What Can The Socioeconomic Context Of The Culture From Which Hip-Hop Is Derived Tell Us About How The Biggest Genre In The World Gets The Shitty End Of The Royalty Stick?
Streaming services are a beast that needs constant feeding. Younger hip-hop artists, already accustomed to providing sites such as SoundCloud with a constant stream of mixtapes and features, have adjusted to its demands more quickly than artists from other genres, and have thrived accordingly. At the heart of rap’s streaming dominance is something more ephemeral: Some songs just stream better than others, for reasons that no one can really explain yet. Hip-hop streams better than other types of mainstream music, and trap music streams better than other types of hip-hop. – The Washington Post (April, 2018)
R&B/hip-hop music was the year’s biggest genre, accounting for 24.5 percent of all music consumed….R&B/hip-hop genre represented 24.5 percent of all music consumption in the U.S. — the largest share of any genre and the first time R&B/hip-hop has led this measurement for a calendar year. (The 24.5 percent share represents a combination of album sales, track equivalent album units and streaming equivalent album units — including both on-demand audio and video streams.) — Billboard Magazine (January, 2018)
The statistic presents the number of on-demand music streams worldwide in 2016 and 2017, by genre. According to the source, the number of urban [Hip-Hop and R&B] on-demand streams rose from 55.9 billion in 2016 to 100.34 billion in 2017 – Statista (2018)
“‘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
In light of the CRB’s ruling today to increase mechancial royalty rates for on-demand DSPs, I would caution against passing the Music Modernization Act without first amending it to include some very necessary guarantees for DIY musicians.
Given the recent ruling to increase mechanical rates, penalize DSPs for late payments, and remove the TCC cap DSPs will be more incentivized to cling to the safe harbor components of the MMA to limit their financial responsibility to songwriters.
I also fear that the blanket license (combined with the elimination of the statutory damages provision against infringement) would hurt more DIY musicians than protect compared to the existing compulsory licensing schema where today an independent can fully self-administer his/her mechancial rights via a service like TuneRegistry or with a third-party administrator like Songtrust. Why? Because the unclaimed/unpaid (aka “black box”) royalty fund will also increase by 44%, giving major publishers a bigger windfall of market share distributed gains from a royalty pool that generally belongs to unidentified independent songwriters.
What incentive does DSPs, who must pay the rates anyway, and major publishers, who will undoubtedly control the mechanical licensing collective body, have to ensure the works of DIY musicians are properly represented and accounted to and what power do DIY musicians have to assert their limited rights?
I could be completely and utterly wrong.
However, the devil is in the details and the MMA, while it does streamline the process of mechancial licensing in the United States for DSPs it also effectively limits the warranties and representations of DIY musicians.
Every article written about MMA is generally written from the perspective of publishers and NMPA members. As an advocate for and service provider to DIY musicians, my perspective is a bit different and more nuanced.
The decision today by the CRB was a win for all songwriters. The MMA is a win for major publishers. It must be amended.