The Value of a Copyright: A Letter From A2IM’s Rich Bengloff

September 12, 2011

All sound recording copyrights are created equally and should be paid equally.

In my personal collection I have many recordings from independent artists of many niche genres ranging from Jazz to Blues to Americana to Classical.  I also have music from big superstar artists such as Columbia’s Beyonce.  All are stunning artists who deserve attention for their recordings.   But there is no good justification for why Beyonce’s copyrights should be compensated at a higher per play/per-use rate than the independent artists’.

This issue cuts directly to the core of A2IM’s mission:  insuring a fair marketplace for independents.  The value of a song or performance should not be determined by which music label owns the song.   If that is allowed to stand, independent labels and artists might be treated unfairly and paid a lesser amount, when there is ample proof that music fans want our music and that services that underestimate this fact do so at their own risk.

The statutory license for non-on demand streaming administered by SoundExchange insures this equitable treatment by services like Pandora, Slacker, SomaFM, Sirius/XM, FM Radio simulcasts, etc. for streaming radio.  Beyonce has a broader audience than most independent artists so her music is acquired or played/accessed more frequently and as a result, Beyonce and her label receive more income than some independent artists or their labels but not because Beyonce’s music receives a higher per play royalty rate.  That should be the compensation differentiation.  For sales of music, both independent labels and majors have the same iTunes menu options made available to them for pricing their music ($0.99 or $1.29 per track, $9.99 or $11.99 per album, etc.) with the same corresponding wholesale prices.  These parity examples, as well as many others, underscore that the recognition of the equal value of all recorded musical works on a per song/per access basis has precedent, is valid, and works.

Sometimes services come to our members seeking lower rates for the use of their music, noting the promotional value of their services or other “special opportunities”; there are examples of these types of requests elsewhere on the A2IM website. As always, A2IM reminds every member label that they have their own business plan and that they must make their own individual decisions as to what is best for their label. The purpose of this item is to suggest to our members that that they think about this “value of a copyright” paradigm when making these decisions. For example should any radio service, over the air or digital streaming, ‘threaten’ to not play your music on their service unless you do a deal on their terms, you might want to remind them of all the competition for ears that radio services face and confidently remind the person delivering the threat that the programmers that WIN play the very best music and that the programmers that LOSE play music based upon the instructions of back office paper pushers.

Just a thought for today, as always all should think through the best path for their businesses and make the best decisions for their individual label’s and their artists circumstances.

TAGS: Billboard CRB Earbits licensing Promo For What Rhapsody Sirius SoundExchange Statutory Royalties Webcasting