US dollars money

Much of the debate around songwriters’ earnings from music streaming revolves around whether they should be paid a lot more – from higher statutory rates in the US to the division of the pie between recordings and compositions generally.

Now managers industry body the MMF wants to kickstart a new angle of that debate focusing on HOW songwriters and composers are paid. To do that, it has launched a report this morning at The Great Escape conference in the UK called the ‘Song Royalties Manifesto’. It’s all about increasing transparency and getting songwriters paid more quickly.

Specifically, the report sets out three key steps that the MMF would like to see taken. First, making sure every song’s data is accurately logged with an ISWC code before any recording is released, with an industry-appointed organisation maintaining a public database of every new ISWC – essentially a global version of the one managed by the MLC in the US.

The second step would be to require labels and distributors to provide ISWCs in the metadata accompanying every track they provide to streaming services, with the DSPs able to reject any music lacking it AND downrank companies if they provide an incorrect code.

The third step would be for publishers and collecting societies to provide their own data feeds to the public database of every work in which they have an interest: percentages and territories included.

All of this is geared towards eradicating the infamous problems where streaming services have large chunks of their catalogue for which they don’t have accurate (or even any) data on who to pay publishing royalties to.

“Songwriters and composers are being failed by outmoded processes that drastically delay and reduce their streaming royalties. Each year, obscene amounts of money are being lost or mis-allocated,” said MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick.

“This manifesto is not an exercise in finger-pointing. It’s a call to action,” added chair Paul Craig. “And, in actual fact, it’s imperative that songwriters and their managers get the process of reform underway by ensuring splits are agreed and ISWC codes are accurately logged in advance of compositions being released.”

Hipgnosis and The Ivor’s Academy have backed the initiative at launch, which isn’t a surprise – both have been vocal in the debates about streaming and songwriters.

“This manifesto is essential. Anyone representing a songwriter or using their work to make money can accept nothing less. In an age of data revolution and Blockchain, the journey of the 15% of song revenue received by writers for streaming being hacked apart by a lack of care in its data from day one is no longer acceptable,” said Hipgnosis chief catalog officer Amy Thomson.

“The song has rights, the songwriter has rights, and it’s time everyone who uses the work of a composer attaches every piece of code required to get them paid.”

“These are progressive steps to help address the issue of missing and late payment of royalties to songwriters,” added Ivors Academy boss Graham Davies. “Missing song data is a key issue for The Ivors Academy and it is positive to see the proposals for solutions coming from managers, alongside the proposals being put by music publishers and others in the industry.”

We’ll be very interested to see how the rest of the music industry responds to what’s being pitched as a way to “turn what is currently an opaque black box of song royalties into a glass box”.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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