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Label Worx





Spotify Profit Payouts: What's the fairest way to recompense artists?
Posted By : Alex Powell
Posted Date : September 4th, 2018
The following blog comes from the CEO of the UK-based Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick (pictured). She dissects the different ways that major and independent labels are distributing proceeds from Spotify share sales - and ponders what it all might mean for the lump sum coming from Facebook.

For the artist and management community, the most controversial element of Spotify's transition to a publicly traded company was how (and if) the three majors and Merlin-member labels would share the proceeds from sale of their equity holdings.

These stakes were agreed as far back as 2008. At the time, music streaming was in the earliest stage of adoption (Spotify gets a mere two mentions in the IFPI's 2009 Digital Music Report) and, although there were sensible rationale for the largest rights holders to demand equity, a lack of transparency surrounded these arrangements and the basis on which they were agreed.

We now inhabit a different world. Streaming has evolved into the record industry's dominant revenue stream (IFPI reported a 41.1% increase in streaming revenue in 2017) and Spotify the dominant global service.

The Music Managers Forum has consistently argued that, if the combined value of all repertoire/market share was used as a means to secure equity stakes, then morally it should be shared with all artists regardless of previous commercial arrangements.

In other words, the ideal scenario would be to treat these divestments as a one-off payment - from which all artists would gain. This is not, of course, a process without challenges. Essentially, we're talking about making the unattributed attributable. There's a lot to untangle.

At the MMF we understand that equity payouts are not that easy to calculate, particularly if artists and labels have changed business partners over the term the equity was held. In practice, it will likely be impossible to make distributions to everyone's agreement.

We also think it's important to manage expectations. Although the overall sums are large, when divided between thousands of artists they are unlikely to constitute a retirement fund.

However, if these deals were made on a broad-brush basis of 'market share' then, arguably, they should be returned to the widest cross-section of artists - regardless of whether they're still signed to a label, or whether they're signed to a label distributed by another label. That would seem fair to those whose music was traded for equity in the first place.

Since April, a clearer picture is now emerging of what's likely to happen. Or at least a little clearer.

So, what do we know?

Sony wrote to artist and managers in June saying they would also be sharing net proceeds of the $750m equity they have divested so far (half their holding) minus the actual costs related to acquisition and sale on a royalty basis, using an illustration of their US standard 16% royalty with deducted producer royalties.

They also employed an allocation methodology equally weighing the overall revenue and Spotify revenue to give recognition to artists on their current roster and in catalogue at the time the equity was obtained. This resulted in an allocation to nearly 100,000 eligible artists and participants with payouts beginning August 2018, and will continue as further equity is sold.

The positive news is SME won't treat this payout against recoupment and will share with all currently distributed labels (e.g. through the Orchard) who should then pass onto the artists they work with.

However, they will not pay out to labels they are no longer in business with, so will retain 100% this income. Artists signed to these labels will not receive anything.

Warner has sold their entire stake of Spotify equity for $404m and will be sharing $126m of the proceeds with artists according to their contractual terms. That means some will receive significantly more than 25%, and some a lot less - based on individual royalty rates.

Warners' calculations are based on actual consumption on Spotify over the term of the deal from October 2008-March 2018 (from not all catalogue).

WMG wrote to artists representatives in August with more detail, stating the proceeds will be credited to artists' account for the period to June 2018 as 'equity proceeds'.

However, as the share is against recoupment, much of this will go to the bottom line and remain with the label. They also are sharing payments with distributed labels, but only if this is part of the contract - so if an artist is signed to a distributed label through ADA they are likely to get nothing.

It is also unclear what then happens to the money that's not being distributed out of the artists' section of the pot when catalogues have moved on and if this is included in the $126m artist payout or not.

Universal also publicly committed to share payments in March 2018, announcing that 'consistent with UMG's approach to artist compensation, artists would share in the proceeds of a [Spotify] equity sale.' No further information has come into the public domain and it is understood none of their shares have yet been cashed in.

Merlin announced in May that it had sold 100% of its equity (estimated at over $100m). All labels that are part of the Merlin deal are seeing the equity paid across based on actual consumption on Spotify over the length of the deal.

Merlin labels can decide their own policy within the scope of WIN's Fair Digital Deals Declaration.

Beggars, Secretly and Domino have pledged to share as a minimum 50/50 of the equity proceeds with artists against recoupment - or more where the contractual split is higher.

AWAL/Kobalt are treating the equity as income like any other and paying across as a revenue share (whilst retaining 15%) based on actual consumption on Spotify during the term of their Merlin deal.

With all of these, we understand income will start to come through this autumn.

So yes, the process is complex - but it's also important, and for two important long-term reasons.

Firstly, trust.

Relationships between labels and artists, historically rather fractious, are now in the process of being realigned. Artists and managers are increasingly business partners with labels, not simply at the end of a supply chain where they sign over copyright for life. That was the old world; we're now in the new.

The majority of labels are becoming closer to service companies, while many managers now run their artist's own labels. We are frequently much closer due to these shared interests - but that also needs a shift in communication. Nobody wants to fall back into bad habits. As business partners, artists and managers should not learn of new deals via the trade press. They need information in advance.

And secondly, Facebook.

It would be easy to see Spotify as a one-off; as the last deal of its type before streaming altered the balance of the recorded business, but other unattributable deals are still being agreed. Facebook is the biggest, with over $1bn being paid for the use of music for the next two years.

Many labels are privately committing to share with artists, but again using different methodology - some using YouTube consumption, or YouTube+Spotify, as a proxy to payout in theory from this autumn.

Managers are not involved in these discussions about how this will work (even with the indies) and if we're lucky will get an email at the time statements go out explaining how the calculations have been made. Again, the policy is being decided on old-world principles of record labels being rights owners and artists and their team as content suppliers with no stake in the shape of the industry.

In the new world, we're increasingly rights partners. Artists and managers should be treated as such, with far more engagement as to how these decisions are taken and a greater understanding of what they mean


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Our News   /   December 3rd, 2018

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Black Friday Offers

Our News   /   November 22nd, 2018

Black Friday Offers

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CUFF - Amine Edge on Royalty Worx.

Label News   /   November 19th, 2018

CUFF - Amine Edge on Royalty Worx.

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Industry News   /   November 19th, 2018

Neighbouring Rights - What is it all about?

The music industry is forever evolving, whether that be technological, social or legislation based, opportunities to exploit new and existing revenue streams constantly present themselves. Over the last few years, you are probably hearing more and more about Neighbouring Rights and with good reason. Neighbouring Rights is one of the fastest growing revenue streams in the music industry today. In 2016 alone, revenue from Neighbouring Rights topped $2.1 billion which was up 4.4% from the year before and is still growing strong. Neighbouring Rights are in no way the new kid on the block, in fact, they have been around since the Rome Convention was signed in 1961 and in the USA when the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty was signed in 1996. We won't bore you with the details here but feel free to dig into this at your leisure. So what are Neighbouring Rights? Well, these are rights related to the public performance and broadcast of sound recordings. Not to be confused with publishing or 'mechanical' rights though, there is an important distinction here. Mechanical rights are rights associated with the reproduction of recorded music whereas Neighbouring Rights relate to the public performance and broadcast of music. Why now though? This revenue stream has been around for years, why only now are we exploiting Neighbouring Rights? Well, there are multiple reasons, mainly the fact that many countries that signed the Rome Convention haven't had the infrastructure in place to pay rights holders. Advancements in technology combined with communication and cooperation between countries growing have also helped pave the way to build that infrastructure. And with certain revenue streams such as CD and Downloads declining, the industries hand has been forced to adapt. Now for the burning question on everyone's lips', who is owed royalties? These royalties are generally split 50/50 between the performing artists and the master rights holders (who in most cases are the record labels). So, if you are a performing artist or a record label who has had your music broadcast on radio, TV, in a public place such as a bar or restaurant or on new media somewhere in the world, then there will be money owed to you. That's great, isn't it? There's money available that we didn't even know was there. Now where's my money and how do I get it? There are a few companies out there that will be able to claim Neighbouring Rights royalties on your behalf and they will usually take a small fee for doing so. On the flip side, you can try going to each territory directly, but who has time for that and most of the time you will be banging your head against a brick wall of bureaucracy. Companies like our sister company 'Lime Blue' have systems, contacts and direct agreements in place with over 60 countries worldwide that will save you buckets of time.

We're pleased to Welcome Simon to the Label Worx team.

Our News   /   November 14th, 2018

We're pleased to Welcome Simon to the Label Worx team.

We are pleased to welcome Simon Birkumshaw as our Head Of Label Acquisitions & A&R. Simon previously worked at Defected as A&R, Champion Records, Madtech & Madhouse as Label Manager and currently runs his own label and events in London under the brand 'Sense Traxx'. Simon will be working alongside our senior team to acquire new business for Label Worx and to manage existing and new relationships with stores and other outlets for your music. Welcome to the team, Simon!