How has publishers’ share of the music pie grown since 2001?


The rows over whether publishers should get a bigger slice of streaming royalties continue, as do the arguments about whether the three major publishers are hampered in their lobbying for this by their parent companies.

This morning there’s a new contribution to the debate from former Spotify director of economics Will Page, who has been crunching some historical data in search of new insights.

Specifically, Page has gone back to numbers from the IFPI and NMPA from 2001, calculated the ‘global value of copyright’ for that year – something he does annually with contemporary figures – and compared it to the latest available figures: 2020.

“In 2001, the global value of recorded music was $28.3bn – that is labels, CMOs and direct revenues that publishers collected at the time. Of that pie, just 23% went to publishing,” wrote Page. “Roll forward to 2020 and the pie has grown by 15% to reach $32.5bn of which the share to publishers has increased by half to reach 35%.”

Suffice to say, this is a conclusion that will ruffle a few feathers within the industry, given the wider debate. In fact, it chimes with the arguments put forward by Roberto Neri, chair of the UK Music Publishers Association, when he was quizzed on publishing versus label shares at the UK’s streaming economics inquiry in February 2021.

“If we go back to where we were 10 years ago when streaming first surfaced, we were at eight to 10 per cent, and we’ve moved up in the right direction,” said Neri then – talking about the share of recordings revenues, not the overall value figures that Page is calculating. “We’re very convinced that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Page’s conclusion this week: “The global value of music copyright has never been bigger, and the more recent figures compound this point. Second: songwriters, publishers and their CMOs are seeing a bigger share now than when CDs peaked… the business of music copyright has never had it so good.”

We’ll be interested to see the follow-on discussion, which we expect to be… spirited. We will, of course, report on any response from publishing and songwriter bodies to Page’s conclusions in this case.

Written by: Stuart Dredge