This is a guest post from Chris Herbert, SVP of Content, at VR platform Eyeora – which has powered a number of VR/metaverse music experiences, including from Cee-Lo Green – exploring the challenges of music licensing in the metaverse. He explains why the industry should be preparing to get to grips with licensing sooner rather than later, and outlines a number of reasons why licensing music in the metaverse is complex (a process that Vickie Nauman described in our recent podcast episode) – and he also suggests how some existing licensing frameworks may cover metaverse spaces too.
As the metaverse takes shape, many industries are starting to realise the significant impact of the new digital universe and the monetisation opportunities it brings. The music industry is no different, with several world-class artists like Ariana Grande, Zara Larsson and Travis Scott already partnering with gaming companies and appearing in the metaverse arena to put on shows of unprecedented global scale.
And it’s not just music concerts – the birth of the metaverse means we’re going to see a paradigm shift in how artists share content, socialise and communicate with fans in more immersive ways. Artists like CeeLo Green, Ro James, and Avehre are already using VR as a new and immersive way to reach new audiences, grow their online presence and deliver the ultimate event experience. And this is just the beginning.
At the same time, conversations are now steering towards the uncharted waters of licensing in the metaverse. When blending in the physical and virtual realities to offer concert experiences like no other, artists, songwriters, labels and publishers need to ensure their rights are protected. Finding a workable solution is critical so that everyone is remunerated fairly as the virtual world becomes more mainstream.
The licensing model conundrum
Music licensing and copyright law is a complex subject in normal circumstances when taking into account a physical venue that has a clear capacity limit. Anyone playing live or recorded music in public, that’s not royalty-free, needs to apply for a PRO / CMO license to ensure compliance and that a royalty is paid to the artists, featuring artists and songwriters. The picture is not so black and white when it comes to the metaverse as it doesn’t quite fall into one licensing category.
The metaverse is a 3D virtual world, thus could be viewed as a virtual venue and covered by the PRO / CMO license. However, there are arguments against doing so as they turn towards the broadcasting arena. Songs in the metaverse can be played in the video format and performed on-demand and live by a motion-captured avatar of an artist. Therefore, one could argue that the metaverse requires a synchronisation license to grant permissions to synchronise a song with the moving avatar in the virtual world, just like it would for adverts, films or TV programmes.
There is also the case of capacity as the metaverse is infinite and has no geographical boundaries, therefore, the audience could be unlimited too. The whole idea of the new immersive virtual world is to create an inclusive space where people from different corners of the world can interact with one another, but that makes the music licensing tariffs harder to regulate and calculate.
A collaborative effort
Music licensing in the metaverse is still new, just like the virtual world being created in front of our eyes. It cannot, however, be left unregulated, or with rules open to interpretation. Lessons must be learnt from past experiences and protests to eliminate the mistreatment of music workers and give every artist an equal and fair opportunity to connect to their fans and earn money.
A collaborative effort is needed between artists, labels, publishers, licensing bodies, regulatory organisations, tech start-ups and metaverse platforms to find an easy and fair solution for all involved parties. The conversations must go beyond opportunistic profit-making, though. We’re all taking a part in developing the metaverse and can benefit from a solution to the music licensing conundrum. As such, there’s never been a greater need for flexibility, transparency and knowledge sharing.
A good amount of data is already collected and analysed that could help with finding a fair music licensing solution, from the ticket sales to live concerts that already took place in the metaverse to the subscriptions rates and monthly footfall of VR platforms offering on-demand music entertainment. Metaverse platforms and music workers alike should be honest about the data they own and be open to share it in conversations in the coming months.
A simple solution
Rather than overcomplicating an already complex subject, we need a simple solution. The metaverse is a virtual space, therefore, we could cover it with a blanket PRO / CMO license. It’s already designed to cover using music online and could be extended to account for the music played in the metaverse too. Introducing tiered tariffs will make it fairer to account for different VR room capacities and footfall. This will also ensure any incidental music is covered on VR platforms too as they’d pay the appropriate licensing fee.
We’ve been in a similar position before, first when the internet became mainstream, then when music streaming platforms became popular, so we shouldn’t underestimate the lessons from past experiences to introduce a fair licensing model. The monetisation opportunities in the metaverse for both established and up-and-coming artists are huge, and with a concerted collaborative effort, we can confidently create and access virtual performance experience of an unimaginable scale.
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