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Economics Of Streaming Perspectives: Music Publishers Association

By | Published on Thursday 1 June 2023

Music Publishers Association

Following the announcements this week about the ongoing UK government-led economics of music streaming work, we spoke to representatives from some of the organisations involved in that work to get their perspectives on what has been achieved so far and what should happen next.

This time, Paul Clements, CEO of the Music Publishers Association. The MPA is the trade body for the UK music publishing sector, speaking for both the major music publishers as well as the big network of indie publishers. It also operates the UK’s mechanical rights collecting society MCPS.

What do you think have been the most important aspects of the IPO led projects that were instigated after the select committee inquiry?
It has been impressive to see the IPO process draw together representatives from all of the key industry stakeholders to discuss, pool resources and explore evidence related to important issues around metadata.

A lot of time and care has been invested in the expert metadata working group to deliver the goals that these groups have been tasked with achieving. The group will continue to its next stage of necessary work, relationships will further strengthen as a result, making challenges easier to overcome.

All the while our MPA members have contributed their expertise positively and proactively to these important developments. It is ever important for these initiatives to remain focused on evidence-based policy making.

What do you think should be the priorities of the music-maker remuneration working group that is now being convened?
Music is undervalued as a proposition. Whilst there have been some recent subscription price increases in the market, the bottom line is that the consumer proposition for subscription has dramatically improved whilst the average revenue per user has dramatically declined in real terms.

Combined with the fact that revenue is being distributed between a much bigger number of songs and recordings, the industry’s challenges with securing fair compensation are magnified and remuneration to the ever-increasing number of music makers is under constant and increasing pressure.

To mitigate against these fundamental underlying factors it would be useful to prioritise the following in discussions:

Immediate attention needs to be paid to the piracy which platforms are seemingly turning a blind eye to while making available and distributing a significant number of unlicensed apps through their app stores.

Further, while music provides the fuel to so many platforms’ consumer market engines and businesses, the platforms choose to narrowly define which revenue streams the music industry are able to participate in, depriving music-makers of the value they should be rightfully participating in for their invaluable contributions.

The IPO has already undertaken research on the three copyright reforms proposed by the select committee – ie reversion rights, contract adjustment rights and performer ER. What is your current position on those proposals?
We do not believe that there are any IPO proposals following their research initiatives and evidence gathering exercises across these areas.

This outcome is welcomed, not least because our publishing sector operates in a dynamic and highly competitive environment, one which serves to deliver many varied contractual arrangements – with songwriters and composers – and as such we have never subscribed to the notion that it may be in the best interests of songwriters, composers or our publisher members to erode the contractual certainty necessary for investment and see these freely negotiated, agile and often bespoke contractual arrangements made subject to regulatory intervention.

Specifically on performer ER, the MPA doesn’t represent performers and it is not a matter that should impact our publisher members and their songwriter and composer clients, however we would become extremely concerned if any introduction of ER were to put downward pressure on our members’ creator clients’ income. The latter must be avoided.

There has been a lot of discussion of late about reforming the way streaming monies are allocated to individual tracks and catalogues. How can the ongoing economics of streaming work in the UK inform and influence that conversation?
There may be merit in exploring this, and rights owners have been considering it, but to the extent possible, we should progress this thinking outside these work streams.

To date we have seen no substantial proof that alternative models deliver better results for songwriters and there is a risk of a substantial cost burden, alongside a loss of transparency and efficiency in some of the concepts thus far shared.

Therefore, we will be particularly focused on ensuring that we see evidence materialise which guarantees improved outcomes associated with any ‘great’ reform idea, no matter where that idea comes from.

How do you think the undertakings in the metadata code will impact on the way streaming services work and music-makers get paid?
Firstly, the management of this IPO workstream ought to be applauded, as should the contributors to this important output, including our publisher member experts and PRS. Most people reading this will have very little idea how much effort and thinking has gone into getting the work to this stage.

Secondly, we have an agreed roadmap for next steps, impacts will therefore not be immediate, but some may be surprised to read that some of the tools which were agreed would make a positive difference have already been developed and are being tested within a subset of the metadata group.

It is very pleasing to see the industry so motivated to turn their shared ideas into realities. When all of the outputs of this workstream are delivered we should witness a significant shift in the provision and sharing of song related metadata, which in turn will aid the speed of processing and accuracy of onward distributions to rights holders and creators.

How can your members help ensure the metadata code has the maximum impact? What measures would you encourage them to implement?
As previously mentioned, the first thing our members will be doing is further contributing to delivering upon the metadata code’s objectives.

Signing a code does not deliver the outcome and much of the improvements we hope to see relies heavily on other stakeholders in the value chain playing their role and taking the importance of securing, associating and supplying critical metadata with each recording at the point that recordings enter the value chain.

Further hard work is required to deliver the end goals and more education on the importance of providing song metadata as early in the production process as possible will be paramount.

Our experts within the metadata working group are turning their attention to establishing reliable measurement KPIs which will help shine a light on how the changes are making a difference and to keep tabs on adoption and application.

How can other stakeholders in the music community ensure that the metadata code has the maximum impact? What measures would you encourage them to implement?
From an artist or their manager in a studio, all the way through to the performing rights societies’ global umbrella trade body CISAC – eg ISWC early assignment etc – we will need to harness the IPO’s metadata working group’s collaborative spirit and willingness to work with societies, publishers, labels, streaming platforms and creator trade body representatives in order to assure maximum positive impact. Open dialogue and a willingness to help at all levels should ensure we deliver upon our objectives.

As already mentioned, projects aren’t a pipe dream, some are already being developed and are in testing, it will be up to the entire trade body and society network to continue to inform, educate and support all parties involved to adopt the practices and standards as set out in the code. We are very encouraged by everything we have heard and thus far seen in this regard.