Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

Representing the artist that would otherwise not have a voice

Category: Music Distribution

Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’: A Complete Timeline

Last week was a big one for Taylor Swift. From swiping her social media accounts clean on Aug. 18 to shattering records across the board with her newest single “Look What You Made Me Do,” the evolving pop star’s road to Reputation has been a mix of suspense, excitement, and controversy.

With such a jam-packed 10-day period for one superstar — and the potential for another No. 1 Taylor Swift hit — Billboard wanted to lay out everything that’s happened with Swift in the midst of her latest release. Find a complete timeline below.

August 18: Taylor Swift wipes her social media accounts clean, with all photos and posts on her Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr deleted. The singer also deletes the avatar picture and header for her Twitter and Facebook pages, which she later replaces with promotional pictures for Reputation.

It’s also on this day that a visit to her official website reveals a blank, black screen in place of her usual promotional and tour information. Fans note that it was exactly three years ago on this date that Swift released her single “Shake It Off” and announced the release of her fifth album 1989, igniting further speculation that new music was on the way.

August 21-23: Over the span of three consecutive days, Swift begins posting ominous short video clips of snakes to her social media accounts, with none of the posts offering more information with a caption. Fans immediately find the snakes to be an allusion to the Kardashian-Swift feud that became public on National Snake Day (July 17) last year. The initial post included only an image of a snake-like tail, the second featuring a coiled snake body, and the third finally revealing the animal’s face.

August 23: After more than a week of mysterious signals, Swift officially announces that the first single from her upcoming album will be released the following night, simultaneously announcing the official release date to be Nov. 10. Her Instagram posts reveal the grungy cover art for her album.

August 24: Kim Kardashian seemingly blocks the snake emoji from her Instagram accounts as Swift’s impending release triggered snake-filled comments on her tweets and Instagram posts.

August 25:  “Look What You Made Me Do,” the first single off of Reputation, is released along with an animated lyric music video. The lyric video, which parodies the animation style of the opening credits for Ryan Murphy’s FX anthology Feud: Bette and Joan, breaks the record for the most-watched lyric video within 24 hours of its release. The video breaks the record previously held by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay for “Something Like This,” with an initial 19 million views. The video has now amassed more than 48 million views at press time.

August 27: Swift debuts the official music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” on the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, which was immediately released on YouTube after its premiere. Following the popularity of the earlier-released lyric video, the music video breaks the record for the most watched music video within 24 hours of its release, garnering 43.2 million views in its first day — surpassing Adele’s 27.7 million with her “Hello” video. The visual has since been watched almost 60 million times as of press time.

August 28: Since its release, the single lands itself at No. 77 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (dated Sept. 9) after only 3 days of air-play. However, it’s predicted to soar to No. 1on next week’s Hot 100.

 

Music Industry Will Hit $41 Billion By 2030

A Goldman Sachs analyst forecasted that streaming will account for $34 billion of the total revenues.

The global recorded music industry will grow into a nearly $41 billion behemoth by 2030, thanks largely to the growth of streaming, according to Goldman Sachs analyst Lisa Yang and her team.

The Goldman Sachs analyst further predicts that streaming will account for $34 billion of that, of which $28 billion will come from paid subscription while $6 billion will come from ad-supported streaming services. She predicts that another $4 billon will come from performance rights, synchronization will be $500 million, physical and downloads $700 million and other come in at $1.2 billion.

The report further states that thanks to the explosion of streaming, the Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment should carry hefty valuations. Both companies are themselves not listed in the stock market, but the shares of their parents, respectively Vivendi and Sony. Corp., are publicly traded.

Looking at the Universal Music Group, Yang assigns a valuation of 19.5 billion euros, which according to the OandA website, converts to $23.3 billion; while she says that her estimates for Sony Music Entertainment’s performance suggests a valuation of 2.16 trillion yen or $19.8 billion.

Looking at UMG, Yang breaks out her estimates for that company, which helped derive its valuation. In the Goldman Sachs report, she estimates UMG’s revenue at 12.6 billion euros  ($15.05 billion) by 2030 (that’s twice its current level), of which 1.58 billion euros ($1.89 billion) will be from publishing; 9.3 billion euros ($11.11 billion) from streaming; 1.1 billion euros $1.3 billion) from artist services and music licensing; 500 million euros ($597 million) from merchandising and 150 million euros ($179.2 million) from physical and download sales.

In 2016, U.S. recorded music sales were up by double digits for the first time in nearly 20 years to 11.4 percent with $7.65 billion in revenue, according to the RIAA. That was up from $6.87 million in 2015. Although the music business showed signs of a recovery at the half-year mark, the 2016 year-end results show more significant growth, led by streaming revenue. This was the first time since 1998 that the U.S industry experienced a double digit increase in overall revenue.

How Streaming IS Changing the Sound of Pop Music

In 2015 the U.S. music industry made more money from streaming than from CDs or digital downloads. Streaming platforms now boast more than 100 million paying subscribers worldwide. And the popularity of these services continues to rise, with more than one trillion plays logged last year alone. The times, they are a-changin’.

In case you haven’t noticed, the way we consume music is shifting—and that is impacting artists. (We’ve all seen the pitiful royalty statements and scathing op-eds. And who could forget Taylor Swift’s epic 2015 fallout with Apple Music? But amidst all this talk, no one’s mentioned how the rise of streaming will affect the actual sound of pop music. Streaming will change not only the way pop music is consumed but also the way it’s created. This shift will likely redefine what future hit records sound like. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. There’s always been a close-knit relationship between music, medium, and distribution. For proof, just look to the past.

Built for Radio

In the 1960s, Motown built records for radio. Short songs allowed for the regular interjection of ads, and long intros gave DJs the freedom to talk over tracks. During the 1980s, the dawn of the CD gave way to longer-form content. The length of an average album increased from 40 minutes to well more than an hour. And since it was no longer important to maintain the integrity of vinyl grooves, records started sporting more low end and louder levels. Is it any surprise that hip-hop emerged as a dominant genre during this time? During the 2000s, Apple’s decision to unbundle the album and offer single-track downloads on iTunes shifted the trajectory of the music industry once again. After an album-oriented trend that lasted decades, singles once again became the primary focus.

Along the way, our listening habits evolved too. As on-demand, à-la-carte platforms like iTunes and Spotify emerged, attention spans narrowed. Even I can’t remember the last time I listened to an album from start to finish. Today, music discovery is like mining for gold. We cherry-pick the best songs off albums, curate playlists of our favorite tracks, and ignore the rest. And once we start listening, we’re more impatient than ever. In fact, there’s nearly a 50-percent chance you’ll skip a song before it’s over. Why suffer through a dull bridge, an uninspired outro, or your favorite artist’s “deep cuts?” You’ve got places to be!

Today’s music makers have evolved to serve this ever-changing audience. As long-form content has given way to singles, concept albums have become relics of yesteryear. Albums are now more likely to serve as repositories for singles. And while we may feel nostalgic for iconic albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon, Thriller, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, there isn’t much of an incentive to create their modern-day equivalents.

An Emphasis on Sales

However, throughout the history of the music business, the goal has always remained the same: Encourage listeners to purchase records. The music industry as we know it was built to inspire these one-off transactions, and the traditional pop music-making process evolved to follow suit. Infectious, hook-heavy records were crafted to drive listeners to checkout aisles. The biggest hits seemed inescapable for a month or two, but often disappeared as quickly as they emerged. But as far as the music industry was concerned, this was irrelevant. Once a purchase was made, it didn’t matter whether a record was listened to or not. As long as people bought the CD or downloaded the song, labels were happy.

But streaming has completely changed the game. For the first time, financial success is no longer based on onetime sales, but rather on ongoing play. The more a track is played, the bigger the payout. The implications of this shift are massive. In fact, it’s likely to disrupt the entire music business yet again.

On streaming platforms, flash-in-the-pan tracks that burn bright and fade fast are less lucrative than ever. Current per-stream payouts are nothing to write home about, and these tracks won’t stick around long enough to produce meaningful returns. But payouts will continue to rise, and future plays will be worth much more than they are today. And so the most profitable pop songs will burrow their way into the hearts of listeners, inspiring millions of streams for years to come. In fact, the biggest hits may even increase in value as time goes on.

This shift introduces a powerful new incentive to foster deeper, longer-lasting relationships with listeners. While tracks still need to be hook-laden enough to inspire an immediate connection, they must also be worth listening to hundreds, if not thousands of times. Gone are the days when an artist could stuff an album with filler and rely on the strength of a single to drive sales. Today, there’s nowhere to hide. Songs are evaluated on an individual basis, and their success is determined by merit alone. Artists with the ability to master the long game will win. One-hit-wonders won’t stand a chance.

Loudness War Truce

Evolution in streaming technology will also affect the sound of pop music. For example, most streaming platforms now automatically adjust the volume of different tracks so they play back at an equal level. This seemingly inconsequential feature will likely end a decades-long arms race known as the “loudness war,” where artists and labels compete to release the loudest records. Without any incentive to crush tracks, records will be mixed and mastered at much more conservative levels. And this means they’ll have more punch, impact, and dynamics—and sound better!

But what will the pop hits of the future actually sound like? We can only guess. As terrestrial radio continues to become less relevant, arrangements and song structures will likely become more fluid. New, innovative mediums may even emerge. Who says a recording has to offer the same experience with every play? What if tracks evolved over time? What if, after 100 plays, a bonus verse emerged? As play count becomes a dominant metric for measuring the success of tracks, ideas like these are ripe for exploration.

And the impact of streaming will extend far beyond the music-making process. It will have a profound effect on the way music is marketed and promoted as well. In a world where a sale is no longer the goal, there’s less of a need to build up hype before an album’s release. In fact, some artists are already abandoning traditional album releases entirely. Beyoncé dropped her last two albums without any prior promotion whatsoever. As more listeners adopt streaming platforms, artists will need to find new ways to foster longer-lasting, more consistent levels of engagement with their audience.

If any of this leaves you feeling discouraged or intimidated, keep your chin up. I’m optimistic about the impact streaming will ultimately have on the music industry. I believe it will usher in a new era of artistic innovation, and foster deeper, closer connections between artists and their listeners. And some things will always remain the same. Exceptional artists with something unique and special to say will stay in high demand. Great songs will still rise to the top. But one thing’s for sure—as streaming becomes the dominant platform for music consumption, the sound of pop music will undoubtedly change. Will you change with it?

 

6 Steps to Streaming Success on Spotify

Whether you like it or not, there’s no denying that the music streaming industry is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. With Spotify recently hitting a new milestone of 30 million subscribers, we think it’s a wise decision for all independent artists and labels to strengthen their presence on the service.

To help, we’ve compiled these six super easy action items that we’re confident will make a difference in your success on Spotify. Try them out!

1. “On air, on Spotify”

If your music is “on air” – meaning on the radio, YouTube, SoundCloud, or anywhere else online — it should be available to stream on Spotify. This way, you’re both monetizing your music and encouraging playlist adds and profile follows for continued listening.

2. Verify your profile

By verifying your profile (similarly to Twitter), you have the ability to directly communicate with your fans and be highlighted with Spotify’s check of approval. These profiles not only show off an artist’s discography but also house your tour dates, merchandise, biography, photos, and allow you to toggle over to view your playlists on your user profile. A verified profile allows you to communicate with your fans within Spotify through the Spotify Social and Discover feeds, and in-­client messaging. Every time a new piece of content is released ­(new single, EP, album), your fans get a push notification, and every time you add tracks to your playlist, all followers of that playlist will get notified.

To sign up for a verified page, simply fill out the Spotify Verification Request form.

3. Use Spotify as a promotional channel

Think of Spotify as a social network that allows you to monetize your own content in a creative, promotional way. On Spotify, you can gain a follower base, which in turn becomes a promotional channel­. Your Spotify followers receive notifications about updates to your content and your listening habits. Sharing your Spotify profile across your artist properties and socials will drive fans to follow you on Spotify, and allow you to engage in conversations with your fans.

Here are some practical ways to grow your Spotify followers:

  • Follow artists you like to help your fans discover the music you’re listening to.
  • Create and share your playlists.
  • Share across external social networks and encourage conversation when sharing (i.e. ask your fans which tracks they’re into).
  • Share single tracks and albums you’re listening to, and ask fans which playlists you should follow.
  • Add Spotify links to YouTube and other video descriptions.
  • Add the Spotify Follow Button to your website to allow fans to follow you in an easy single click without leaving your website.

4. Create quality playlists

Similar to how a DJ would curate a mix for a radio station or club, streaming services use playlists as an easy way to share tracks and promote discovery.

Keep these tips in mind when creating your playlists:

  • Ensure your account is never empty, and that you have at ­least 1­2 public playlists available.
  • Focus on one playlist –­ choose one to maintain, and add to consistently.
  • Adding tracks on a regular basis is key. The more frequent the adds and the bigger the playlist, the better. Each time you update your playlist, it will appear in fans’ Discover feeds, and followers of the playlist will be notified.
  • Share it. Actively clicking “share” ensures you reach your fans. You’ll find the “share” button towards the top of each page, or right click (cmd+click on Mac) any title to copy and paste the link to be shared across other social platforms.
  • Share with messages: Include text when you share to help your story stand out.
  • Listen to music from your Spotify account. You’ll appear in the live ticker feed (on the right side of the Spotify client), and you’ll generate stories through Discover.
  • Add themed playlists. Once you’ve grown one playlist, add more niche, smaller playlists around certain events or themes.

5. Put the Spotify Play Button on your website

Spotify provides a quick and easy embeddable code that you can put on your website so that your fans can listen to your playlists and discography. By putting this Spotify Play Button on your website or Tumblr, your fans can listen to your music while continuing to engage with your site.

To get the button: just right click on the playlist, track or album on Spotify and select “Copy Embed Code.” This copies the link to your clipboard. Then, paste the code into your website and the Spotify Play Button will show up on your site.

6. Track your metrics

Next Big Sound provides free up-to-date analytics for artists. When you log in, you can see your growth in followers, streaming data, and the effects of your social media campaigns. You’ll be able to track how all of these best practices grows your streams and revenue.

Apply to see your Spotify data here, and read this overview for a full breakdown of how to use Next Big Sound.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

Kickstarter Has Helped Create 300,000 Jobs!

Is crowdfunding changing the world?  Apparently it is making a difference.  A new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found that crowdfunding site Kickstarter has created over 8,800 companies since launching, and with it 29,600 full-time jobs and 283,000 part-time ones. Professor Ethan Mollick examined 61,654 successful Kickstarter projects from 2009 thru 2015 and found that the site has generated $5.3 billion for creators and their communities.

“Successful crowdfunding projects have implications that go beyond the interactions of the backers and creators who participate in projects,” Mollick writes. “Crowdfunding campaigns lead to new organizations that ultimately generate billions in non-crowdfunding revenue and have hired thousands of employees.”

According to Mollick’s research, two- thirds of Kickstarter projects were created by individuals, with the rest coming from teams of mostly friends. A plurality of creators were between ages 25-34, though the average is 38, with 41 percent of the creators being female.

For musicians using Kickstarter, only 5 percent said that their projects helped “a lot” in securing a record deal, with 8 percent for publishing deals and 5 percent regarding distribution deals. That said, over 53 percent of respondents reported that their campaign helped “a lot” in owning the rights to their work, and 14.5 percent said it helped when going on tour.

“While it is not possible in this study to compare the e ciency of crowdfunding to other methods of encouraging entrepreneurship or subsidizing creative work, it is clear that, overall, the money raised from campaigns leads to positive returns across a variety of measures,” Mollick concluded.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

Album Sales Sink to Historic Lows — But People Are Listening More Than Ever

It’s the worst year (so far) for music sales since the 1991 debut of SoundScan (now Nielsen Music). Album sales, including track-equivalent albums (TEA, whereby 10 track sales equal one album unit) are down 16.9 percent in the rst half of this year. But sales figures no longer tell the whole story of the record business.

First, let’s bottom-line those disappearing sales. Album units overall fell 13.6 percent, with 100.3 million total sales. The compact disc continued to crumble, losing 11.6 percent and moving 50 million. Digital album sales fell to 43.8 million, from 53.7 million in the first half of last year.

Vinyl sales continued to move up and to the right, growing 11.4 percent, to 6.2 million. New album releases have been most affected by the continued contraction, falling 20.2 percent overall, to 44.1 million units. Catalog albums fell “just” 7.7 percent, to 56.2 million.

Track sales also dropped, to 404.3 million units from 531.6 million units. Current track sales are leading the descent; songs released in the last 18 months saw sales fall nearly 40 percent. Catalog, again, saw a much smaller dip, down 6.4 percent to 236.6 million units.

Listeners streamed 208.9 billion songs (which translates to 139.2 million album units) between January and now (July 6), an increase of 58.7 percent. Of that 208.9 billion, 113.6 billion were audio-only, versus 95.3 billion video streams (defined as a music video view on YouTube, Vevo, Tidal and Apple Music — of which the latter two contribute a very small piece). It’s the first time audio has surpassed lower-paying video streams.

What’s that all mean?

Billboard estimates total U.S. revenue at $1.98 billion so far this year, versus $1.82 billion last year, an corresponding 8.9 percent increase. However, the rate that Billboard uses to estimate the revenue generated by streaming ($0.0063 per song), which is clearly a central part of the revenue estimate, has been disputed as too high by some indie labels.

Drake is clearly the year’s winner so far. The rapper’s newest album, Views, sold 2.61 million total units — 1.3 million album sales; 317,000 track- equivalent albums and 979,000 stream-equivalent albums (SEA, whereby 1,500 streams equal one album unit).

Drake has the year’s best-selling digital album, at 1.4 million units moved. David Bowie’s  Vinyl record, Blackstar, sold nearly 57,000 LPs, making it the year’s best-selling vinyl album.  Flo Rida’s “My House,” with 1.95 million track sales, is the best-selling song of the year and just one of 16 total songs to sell over a million so far (27 had hit that mark by this time last year — six of those had tipped 2 million). The year’s top 200 tracks have scanned 83.8 million units in total.

The most common place for people to purchase albums and songs was, unsurprisingly, at digital retailers, which captured 43.7 percent of the album market (and which, obviously, saw overall sales decline by 18.4 percent, to 43.8 million album units). Surprisingly, “non- traditional” CD retailers, like Amazon and supermarkets, saw an 8.3 percent growth in sales.

Executives that Billboard spoke to at the end of 2015 pointed, in no shock, to streaming as the main culprit in the sales cull, particularly song sales. And streaming is booming.

For the year, total album consumption — which includes TEA, SEA and overall album units — totaled 279.9 million units in the first half of 2016, up 8.9 percent, clearly driven by streaming.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

Publishing Industry Expresses Confusion, Concern Over Dept. of Justice Copyright Decision

For over two years, music publishers and songwriters have petitioned the Dept. of Justice for changes to the 75-year-old copyright rules they were governed by, requesting amendments in order to stave off dwindling royalty rates caused, in their view, by antiquated U.S. government regulations. last week, in a decision one executive said would result in a “a clusterf—k of epic proportions,” the DoJ announced that it would instead impose further rules on music publishers and songwriters — all who now fear a further recession for their royalties.

In addition to refusing to amend the consent decree to allow partial withdrawals for music publishers from ASCAP and BMI’s blanket licenses, the DoJ ruled that the consent decree requires those performance rights organizations (PROs) to engage in what’s known as “100 percent licensing” for songs with multiple songwriters — meaning a music licensee only needs a license from just one of the songwriters to utilize a song, instead of each of them. That’s in contrast to the traditional fractional licensing — which has up to now been the backbone of the music publishing industry — whereby rights holders can only approve usage of their portion of a work.

One possibly litigious result of the ruling could involve a songwriter going to court for all of the royalties for a song they co-wrote, potentially insisting that they should be disbursing those royalties to their co-writers, not whoever licensed the work. Another case involves songs built brick-by-brick, especially sample-based music — those works could potentially fall outside of the blanket licenses. Yet another: Works where there is an agreement between the songwriters that certain co-writers will not be allowed to license that work, forcing PROs to determine whether those agreements are in place and exclude the exempted co-writers from any blanket license.

The DoJ is said to be giving ASCAP and BMI one year to prepare for the shift to 100 percent licensing. If ASCAP and BMI choose not to adopt 100 percent licensing, the DoJ could file suit against them on antitrust grounds — the reason for the consent decrees initially — leaving a court to decide whether the PROs were in violation. Sources suggest that ASCAP and BMI’s rate court judges, the people responsible for setting statutory license fees, also have to sign off on the DoJ’s interpretation.

“The DoJ decision is very disappointing; it places unnecessary burdens on an already highly regulated marketplace, further impacting the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of songwriters,” BMG U.S. president of creative and marketing Laurent Hubert said in a statement on the decision.

Beyond lower royalties, music publishers and songwriters also fear that the new decision will fundamentally change the way music publishing has operated for 100 years. The DoJ’s decision “is going to cause a tremendous amount of uncertainty and chaos in a marketplace that has worked well… and will adversely impact everyone in the licensing process, including PROs, licensees, music publishers and most of all songwriters, who can ill-afford to hire lawyers to figure out their rights under this inexplicable ruling,” Sony/ATV chairman and CEO Martin Bandier said in a statement. “The decision raises more questions than answers.” Sony/ATV has been one of two majors leading the charge to get the consent decree amended.

“We are disappointed with the DoJ’s recommendation, which after years of hard work and discussion brings us no closer to much-needed consent decree reform than when we started,” BMI president and CEO Mike O’Neill said in an internal e-mail to his staff. “Instead, the DoJ chose to address only the issue of 100 percent licensing, a concept we never raised and one that the marketplace has worked out on its own over the last half-century.”

At ASCAP, CEO Elizabeth Matthews, writing on the organization’s website, addressed the organization’s songwriter members. “We want you to know that while the DoJ has expressed their views, this is not the final outcome of this process. ASCAP strongly disagrees with the DoJ’s position, and we are carefully considering all of our options, including potential legislative and legal remedies.”

Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, the other major publisher pushing for changes to the consent decrees, wrote in an internal email to staff obtained by Billboard that her company’s management “believes that the DoJ’s decision is bad for songwriters, and we are deeply disappointed. The DoJ not only declined to update consent decrees that haven’t been updated in over a decade and badly need to be modernized for today’s market, but they also decided that ASCAP and BMI must engage in ‘100 percent’ licensing.” She predicted that 100 percent licensing will lead to “unfair prices that do not reflect the true value of the music that our songwriters create. It will also provide a disincentive to songwriters to work with fellow writers who are signed with a different PRO.”

Tim Nichols, a co-writer of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” alongside Craig Wiseman, echoed Gerson’s concern in a statement. Nichols writes that he and Wiseman “belong to different PROs, and if 100 percent licensing had been in effect, I’m not sure we would have written that song. You would really be stepping all over writing relationships that are based on special creative chemistry.”

“This determination is completely inconsistent with the manner in which ASCAP and BMI have issued public performance licenses,” writes Warner/Chappell CEO Jon Platt in a statement released today (Jul 5), “It is especially alarming that the DOJ has come to this determination despite the overwhelming concerns expressed by ASCAP, BMI, NMPA, publishers, songwriters and even the U.S. Copyright Office.”

Meanwhile, National Songwriters Association president Lee Thomas Miller, in a statement, called the DoJ decision “unimaginable and the worst possible outcome” for songwriters. “Earlier this year in Washington, D.C., I explained to DoJ that our profession was already decimated, and that mandating 100 percent licensing could put the final nail in our coffin. I am stunned and sickened.”

Yet not everyone is so starkly disapproving. Public Knowledge, which positions itself as an advocate for both consumers and musicians, says it is pleased with the DoJ’s stance.

“It appears that the Department has agreed with our view that antitrust protections should not be removed at a time when the music publishing industry is more concentrated than ever,” says Public Knowledge’s Raza Panjwani in a statement. “The state of the marketplace, and recent bad behavior by the publishers, have made it clear that granting the music publishers the changes they requested would serve as a green light for additional abuse.”

Many music licensees, like the digital streaming services, agree with the DoJ’s view, arguing that the industry has been operating under 100 percent licensing all along. One streaming service executive goes so far as to say the DoJ ruling changes nothing. “As far as we are concerned, we have been operating under 100 percent licensing, because both the ASCAP and BMI license says that if you have one you can play any song in their repertoire,” he says. “The license doesn’t say you can only play their share.”

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

How to Get Your Music Into YouTube Content ID

Whenever YouTube describes its efforts to fight back against copyright infringement and discourage misuse, it’s always quick to point to its Content ID system.

Content ID is the system, first rolled out in 2008 and extended to music in 2010, through which rightsholders are able to upload their content to a database that YouTube then uses to match against works uploaded to the site by third-party users. When the system detects a match, the rightsholder can then choose what to do with it, including simply tracking the content, monetizing the claim or, if desired, blocking the video outright.

This system is powerful, and has allowed some artists and rightsholders an additional degree of agency. It’s also been the subject of a number of controversies, both among artists and YouTube users, with the latter launching a campaign that forced YouTube to make adjustments to the system.

But despite controversy, Content ID is still a potentially useful tool for any musician or record label. The ability to control and/or monetize music on YouTube is powerful; different artists working in different genres with different business models and varying assumptions about the scale of their audience will find it makes sense to use the tool in different ways. For the lucky artists who rack up huge play counts, monetization could add up to a meaningful revenue stream. Other artists will focus on using Content ID solely to prevent infringing content from appearing on YouTube, encouraging their fans to listen in ways that are more remunerative. Still others may take a case-by-case approach.

However, not every artist has the same range of choices. YouTube doesn’t make it abundantly clear how to join Content ID. Its copyright page, for example, shows how to file a takedown notice and how to dispute a Content ID claim, but doesn’t clearly lay out how a creator can get her work included in the automated detection system.

Fortunately, there is an application process. However, for many artists or small independent labels, direct access to Content ID may still not be made available, depending on their circumstances.

Is your work already in Content ID?

Some musicians may be surprised to find that their work is already included in Content ID. If you release recordings with a label that works with a digital distributor, your recordings may already be in the database. (Sometimes, artists find this out the hard way when they receieve a copyright notice on their own YouTube Channel).

Unfortunately, it may not be easy to obtain the actual terms of the deal governing the use of your work. Such deals are typically covered under non-disclosure agreements, so we’re not even allowed to look at them, but anecdotally their terms seem to vary—with different deals offered to major labels, independents working through the licensing body Merlin, or the many unaffilliated artists out there. This is one area where you should insist on transparency from your commercial partners. It is important to be proactive with your label and/or distributor and make your wishes known about how, when, and whether you’d like third-party uploads of your work to appear on YouTube. You may have more options than they’ve told you about.

Applying for Content ID

To find where to apply for Content ID, you have to dig through YouTube’s help files. Eventually though, you’ll land on this Content Identification Application, which is the first step to joining Content ID.

The form itself is fairly straightforward, asking for contact information, details on the types of and amount of copyrighted content you control and your reasons for wanting to join Content ID.

However, filling out the application is no guarantee that you will be accepted into Content ID. As YouTube says, “Content ID acceptance is based on an evaluation of each applicant’s actual need for the tools. Applicants must be able to provide evidence of the copyrighted content for which they control exclusive rights.”

In short, if YouTube either doesn’t feel the tool is a good fit for you or that you have not provided adequate evidence of exclusive rights, that it will reject your application. It’s a little odd that YouTube thinks it’s in a better position than you to determine whether you “actually need” this tool, and their criteria for evaluation are frustratingly vague. In the context of bigger debates about the widespread problem of infringing content on YouTube, citing Content ID as a comprehensive solution looks dubious when access to those tools aren’t available equally to creators big and small.

As far as we can tell, the application process tends to favor larger rightsholders, those with thousands of individual songs in their catalogs. This makes a certain amount of sense, since rightsholders that are accepted into the program are required to comply with technical actions such as uploading the content, providing the proper metadata for Content ID’s CMS and so forth. And it’s understandable that YouTube would want to be somewhat careful about who they let into the system. Content ID’s effectiveness would certainly be compromised if a flood of people were empowered to use an automated system to claim ownership of stuff that isn’t theirs. (On the other hand, they’ve already got a flood of clueless uploaders writing “I do not own this; no copyright intended!” so there is some asymmetry to consider here.)

Those who don’t “qualify,” for whatever reason, are often sent to alternative services, such as YouTube Content Verification Program, which is aimed at helping copyright holders expedite takedown notices against infringing uploads. But that’s not a satisfactory alternative for artists and rightsholders who see their stuff being used without permission and are frustrated that a takedown of one link doesn’t prevent a new link of the same infringing content to be repopulated by another user.

As a result, many independent rightsholders that are eager to join Content ID end up taking an alternate approach to signing up, one that involves working with a middleman.

YouTube Partner Services

YouTube Partner Services are companies that act as an intermediary, briding the gap between smaller creators and YouTube’s Content ID system. This approach is recommended by ASCAP for performing songwriters who want to participate in Content ID and continue to collect royalties through their PRO.

The idea is straightforward. Partner companies work with a large number of smaller creators and manage their YouTube Content ID for them, handling both technological and legal hurdles. In exchange, they take a percentage of the revenue, usually between 15% and 30%.

Some examples include AudiamAdRev, Vydia and ONErpm. These services are often paired with other distribution assistance, such as making your music available to streaming music services or digital download storefronts.

However, it’s important to note that, when these services work with Content ID, they tend to focus (almost exclusively) on monetization, not removal. As such, musicians that go through partner services often don’t gain an ability to use Content ID to take down unwanted videos, and, in some cases, may lose a portion of their revenue on their own channels.

So far, the only services that we’ve been able to confirm that allow musicians to take down unauthorized copies if they choose are AudiamExploration.io and Believe Digital, and ONErpm, and even with these, you may need to make a special request to be able to block or mute unauthorized uploads.

Failing to give creators the full range of tools is a serious weakness for many partner companies. Still, for independent musicians eager to take advantage of Content ID monetization, a partner service is likely the easiest path. Just read any contracts that are signed very closely and be aware of any rights that you are giving up and for how long you are doing so.

Conclusions

When it comes to Content ID, there is very little that is simple. Everything about the process including signing up, uploading work, making claims and dealing with appeals is, in its own way, complicated. And like too many parts of the music business, it lacks transparency, and seems oriented to deal with the needs of the bigger commercial players.

Yet there is some real potential here if the tools are made available to the full range of creators. Detection technology is still relatively new, and all companies that offer such tools should prioritize inclusivity, transparency, and accessibility, whether it’s Content ID or competing systems like Audible Magic.

 

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter