New issue of Music & Copyright with UK country report

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

Amid rife piracy, RBTs are helping prop up MEA’s legal music sector
If it were not for ring-back tones (RBTs), music revenue would be in decline in many parts of Africa and the Middle East (MEA). Other digital music services – namely, sites and apps offering downloads and streaming on an a-la-carte or all-you-can-eat basis – are making negligible revenue in much of the region. On their own, digital services do little to compensate for plummeting physical sales. Beyond recorded music, concert ticket sales and sponsorships (i.e., live music) help to shore up revenue – but, other than in a small handful of countries, not at sufficient scale or pace to make a huge difference. Digital services are hobbled by a long list of barriers, yet numerous homegrown services have sprouted up in many parts of the region, and are exploring different ways of scratching out a living. RBTs are immune to digital piracy and get around the region’s low penetration of online payments by being added to users’ mobile bills. However, most of the revenue they generate is pocketed by mobile telecoms operators, and they cannot be relied on as a cash cow forever.

Digital takes the domestic lead for Swedish authors and publishers
Swedish authors’ society STIM has reported record financials for 2017, with total collections exceeding SEK2bn ($227.7m) for the first time. Distributions to its members also topped the previous year’s high. Online and new media service collections were again the standout revenue source, with the growth rate the highest of all STIM’s main revenue sources. Moreover, online now accounts for almost 40% of total domestic collections. Income from overseas remains the biggest revenue source for Swedish authors and publishers, with last year’s growth more than reversing the previous year’s decline. Royalties from festivals and live music concerts increased for the second consecutive year. STIM said the growth was largely down to big-name artists playing more arena dates and an increase in ticket prices.

Opinions divided over the US ACCESS to Recordings Act
US Senator Ron Wyden has thrown something of a curveball at the moves by legislators to speed up the passage of a new copyright law that would put an end to the discrepancy between pre- and post-1972 sound recordings in the US. Currently, pre-1972 sound recordings are governed by state laws and receive different protection than post-1972 recordings, which are under federal copyright protection. The unanimous passing of the Music Modernization Act through the House of Representatives and its subsequent introduction in the Senate gave rights holders hope that the issue of pre-1972 recordings would soon be at an end. However, the introduction of Senator Wyden’s new bill is likely to put the brakes on rights-holder celebrations. Unsurprisingly, opinions over Wyden’s bill have been divided, with some accusing the senator of putting legacy artists’ retirement security at risk.

UK country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed UK music industry report. The UK’s recorded-music industry is going through a positive period. Three straight years of decline ended in 2013 with a rise in trade earnings. Although revenue has slipped back in the two subsequent years, the country has registered two consecutive years of growth. Going one better, the retail value of recorded-music sales has risen for three straight years with subscription sales and streaming growth more than offsetting lower spending on physical formats and downloads. UMG is the clear leader in market share terms, with SME in second place. Royalty collections in the UK are on the rise with both PRS for Music and PPL continuing to register record receipts. Live music continues to be the most robust leisure sector in the UK, and tours and festival appearances still the most secure way for artists to generate revenue. However, concerns over the ongoing decline in the number of grassroots music venues has prompted the government to launch an inquiry into the live music business, with a specific focus on small music venues.

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New issue of Music & Copyright with Denmark country report

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

Streaming growth boosts R&B/hip-hop share of global recorded-music sales
The return to growth for the recorded-music industry has brought with it an interesting shift in sales patterns for the different musical genres. A number of national trade associations’ year-end summaries of music sales have shown that certain genres have received a sizable boost from the change in consumers’ consumption patterns, while others have suffered a decline. R&B/hip-hop in particular has benefited from the growth in streaming, with the genre’s share of global retail sales more than doubling in just five years. Music & Copyright has analyzed global genre sales to see just how the return to recorded-music good times has affected sales of the most popular music genres.

Music streamers extend their bundle options to maintain subscription growth
Music streamers are finding that bundling their offerings with other products can help them recruit paying customers. A good part of that activity has revolved around tie-ups with video-streaming services. More recently, the likes of Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Tidal have been pushing into new areas such as movies and books to generate interest in their subscription-based streaming offers. Expect more bundling activity from music streamers in sectors such as gaming, in-car entertainment, and audio equipment, although promotions may need to be bolder to really pay off.

TONO reports record year for collections and distributions
Norwegian authors’ society TONO has reported a record year for both collections and distributions. After a disappointing 2016 that failed to repeat the record-breaking year of 2015, total receipts in 2017 were boosted by growth in all the main collection sources. Digital registered the highest year-on-year increase, but there were notable rises in collections from broadcast retransmission, live concerts, cinema, and overseas. TONO noted that Norwegian music picked up considerable momentum abroad last year. Receipts from background music and casual music use also grew. Previously, the authors’ society had said the competition for customers in the background music segment had increased in recent years with providers of non-licensed music becoming more active. However, the level of competition lessened in 2017 and a new copyright act is set to clarify whether users of non-licensed services should be paying royalties.

Denmark country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed Denmark music industry report. Denmark is one of a small number of countries in Northern Europe that can be described as global leaders in the transition from music ownership to access. Although the country has a population of just 5.7 million and ranks in the lower part of the world’s top 20 music markets, the share of recorded-music sales from access services rivals most others. Streaming accounted for 85% of trade earnings from sales of physical and digital formats and services last year, and this share is expected to rise further as sales of physical formats and downloads fall away. UMG is the market share leader in Denmark, ahead of SME and WMG, enhancing its lead with a modest share rise. Royalty earnings collected by authors’ society KODA were boosted by retroactive TV collections that pushed the collection total above the DKK1bn mark for the first time. Performance rights society Gramex also reported a record year, and indications suggest Denmark’s live sector performed well in 2017.

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New issue of Music & Copyright

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

IFPI reports big rise in recorded-music trade sales
Global recorded-music trade earnings increased 8.1% last year, to $17.3bn, from $16.0bn in 2016, according to figures published by the IFPI. The rise marked the third consecutive year of growth since the IFPI began tracking the market in 1997. Revenue from digital formats and services increased 19.1%, to $9.4bn, from $7.9bn, while trade earnings from physical formats generated revenue of $5.2bn, down 5.4%, from $5.5bn. The rate of decline in physical format income was tempered by the ongoing revival of the vinyl format. Performance rights generated $2.4bn of revenue last year, up from $2.3bn in 2016, while synchronization earnings stood at $0.3bn.

Live streaming has a new champion in the making
Audiences have taken to watching live streams of performances at leading festivals and concert venues, with the likes of Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, and Live Nation among those embracing the format. To date, live-streaming efforts have been fairly piecemeal, and no single technology provider has emerged to own the space and push it forward. But this might be about to change, as ambitious provider LiveXLive continues to sign partnership deals with leading promoters. However, simple live streaming may not be enough to win over music fans in the long term; further innovation is needed to make it a highly engaging medium.

Three straight years of collection growth for SACEM
French collection society SACEM has reported a third successive year of growth in collections, with income and distributions both topping previous record levels. Domestic revenue and income from mandates all registered a year-on-year rise in 2017. Collections from broadcasting edged down, and mechanical receipts continued the downward trend, but royalty earnings from all the other main income sources registered growth. Moreover, in a repeat of both 2015 and 2016, private copying and online were the biggest gainers. In addition to the good year for collections, SACEM-member authors’ rights distributions also registered growth. The authors’ society noted that it restated its 2016 figures to reflect contractual changes with the mechanical rights society SDRM, which came into effect last year as part of a push to improve transparency in reporting.

Wolfgang’s Vault operators guilty of copyright infringement over streaming of iconic live recordings
A New York court has sided with some of the world’s biggest music publishers in a long running copyright infringement case involving the unlicensed download and streaming of a number of live performances by some of the world’s biggest artists. The service, Wolfgang’s Vault, has been buying up live audiovisual performances for several years and making them available on different websites. Although the service owners claimed to hold the correct mechanical licenses to distribute the recordings, the court decided otherwise and ruled that the service was guilty of copyright infringement. However, the court did not grant the publishers an injunction to shutter the websites. A future trial will determine if the copyright infringements were willful and set damages accordingly.

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New issue of Music & Copyright with South Africa country report

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

SoundCloud must put faith in its creators to survive and thrive
Germany-based SoundCloud has been involved in music streaming longer than sector leader Spotify, but to date it has been unable to turn an evident appetite for its “social” music services into a sustainable commercial operation. The company was forced into a major reorganization last year, losing a good chunk of staffers in the process. However, it also picked up a fresh cash injection and an experienced management team, which might be able to squeeze more value out of SoundCloud’s most valuable resource: its artists.

Australian Senate committee backs incremental approach to safe-harbor expansion
In December, the Australian Senate referred the newly introduced Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 to a committee for inquiry, with a view to reporting back with a recommendation in March. In short, the bill deals with the extension of the safe-harbor scheme to a broader range of service providers. As part of the inquiry process, the committee requested submissions from interested parties and then held a public hearing. The resulting report reviewed the bill and outlined the principal issues raised, along with the committee’s findings and a recommendation. Although the committee said the Senate should pass the bill, it said it agreed with the government’s decision to make an incremental expansion of the safe harbor scheme, so that it can continue to consult on how best to reform the scheme to apply to other online service providers.

Miley Cyrus the latest artist on the end of a lyrics plagiarism claim
Miley Cyrus has become the latest high-profile artist to be targeted by a copyright infringement claim. In March, Jamaican singer-songwriter Michael May accused the US performer, her songwriting and production team, and her record company and publisher of plagiarizing a short original lyric phrase that he created for his recording We Run Things. Although the phrase was altered slightly in the Cyrus track We Can’t Stop, May’s copyright infringement claim goes beyond simple copying, with accusations that Cyrus used cultural elements drawn from his track as a basis for her transformation as an artist and performer. May is reportedly claiming upwards of $300m in damages as well as an injunction preventing any further sales and performance of the Cyrus track.

South Africa country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed South Africa music industry report. South Africa is Africa’s biggest music market. Consumer spending on recorded music and live performance as well as royalty collections are significantly higher in the country than in any other market in the region. Despite its geographic location, South Africa more closely resembles a Western music market and has far more in common with many countries in Europe and North America than it does with its neighbors. Although this means per-capita spending on music is high compared with other African countries, the same problems encountered in the developed world in the shift from physical formats to digital and downloads to access, have been experienced in South Africa. Music piracy rates are extremely high and despite government promises to amend copyright laws and increase intellectual property rights protection, the piracy problem persists. But, although the rise in high-speed internet access has exacerbated problems associated with the unauthorized distribution of music, higher digital sales, rising smartphone penetration, and the rollout of several international streaming services suggests the market may well have a bright future.

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New issue of Music & Copyright with China country report

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

Spotify’s direct listing in New York sheds light on the company’s inner workings
After months of speculation, global on-demand audio streaming leader Spotify has finally filed all the necessary documentation with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) confirming its move to go public. The company will list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the next month or so under the symbol SPOT. Rather than go down the more common IPO route, Spotify decided on a direct listing and is not issuing new shares. Instead, existing shareholders will be free to sell their shares through brokerage transactions. As is the case with all listings, documents filed with the SEC lift the lid on previously unseen financial and operating metrics. This research note picks out some of the more interesting insights surrounding the financial standing of the service, its popularity, and what the details tell us about the wider music streaming market.

Musicautor celebrates 25th year with return to collections growth
Bulgarian authors’ society Musicautor has marked a quarter of a century of operations by recording a rise in collections. The three biggest sources of income – TV, radio, and general licensing – all registered growth last year, more than offsetting a drop in collections from retransmission, digital, and live concerts. In its business report, Musicautor noted difficulties associated with the administration of digital music rights and its inability to process reports from several of the major music services. Although the withdrawal of Anglo-American repertoire administration a few years ago by music publishers as part of their move to create pan-European licensing hubs hit digital collections, the lack of technical ability to process reports from the international digital platforms is a major challenge. General licensing revenue returned to growth after a decline the previous year, and mechanical collections grew sharply following the completion of a deal with the local producers’ association.

Brands get to grips with social change initiatives through live music
Brands have long supported live music events, but simply stumping up cash to sponsor a stage, festival tent, or bar has quickly became something of yesteryear with the onset of social media and more intimate B2C communications. However, racking up substantial online metrics only goes so far, and a number of brands are now looking to do good in the community and engage in social change initiatives through live music. This is a riskier strategy than simply hanging a banner over a stage, and brands need to make sure they choose their partners and social issues carefully.

China country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed China music industry report. China is the world’s most populous country, with close to 1.4 billion people. It is also home to the second-biggest economy. Last year saw the country’s economy grew 6.9%, the first time in seven years that annual growth has accelerated. The increase was also higher than the Chinese government’s forecast of 6.5%. In line with the optimism surrounding the economy, certain sections of China’s music industry are starting to show signs that it is living up to its long-held potential. In the past, there have been several false starts. More recently, though, glimmers of optimism look set to turn into real sales. The latest IFPI figures showed trade revenue registered healthy growth in 2016, after a big jump in earnings in the previous year. Aside from slight increases in minor digital formats, all the growth in the last few years has come from streaming. Ovum has estimated that growth continued last year, and more is set to come.

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New issue of Music & Copyright with India country report

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

Slowdown in streaming growth rates casts doubt on a return to the glory years
Later this year, global trade body the IFPI is set to report the most positive year for recorded-music sales this century. Audio subscriptions will undoubtedly be the star of the show, and the combination of subscription payments and advertising income will boost streaming to the top of the earnings pile. The continuing vinyl revival will soften the rate of decline in physical format revenue, but it’s a safe bet that audio subscriptions will have become the single biggest revenue source. The rise of the paid subscription from a niche revenue source just a few years ago is impressive, and the year-end record-company results have illustrated the importance of access services to the companies’ bottom lines. There are, however, signs that the big gains in streaming revenue are slowing. While it is certainly much too early to suggest that the access service bubble is anywhere near close to bursting, its rate of inflation is slowing down and could well become a cause for concern in the next year or so.

Positive year-end for Pandora as subscription gains drive revenue growth
Online radio and music subscription service Pandora has reported a positive end to its 2017 financial year. Revenue beat expectations, with higher subscriber earnings more than compensating for a flat year for advertising. Net losses for Pandora more than halved in the final quarter, although there was sizable growth in net losses for the full year. Although listener hours and the number of active listeners in the final quarter fell year on year, the number of paid subscribers increased. During the earnings call, Pandora’s senior executives commented that the proportion of its audience listening through voice-activated devices was growing sharply. Moreover, the company confirmed that plans were well on the way to expand beyond recorded music, with podcasts set to be added to its current range of audio content.

French recorded-music sales see second consecutive year of growth
French music trade association SNEP has reported a second straight year of growth for trade earnings from recorded-music sales. The rise marked only the third time in the last 10 years that trade sales have registered an uptick. Subscriptions and ad-supported streaming were the two growth sectors with sales of single track and album downloads falling sharply. In a repeat of 2016, the overall performance was buoyed by a modest dip in trade earnings from physical format sales with digital more than offsetting the physical losses. However, physical formats still accounted for the majority of trade revenue, and despite the streaming gains, concerns remain over the medium-term prospects for the French recorded-music sector should the rate of decline in CD album sales begin to accelerate.

India country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed India music industry report. India is one of a small number of countries often tagged as an emerging market with great potential to become a major market of the future. With the population ending last year at more than 1.3 billion and an economy that is growing steadily, tapping into what is a market ripe for exploitation is always high on the recorded-music industry’s list of priorities. However, despite the promise, India has so far failed to live up to its emerging tag, with positive results one year followed by poor sales the next. The biggest problem for the country is piracy. Retailers have always struggled to compete in a market flooded with illegal copies. Moreover, rising internet penetration brought with it increased access to unauthorized music distribution sites and services. Developments in the last year or so have suggested that streaming may be the way out of the piracy problem, but the road to prolonged higher sales and meaningful returns is likely to be a long one.

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New issue of Music & Copyright

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

EC backs blockchain with the rollout of Observatory and Forum
The European Commission (EC) has created the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum (BOF) to highlight key developments in blockchain technology and promote European stakeholders actively involved in blockchain activities. The BOF is set to work alongside established funding projects and research programs. Blockchain technology, on which cryptocurrency Bitcoin is built, is being held up by reformers in the music industry as a means of creating a fairer distribution system for content creators. Proponents say it could bring transparency to rights metadata, instant remuneration to artists, and new forms of monetization to music.

Appeals court orders new trial in Cox–BMG copyright infringement case
US ISP Cox Communications and music rights management company BMG must face each other again in a copyright dispute, following a decision by a Fourth Circuit panel of judges to remand for a new trial. Cox was sued for copyright infringement by music companies BMG and Round Hill Music in 2014. Round Hill was removed from the case on the grounds that the publisher had not proved exclusive ownership of the rights to the music cited as being infringed. A Virginia district court ruled at the end of 2015 that Cox was guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and awarded BMG $25m in damages. The ISP appealed the decision, but the district court dismissed the claim. Cox subsequently filed an appeal with the Fourth Circuit. That court has now upheld the district court’s decision that the ISP is not entitled to the safe harbor protection defense, but ruled that a new trial must be held because of certain errors in jury instructions.

New York court rules no copyright infringement in U2 plagiarism claim
A New York federal judge has ruled that U2 did not copy any part of English songwriter and performer Paul Rose’s track Nae Slappin for the creation of the band’s hit song The Fly. Rose had claimed that U2 had infringed his copyright by willfully copying fragments from his track to create a guitar solo for The Fly. However, the judge found that Rose did not plead a plausible claim of infringement and that his claims were too vague. The judge also said that no reasonable juror listening to the entirety of the two songs could find that they were similar. Most music plagiarism cases rarely reach court given the difficulties for authors in establishing whether another author has copied their work. Equally problematic is the cost of bringing cases to court, particularly given that an accused will often have significant resources with which to defend any claim.

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