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European songwriters body ECSA attacks Epidemic Sound


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Swedish production-music firm Epidemic Sound is under fire again, but this time the focus isn’t on Spotify or so-called ‘fake artists’, but rather its original business of providing music for TV shows. The attacker in this case is the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA), which has a very specific complaint about how Epidemic Sound operates in its homeland.

In a press release, ECSA noted “with great disappointment that the Swedish Public Service TV (SVT) agreed to regularly feature Epidemic Sound in the music credits after a program instead of the creator’s names. As a result, SVT is – with Swedish tax-payers’ resources – promoting Epidemic Sound through credits and giving it substantial financial value, to the detriment of composers and songwriters.”

ECSA went on to suggest that “SVT and Epidemic Sound are not respecting the right of attribution which grants authors the right to have their names attached to their works”, and has called for broadcasters to stop working with Epidemic Sound, and for musicians to “refrain from signing any agreement which results in giving up all their economic rights forever, while not even being given credit according to his/her right by law”.

Stern words, coming (surely not a coincidence) at a time when there’s a high-profile battle taking place in the US over TV-music and ‘buyouts’ – in that case, a new policy from Discovery Networks. So what does Epidemic Sound have to say about ECSA’s accusations? We asked the company and its CEO Oscar Hoglund provided a response.

“We were surprised to find out that ESCA has publicly condemned Epidemic without engaging with us – or to our knowledge – any of our musicians. But it is not so surprising that it took this viewpoint as it comes from a more traditional part of the industry, which we’re disrupting,” he said. “Our door is always open and we’re happy to sit down with ESCA to bring them up to speed on how our model is suited to the distribution of music in the digital age, and for them to hear first-hand from our musicians about how our team and business model supports them both financially and creatively.”

There are lots of nuances to this argument. Attribution *is* important for songwriters and composers, and broadcasters and production companies omitting the individual creators from their TV credits is a disheartening thing to see. That said, production libraries’ responsibility is to provide that information to the TV companies, but it’s the latter who decide what to include and exclude. Epidemic Sound might also argue that viewers are more likely to use an app like Shazam to identify music on TV now than they are to scrutinise the closing credits: and Shazam is a platform where it *does* have control over what attribution is shown.

But ECSA’s call for musicians to stop working with companies like Epidemic Sound illustrates an awkward (for ECSA) aspect to this kind of row. Many musicians *are* choosing to work with that firm and other production libraries using the buyouts model, knowing how it works and how they’ll be compensated. Plus, in this particular company’s case, they’re also increasingly seeing their production music distributed on the big music-streaming services – this was the real story in the ‘fake artists’ controversy – where according to the company they *will* receive royalties for ongoing use (streams) of their music.

It’s important that bodies like ECSA call out issues where they see them on behalf of creators, and even in the era of Shazam, it’s understandable why the body may feel that omitting creators’ names from TV credits is another chip away at the rights of authors. Perhaps the best way of addressing that, at least, would be to take up Hoglund’s offer of a sitdown, even if the two sides may never see eye to eye on the merits of the buyout model.

Stuart Dredge

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