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Irving Azoff hits out at YouTube’s failure to engage songwriters in Music Key prep

By | Published on Friday 14 November 2014

Irving Azoff

Talking of songwriters flexing their muscles in the digital royalties debate, as YouTube got all showy offy about its all-new Music Key flim flam earlier this week, Irving Azoff told The Hollywood Reporter he was preparing to remove the music of 42 of his clients from the Google-owned platform. Why? Because YouTube, like pretty much every digital platform, has focused on securing the sound recording rights, assuming the music publishing rights will just follow through, most likely via the collective licensing system.

As previously reported, veteran artist manager Azoff has launched a new business within his company Azoff MSG Entertainment called Global Music Rights which is seeking to specifically represent the ‘performing right’ elements of the song copyrights of big name artists, rights that, in the US, would have previously likely been repped by collecting societies BMI or ASCAP.

Like BASCA, Azoff reckons that in the streaming domain song rights – as opposed to recording rights – should be earning significantly more in royalties. And Azoff reckons one way to achieve that is for songwriters to withdraw from the big collecting societies – and the extra copyright rules that govern them – and license direct.

Of course, the digital firms would likely argue that they are paying as much as they possibly can for access to the combined music rights catalogue, and if songwriters and their publishers want more money they need to take it out of the cash currently being paid to recording artists and their labels.

Azoff might argue that the digital firms can, actually, afford to pay more overall. Though because he reps the interests of artists rather than big copyright owners, he possibly wouldn’t mind if song rights getting more meant recording rights getting less.

Most of his clients are both recording artists and songwriters, but by industry convention they will earn a much bigger cut of the income that comes in through their songs (and publisher) than their recordings (and label), because of the way label/publisher contracts are structured. Azoff’s artists, therefore, will earn more overall if more digital royalties come in via music publishing rather than the record companies.

Either way, you can expect Azoff to become ever more vocal about digital firms that he reckons are forgetting the songwriter side of the music licensing equation.

After criticising YouTube for doing just that, Azoff told The Reporter: “The way fans listen to music is evolving daily. GMR is going to give songwriters and publishers an opportunity to engage in meaningful licensing for their intellectual property. The trampling of writers’ rights in the digital marketplace without any regard to their contribution to the creative process will no longer be tolerated”.