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In June, creative-software company Adobe announced the launch of a library of royalty-free music and audio with partners Epidemic Sound and Jamendo. Now two bodies representing musicians in the UK have attacked one of those deals.

The Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union aren’t happy about Epidemic Sound’s business model of paying composers upfront in ‘full buyout deals’ which do not earn them royalties in the future.

“Epidemic Sound CEO Oscar Hoglund claims that musicians will benefit from being discovered on Adobe through Shazam. This exposure narrative forms part of a widespread exploitative model that the music industry has difficulty shaking. Exposure without royalties doesn’t pay the bills,” said the MU’s Naomi Pohl.

“Companies seem to believe that they are faced with a great challenge in trying to devise a fair yet profitable model for paying composers for screen. But that model already exists – royalties. Royalties and related rights exist for creators to share in the revenue generated by their works proportionally to the works’ success, be it high or low,” added The Ivors Academy’s Graham Davies.

The two bodies’ fire was targeted specifically at Epidemic Sound, rather than including Jamendo. The bigger issue here is full buyout deals more generally: a 2019 survey by The Ivors Academy found that 35% of British screen composers had been subject to full buyouts or work for hire agreements in the last five years.

Epidemic Sound’s argument is likely to be that composers choose to work for it, with full understanding of how its business model works. The backdrop to this argument is whether television and film companies are making more use of music from it and similar companies, leaving fewer opportunities for composers who do want to earn future royalties.

European songwriters body ECSA criticised Swedish broadcaster SVT (along with Epidemic Sound) for this in December last year, while US broadcaster Discovery Networks was roundly criticised the same month for asking composers to relinquish performance royalties for US airings of shows using their music, although by January this year it abandoned those plans.

Update: Epidemic Sound CEO Oscar Hoglund has responded with a statement.

“We’ve come to expect this viewpoint from the more traditional part of the industry that we’re disrupting. Our door is always open and we’d happily sit down with any organisation that would like to better understand how we support and remunerate musicians,” he said.

“That way it is an informed debate and they can hear from our music creators first-hand about how our team and our business model supports them both financially and creatively.”

That debate will include streaming, where Epidemic Sound does pay royalties to its musicians (on a 50/50 basis) from streams of the music they have created for the company on Spotify and other platforms.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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