Features February 1, 2018

Aussie industry praises push for a single song database in the US

Charts & New Music Editor
Aussie industry praises push for a single song database in the US

Two of the United States’ largest performance rights organisations, ASCAP and BMI, are facing backlash from the local industry after announcing their two-year joint efforts to design a database for more than 20 million songs they represent.

Billboard reported last week that record labels, publishers and other various bodies are clearly unhappy with the product, fearing it may lead to unwanted government intervention.

Streaming is now the largest form of music consumption and the pressure is on to develop a system that accommodates and includes data on both publishers’ shares of songs, as well as recordings, to make it easier for digital services to license music and pay out royalties to the correct copyright holders.

In Australia, the local performing rights associations are a step ahead. APRA AMCOS has a combined system that incorporates both performing (public communication) and mechanical ownership (reproduction of works). 

APRA AMCOS Head of International Richard Davison lauds ASCAP and BMI’s push towards a single trusted data source that gives a complete picture of performing and mechanical data.

“We applaud ASCAP and BMI’s initiative,” Davison told TMN. “Any cooperation towards a single comprehensive source of truth is a step in the right direction.

“The Australasian market is incredibly efficient due to the fact that APRA AMCOS already maintains and utilises a joint database of performing and mechanical ownership for all writers and publishers, which is a trusted source of information,” Davison added.

Speaking with TMN, Matt Donlevy from Cooking Vinyl’s local publishing division says that “the Australian publishers have always been lucky to have such well managed and organised societies with APRA AMCOS as the experience in other territories is not so good.”

Back in 2011, the music industry had plans to develop the Global Repertoire Database (GRD), a single, comprehensive representation of the authorship and control of musical works worldwide. However, the plan fizzled in 2014 as numerous performing rights organisations began withdrawing, citing unreasonable costs and management disputes.  

“There was unilateral support from both songwriters and publishers in investing time and money into the GRD project,” Donlevy said, citing APRA AMCOS as an early partner in the scheme. “The fact there were too many vested interests for some PRO’s in not making it happen killed the project.”

According to the publisher, the fact that the US has a number of different performing rights associations doesn’t make the situation any easier. He believes a joint database will also eradicate mistakes in the data which will help stamp out payment issues.  

“The US, having such an important catalogue of works, has four different performing rights societies and this does not work as well as a single PRO. For example, not all cable networks or radio stations pay for all of the material they use.

“How it will pan out will be interesting,” Donlevy continued. “If there is enough will to make this happen it will occur. It’s also better that these PROs define such a database than be forced into doing this. Or worse, having a copyright user do it on their behalf.”

 

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