Sunday, October 4, 2015

Who Really Owns Music - Part 3.5-4 The Conversation Now Transparency, Fairness, and The Future

Payments, Complicated - A Thought Experiment
(Part 3.5 - 4 by Glen Sears)

Remember you Elvis-only streaming service? Now that you know about payments, what would it be like for you to pay royalties on a single stream of "Heartbreak Hotel?" Let's make up one possible scenario. (Disclaimer: this is not an actual breakdown of the "Heartbreak Hotel" ownership stack, and is only for the purpose of example.)

Your company makes $1 per play of "Heartbreak Hotel.' In reality the number is many times smaller than that, but for this example we'll embellish (we wish music plays made that much). Your sound recording license deal stipulates a 60% payment to RCA Victor, so $0.60 goes to them.

In addition, you owe royalties to the songwriters: Presley, Axton, and Durden. Let's say Presley and Axton are with Warner/Chappell, and Durden is with Sony/ATV. Each songwriter hold an equal share of the composition rights.

The mechanical royalty rate (set by Congress) is determined using a 4 step process with 15 sub-steps.  Here is just one example of the mathematics and process used to determine the amount of money earned by songwriters:

   4. (step 4) Calculate the Per-Work Royalty Allocation for Each Relevant Work. This is the amount payable    for reproduction and distribution of each musical work used by the service provider by virtue of its licensed activity through a particular offering during the accounting period. To determine this amount, determined in three 3 steps  in paragraphs (b)(3) of this section must be allocated to each musical work used through the offering. The allocation shall be accomplished by dividing the payable royalty pool determined in step 3 for such offering by the total number of plays of all musical works through such offering during the accounting period (other than promotional royalty rates plays) through the offering during the accounting period. For purposes of determining the per-work royalty allocations in all calculations under this step 4 only (i.e., after the payable royalty pool has been determined), for this section. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if the service provider is not capable of tracking play information due to bona fide limitations of the available technology for the services of that nature or of devices usable with the service, the per-work royalty allocation may instead be accomplished in a manner consistent with the methodology used by the service provider for making royalty payment allocation for the use of individual sound recording.   
Only one step of 4 in the royalty calculation process (via the U.S. GPO)

If reading this excerpt seems confusing, that's because it is. Mechanical royalty calculations are extremely complex. In essence, publishing royalties are paid based on the revenue of the entire music service, not each work. The series of calculations eventually spits out the "Per-Work Royalty Allocation" you see above. This is the amount each composition earns based on the total number of plays. This is paid to the publishing company, to be delivered to the songwriters.

Before that payment (let's say a total of ($0.30, $0.10 for each songwriter) is delivered to the songwriting trio, it is subject to the terms of their individual publishing agreements. Maybe Axton and Presley have a deal with Warner/Chappell to retain 100% of royalties with a 10% administration fee, so they each receive $0.09 and Warner/Chappell receives $0.02.

Durden, on the other hand, may have a co-publishing deal with Sony/ATV which splits the publisher royalties 50/50. In this case Durden retains his 50% writer's share of $0.25.  It's worth noting here that royalties are the primary income for songwriters and composers.

On the performance royalty side (remember, in this case a digital stream counts as a "public performance"), the PRO also receives also receives a percentage of your music service's overall revenue. Let's say all the writers are represented by ASCAP. When that money is distributed to ASCAP, another deal determines how much the trio receive of that payment.

One more thing --- these numbers are only true for one type of streaming music service in the United States. If "Heartbreak Hotel" is played on a different type of service, things change. In the UK, another entirely different set of contracts and rules. Russia? Same story. Each country has its own societies, administrators, and organizations, along with different laws that must be adhered to.'
All to pay for one single play, of one single, song, on one single service.

Part 4 - The Conversation Now
(Transparency, Fairness and The Future)
Now that you know, in somewhat simple terms, how music is owned and paid for the current conversation around transparency and fairness can be seen in context. The information required to process and pay for digital music use often passes through at least 6 different entities. Every step of the way, data has the opportunity to be obscured or lost. 

Berklee's Fair Music Report and its contributors see this as the primary issue facing digital music today. When an artist's song is played, it can be exceptionally difficult to know who to pay, or don't care to know. It's time to demand more accountability and transparency. - Casey Rae, Future of Music Coalition.

From outside the industry, it can seem like a simple problem. Fix the pipes, centralize the information, make it clear where money is going. But these complex practices have had over 100 years to grow, and not everyone has made the graceful transition to digital. The truth is it isn't a surprise digital music is broken, and it isn't any one person's fault or singular responsibility.

Instead, every company working in digital music has to work together to ensure music use is licensed, tracked when distributed, reported in an easy-to-understand format, and properly paid for. Paid to labels, artists, producers, musicians, publishers, PRO's, songwriters, composers, lyricists, adminitrators --- everyone.

Every contributor to a piece of music has the same right to proper payment. We're all in this battle together. Conversations about how much each person in the musical supply chain is paid won't mean a thing until we can ensure the existing contracts are fulfilled. Music needs systems that tie ownership, rights, licensing, reporting, and payments together in order to succeed. The entire music industry needs to know for certain who owns what and how much they're owed ---- then we can begin deciding if it's enough.

----THE END-----

Glen Sears is Editorial Content Manager at MediaNet, powering the world's best-loved music apps with catalog, licensing, payments, reporting, and rights management.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Junior Reid Headlines Inaugural Reggae Festival in Dubai

Roots singer Junior Reid will headline the inaugural Dubai Reggae Festival which takes place, November 7, 2015.

Reid will launch his, "Junior Reid The Living Legend" album two days before the event. Singer Wayne Wonder is also confirmed for the festival. So too is Barbadian soca artiste Rupee, Jamaican deejay Rasta Rocket, and one of Africa's leading reggae acts, Kriss Darling of Kenya. DJ Justin (Justin Morin), a Jamaican sound system selector who lives in Dubai, is also part of the festival.

The promoter responsible for introducing reggae/dancehall to Dubai, Kenya Don, is also the man behind annual Beachfest event which was first held there in 2013. He described the Dubai Reggae Festival as an expansion of Beachfest and also express gratitude for being able to stage the event, "it's a blessing to do the first reggae festival in the Middle East. We're moving from one artiste each month to a major show," said Kenya Don.

This year, several dancehall/reggae acts performed in Dubai on Beachfest including Mr. Vegas, Diana King, Red Rat and Elephant Man. The Kenyan-born promoter has staged similar shows throughout Africa before getting involved in booking artistes for dates in Dubai, largest city in the United Arab Emirates and home to a large expatriate community. He has promoted shows in other Middle East territories, namely Bahrain and Qatar.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe visits Bob Marley's Museum

PMs: Shinzo Abe and Portia Simpson-Miller
The Bob Marley museum has once again taken centre stage on the historic visit of a G7 (Group of Seven) leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

Prime Minister Abe arrived in Kingston, September 30, 2015 for a two-day visit on official business and it is reported he headed to the museum after having bilateral talks with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.This marks the second such visit by a leader of one of seven major advanced economies/countries of the world this year. US President Barrack Obama's visit earlier this year, marks the first.

Japan and Jamaica shares a longstanding musical relationship, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Bob Marley's museum once again reminds us of the far reaching effect of the music of the great Bob Marley and the level respect he's afforded through his music. 

It's a good look! 

Photo credit: Bryan Cummings

Throw Back - Sophia George throws shade at 'too girlie girlie' men

Sophia George
Sophia George is a Jamaican singer best known for her 1985 hit song, "Girlie Girlie" which peaked at No. 7 on the UK Top 10 chart.  Written by Sangie Davis, "Girlie Girlie"  is a tale about the philandering juvenile manipulating the opposite sex and at the time of it's release came when Sophia George was employed as a teacher for deaf children. By December of that year the record was released in the UK and crossed over into the pop chart, peaking at No. 7. It also made the soundtrack for the 1989 American comedy, Going Overboard with actor Adam Sandler playing the lead role.

In 1986, Sophia George released a follow-up track titled, "Lazy Boy," originally a hit for Echo Minott. It made a minor impression in the pop charts and proved a favourable hit within the reggae market. The single was released as a double a-side with the carefully crafted "Can't Live Without You" track which demonstrated her fine vocals.  

In 1987 she released another track entitled, "Final Decision" by producer Willie Lindo, a warning to domineering males emulating the dancehall style of her debut. Other notable recordings included, "Ain't No Meaning" off her 1986 album entitled "Fresh" and featuring Charlie Chaplin, "It Burn Mi Belly" and "Mawga Dog" loosely based around the PeterTosh classic.

"Girlie Girlie" was a major hit in Jamaica with a marathon 11 weeks hold at No. 1 on the then, RJR chart.  The popularity of the song landed Sophia George an extensive touring opportunity including, supporting Yellowman on his 1990 US concerts. She continued to record for the Pow Wow label during the 90s without ever coming close to matching the impact of her greatest hit, "Girlie Girlie." 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Singer Richie Stevens show love in return for the love he's currently getting from his Brazilian fans

Fresh off his September Brazilian tour, singer Richie Stephens recorded a catchy song entitled, I Love Brazil' as a kind gesture of giving back the love he received from his Brazilian fans.

While in Brazil, Stephens headlined shows in Sao Luis the largest city of the state of Maranhao and Belem, as well as shot a music video for his hit single, "Knock, Knock, Knock." Recently, in a television interview, he said share what being on tour in that country has been for him, "my tour of Brazil went extremely well. Jamaicans have had a long, love affair with Brazil because of our love for football, Pele, Ronaldinho and Neymar. The song "I Love Brazil" was inspired by the similarity in both cultures and to express my gratitude for the warmth and the abundance of love and support I got from the people of Brazil."

Since the release of this new single, "I Love Brazil,"  Stephens said "the song is already one of the most requested songs on radio in Sao Luis and is a sure shot at parties." The Jamaican baritone crooner landed a No. 1 hit with "Knock, Knock, Knock" in the South American country and anticipates a another hit with the new single.  What's next for him? Well, he believes with the love and popularity he's getting from his fans in Brazil, a 2016 tour is inevitable and hopefully during the olympics. Now that, would be really cool!


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Who Really Owns Music - Part 2

Sizzla Kalonji
Part 2 - Reproduction
Licensing, Performing, and Pressing Play

Elvis has left the building. The lights on the 3-tracks RCA console have gone dark, and the 2" master tape reels have been taken to the factory, where they'll be transformed into 7" vinyl records for sale. Multiple forms of intellectual property have been created. It's time to start using them.

You might be surprised to know that Elvis didn't write "Heartbreak Hotel."  It was written by Mae Boren Axton (aka "Queen Mother of Nashville") and Tommy Durden. Elvis did manage to get a songwriting credit, but many believe it to be a vanity credit. These 3 songwriters are the technical owners of the composition. RCA Victor Records is the sound recording owner, and Elvis Presley is the performing artist for the sound recording.

Fast forward to 2015. You own a boutique digital streaming subscription service, one that serves exclusively Elvis music. In order to allow your listeners to press play on "Heartbreak Hotel," you must obtain 3 different licenses:

  • a license to use the sound recording (specifically, Elvis' performance)
  • a license to reproduce the composition (known as a "mechanical license")
  • and a license to publicly perform the composition ("public performance" constitutes any exhibition of the song - radio, live shows, or even on the speakers at Steak Shack).
Each license is an agreement to pay the rights holder an arranged amount of money fo the use of their intellectual property. Obtaining these allows Elvis Music Service to run, but only for streaming on-demand. There are other licenses that are needed for other uses of music. For example, licenses also must be obtained to attach music to moving pictures (a synchronization license), and to publish a composition's words and notes on paper (a print license).

Each of these rights is owned by a combination of Elvis, Axton, Durden, RCA and various third parties (more on that in a minute). Each expect a portion of the money earned from the use of their contribution to the work.

In addition, every different kind of digital music use (streaming, downloads, radio, movies) requires various combinations of these licenses in order to be legal. Some licenses are even granted by copyright law (called "Compulsory Licenses")., with pre-determined royalty rates.

In short, using music for any commercial purpose requires a litany of license acquisition from the owners; and that doesn't even begin to cover payment.

Part 3 - Payments
Labels, Publishers, Societies, and Performing Rights Organizations

Paying labels for sound recordings is relatively straightforward. When the recording of "Heartbreak Hotel" is used, RCA Victor (now simply RCA) Records is paid for their ownership of the sound recording. Sound recording royalties are delivered on almost every use of a song.

But what about the composers, lyricists, and songwriters? How do they get paid when their compositions are reproduced on CD, played on the radio, digitally streamed, or otherwise used? In our example, payment comes from mechanical licenses (for compositions), and public performance licenses.

Dennis Brown and Bob Marley
In theory, the Presley-Axton-Durden trio could have managed the right to the composition by themselves and act as their own publisher. Acting as your own publisher can be time-consuming and confusing, so most songwriters and composers opt to be represented by a publishing company like Warner/Chappell, BMG Chrysalis, Kobalt, Sony/ATV, and others - companies that promote the composition and ensure songwriters and composers get paid when their compositions are use.

To be continued........
Glen Sears is Editorial Content Manager at MediaNet


Friday, September 18, 2015

Tommy Hilfiger's Marley inspired designs hit the catwalk at New York Fashion Week

Re-known fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger displayed a line inspired by Bob Marley for his Spring/Summer 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) recently. The new collection was arrayed with bright colours, crochet two- pieces and bucket hats in black, red, yellow and green, as well as sundresses and long mesh vests. 

According to Vogue magazine, one of Tommy Hilfiger's signature Caribbean "looks" was a tracksuit very similar to one worn by soccer-fan Bob Marley in the 1970s." 

Watch exclusive video by vogue below:-

Source: Jamaicans dot com 

An unusual collab - A Marley and a Soca Artiste

"If this was ever done before please pardon my ignorance. But who would have taught they would hear a Marley and a Soca artiste on the same song?  Obviously not me and it is indeed a pleasant surprise."

Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley has collaborated with popular soca artiste Bunji Garlin addressing society's ills and aspiring for change. The song entitled 'The Message' is produced by Phillip "Jr. Blender" Meckseper. In a release, Bunji Garlin gives an insight on the collaboration, "We recorded this song at Gong's studio in Florida.It was a studio session, after we spent about an hour and a half just talking and getting a vibe off of each other's knowledge, views and energies" he said.

"The Message" is a powerful delivery coming from two highly influential Caribbean artistes in their own rights. The song airs their concerns and thoughts in relation to 'the soul of youths and future generation.

Junior Gong is slated to perform in Trinidad and Tobago ending October at the Hasley Crawford Stadium.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throw Back - 70s Teens Reggae Chart-Topper Althea and Donna

Althea and Donna were a Jamaican singing duo best known for their 1977 hit single "Uptown Top Ranking," which hit number one on the UK chart in 1978.

The Jamaican teenagers Althea Forrest and Donna Reid then 17 and 18 years old respectively, caused a chart surprise when their song became a UK hit, ousting greats such as Paul McCartney and Bob Marley and held the Number 1 spot for two weeks.  Note their subtle, appealing image as well as playful and fun lyrics that are similar in comparison to OMI's chart-topper 'Cheerleader' single. These artistes scored number one on a major chart in an era that springboarded from the late 60s/early 70s when the British music press and BBC was alleged to have actively campaigned to keep reggae off the airwaves. 

Subsequent to their major chart break, Althea and Donna gained recognition as the first female Deejays in the history of reggae music and this fact is recorded in the Guinness Book of Hit Songs. The duo got signed to Virgin Records and became the label's 'Top Act,' recording an album of the same name "Uptown Top Ranking" in 1978. Other successes by the jovial pair included a role in the Jamaican and/or Jamaican music inspired films "Rockers" and "Heartland Reggae."  

"Uptown Top Ranking" is about two "Uptown" girls coming out against certain social standing that plagued the society at that time. Their message was basically  'don't judge us' because we are dressed in 'heel and things' this is who we are we 'nah pop no style; a strictly roots.' This was an important message in the 70s which lead to their performing the track at an historical peace concert in Kingston in 1980. "Uptown Top Ranking" became that song in the history of Jamaica that marked a musical connection between uptown and downtown. Althea and Donna went on to record other singles including 'Going To Negril' and 'No More Fighting' which were also popular in Jamaica.

Today, Althea and Donna are planning to relinquish their music career with a return to the industry. Their re-immergence is largely as a result of the motivation of their children who all have musical interests. Although they have been on a musical low for more than 20 years, plans are underway for a relaunch of Althea and Donna in Jamaica.