata regarding musical works.
Music rights administration (including publishing and neighboring rights) is not a frivolous add-on to be used as a way to beef up one’s otherwise undifferentiated service offerings in an effort to attract customers in an ever more saturated music monetization and catalog management marketplace.
Music rights administration requires a comprehensive understanding of music publishing, copyright administration, licensing and multi-territorial relationships with CMOs, intermediaries, and administrators that goes well beyond delivering releases to DSPs or creating playlists to pitch to music supervisors. Understanding the nuances between royalty accounting and royalty forensics (not just parsing income statements), and having a grasp on the complicated music licensing and rights management ecosystem — not just direct deals — are bare minimum requirements for being a “rights” company.
Music rights administration requires knowledge, experience, and skill set that only comes from spending years doing nothing but this kind of work (it doesn’t hurt to have a masters degree specifically in music industry administration either); handling complicated issues around works registrations, disputes, and conflicts; combing over raw CWR and certain types of DDEX files; being in the room with the powers that be at CMOs and adjacent entities; and understanding how works are licensed and how income participants are accounted to in different territories under potentially overlapping representation mandates framed by international treaties (Berne, Rome, etc.) and bilateral agreements and supported by local copyright laws and termination terms.
In a word, slapping “rights” into the company tagline/description of a music tech platform that was founded to do anything but rights administration and for whom the founders have little to zero background and experience specifically in music rights administration is the new adding “decentralized” to data company descriptions.
Music industry people, be careful regarding the services that you sign up for. Your copyrights are the most important assets that you have. Putting the management, representation, or administration of these assets, for any period of time, in the wrong hands can and will lead to a world of trouble for you now and potentially for years to come.
Music industry colleagues, don’t let non music rights people abuse the term “music rights”. It isn’t a trendy phrase to add to your tagline to be current with everything that’s going on in the industry (e.g. MMA, MLC, CRB rulings, Article 13, etc.)