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CMU@TGE: The data pioneers – Niclas Molinder, Auddly

By | Published on Wednesday 15 June 2016

Niclas Molinder

Look out for insights, advice and viewpoints dished out at this year’s CMU Insights @ The Great Escape conference here in the CMU Daily throughout June. This week, some of the takeaways from the data focused strand.

In another of our on-stage interviews as part of the TGE data strand, CMU’s Chris Cooke spoke to songwriter and producer Niclas Molinder in his guise as co-founder of the music-making project management tool Auddly, which counts Max Martin, Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus and Avicii as investors.

Throughout the day, we heard about the importance of good music rights data in ensuring that royalties flow through the chain as they should. However, a key place that data is often provided incorrectly – or not provided at all – is right at the start of the process, when a song is written. This can then lead to royalties being delayed or lost down the line, and disputes arising.

“Seven years ago I started a publishing company, because me and my partner found three really talented songwriters and we signed them”, said Molinder. “I wanted information from the three writers that I had signed. I needed to know who they wrote with, the name of the songs, and the [copyright ownership] splits. For three guys. It was impossible to get that data, and when it was time for payments, they complained that they didn’t get paid enough”.

The frustrations of those songwriters grew from the lack of decent data at the outset, he said. “So I realised I needed a system for this. But also that that system wasn’t going to work, for songwriters, if it involved Excel sheets, or email, or SMS, or even face to face conversations. So, that’s the background. I wanted to create a simple tool for creators – the creators that are the only ones on this planet that know the truth about any one song, because they created it”.

“I’ve done thousands of co-writes over the years, and I’ve said to myself before every session that I’m not going to leave this room without discussing the split”, he added, explaining why the necessary information often isn’t available. “Yet I have never discussed the split in the room, because I’m dancing on the table, drinking wine, thinking that I wrote the next number one hit”.

He continued: “The second the writers leave the room, the split is based on expectations. It’s common today that the publishers handle the split discussions. And I’m fine with that, but I want to create an environment where everything is transparent. So, if another writer’s publisher is negotiating the split with me, I want to make sure that the writer is also involved in the discussion”.

As it currently stands, though, that discussion often comes far too late. “I’ve seen the same pattern over and over again for more than eighteen years”, said Molinder. “We write a song today and that song is definitely not going to be on Spotify or YouTube or Apple tomorrow. It’s going to take at best six months, but sometimes years”.

“When the song is about to get released, the whole industry – publishers, labels, PROs – everyone’s screaming for the data, who did what, where and when. And you go back to the songwriter months or years later and ask who did what. But they don’t remember what they did yesterday. So that’s the reason that we need to collect that data at source when it happens in the studio”.

And that’s what Auddly enables. Although it’s not quite as simple as all that. The software enables collaborating songwriters (or artists and producers) to organise and chat about their collaboration. As part of that process, it then ensures that the songwriters input who the co-writers on any one song are, as well as its title and the royalty splits they have agreed to.

In the background, Auddly also verifies who the songwriters are via the IPI (Interested Parties Information) codes and creates a CRW (Common Works Registration) file – the standard file format used for registering songs – which it then sends to the publisher or publishers involved.

The next stage, said Molinder, is for the company to become a registered ISWC agent with CISAC – which administers the song code identification standards – so that the software can also generate and send a unique identifier for the song that has just been created, along with all the other information.

“One thing I’ve learned after eighteen years in the music industry is that it’s so political”, he said. “You need to follow the political routes. I support blockchain, I support all the new upcoming systems or databases, but I realised that we needed to do something that can be adopted today, so we can help everyone”.

He continued: “The problem today is that the publisher gets the data from their own writer. They don’t care so much about all the other writers. So, what our system does is that when a song is done, and we have an agreed split with a digital handshake, we know all the involved IPIs, we know the title and we know the agreed splits. Our system then creates the CWR file, and we send it to the publishers, and actually then we’re done. We provide the publishers with the correct data, and instead of them creating their own CWR with the information just from their own writer, we provide them with the full data”.

By ensuring that all of this data is available at the outset, and available to current and any future music rights databases, it should ensure that songwriters receive all of the royalties that they are due from their new work, and hopefully reduce conflicts further down the line as well.