Kobalt US pullout gives Meta another licensing headache


Meta is having… let’s call it a ‘difficult’ month for its music-licensing strategy. Last week it was sued by Epidemic Sound after the latter claimed that 94% of the usage of its music on Facebook and Instagram was unlicensed.

Now Meta is facing an even bigger headache in the US, where Kobalt is pulling its repertoire from the social giant’s family of services in the US. In a note sent to songwriters and published by MBW, Kobalt explained that this is due to its licensing deal with Meta in the US expiring, and no renewal having been signed.

“Over the course of several months, we’ve worked diligently and in good faith to come to an agreement covering a new license for Kobalt’s repertoire,” said the company. “Unfortunately, fundamental differences remained that we were not able to resolve in your best interests.”

This being publishing, of course, the removal of one company’s catalogue has more complex implications than if it were a single label. Kobalt has whole but also partial stakes in a huge catalogue of songs – more than 40% of the average top 100 tracks in the US and UK according to the company.

Epidemic Sound and Kobalt are different companies: production music and publishing. But the fact that these two disputes have become public does hint at something bigger going on around Meta’s music licensing strategy.

It seems there is some serious heel-digging-in going on, on both sides of the negotiating table. This, at a time when the music industry is both celebrating the importance of social platforms as a new revenue stream, and grumbling increasingly loudly and publicly (see also: TikTok) about the terms of these deals, and rightsholders’ desire to improve them.

Written by: Stuart Dredge