The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.
The evolving relationship between record companies and music streamers
The number of music companies offering opportunities for unsigned artists to distribute their works to digital retailers and access services has risen steadily over the last few years. In most cases, a simple monthly payment allows unsigned artists to distribute their content directly to all the leading services, while at the same time keeping ownership of all the rights associated with their music. However, when the biggest audio-on-demand subscription service in the world acquires one of those companies that offers direct distribution, questions over the subscription service’s intentions are understandably raised. It seems highly unlikely and inadvisable that the likes of Spotify and Apple Music will risk upsetting the major record companies by engaging in record company activities on the eve of new licensing discussions. There is a big difference between greasing the wheels of direct distribution and becoming a record company. But that won’t stop questions being asked about the subscription services’ intentions, particularly if any more acquisitions of the kind described below are in the pipeline.
Record year for producers’ and performers’ rights despite a slowdown in revenue growth
Performance-rights distributions to record companies (producers) and performers registered another record-breaking year in 2017, with total payments rising to their highest levels. Producers’ and performers’ rights have become an important source of income in recent years, given the long demise of recorded-music trade revenue. The return to growth through increased consumer interest in streaming and subscriptions has somewhat overshadowed the importance of performance rights, but the revenue source will remain a key source of earnings, with collections forecast to grow steadily over the next few years. Measured at both reported and constant exchange rates, global performance-rights distributions increased year on year. The US remained the single biggest country for performance rights despite a slight decline in distributions. Europe is the biggest region, with its share of the global total rising for the first time in more than 10 years.
Tracy Chapman sues Nicki Minaj for copyright infringement in commercially unreleased track
US folk singer Tracy Chapman has filed a lawsuit at the US District Court for the Central District of California against Onika Tanya Maraj, professionally known as the rapper Niki Minaj, accusing her and unnamed defendants of copyright infringement. The claim centers on the unauthorized use of a section of lyrics from the Chapman track Baby Can I Hold You for the unreleased Minaj track Sorry. The filing claims that Minaj and a number of her representatives made several requests to license the Chapman composition for use in Sorry, but all these requests were refused. However, the Minaj track was recorded without permission and although it was not included on the intended album, the track was broadcast on several radio shows. Moreover, the track is currently available to stream on YouTube. Chapman is claiming the maximum statutory damages for the infringement.
Netherlands country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed Netherlands music industry report. After more than a decade of falling trade revenue from recorded-music sales, the Netherlands is experiencing a sustained period of growth. In common with most developed markets in Europe, Dutch record company earnings were hit by the effects of online piracy as a result of the shift from physical formats to digital. However, for the last three years, trade revenue has risen sharply, and further growth is expected for this year and beyond. Dutch authors’ societies BUMA and STEMRA registered a sixth consecutive year of annual growth in joint collections after three consecutive annual falls. Combined income for the two collection societies edged up last year, with gains in both performance and mechanical collections. A rise in domestic collections for producers’ and performers’ society SENA boosted total receipts despite a second straight year of falling overseas income. The live industry experienced a positive 2017, with an increase in both visitors to events and revenue from ticket sales.
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