I dreamed that that nobody came to the 3rd Annual SONA Summit but the joke was on me because on the night of...the room was #Packed. Apparently there are more and more of us who have decided not to sleep through a revolution. When it comes to songwriters getting their fair share of the interactive streaming pie, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Here's why. Every 5 years the National Music Publishers Association takes part in a CRB hearing (Copyright Royalty Board), in Washington DC, and makes a case for a rate increase. Currently, songwriters are being paid (cough cough) a mere .0000076 per stream. Whaaat? Is that even a number? This past March David Israelite, President of the NMPA, spent 13 million dollars lobbying for a new ask: 15-cents-per-100-streams.
Thank you, David.
SONA’s Math Man Chris Horvath, power-pointed through an optimistic supposition: he used an example of a recent top 10 hit…for which, over a 3 month period, one of the two writers earned $8000 for his (writers') share (not publishers' share) of 111 million streams. Chris calculated that at 15-cents-per-100-streams, that writers' share would rise to $85,000.
Thank you, Chris.
Chris describes himself as a conservative guy…and doesn’t expect we’ll get the full ask. So he halved the ask to 7.5 cents (per hundred streams), which would translate to $42,500. Ok. we'll take it. But then, because he’s really cautious he halved the half. That amount would be $21,000…still a 250% increase of the current digital royalty rate. Not bad. For now. Better than $8000. Baby steps.
If I were the writer of the song in the test tube I would wish I could be retroactively compensated. But kidding aside (I wish I wasn’t), this would make a big difference not just for the lucky composer of a top ten hit but for, as Chris calls them, “the songwriter next door.” Bits and pieces of non-top-tens titles would add up as well.
To be honest, Chris is not always a glass-half-full kinda guy and I was braced for darker news, but it wasn’t my imagination—just about everyone in the room was feeling Hopeful when he finished.
There are other rays of encouragement on the horizon:
Paid streaming doubled last year and with downloads soon to be a thing of the past, more and more music lovers will be subscribing to a digital delivery system. That said, it would be helpful if we could raise subscription rates and secure a more proportionate piece of them. After all, record labels are reporting ground breaking revenue growth! Why shouldn't the writers who give them the content enjoy that growth as well? Says Mr. Israelite, "a rising tide should lift all creators."
And speaking of $9.99 a month, WARNING…I’m going to go off on a tangent: what if there was a tiered system where users paid for what they consumed…like a utility. Cuz the way it is now, it’s as if everyone is paying the same amount to heat their home whether they live in Alaska or Florida. The same amount for water whether they shower once a week (ew) or twice a day. Doesn’t seem right.
If Jane only streams music on her way to work every day maybe she should pay a floor of $6.99 while John, whose earbuds are in use 24/7 pays a ceiling…perhaps $29.99 a month for all you can eat, whenever, wherever you want. Seems like a good deal to me.
My husband tells me there are loopholes in my machination but I say…why not? If Apple has the funds to pay Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre 3 billion dollars for Beats, they can afford to hire someone to figure out how to implement tiering. (Have you seen "Defiant Ones"...the new Doc about this? It's in my queue. Supposed to be great!)
Tangent over. Where was I? Oh yeah... if all goes according to schedule, this December, three judges will weigh the arguments of music publishers & songwriters with the ones of Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon and Pandora, and interactive streaming rates for the next five years will be established. True, these businesses have tons of money for lobbying and lawyers. But hopefully, Mr. Israelite's 3 mill will have some impact.
So if you didn’t sell your catalogue during the gold rush, don't fret. Chris says we have to think of it as “holding on to real estate during a down market in a neighborhood that could get really hot.” From your mouth to Billboard, Chris. Or better yet, Million Dollar Listing.
There’s even more legislation in the works which may ease government regulation of our income. Congressman Doug Collins is working on a bill which could potentially:
—get us out of a courtroom ruled by one unfriendly judge and into a process of arbitration with a rotating panel of judges.
— make it possible to introduce comparative evidence, such as the considerably larger piece of pie that labels are enjoying, or how an unregulated Sync licensing fee (as opposed to the regulated digital royalty), is divided between a sound recording and a copyright: (50/50). Now, that's more like it.
— allow us to address a NOI (notice of intent) loophole which streaming services take advantage of in order to get free use of material whose owners they “can’t locate.” Grrr.
Sexy stuff, folks! But, is there light?
Yes, we can see it. I can feel it. That doesn’t mean we can relax. We’ve come this far because we’re a creative community who has been pushing, shaming and pressuring. And it’s working. So let’s keep it up. We can’t stop now.