“More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) has onboarded Richard Thompson, former chair of Digital Data Exchange, as chief information officer, responsible for overseeing the development and launch of the database. Partners ConsenSys and the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) have also been selected to manage data matches, distribute mechanical royalties, and onboard songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers and their catalogs. The database is set to go live on January 1, 2021.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the Ask Musicians for Music Act (AM-FM) in both houses of Congress last week, which would allow artists to receive performance rights royalties on radio airplay. A similar bill was introduced back in 2015 and 2017, but it failed to pass. If this new legislation becomes law, negotiations for artists’ royalty rates would be triggered as there currently is no master recording performance right in the US.

Indie music trade body IMPALA, based in Belgium, is preparing to oppose Tencent’s buyout of a 10% stake of Universal Music Group. The organization states that the sale would competitively disadvantage smaller companies, changing the entire music ecosystem. Tencent Music Entertainment currently has an estimated 90% market share of digital music in China, counting a total of 35.4 million paying music subscribers, according to the company’s latest Q3 results. IMPALA’s Executive Chair Helen Smith believes that the transaction could squeeze out independents and cause artists to lose out.

The Exploration family would also like to wish those in the US a happy Thanksgiving and all a safe and precious time with their loved ones!

Now, the details...
Compiled by Heidi Seo

Exploration Weekly - November 29, 2019

Mechanical Licensing Collective Selects Leadership, Partners for Copyright Database

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), mandated by the Music Modernization Act passed in October 2018, is announcing some of the partners that will help support the database with a leadership post key to its launch. Richard Thompson, the former chair of international data standards-setting organization Digital Data Exchange, has been formally named the MLC’s chief information officer, responsible for overseeing the development and launch of the database. He has been serving as chief information officer in an interim capacity since February. In addition, technology company ConsenSys and mechanical licensing administrator Harry Fox Agency (HFA) have been selected to manage the matching of data uses to musical works on the database; distributing mechanical royalties; and onboarding songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers and their catalogs. Those partners were chosen from more than a dozen tech companies that participated in the initial request for information that began last year. The MLC recently secured crucial funding to create a central database of music copyright information to distribute royalties to songwriters and copyright owners two weeks ago. In accordance with the Music Modernization Act, the database must go live on January 1, 2021. Global consulting firm Prophet will also create the portal’s user interface, and the MLC is working with the Digital Data Exchange to design interfaces to access the data.

Congress Introduces AM-FM Act to Get Artists and Labels Paid for Radio Play

The Ask Musicians for Music Act (AM-FM) was introduced in both houses of Congress on Thursday November 21, bringing artists one step closer to receiving performance rights royalties on radio airplay. This would require radio stations to get consent from recording artists to play their music. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The two had introduced a similar bill in 2015 and 2017, called the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, but it failed to pass. The passing of the AM-FM Act would trigger negotiations for artists’ royalty rates. Currently, there is no master recording performance right in the United States. Terrestrial radio stations get to play music for free without compensating labels who own the music or the artists who create it. The bill was filed as a response to the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) fight against the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act (STELAR). That act is set to expire at the end of this year. The NAB has been supporting a competing bill, The Local Radio Freedom Act, since February, which opposes any potential legislation that imposes new performance royalties on broadcast radio stations for music airplay.

Tencent’s Proposed $3 Billion Investment in Universal to be Challenged by Independent Music Companies

Belgium-based, independent music trade body IMPALA announced that it is “gearing up to oppose Tencent’s buyout of a 10% stake of Universal Music Group,” saying that “the impact of such a sale would change the whole music ecosystem,” and that smaller companies will be at a competitive disadvantage. On November 26, IMPALA stated that it is also “concerned about who might buy the additional UMG stakes that are up for grabs.” The European organization currently represents 4,000 independent music companies and national associations. Tencent Music Holdings is the majority stakeholder of Tencent Music Entertainment (TME), which owns QQ Music, Kugou, and Kuwo with an estimated 90% market share of digital music in China. TME reached a total of 35.4 million paying music subscribers in the three months to end of September, according to its latest Q3 results. IMPALA’s Executive Chair Helen Smith further stated, “Even at a low level of shareholding, we believe the risk of harm for consumers and competitors from such a transaction would be a concern because of the impact in both the digital market and the music sector, with independents being squeezed further and artists also losing out.”

On-Demand Audio, Video Streams Pass 1 Trillion This Year for First Time in US

For the first time in a year, US audio and video on-demand streams passed 1 trillion for the week ended November 21, tallying 1.002 trillion streams so far this year, according to Nielsen Music. At the same time last year, there were 765.2 billion audio and video on-demand streams in the US. This represents 31% growth year-over-year to date. In the case that this rate continues, the number of audio and video on-demand streams in the US could reach 1.181 trillion, up from 901 billion for the entirety of 2018 by the end of 2019, according to Nielsen Music. The explosion of streaming in the past decade serves as a major influence on the 1 trillion-stream threshold. According to the US Census Bureau, the current population of the US is 330 million people. That means so far in 2019, every single American would have streamed 3,030 songs on average to reach 1 trillion.

YouTube TV Subscribers New to YouTube Premium Getting Free 3 Month Trial

YouTube TV subscribers in the US who have never tried YouTube Premium or are currently unsubscribed from Premium are now getting a free three month trial. It provides ad-free playback of every video on YouTube and the ability to download content for offline viewing on Android and iOS. Normally $11.99 per month, it includes YouTube Music Premium ($9.99), which applies all those benefits to songs and albums. Another benefit is some exclusive YouTube Originals content and immediate access to shows. The key caveat to this YouTube TV Premium trial is that you must be a new subscriber to Premium. Full details are being sent to eligible YouTube TV members that are not currently subscribed to Premium.

California Court Dismisses Apple Music Data Privacy Lawsuit

The US District Court for Northern California recently dismissed a lawsuit against Apple Music filed by users who claimed that the company sold and exposed user data to third parties. Three Apple Music users - Leigh Wheaton, Jill Paul, and Trevor Paul - asserted in May of this year that Apple’s music app utilized tokens that could be associated with personal information. Apple allegedly used this data whenever a user attempted to gift a song to another user. Further charges included: overpayment, loss of value of their personal listening information, unwarranted junk mail, telephone solicitations, and risk of identity theft. Apple then responded to the lawsuit in October of this year by filing a motion for dismissal. US District Court Judge William Alsue granted the motion, saying “the mail icon does not explicitly disclose any names, addresses, or personally identifying information of customers.” The judge further found that the plaintiffs did not provide sufficient evidence that Apple had violated their user rights, and that they failed to demonstrate how the disclosed data could be connected with a user’s personal information or music selection.

Spotify is Launching Its Own Music Awards, Based on Streaming Data

Spotify set plans for its first-ever music awards - with the winners based entirely on user-generated data. The company announced, “Your plays, patterns, and habits will help determine the award categories, finalists, and winners for the Spotify Awards by providing a true reflection of what fans are listening to.” The program is similar to the Billboard Music Awards, for which most finalists and winners are based on sales, streaming, and user-engagement data. The company stated that it wants to encourage fans to vote with their ears, by streaming as much music by their favorite artists on the platform. The first Spotify Awards will be held next March in Mexico City. The company has teamed with WarnerMedia’s Turner Latin America division to broadcast the show live, on March 5, 2020, across TNT in all Spanish-language countries in the region. Mexico City is Spotify’s biggest single market, according to the company, with more listeners than other major metro areas, including New York City, Los Angeles, London, and Paris. Watch the announcement video for the first Spotify Awards here.

The Other “Shake It Off” Lyric-Theft Case Returns to Court

The “Shake It Off” lyric lawsuit is back. In 2015, musician Jesse Graham sued Taylor Swift for ripping off his 2013 song “Haters Gonna Hate” on her 2014 hit with the lyric “Haters gone hate, Haters gon hate, Playas gon play, Playas gon play.” The judge later ended up tossing the lawsuit while issuing a comedy judgement that quoted Taylor Swift song titles and lyrics. Then in 2017, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler went legal insisting that “Shake It Off” was a rip-off of their 2001 song “Playas Gon Play,” containing the line “The playas gon play/Them haters gonna hate.” The judge ruled that the lyrics were too “banal” to enjoy copyright protection. Last month, the US Ninth Circuit appeals court decided that the banality, or not, of pop song lyrics, and the impact that banality, or not, has on the copyrightability of those lyrics is something for a jury to decide. Not a judge. And so the Hall/Butler case is heading back to a lower court for another go. Jesse Graham has also popped up again with a rework of his legal claim against Swift, making it his fourth go at suing Swift. He is currently seeking damages of at least $42 million.

Random Ramblings

  • Decoding music as a universal language.
  • Mariah Carey now has three Guinness World Records with her yuletide anthem, “All I Want For Christmas Is You".
  • Céline Dion makes a triumphant return on the Billboard Artist 100 Chart following her new album's no. 1 debut.
  • Westlife conquers the UK Albums Chart with their eighth no. 1 album "Spectrum".
  • Panic! At The Disco's Brendon Urie belts out his rendition of “Into The Unknown" from the Frozen 2 soundtrack.

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