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An End to Gaps and Asymmetries? How To Bring Data and Money Into Harmony [Midem Digital Edition]

“We’re in a radically transformed landscape,” notes Amy Wang, Music Business Editor at Rolling Stone and moderator of “Data for Dollars,” a Midem Digital Edition panel that explores how the music business could make more value from its rich data, when listening can generate billions of data points in mere hours.

The perpetual question of how artists and rights holders can get an equitable share of the music dollar drives current discussion around music copyrights. As all three of the companies represented on this panel suggest, access to data and control over content helps ensure present and future revenue streams for rights holders. All argue that data is the path towards greater power over the shares of those dollars.

Amadea Choplin of Pex sees the full scope of the problem, however: “There’s no way to aggregate the information about where [an artist’s] tracks are. We help them understand the scope and value of virality.” She gives the example of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of you.” On Sheeran’s accounts, the track generated about 7.5 million views. But, Choplin says, “When you aggregate all the views from the social accounts that have shared the video or use the music, it’s really 22 billion streams, just UGC plays of the song. It’s important to understand that it’s not just about Spotify; it’s about this larger ecosystem as well.”

The ecosystem is vast and uses a lot of music. On YouTube, Choplin notes, 84% of videos contain at least 10 seconds of music, as do 17% of podcasts. These usages involve copyrights and with new copyright protections coming into play, especially in Europe, “it’s crunch time for platforms,” Choplin explains. “We’re helping these platforms put in place the mechanisms they need. Building a system that attributes content is essential and that will help bridge the value gap” between usage, data and monetization. In short, “Every artist should be able to monetize their work, and every platform should offer monetization.”

“50,000 new sound recordings hitting the commercial system each day”

Data volume and quality remain just as challenging on streaming and other music platforms that don’t involve UGC. “There are 50,000 new sound recordings hitting the commercial system each day,” says Michael Shanley, VP at Music Reports. “In one month of 2020, we released more music than we did in the whole 20th century. We’re only going to continue making music in a DIY way, and it could be 60,000 next year.” Translating this flood of music into revenue that can flow back to artists is no easy task: “Monetization is being held up because the data simply doesn’t exist. 90% of the music distributed today does not have corresponding publishing information.”

With persistent problems like these, Shanley argues that alongside more radical innovation, other change can help. “There are middle steps and experimentation on the streaming platforms, things like user centric accounting, for example,” Shanley notes. “We’re building systems in that space to let indie rights holders engage with the biggest uses of music, which are basically big tech companies. Looking to close that gap” between individual, often independent artists and global tech corporations.

“You have numbers growing every year… but it’s not ending up in artists’ pockets”

Artists know something isn’t quite right, that they have valuable data as well as great music. “Artists understand there is an asymmetry somewhere. You have numbers growing every year. We are celebrating all these data but it’s not ending up in artists’ pockets,” muses Stefan Schulz, CEO of Bitfury Surround. “The truth must be somewhere in the data. People are eager to find out where it is.”

Part of the problem is the reactive nature of the music business response to new technology and platforms. “Generally, what’s happening is the collection and the passive part, but we need to get more engaged in proactively increasing the value,” Schulz says. Learning from how sports and gaming use content and discover value drivers is key. “Individually monetizing data points and bringing leverage into every piece of the conversation have been underdeveloped.” However, there’s reason for optimism, if the industry bands together and changes its mindset around data and monetization. We can make, “this transition in our minds,” he argues. “Together we make the market better. It’s not just market share, market share!”

For more than 50 years, Midem has brought the global music community together in Cannes. This year, Midem Digital Edition (June 2-5) will feature 264 speakers from 48 countries, 64 sessions, and 23 livestreamed keynote sessions, talks, and presentations.