What is an ISWC?

Whether on the radio or through a streaming service, every record is based on an underlying composition that, in essence, defines the song. This “underlying composition” dictates the melody, lyrics, and structure of a recorded performance (or sound recording). Over the years, the music business has grown to need a uniform system for identifying compositions and tracking their uses.

The ISWC, or International Standard Musical Work Code, takes care of just that—it’s a 10-digit code that’s tied to each composition/song.

An ISWC may be paired with any number of records so long as they do not consist of derivative works, or new arrangements of a composition, often including different or parody lyrics. Remixes or covers do not fall under “derivative works,” and thus any number of remixes or covers could have the same ISWC because they’re based on the same composition.

In this newsletter:

CISAC has published its annual report which emphasizes the importance of the ISWC identifier for songs and addresses challenges with the collective licensing system.

The UK government has established what it calls a working group on creator remuneration and in the same week has unveiled an industry agreement on music streaming metadata.

The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) says it has increased member distributions to $232M in 2022.

Now, the details...

Exploration Weekly - June 2, 2023
Compiled by Ana Berberana

CISAC Provides Updates on ISWC Developments in its Annual Report

CISAC – the global grouping of song right collecting societies – has published its annual report. Among other things, it includes updates on developments around the ISWC identifier for songs and the organization’s work addressing issues with the collective licensing system in certain markets, in particular Greece. The ISWC is the code that allows the music industry to uniquely identify every individual song and is a key part of the music industry’s rights metadata set. It’s no secret that the music industry’s management of its rights metadata is far from perfect, and in the streaming domain that is having a big impact on how songwriters get paid. There are various things the industry needs to do to start addressing those problems, which includes the full adoption of the ISWC, and ensuring that codes are created and distributed for each new song as quickly as possible. The ultimate aim is that the ISWC is included alongside every recording that is delivered to a streaming service, so that both the service and the industry knows what songs are contained in every track. As the overseer of the ISWC, CISAC has a role to play in helping the industry to achieve all this. And to that end it has made a number of changes to its ISWC systems in recent years, in an effort to speed up the process of issuing codes, and to ensure more people have access to the data.

UK Government Forms Creator “Remuneration Working Group”, Unveils Music Streaming Metadata

In the UK, the world’s third-largest recorded music market, the government has established what it calls a working group on creator remuneration and in the same week has unveiled an industry agreement on music streaming metadata. These initiatives aim to promote fair pay for musicians and enhance the accuracy and transparency of metadata in the streaming industry. According to the Government, the new group will be composed of “representatives and experts” from across the music sector and will “explore and develop industry-led actions that support fair remuneration for existing and future music creators as part of a successful and globally competitive music industry”. The recommendation to form the group, which was accepted by the government in March, was put forward by the Culture, Media & Sport Committee in January. The Committee’s report in January was a follow-up to its original 2021 report on the Economics of music streaming. In addition to the working group, the UK government has introduced an industry agreement on music streaming metadata on Wednesday (May 31). Metadata plays a crucial role in accurately crediting and compensating music creators. The voluntary agreement sets out commitments from stakeholders across the UK music streaming industry to progressively improve metadata in new recordings. This includes ensuring consistent and comprehensive information about songwriters, performers, and rights owners associated with each track. By enhancing the quality and reliability of metadata, the agreement aims to enable more accurate and timely payments to music creators from streaming platforms. The agreement also calls for the establishment and support of expert working groups focused on education and technical solutions to further improve metadata over a two-year period.

MCPS Mechanical Distributions Top $232M in 2022

The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) says it has increased member distributions to £188.4 ($232M) in 2022. The MCPS collects mechanical royalties on behalf of 34,000 publishers, songwriters, and composers when their music is copied or reproduced. That includes music that is copied and used in physical products like vinyl, CD, or cassette, when their music is streamed or downloaded on DSPs like Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon, or when their music is synchronized into audio-visual entertainment including TV, films, video games, advertising, or on the radio. After a period of revenue decline, MCPS says it has bounced back and grown its member distributions for the fourth consecutive year. Last year, MCPS increased its membership by 7.5% with 2,284 members joining the society. The organization was able to maximize payouts through a combination of pioneering strategies. MCPS is focused on streamlining its business practices internationally for faster distributions of royalties to creatives. “Looking at the wider industry, these landmark returns can be attributed to the popularity of entertainment streaming services, robust distributions from international receipts and heightened consumer demand around physical products (particularly vinyl),” the MCPs report reads.

US Solicitor General urges Supreme Court to decline Genius v Google case

The US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar last week urged the country’s Supreme Court to decline to review the Genius v Google legal battle, despite not entirely agreeing with the conclusion reached by the Second Circuit Appeals Court in that case. In that legal battle, lyrics platform Genius accused Google of scraping content off its website and then plonking those lyrics into the info boxes that appear on the search engine when people search for specific songs. Google insisted that it sourced its lyrics from its music industry partners and lyrics aggregator LyricFind, and would never sully itself by unofficially scraping other people’s websites. Though some clever placing of punctuation patterns within the Genius lyrics – which they allegedly showed up in Google’s info boxes – suggested something dodgy was going on somewhere along the line. However, Genius had a problem once it decided to go legal. It doesn’t own the copyright in the lyrics it publishes – those rights belonging to songwriters and music publishers – so it couldn’t sue for copyright infringement. Instead it sued for breach of contract, arguing that Google had connected to its platform and, in doing so, became bound by its terms and conditions. Which include a term that basically says nicking Genius lyrics for commercial use is not allowed. However, Google countered that this was a big old copyright dispute, but without the involvement of a copyright owner. And US law stops Genius from pursuing a related breach of contract claim, it argued, because copyright law takes priority.

Tidal Launches ‘Tidal Artist Home’ Profile Management Hub For Artists

Music streaming service TIDAL has unveiled TIDAL Artist Home, a new feature that allows artists to manage how fans see their TIDAL profile, among other functionalities. TIDAL says the new tool grants artists control over their TIDAL profiles, while providing early access to new products and resources tailored to their needs. The music streaming company says that the new artist platform is launching with the “long-term vision of giving artists more control over their careers, starting with their presence on TIDAL”. TIDAL Artist Home’s launch follows the launch of Spotify‘s Spotify for Artists hub back in October 2017. The latter platform enabled artists to track the release of their new music and manage their presence on Spotify. (Spotify Analytics, a data dashboard for record labels and distributors, was introduced in November 2020). SoundCloud in October also launched its own artist services platform called ‘SoundCloud for Artists.’ The launch was led by Tracy Chan, SoundCloud’s Senior Vice President of Creator, and former Head of Music at Twitch. He also led the development of Spotify for Artists. And less than a year ago, Tencent Music Entertainment, the most dominant music streaming service provider in China, also launched a similar tool called ‘TME Business Intelligence for Artists.’ TME claimed that the tool updates data 150 times a day by data mining across multiple platforms.

Random Ramblings

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