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.”
Just Announced: Royalty Claim Pre-launch Webinar
Get a sneak peak behind the curtain with Royalty Claim’s Founder & Chief Researcher, Dae Bogan.
- Overview of the Royalty Claim Initiative.
- An encore presentation of our presentation at the Music Industry Research Association Conference.
- Live demo of Royalty Claim Platform v1.0.
- Music industry Q&A.
The webinar will take place on Saturday, August 19th at 10am PDT
Royalty Claim attended the Music Industry Research Association‘s first inaugural MIRA Conference at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center this week. Royalty Claim’s Founder and Chief Researcher, Dae Bogan, MIA, had the honor of presenting a preview of our in-progress The State of Unclaimed Royalties and Music Licenses in the United States report before an audience of economists, sociologists, and researchers from universities and institutions from around the world, as well as music industry executives representing firms such as Nielsen, Pandora, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Entertainment.
For the first time, updated statistics regarding the filing of “address unknown” Section 115 NOIs on the US Copyright Office during the first half of 2017 was revealed. Insights included an overview of the organizations that have utilized the procedure, including Amazon, Google, Spotify, iHeart Communications, and Microsoft. However, those large music users were expected. Interesting inclusions to the list were The Recording Academy and the Christian music service, TheOverflow and interesting omissions from the list are platforms that boast millions of tracks — Apple and Tidal — but may not be reaching every independent rightsowner that may have compositions available on those platforms.
The presentation also discussed the nature and causes of so-called “Black Box royalties”. A black box is an escrow fund in which music royalties are held due to an organization’s inability to attribute the royalties earned to the appropriate payee. Examples were given, including unattributed advances from DSPs to music companies, the US’s limitations on sound recording rights, and other issues.
The presentation concluded with a video demo of the Royalty Claim Platform, which received positive reviews from conference attendees. The full presentation is here.
What musicians should keep in mind is in the event of an untimely passing, your royalty streams are bona fide assets that need to be discussed in a will. Some of the unclaimed royalty information that we have at Royalty Claim is from musicians who’ve passed away, but did not file a beneficiary with the various music rights organizations. So, their music continues to earn revenue, but the organizations do not have beneficiary info to pay it out. Or, musicians who’ve passed away and left no instructions in their will on how their royalties should be allocated, and various claimants have created a dispute.
We should definitely talk more about musician estates (even smaller musicians can have estates). Royalty streams are assets with which musicians can receive loans from companies like Lyric Financial or Sound Royalties, or even sell via platforms like Royalty Exchange. If you’re serious about your music career, be serious about your estate.
I’m so proud to be able to unveil the info website for Royalty Claim today. I’ve had endless sleepless nights developing and designing the info site, and the actual database platform that’s launching soon.
Check it out, get your questions answered (see FAQ page), and pre-register for the beta.
The first public demo will be this Thursday at SCMIP x AMC LA Music Industry Meetup | DTLA Arts District.
As of this writing, there are currently 116,133 verifiable* payments owed to music creators and rights-holders that are sitting in unclaimed/undistributed royalties escrow accounts (referred to as “Black Box” funds**) in the United States.
The actual number of individual payments owed is likely closer to or exceeds 1 Million, however the actual number is unknown because the administrator(s) of some of the biggest Black Box funds have not made public their list of payees to whom they owe royalties.
Unfortunately, due to the statute of limitations on these funds many of these payments expire. Every month payees unknowingly forfeit their rights to these payments and the interest in the royalties revert back to the administrator. This happens because the payee does not contact the administrator of the fund to claim their royalties. Granted, most payees are unaware that these payments are waiting for them because the administrator is unable to reach the payee for various reasons.
It has been estimated that the global “Black Box” royalties could be in the billions of dollars owed to music creators and rights-holders.
Imagine working somewhere and then you do not receive a paycheck because the HR department does not have your new address. Not a perfect analogy, but not receiving monies that you’ve earned as a result of your hard work seems unfair.
THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM
So, I am happy to announce that I am working on a side project called Royalty Claim. Royalty Claim will attempt to work with as many of these administrators to aggregate their databases of millions of records of unclaimed/undistributed royalties and make that information available to the public. There are other services and insight that we will offer through Royalty Claim to help educate music creators and rights-holders on Black Box funds and how to limit/prevent their earnings from falling victim to the broken global music licensing ecosystem (such as taking control of your music catalog with TuneRegistry).
Also, follow @RoyaltyClaim on Twitter.
* These 116,133 payments are specifically verifiable because the list of payee names can be gathered from several databases.
** I am currently aware of over 30 funds and sub funds being managed in the United States. However, there are definitely many more that are “private”.