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A Curated List Of My Thoughts On The Music Modernization Act (And Related Topics)

music-modernization-act

I am a very vocal music creators’ rights advocate and copyright purist. Often, I have the opportunity to share my *opinions* on topics within and circling the music industry that impact the ways in which music creators — especially DIY musicians — navigate and thrive in the United States.

Over the last ten months I have been especially vocal about the Music Modernization Act. I’ve been quoted in Billboard, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Digital Media News. I’ve been invited to panel discussions at music industry conferences and keynotes at universities. And I have written several think pieces (and rants) on the bill, which is now law, and related issues.

Still, I am asked what my thoughts are on the MMA.

I’ll summarize my thoughts by saying that I believe the intent of the MMA is good and admirable on its surface — that is, to improve the way rightsholders are accounted to and paid for the use of their music. I believe there is some good stuff in the MMA; particularly, the entirety of Title 2 (The CLASSICS Act) and Title 3 (The AMP Act). However, I feel that there is still work to be done. I also feel that some compromises, at the expense of DIY music creators, were made too easily (this is partially based on private discussions that I’ve had with individuals with privileged knowledge of the negotiations and dealings that took place during the drafting and subsequent amending of the MMA). That being said, I also believe that the soon to be formed Mechanical Licensing Collective has the opportunity to prove to songwriters that this law was truly about them.

Only time will tell.

Here’s a 2018 curated list of my “thoughts” on the Music Modernization Act (and related topics):

  • (Oct 16, 2018) Here Are 10 Ways That The Music Licensing Collective (MLC) Can Set The Bar As A Collective Licensing Organization In The 21st Century – https://bit.ly/2RW9kW2
  • (Sep 14th, 2018 in Pitchfork) Why So Many Hip-Hop Producers Are Putting Business Before Beats – https://bit.ly/2PEsi1x
  • (Aug 19th, 2018) Another Music Modernization Act Opinion Piece – https://bit.ly/2NLp9LC
  • (Aug 15th, 2018 in Rolling Stone) Why More Pop Songwriters Are Stepping Into the Spotlight – https://bit.ly/2ClAuAc
  • (Jul 24th, 2018) Songwriters Are Owed Nearly $2B In Unclaimed Royalties!!! — Maybe More — I’ve Been Saying This For Some Time Now (Against Pushback), But Finally The Press Has Confirmed It – https://bit.ly/2CMR6Sp
  • (May 15th, 2018 in Billboard) Black Box Royalties Myths, Common Misconceptions Debunked at Music Biz 2018 – https://bit.ly/2q4dhLD
  • (May 7th, 2018 in Digital Music News) Is the Music Modernization Act Enabling ‘Legal Theft’ Against Smaller Artists? – https://bit.ly/2IugrCS
  • (Apr 25th, 2018) 5 Ways The Music Modernization Act Could Be Fairer To ALL Music Creators – https://bit.ly/2Jzn1tb
  • (Apr 20th, 2018) I Was Interviewed By The Congressional Budget Office Regarding The Music Modernization Act, And Now I’m Even More Concerned For DIY Musicians – https://bit.ly/2AdwpN0
  • (Jan 17th, 2018) – My Thoughts On The MMA In Light Of The CRB Mechanical License Rate Decision – https://bit.ly/2P6bT98

Where do you stand on the MMA?

Here Are 10 Ways That The Music Licensing Collective (MLC) Can Set The Bar As A Collective Licensing Organization In The 21st Century

music licensing collective dae bogan

If you work in the music industry and own a radio, TV, smartphone, or computer then you’ve probably already heard that the The Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) has been signed into law. At this point, every major music rights organization has published their praise of the legislation, which will create a blanket streaming mechanical license for Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google, Tidal, and other on-demand music streaming companies; bring pre-1972 sound recordings under federal copyright protection and open up a flow of royalties from digital services to the artists (or their estates) and copyright owners of those recordings; and codify an allocation of digital radio royalties to music producers.

Title 1 of the MMA, also called Music Modernization Act, sets out  provisions and guidance for the formation of a collective mechanical licensing body to be called the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). The MLC will administer a safe harbor blanket license for the streaming of musical works, collect licensee fees from licensees, prepare and remit statements of earnings to songwriters and music publishers, and make royalty payments to the same.

The MLC will join the ranks of SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC in the sense that it will become a powerful representative of the collective rights of thousands of music creators and rights-holders in the United States. However, unlike its counterparts, the MLC will be born in the 21st century. And as a 21st century collective licensing organization, the MLC has the unique opportunity to implement, at inception, 21st century business practices utilizing 21st century best practices and technologies.

Here are 10 ways that the Mechanical Licensing Collective can set the bar as a 21st century collective licensing organization:
 
1.) Provide its members with a data BI (business intelligence) dashboard to better visualize their mechanical royalties data and dive deeper into their statements. The dashboard could enable forecasting based on projected streaming activity (maybe offer scenario planning, which makes it possible to attract loans against future royalties). They could ingest data from a service like BuzzAngle to offer estimated royalty accrual in real-time so that members who are artists can see the net effect of playlist streaming campaigns on their bottom line and choose to invest more into campaigns in virtual real-time.
 
2.) Maintain a public and accessible unclaimed royalties database. Deploy artificial intelligence to evaluate unmatched usage reports as opposed to relying solely on exact name and ISWC matches. And expand the statute of limitations on unclaimed royalties to 10 years
 
3.) Require DSPs who take advantage of the safe harbor streaming mechanical license to recommend (and provide guidance) to aggregators and labels to provide composition ownership information in their metadata when uploading releases to the DSP. This can be done with custom parameters in DDEX ERN or via the new DDEX MWN (Musical Works Ownership) message schema.
 
4.) Work with the U.S. Copyright Office to create an integrated musical works registrations process so that works are simultaneously registered with the MLC and LOC.
 
5.) Expand the statute of limitation period on unclaimed royalties to 10 years and hold funds in an interest-bearing escrow account from which 25% of the interest flows to the general fund of the MLC and 75% of the interest is paid to the payee, along with the balance of unpaid royalties, once the payee has come forward or have been found.
 
6.) Commission an annual audit and publish the findings to members.
 
7.) Use blockchain, where applicable.
 
8.) Remit statements and payments monthly when a member opts to receive direct deposits and electronic statements.
 
9.) Display assessed administration fees on royalty statements.
 
10.) Do not implement high usage weights or bonuses.

Why So Many Hip-Hop Producers Are Putting Business Before Beats

I shared my thoughts on music business for Hip-Hop producers in this piece by Cherie Hu for Pitchfork:

“The way many of these companies are trying to match and verify their data? Hundreds of emails,” says Dae Bogan, founder and CEO of TuneRegistry, a rights management platform for indie artists. “Many labels are still using old software and systems to manage their digital catalog, and their rights department is different from the one responsible for metadata, which is different from the one responsible for collecting royalties. There’s a lot of bureaucracy involved.”

Read the full piece here.

Why More Pop Songwriters Are Stepping Into the Spotlight

I shared my thoughts on the status of income-earning for songwriters in today’s streaming landscape in this piece by Elias Leight for Rolling Stone:

“But regardless of whether you’re an upper-echelon songwriter living large or a middle-class one struggling to pay rent, the new system encourages writers to ‘think creatively about how to get more income streams,’ says Dae Bogan, Founder and CEO of the music-rights administration platform TuneRegistry.

If songwriters are indeed feeling the crunch, pushing for artist credit when possible is a natural response – it gives them access to money on the master’s side of recordings. Historically, “we get paid on publishing, the the words, the lyrics, the melody, the staff music written on a page,” explains Watt. “The master is the physical recording: Justin Bieber’s voice and DJ Snake’s production on ‘Let Me Love You.’ The master is where the money is. When a song is sold to a label, they buy the master. If the label gives that to an act, they make sure they own part of that master, otherwise in the streaming world, they’re not making any money.”

Now, Bogan says, “songwriters can say, I write hits; this is gonna be a hit for you; I want a piece of the master’s side.” That’s especially true if hit writers are in a position of leverage relative to the singer – “if it’s a young artist or an artist who’s been stagnant.”

This is in some sense a form of poetic justice for writers. “I used to manage songwriters, and we’d write for a number of artists who would demand that they get 10 percent of the publishing even though they didn’t write a single lyric,” Bogan says. “For decades, artists would dip into publishing to diversify their income stream. So now it’s like, let’s take that model and flip it on its head.”

Read the full article: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/benny-blanco-eastside-pop-songwriter-credit-711061/

Songwriters Are Owed Nearly $2B In Unclaimed Royalties!!! — Maybe More — I’ve Been Saying This For Some Time Now (Against Pushback), But Finally The Press Has Confirmed It

Over the last few years, I’ve been researching and sounding the alarm on the growing problem of unclaimed music royalties or so-called “black box” royalties.

I’ve estimated the value of the collective black box to be nearly or above $2B. I’ve presented research, have written extensively and have spoken publicly about this problem, which disproportionately affect independent and legacy songwriters.

Despite my fanfare, industry insiders and stakeholders have shrugged or have blatantly called my estimates a gross overstatement and have held that unclaimed royalties are at best a few hundreds of thousands of dollars and mostly owed to “long-tail artists” who do not quite understand how the music industry works. This is a very myopic, company-focused view. These talking heads tend to speak from their position of administering one right for some music licensees. My estimates are looking at multiple rights administered by multiple entities, which would make the collective black box exponentially greater than the escrow account of a single entity.

Also Read: State of Unclaimed U.S. Music Royalties and Licenses

Yesterday, Variety published an article on the Music Modernization Act where a very important fact was tucked away on a single sentence in a paragraph near the end of the piece:

The DSPs are holding some $1.5 billion in unmatched mechanical royalties. If the MMA passes, that money would be passed through to the MLC which would match it to the songwriters and publishers. [bold and underline added for emphasis]

via Variety

https://variety.com/2018/music/news/music-modernization-act-blackstone-sesac-congress-senate-1202881536/

$1.5B of royalties (I still believe this number is higher) is sitting in, probably, interest-bearing escrow accounts while songwriters and small-to-medium sized music rights holders struggle to understand how and why.

Last year I founded RoyaltyClaim, the world’s first search engine of unclaimed music royalties and licenses, which has recently been acquired by Made In Memphis Entertainment. We’ve helped DIY musicians and rights-holders identify thousands of unclaimed entitlements in just a few months, with one paricular music producer uncovering nearly $150k in unclaimed royalties due to him.

The problem is huge. The system is not transparent. And the people in charge could do a better job communicating these things to rights-holders.

Also Read: I’m Working On A Side Project Addressing ‘Black Box’ Royalties

I’ve been on many panels at music industry conferences where I’ve maintained my position that DIY musicians and small-to-medium sized rights-holders are owed hundreds of millions of dollars, if not several billion, and often my co-panelists have taken a position that my claims are sensational and overstated.

I disagree.

When those on the panel talk about black box we are talking about the aggregate of unclaimed royalties that occur because of any number of factors,’ and not just limited to one service or one collection society, explained moderator Dae Bogan, CEO of TuneRegistry.”

via Billboard

Source: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8456271/black-box-royalties-myths-panel-music-biz-2018

Read the Variety article here.

Check out my commentary on black box royalties here.

Dae Bogan To Join Panel On The Future Of Rights Technology At A2IM Indie Week In New York

a2im indie week dae bogan speaker

Dae Bogan will join Shanna Jade (Director of Brand Strategy, Stem) and Rob Weitzner (Head of North America, The state51 Music Group) on the panel “Future of Rights Technology” on Wednesday, June 20th at A2IM (American Association of Independent Music) Indie Week conference taking place at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center in New York. The panel will be moderated by Anna Siegal, SVP FUGA North America.

For more details, visit https://a2im.org/event/a2im-indie-week-2018/

Congress Is Giving Musicians First Chance of Fair Pay in Decades


“‘The MMA gives a digital service like Spotify or Amazon a more convenient way of licensing songs,’ Dae Bogan, founder of music management platform TuneRegistry and a longtime music rights advocate and executive, explains. ‘And it opens a potential windfall of income to legacy artists who were left out of the digital boom.’ But Bogan adds that the legislation doesn’t come close to fixing all, or even most, of the problems in music royalties for labels, publishers and musicians; the simplified processes just make it more likely they’ll get the money they’re due.” via RollingStone

Read the full piece here: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/congress-is-giving-musicians-first-chance-of-fair-pay-in-decades-w520301

5 Ways The Music Modernization Act Could Be Fairer To ALL Music Creators

music modernization act

 

Today, the Music Modernization Act has passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a unanimous 415 – 0 vote (16 reps abstained from voting at all).

The mega bill — which consists of a bundle of Titles that were previously independently proposed bills — will change the way in which musical works are licensed by digital service providers and provide a safe harbor for infringement under a blanket licensing mechanism (Title One – Musical Works Modernization Act); it will bring recordings made before 1972 under federal copyright protection (Title Two – Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act or CLASSICS Act); and it will codify an allocation of digital radio royalties to music producers and sound engineers (Title Three – Allocation for Music Producers Act or AMP Act).

On its surface the MMA sounds amazing, when summarized this way.

Accordingly, the passing of the MMA in the House was widely praised by executives from the most recognizable U.S. music rights organizations and trade associations (e.g. NMPA, RIAA, DiMA).

However, there remains many uncertainties in the language of the bill presenting an opportunity for the Senate to course correct before the bill becomes a law that would take over 20 years to improve, again (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was the last piece of legislation impacting the music business — it was enacted in 1998).

 

Also read: I Was Interviewed By The Congressional Budget Office Regarding The Music Modernization Act, And Now I’m Even More Concerned For DIY Musicians

 

So, what could the Senate do to make the bill more fair to the tens of thousands of music creators who are not represented (or underrepresented) by the industry sponsors of this bill? Well, there’s at least five issues that can be addressed immediately:

  1. Ban the practice of distributing by market share unclaimed royalties that rightfully belong to DIY musicians and songwriters.
  2. Mandate that record companies provide complete and accurate (at the time of release) publishing information for each track within the metadata delivered to distributors/aggregators, and that the latter provides that information to DSPs.
  3. Do not expunge all past copyright infringement claims, only future claims upon the date of the enactment of the law.
  4. Maintain a representative MLC board of 50% publishers and 50% songwriters (with at least 1 unsigned songwriter on the board (e.g. Chance the Rapper)) as opposed to the BS 10 publishers, 4 songwriters (who’ll likely come from the major publishers anyway) that has been written in the bill.
  5. Respect the Berne Convention by not disregarding the musical works of non-US songwriters who have not (and will not) register each of their songs with the USCO or MLC.

How else could the MMA be improved? Or do you feel that it is fair enough? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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