Analysis

Facebook signs music deals for Irving Azoff’s GMR, Kobalt and indie publishers


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Facebook’s latest music-licensing deal, following its agreements with Universal Music Group and Sony/ATV, is something a corker: it’s with Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights.

That would be the Irving Azoff who’s regularly castigated YouTube in recent times over its licensing and royalty payments? The very same.

“Today, we are excited to announce that Global Music Rights, Irving Azoff’s US Performing Rights Organization, and Facebook have entered into Global Music Rights’ first-ever user generated content deal,” blogged Facebook’s head of music business development and partnerships Tamara Hrivnak.

“Global Music Rights represents such esteemed writers and performers as Pharrell Williams, Bruno Mars, Drake, Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson, among others. We are thrilled to partner with Global Music Rights and look forward to building a bright future with Irving and their amazing writers.”

She also quoted Azoff in the blog post: “Our partnership with Facebook reflects that when music is valued properly, it’s easy for both sides to view it as a win-win.”

That’s not Facebook’s only announcement today: “We’re proud to announce our multi-year agreement with independent publisher Kobalt Music Publishing. This agreement enables users to upload and share personalised experiences featuring compositions from one of the best-known catalogs in the world,” added Hrivnak.

“Facebook will ensure songwriters are paid fairly and new revenue streams are created for user uploaded video,” said Kobalt boss Willard Ahdritz.

Alongside these announcements, Facebook is also announcing a partnership with SESAC and HFA/Rumblefish that will cover songwriters signed to independent publishers, with Rumblefish sharing data with Facebook to help it identify and clear works.

Or, as the social network’s head of commercial music publishing partnerships Scott Sellwood put it, a deal that will offer indie publishers “the opportunity to participate in a new licensing program with Facebook. The program will enable users to upload and share videos with music on Facebook, Instagram and Oculus and allows publishers to be compensated for the use of their music”.

National Music Publishers Association president David Israelite is also quoted in Hrivnak’s blog post describing the deal as “a great step forward for the platform and for songwriters… We appreciate Facebook’s willingness to recognise the economic contribution of songwriters as well as its effort to create a system that properly streamlines payments moving forward. Other digital services should take note and follow suit.”

YouTube? Well, obviously, but Israelite has also been a prominent critic of Spotify recently, following the suggestion by the latter’s legal team that it might not be obliged to pay mechanical royalties for streams on its service.

It remains to be seen what Facebook will do with its music-licensing deals beyond covering its UGC liabilities – rather than launching another $9.99-a-month audio-streaming service, there’s potential for it to do much more interesting stuff exploring the intersection of social networking and music.

But make no mistake: its deals will also become part of the music industry’s stick to beat YouTube with in the ongoing war of words around safe harbour and the ‘value gap’. Indeed, the gap we may be talking about much more in 2018 will be any gap that exists between what YouTube and Facebook are willing to pay music rightsholders.

How much money is Facebook willing to pay? Naturally, that isn’t being announced by any of the participants in its licensing deals. In September 2017, Bloomberg suggested that it was “offering major record labels and music publishers hundreds of millions of dollars” though.

Stuart Dredge

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