Artist managers argue that they need to know more detail about the deals done between the labels and the streaming services, so that they can properly audit the streaming royalties their artists receive. This would allow them to better understand the streaming business and advise their clients on which platforms to champion. They could also then be reassured that the value of the booming streaming market is being fairly shared between all stakeholders within the music community, ie artists and songwriters as well as labels and publishers.
Noting that the new deal struck between Universal and Spotify – and the pending deals due to be agreed with Sony Music and Warner Music – continue to shrouded in secrecy, the CEO of the Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick, said: “The news that Spotify and Universal have struck a new licence deal to help support continued streaming growth is welcome. However the lack of transparency around the terms of such deals means it is still impossible to properly understand and verify the flow of money from fan to artist and ensure those who create the music share in the growth in its value. Transparency is essential and should be baked into any new deal, not hidden behind NDAs”.
The same criticism could equally be made of non statutory direct agreements by digital aggregators like CD Baby, Tunecore. LyricFind, Pledge Music, the Orchard and Loudr, each of which offer varying degrees of transparency of their own books, much less the deals they’ve made with digital services on behalf of the artists, songwriters, labels and music publishers appointing them as agents for relicense of music.
It would be very simple for aggregators to disclose the terms of their deals or to at least summarize them so that artists or songwriters who are considering who to sign with could compare payouts. It’s fine to tell people what their royalty split, flat fee, or distribution fee might be, but the assumption is that the revenue stream being shared is identical from one aggregator to another.
A related hot topic I encountered on more than one occasion at last week’s Music Biz 2017 conference was access to data, and how this varies from deal to deal. For example, it’s well known that the majors have negotiated access to more detailed ‘play’ analytics from Spotify (such as listener retention, more demographic options, and so on). And a plausible rumor is that the majors have negotiated others not have access to this information, giving preferred partners a leg up. Herein lies the danger of a few companies becoming the sole distribution portals for music streaming.