Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship’s Rethink Music initiative has published its report on ‘Transparency and Money Flows in the Music Industry’ and while it may hold few surprises for Music Ally readers, the report does a fine job of highlighting the considerable scope for improvement within the industry as we move towards a more streaming-focused consumption model.
Among its findings: a lack of “complete, readable, up-to-date data about music sales and uses in an industry-standard format” is fuelling artist scepticism about streaming; the opacity around how royalties are calculated and paid “may benefit intermediaries”; it remains unclear what happens to advance payments and windfalls from IPOs and acquisitions of digital services that major labels and publishers have stakes in. All issues that have been getting a wider airing in recent months.
The report makes several recommendations, including the development of a ‘Creator’s Bill of Rights’ mandating greater transparency along the payment flow for artists and songwriters. It also moots a “fair music” certification of transparency for digital services and labels alike, and the creation of a “decentralised, feasible rights database” – the latter has been a wider industry ambition for some time.
Perhaps the most interesting idea, though, is “the investigation of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies to manage and track online payments through the value chain directly from fans to music creators”.
The report is being welcomed by musicians and managers. “A thing of beauty… and much needed,” said David Byrne. “The picture the study paints is spot on and fairly devastating – as it should be. It’s essential reading – and given the lack of vested interests at work it should be explosive and wide ranging in its impact.”
Manager Brian Message called for US and European lawmakers to read the report. “The mistakes of the post Napster era should not be allowed to roll on, to the detriment of many and the benefit of few,” he said.