Independent labels and artists had something extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
In a November 25, 2015 ruling, the U.S. Copyright Office made it clear that webcasting royalty rates for the period covering 2016-2020 would treat major and independent record labels the same, as has been the case since the the establishment of a public performance right for digital transmission of sound recordings. Last week’s decision, handed down by Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, is a response to the Copyright Royalty Board’s (CRB) question about whether the federal statute that provides for rate-setting (17 U.S. Code § 114) would permit different rates for majors and indies.
Every so often your pals at FMC take the weekend to do stuff like… make music. Seems like whenever we do, a major industry story breaks.
To wit: Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple regarding the “free trial” period for Apple Music, during which the 12th largest company in world decided it would not be paying royalties to artists and rightsholders.read more
If you’ve ever negotiated with bandmates about where to eat after a gig, you know that musicians can have strong—and sometimes divergent—opinions about a lot of different things. Expand that to the broader music community—which includes independent and major record labels, managers, advocacy groups, artist unions and fans—and it gets even more complex. (Are we still talking about grub? Kinda getting hungry ourselves.)read more
It used to be that big companies were able to define the parameters for debate about music industry issues, and make all the big decisions. What was good for corporate media and big money, we were told, was good for the artists, and for the music industry as a whole.
The desire to tell a more complete and accurate story centered on the needs and experiences of musicians was a big part of why Future of Music Coalition got started 14 years ago. By now, more people understand that the agendas of a handful of giant music companies may sometimes align with artists, but not always. In fact, these companies are very capable of misdirection when it benefits their bottom line. And tech companies don’t have a lot of experience working directly with artists, in part because the existing structures so often compel big-money negotiations with the major rightsholders. Today, we’re thrilled to see more and more artists speaking openly about the issues that impact their livelihoods. Independent labels are getting bolder too, in demanding fair treatment and respect for their different way of doing business.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held its second hearing on music licensing on June 25, welcoming input from a variety of interest groups and organizations as a continuation of the ongoing reexamination of our country’s copyright system. You can find our coverage of the prior hearing here.
Nine witnesses testified before the committee, offering opinions that varied in focus but all highlighted major areas of potential reform. Witnesses for this hearing included singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash representing the Americana Music Association, Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA), Charles Warfield on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Darius Van Arman on behalf of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Ed Christian of the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), Paul Williams as President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Chris Harrison of Pandora, President of SoundExchangeMichael Huppe, and David Frear, CFO of Sirius XM.
There’s a reason FMC is so often aligned with independent labels: this community, representing a diverse array of genres and business models, typically does right by artists. Today’s news that more than 700 indies are backing fair treatment of musicians is further proof that indies have a different way of doing business than major labels.
Independent imprints including Domino, Cooking Vinyl, Epitaph, Glassnote, Nettwerk, Ninja Tune, Secretly Canadian, Saddle Creek, Sub Pop, Tommy Boy, XL Recordings and the Beggars Group (which includes indie powerhouses 4AD, Matador and Rough Trade) and many more signed on to the “Fair Digital Deals Declaration,” a commitment by the labels to treat artists fairly and equitably on today’s digital distribution platforms.
“At this point, many of us are looking for a positive outcome after the contentious battle that was SOPA. For music companies, getting intermediaries like ISPs to take on some responsibilities in addressing user behavior is probably more cost effective and less brand-damaging than other enforcement tactics. For musicians, it comes down to whether the policy helps protect their rights without compromising what they find useful about the internet. With CAS, we’ll probably have to wait-and-see.”
In fact, the system seems to have had some impact on infringement without taking an overly punitive approach. We’ve waited for over a year now to see results, and it looks as if CAS might actually be working, though success remains a matter of definition. For example, a decrease in piracy may also have a lot to do with an increase in legitimate services where convenience and attractive price points converge. On the other hand, the “educational” focus of CAS may play a role in driving users to licensed platforms.
Digital Music News recently ran an article called "The Gray Art of Counting Indie Sales," which underlined the confusion of tallying purchases of downloads or CDs based on the music's "independent" classification. According to the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), 32 percent of album sales in 2008 came from independent artists, but Nielsen Soundscan puts that number at 12.8 percent. Part of the difficulty in differentiating between an indie and a major the fact that many indie labels enter deals with distribution companies owned by the majors, such as ADA (95% owned by Warner) or Fontana (owned by Universal). read more