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Council of Music Makers looks to the digital future

 

The digital age has made it almost effortless for music fans to find and enjoy music. With a seemingly limitless number of tracks and music videos available, consumers expect to receive their entertainment instantly.

Sadly, when it comes to payments, musicians do not enjoy instant remuneration.

Whilst a consumer may be able to download or stream a track in seconds, the artist may not receive their share of the income generated for many months. In some cases, poor royalty and accounting systems and poorly understood agreements mean that musicians miss out on payments that they are due.

Musicians face these challenges and more as they navigate the commercial realities of the music industry whilst adapting to the constantly changing digital landscape.

With these issues in mind, a new body has been formed to represent the interests of music makers in the UK.

Striking a chord with music makers

The Council of Music Makers (CMM), which launched on 13 September 2018, comprises:

  • the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors (BASCA);
  • the Music Managers Forum (MMF);
  • the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC);
  • the Music Producers Guild (MPG); and
  • the Musicians’ Union (MU).

Although the five organisations listed above are already members of the British umbrella organisation UK Music, the focus of CMM is on protecting the interests of music creators.

There is, therefore, the potential for conflict between the CMM and the record label and publisher members of UK Music.  As a sector, the music industry generates £4.4 billion gross added value (or GVA) for the UK economy, meaning that there is a lot to fight for.

According to the CMM’s website, the organisation will campaign to achieve modernisation, fairness and transparency for music makers.  This will include campaigning for the modernisation of the legal framework in order to create a music ecosystem in which music creators can thrive.

The CMM has commended the recent EU Copyright Directive vote result, which was announced on the day before the CMM’s launch event.

The CMM had lobbied in order to gain support for the proposed new directive, also known as the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (the Copyright Directive), which they believe is essential to ensure that musicians are fairly and adequately remunerated for their creativity.

Article 13 – unlucky for some?

Of particular interest to the film, television and music industries is Article 13 of the Copyright Directive.

It is widely acknowledged that a vast amount of material protected by copyright is regularly uploaded to platforms such as YouTube by users who do not have the right to do so.

Whilst platforms are making huge revenues from this content, rights holders are often missing out.  Article 13, if it becomes law, may force platforms to share more of this revenue with creators.

Of course, platforms such as YouTube and Google already have licensing systems in place which facilitate the sharing of advertising revenue with rights owners that register with them.

However, the new legislation would reinforce the rights of content creators across all platforms by making online platforms liable for the copyright infringements of their users, helping to protect against unauthorised exploitation of copyright works, and channelling a greater proportion of advertising revenue towards creators.

Outmoded music contracts

The CMM’s first patron is Grammy Award-winning artist Imogen Heap, who used the CMM’s launch event to highlight the issue of outmoded music contracts which she described as convoluted, confusing and unfair.

Music industry contracts are typically complex documents, drafted in favour of the company offering them.  Whilst a good lawyer experienced in the industry can help an artist to navigate the deals they are offered, not all musicians have access to such legal support.

 

Could blockchain help to release the shackles?

Blockchain technology may be one way to deal with the complex arrangements and slow payments inherent in the music business.

The blockchain allows for the creation of an unalterable record of rights holders, each of which can then be paid promptly and accurately through the use of smart contracts embedded in the technology.

One music company utilising blockchain technology is Choon, a blockchain based music streaming service which is described on its website as being designed to solve the music industry’s most fundamental problems.

Choon’s approach to these perceived problems includes the removal of intermediaries and the opportunity for artists to be paid on a daily basis.  The website in fact states that artists will receive “daily revenue that amounts to an increase of around 1000% from traditional record labels”, although it does not explain the basis for this calculation.

Choon says that it is not intending to work with major labels or publishers, and it remains to be seen whether the big players in the industry will take on board the blockchain ethos.  It may be that some companies would not welcome the level of transparency afforded by blockchain technology and would not want to relinquish so much financial control.

Helping music makers to thrive

Only time will tell whether the CMM’s efforts will help to create an economy in which music makers can thrive alongside innovations in technology to create a sustainable future.

Whilst the future of the music industry in the UK looks bright, music contracts are still complex, and signing something that you don’t fully understand can have a huge impact on your career.

Helping you to blow your own trumpet

If you have been offered a music contract, whether from a record label, publisher, producer or manager, and you’re concerned about what you’re signing up to, please call HRC Law for a no-obligation initial free chat.

If you’re in another industry and don’t feel that your contracts are giving you the best value, we may well be able to help you too.

For more information please contact, Solicitor, Rob Eakins, on T: 0161 358 0280 or at E: robeakins@hrclaw.co.uk.

As for our digital future, we’ll be sharing more about music law on our website and social media platforms (#MusicLaw).

We also plan to have new sections for Data, Digital & AI and for Creative Industries soon.

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This bulletin contains general overview information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.