publishing panel

The publishing strand at last week’s NY:LON Connect conference included keynotes from Primary Wave’s Natalia Nastaskin and PopArabia / Reservoir’s Spek. They were followed by a panel discussing the future of publishing in emerging markets.

Moderated by Neeta Ragoowansi, senior counsel, legal & business affairs at Global Citizen and president of the US Music Managers Forum, the panel included Atul Churamani, MD of Turnkey Music and Publishing in India; Olumide Mustapha, chair of the Music Publishers Association of Nigeria; and Paul Goldman, CEO of rights-management technology firm Muserk.

The panel began with each member discussing their particular country or sector. Churamani talked about India, where traditionally labels have owned the underlying rights to their sound recordings.

“Technically we didn’t have a publishing business, we just had rights ownership of all the copyrights in music belonging to the entities that I mentioned,” he said, referring to labels.
That is why sound recordings are the main revenue generator in India at the moment. “Until very recently, I think it was just one licence… we didn’t even differentiate between the underlying works and the masters.”

He said he hopes that more pureplay music publishing companies will be entering the market as it evolves, although one challenge is that film music – not just Bollywood, but India’s other film industries too – is still 70% of the market, and that is one sector where the publishing and master rights are still owned by the same companies.

‘Music as well as other cultural assets are seen as a public good’

Mustapha talked about the landscape in Nigeria, which he said he has always considered “a little brother to India in terms of its development”.

He explained that the global major labels did open offices in Nigeria in the 1960s “and were there for a good 20 years” – but without much discussion of publishing rights.

The first domestic collecting societies emerged in the 1980s, but they have faced some challenges particular to this market.

“In Nigeria, music as well as other cultural assets are seen as a public good, like folklore. There is no concept, generally, traditionally, of value being attached to it for the person that created it,” he said. So here, too, it is sound recordings that have driven licensing and royalties.

“In the last decade or so, there’s been a huge drive that has now seen significant change, whereby the nuances of the different types of underlying rights in various sound recordings, publishing rights included… are now very much recognised,” continued Mustapha.

However, he said that labels were the first to catch on, signing 360 deals with artists to include those underlying rights. “But even those rights weren’t really exploited, because nobody really recognised or understood them.”

Now, as in India, there are specialist music publishing companies emerging to continue the work of changing this state of affairs.

Mustapha said that the Nigerian recordings market is estimated at $30m-$50m in size – “which may not sound like much, but that’s really just at the beginning stage now whereby as things grow, all the mechanisms are in place to capture more of that value locally” – with the publishing market roughly 5%-10% of that.

‘What’s not global and is very regional is the way publishing works’

Goldman offered a view from a technology company’s perspective, with Muserk managing more than 5m works on behalf of rights societies around the world.

“Music consumption is very globalised. The way people listen to music now is global. The platforms have took off. You listen to a playlist in New York City, go to JFK Airport, fly to Heathrow, I’m listening to the same playlist,” he said.

“What’s not global and is very regional is the way publishing works. It’s still very regional. It’s not globalised… What they [collecting societies] do best is collect in their home regions. What they’re really disconnected from is collecting anything outside their home regions.”

Goldman was referring more to the PROs in emerging and fast-growing markets, rather than the well-established societies in mature countries – who tend to shout about their networks of partnerships to collect globally.

He pitched the merits of technology to help all sizes of societies harvest more revenue from across the world, but warned that this is not about junking their existing processes and systems wholesale.

We’re not trying to throw a technology in the chain that will just flip everything on its back. That might happen years down the road,” he said.

“You can’t take a Ferrari engine and put it into a Model T. It’ll explode! You have to take that Model T and advance it enough so you can put in that modern race car engine… And there’s a lot of value in improving the traditional system.”

The conversation moved on to opportunities in India, with Churamani talking about the way publishers have a chance to snap up music catalogues there at good prices.

“This is a fantastic time to move, because I think you’re going to get a value which is going to be a steal,” he said. Why? Because in his view, the catalogues will be valued based on historical data, rather than on the opportunities that lie ahead, from streaming to the metaverse and NFTs.

In other words, the value when buying catalogues will not take into account these new (and fast-growing) sources of revenue.

‘We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’

Mustapha came back to Goldman’s comments, and agreed that “we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” by ditching legacy systems for managing rights and collecting royalties, even if they are struggling to cope with the current landscape.

“Yes, we have legacy systems that we really need, specifically in Nigeria, to key into first to use as a springboard for the next push,” he said.

Mustapha also talked about the changes he’d like to see from the companies and services who are licensing music.

“As we know, in Europe and abroad there’s been a lot of talk about the ‘value gap’ for the last few years, particularly in respect to publishing, and that’s equally valid in Nigeria,” he said.

“It’s even more acute, because the biggest commercial users, after first having to get their head around paying for intangible property like music, it’s now really about them paying the actual value of what the music brings to their businesses. That’s the next stage.”

This panel was part of the ‘Publishing – Buying & Managing Catalogues and Growth Markets’ track at NY:LON Connect, which was sponsored by Muserk. You can read all our NY:LON Connect coverage here. The event was co-run by Music Biz and Music Ally.

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