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Publishers to call for better digital royalties at MIDEM this weekend

By | Published on Thursday 4 June 2015


Germany’s music publishing trade group DMV will lead calls from the publishing and songwriting community for an increase in the royalties being paid to song right owners by digital services at a press conference at MIDEM tomorrow.

As much previously reported, the songwriting community has become increasingly vocal of late about the royalties they are receiving from the booming streaming sector, which they say too low. And some in the music publishing community too, though generally less vocal in public, have also criticised the fact that both the digital platforms and the record labels are earning considerably more from the streaming market than the song rights owners.

The issue is set to be discussed at the Independent Music Publishing Forum at MIDEM this week, with DMV President saying yesterday: “We want to form an international movement so that authors are paid what they deserve and are no longer exploited, and that the multinational companies of music streaming stop making a fortune while paying the creative authors next to nothing”.

Though, of course, the digital service providers would likely argue that – as loss-making businesses that keep only 30% of their revenues – they are not the problem here. Rather, the issue is that the record companies take the majority of the income generated by streaming (55-60%), making it impossible for the DSPs to increase the revenue share it provides to the songwriters and publishers, currently 10-15%. (Premium subscribers can delve into the Digital Pie Debate more here, using the password in the most recent CMU Digest email.)

Some in the publishing community might argue that, actually, the streaming services could and should reduce their 30% share to pay the song rights owners more, though Budde’s statement does acknowledge that the labels earn more from streaming.

“The reason for this is that labels can choose whether to license music to music services”, the statement says. “Authors and music publishers are dependent on the collecting societies. In Germany, for example, GEMA has to license at certain rates because of its monopoly status in the market”.

Of course, in Europe the bigger publishers are now licensing digital outside the collective licensing system – albeit in partnership with the collecting societies – and increasingly when songwriters and publishers gripe about streaming royalties, you sense their real grievances are with the collecting societies and the collective licensing system, even though they never say it. Budde also refers to “difficult and confusing” royalty statements in the digital domain, though the data provided by most DSPs is generally pretty clear, if abundant, and confusions seem more likely to occur with the middle men who process the money.

Nevertheless, it seems likely that the DSPs, and possibly the labels, are more likely to be under fire during any publisher-led discussions in Cannes this weekend.