Encouraging Steps Towards Closing The Publisher Data Gap
Artist concerns about transparency in streaming services are well founded but it is an eminently fixable problem because virtually all of the necessary data is in place. When a record label or distributor licenses music to a service it literally provides a data file of its music which is then ingested (uploaded) by the service. But when service licenses from a music publisher or PRO there is no such data file, because the recorded works are owned by the labels. Publishers do not even provide a comprehensive list of what works their license covers. So music services instead do a ‘best efforts’ licensing effort, licensing all the key publishers and PROs.
The problem is that until there is a market level solution that sort of action won’t go away. This means any music service operating in the US, where there is a statutory damages system, cannot operate with certainty that it will not face another legal suit with potentially vast damages awarded. The nightmare scenario is that streaming services start pulling out of the US, or restricting their catalogue to identified works (which largely means major publishers only) rather than face potentially fatal legal challenges.
The music industry needs a solution and now just like busses that never come, two arrive at once: Google’s Open Source Validation Tool for DDEX Standard and Canadian PRO (Performing Rights Organization) SOCAN has acquired Medianet essentially as a digital rights reporting play.
I sort of feel like the old guy grumbling “we can land a man on the moon but we can’t even (insert impossible thing here)”, but in this data-obsessed age we really should have a centralized publishers database that can be updated and utilized throughout the industry. Hopefully multiple companies getting involved (there are also rumors of Music Reports entering the fray) will finally bear some fruit, and we can begin slowly stumbling our way out of this wild west phase of the streaming economy.