Friday, December 30, 2016

My Top Albums of 2016

By Emmanuel Legrand

It's been a good year for music, although there were no obvious masterpieces (maybe Bowie's Blackstar and Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree will earn this status in a while). I had a lot of pleasure listening to a wide range of music styles over the year, but I found the most satisfying listening experiences with music from the fringes, especially electronic music. Acts like Arnaud Rebotini, Mark Pritchard, Nicolas Jaar, Ólafur Arnalds or Nils Frahm rarely grace the cover of magazines but their music is rewarding if not at times challenging.

There were lots of great albums by female solo acts such as Agnes Obel, Angel Olsen, PJ Harvey, Fiona Brice, to name but a few. And if you were not afraid to hear languages you're not familiar with, there were quite a few outstanding records from the likes of Baabal Maal, Bombino, CéU or Fumaça Preta.

Of course, there were quite too many good musicians and artists who left this world in 2016. But their music is alive and well, and we'll keep tuning in.

Enjoy the music and best musical wishes for 2017.

Top 50 albums of 2016
(in no specific order, and there's actually 52)

Agnes Obel    Citizen Of Glass PIAS
Anakronic Electro Orkestra, David Krakauer    Anakronic / Krakauer    Balagan Box
Angel Olsen    My Woman    Jagjaguwar
ANOHNI    Hopelessness    Secretly Canadian
Arnaud Rebotini & Christian Zanési    Frontieres    Blackstrobe Records / !K7 Records
Baaba Maal    The Traveller    Marathon Artists
The Besnard Lakes    A Coliseum Complex Museum    Jagjaguwar
Black Mountain    IV    Jagjaguwar
Bombino    Azel    Partisan Records
Bon Iver    22, A Million    Jagjaguwar
Brian Eno    The Ship    Warp
Cass McCombs    Mangy Love    Anti-   
CéU    Tropix    Urban Jungle Records
David Bowie    Blackstar   ISO/Columbia

DIIV    Is the Is Are    Captured Tracks
DJ Shadow    The Mountain Will Fall    Mass Appeal Recordings
Drake    Views    Young Money/Cash Money/Republic
Dylan LeBlanc    Cautionary Tale    Single Lock Records
The Field    The Follower    Kompakt
Field Music    Commontime    Memphis Industries
Fiona Brice    Postcards From    Bella Union
Frank Ocean    Blonde    Boys Don't Cry
Fumaça Preta    Impuros Fanáticos    Soundway Records
Gilles Peterson's Havana Cultura Band    Havana Club Rumba Sessions    Brownswood Recordings
Hiss Golden Messenger    Heart Like a Levee    Merge Records
Jack Garratt    Phase    Island
Jamie Lidell    Building a Beginning    Jalulin
Joan As Police Woman & Benjamin Lazer Davis    Let It Be You    Reveal Records
Kendrick Lamar    untitled unmastered.    Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope
La Femme    Mystere    Born Bad Records
Lambchop    Flotus    City Slang
Leonard Cohen   You Want It Darker   Columbia

M83    Junk    Naive
Marissa Nadler    Strangers    Bella Union
Mark Pritchard    Under The Sun    Warp
Max Jury    Max Jury    Marathon Artists
Metronomy    Summer 08    Because Music
Money    Suicide Songs    Bella Union
Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs    case/lang/veirs    Anti-
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds    Skeleton Tree    Bad Seed
Nicolas Jaar    Sirens    Other People
Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm    Trance Frendz    Erased Tapes
Pavo Pavo    Young Narrator in the Breakers    Bella Union
PJ Harvey    The Hope Six Demolition Project    Island
Radiohead    A Moon Shaped Pool    XL Recordings
Ray LaMontagne    Ouroboros    RCA
Sonzeira    Tam Tam Tam Reimagined    Brownswood Recordings
Steve Hauschildt    Strands    Kranky
Tricky    Skilled Mechanics    False Idols / !K7
Wilco    Schmilco    Anti-
William Tyler    Modern Country    Merge Records

Woodkid & Nils Frahm   Ellis   Erased Tapes   
The Weeknd   Starboy   XO/Republic

Check some tracks on Spotify.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Industry executives reflect on 2016

We have asked industry executives what was the best and worst of last year, their wishes for 2017 and what music made them tick in 2016. [Some answers have appeared in Music Week]

Martin Bandier
Chairman and CEO

1.     What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016? 
2.     What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

To answer both questions, the best and worst thing is streaming. Streaming has surpassed physical and digital download sales and its growth seems endless. However, the bad news is that our songwriters are not being fairly paid in the streaming world, which is undermining what they do and threatening their livelihoods. 

3.     What was your favourite track and album of 2016? (NB: Not one of your own please)   

The single Let Me Love You by DJ Snake featuring Justin Bieber and the Chance The Rapper album Coloring Book. 

4.     Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017? (NB: Fine to promote one of your own artists here if you like)   

Cam, Khalid, Ayokay.

5.     What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017?

The industry makes a concerted effort to protect itself from the shortcomings of YouTube, which severely undervalues and under reports the music played on its service. We hope YouTube mends its way, which will benefit songwriters, music publishers, artists and record companies.

Bill Colitre
Vice President and General Counsel
Music Reports, Inc. 

1. What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016? 

The rapid maturation of the streaming model, which has created the preconditions to move the business from early-adopters and youth demos to a mainstream audience and thereby grow revenues more steeply in 2017.  

2. What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016? 

The vote of no confidence in globalization represented by Brexit and the victory of the Trump campaign, which will slow treaties like TPP and TTIP, hindering growth for the business.

3. What was your favourite track and album of 2016?

Favorite Track: Don’t Hurt Yourself – Beyonce ft. Jack White (a devastatingly effective artist pairing) 
Favorite Album: Connie Price & The Keystones “Wildflowers” (Expanded Edition).
"Connie Price and the Keystones are to be praised for their originality and brilliance.” – Lalo Schifrin

4. Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017?


5. What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017?

That mainstream consumer awareness, maturing millennials, connected cars, and voice recognition technology will bring a wave of subscriber adoption and with it a long awaited surge of revenue for recorded music.

James Donio
Music Business Association (Music Biz)

1.   What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

The continued rise and consumer embrace of on-demand streaming services. Because revenues from streaming were up 56% year-over-year, the US music business saw an overall revenue increase of 8.1% at the mid-point of the year. This was the the biggest revenue jump in two decades, according to the RIAA. With streaming showing no signs of slowing down, we are seeing the foundation for a new growth era for the music industry.

2.   What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

The sheer number of era-defining artists, producers, music executives, and more who passed away this year. We are mourning the loss of our former Board Treasurer John Trickett and Co-Founder Ed Snider. Our hearts also go out to David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Zia Records’ Brian Faber, the TJ Martell Foundation’s Tony Martell (who we honored at Music Biz 2016), and all those we lost.

3.   What was your favourite track and album of 2016?

This is always a tough question to answer given the multitude of new music I am lucky enough to hear every day. But, I would have to say my favorite new track would be Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from the Trolls soundtrack. I’ll confess, I am a “died in the wool” mainstream Pop fan. My favorite album of 2016 would have to be Barbra Streisand’s Encores set featuring duets with movie stars singing Broadway tunes.

4.   Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017?

Music Biz has a tradition of honoring breakthrough artists every year. We are recognizing Maren Morris and Lukas Graham at our Music Biz 2017 Awards Luncheon in May, so I would have to say I am most excited to continue to follow the next phases of their already burgeoning careers.

5.   What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017?

I would like to see the industry redouble its efforts to expand music business education programs. As an Adjunct Professor at Monmouth University, this is a passion of mine, and a challenge we have addressed at Music Biz with our Academic Partnership Program. The music industry is constantly changing, and we need highly trained future executives. Education is crucial to ensuring the next generation rises to the task.

Daniel Glass
Founder and CEO

1.   What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

In 2016, streaming partners bringing in label and artist relations teams to establish a more artist friendly culture.  This has ushered in a new era where music rights, wages and content creation are at the forefront of the business. 

2.   What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

The worst thing was the sad passing of so many talented artists and musicians. A distant second would be exclusives. 

3.   What was your favourite track and album of 2016? (NB: Not one of your own please)

Album: Charles Bradley - Changes and Kanye West - Life of Pablo are tied.
Song: LDJ Snake Ft. Justin Bieber - Let Me Love You

4.   Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017? (NB: Fine to promote one of your own artists here if you like)

James Hersey 

5.   What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017?

My biggest wish is that we can all go to clubs, festivals and arenas and feel safe. 

Justin Kalifowitz 
Downtown Music Publishing   

1.   What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

Judge Stanton rejecting the DOJ’s interpretation of the BMI consent decree.  

2.   What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?    

The DOJ’s interpretation of the consent decree. 

 3.   What was your favourite track and album of 2016?   

Bowie’s “Blackstar”    

4.   Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017?    

Jillian Jacqueline, a young artist signed to us in Nashville who is working on her debut album for Big Loud Records.  

5.   What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017?    

US Congress decides that the government shouldn’t be involved in regulating a songwriter’s income. 

Golnar Khosrowshahi
Reservoir Media Management 

1)       What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016? 

The dramatic growth in streaming royalties coupled with the forecasted growth of the subscriber base in the next 24 to 36 months. 

2)       What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

The United States Justice Department’s attempt to increase government regulations on our industry through mandatory 100% licensing. 

3)       What was your favourite track and album of 2016? (NB: Not one of your own please) 

Coldplay’s Hymn for the Weekend – track 
Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble Sing Me Home – album 

4)       Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017? (NB: Fine to promote one of your own artists here if you like) 

Dua Lipa 

5)       What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017?

That the DMCA safe harbor protection for tech behemoths such as Google and Facebook is updated to help copyright owners.

Cary Sherman
Chairman & CEO Company

1. What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?  

For one, we saw the number of paid subscriptions to services like Apple Music, TIDAL, Spotify and others more than double year-over-year (9.1m in 1H'15 to 18.3m in 1H'16). On the other side of the dime, there was unprecedented unity within the music community this year with the recognition that DMCA-reliant sites like YouTube are not paying fairly, crystallised in an ad signed by more than 180 artists -- across all genres and all generations -- that ran in various news outlets.  

2. What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016? 

I'd say all the iconic musicians we lost this year. From Leonard Cohen to Prince to George Martin to Milt Okun to David Bowie to Glenn Frey to Leon Russell and so many others, we lost so many voices that helped shape our culture and us, the fans, as people. It's tough every year, but I feel like this year, perhaps even more so.  

3. What was your favourite track and album of 2016? (NB: Not one of your own please) 

I'm a big fan of Justin Timberlake's, and I really liked his "Can't Stop The Feeling!" As for albums, I thought Lady Gaga's "Joanne" was/is really incredible. I also really liked The Chainsmokers' "Collage.”  

4. Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017? (NB: Fine to promote one of your own artists here if you like)  

I've been listening to a band called The Struts who are playing our holiday charity event this year with Musicians On Call. I think they're going to be really fun and energetic. They're on the rise in the U.S. and I'm excited to see what happens with them, backed by the great team at Interscope.  

5. What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017? 

I'd like to see more of that collaborative spirit that emerged this year continue into next year. We need to continue to work together to solve our industry's problems. No legislation will be passed or initiative green-lit if one sector is against it. 2017 will have some pivotal moments -- potential copyright reform legislation, a Copyright Office report on the DMCA -- and if we approach these in a collaborative fashion we might actually be able to get something done.

Paul Williams

1. What was the best thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

The best thing was that ASCAP and BMI joined forces in an unprecedented partnership to overturn the DOJ’s decision on 100% licensing, and to fight for changes to music licensing regulations so that songwriters and composers can earn full value for their work. It’s been truly gratifying working with our friends at BMI on behalf of all music creators, and we’ll continue our combined efforts in 2017. 

2. What was the worst thing that happened to the music biz in 2016?

We lost true musical giants - some of the most iconic, prolific, exceptional songwriters the world has ever seen —David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, and on a personal level, my brother, songwriter Mentor Williams. We’re fortunate that they gave us so much for which to remember them. It’s sad to see them go but their music lives on.  

3. What was your favourite track and album of 2016? (NB: Not one of your own please)

I'm excited about all the great music released in 2016, and how so much of it was embraced by audiences across genres. As the president of ASCAP there are so many incredible songs I listen to - asking me to name one would be like picking a favorite child!

4. Which new artist are you most excited about for 2017? (NB: Fine to promote one of your own artists here if you like)

I'm sure there are many wonderful new artists I haven’t even heard yet, but i've become a huge fan of Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus. I hope someday they'll get the kind of international attention they deserve.

5. What’s your biggest wish for the music industry in 2017? 

That songwriters and composers are recognized for the value we bring to the music industry, and that we continue working with all stakeholders to build a stronger future for music. The world needs music now more than ever.

Monday, November 7, 2016

US elections: The music community outlines its agenda

[This story was originally published in Music Week]

On November 8 the United States will vote for a new President and Congress. What does it mean for the music community? Emmanuel Legrand reports from Washington, DC.

The Capitol in Washington, DC
Unless you were on planet Mars, it's been hard to escape the fact that there's a presidential race going on in the United States. US electors will vote on November 8 to chose their new President for the next four years and the choice is between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate entrepreneur and reality TV showman Donald Trump. 

The Presidential contest might be grabbing the headlines, but on November 8, the country will not only elect a new President of the United States (POTUS in White House lingo), it will also renew Congress, as a total of 34 Senate seats (out of 100) and all 435 House of Representatives seats are up for election. 

The US Constitution, explains David Israelite, CEO of the Washington, DC-based National Music Publishers' Association, vests a lot of power in the President but “it is not a parliamentary system where who wins the Presidential elections also wins the legislative, so we can have a different leadership in the White House and in Congress, and that makes it difficult to have a consistent policy.” 

For the creative industries, the election is a chance to pass on a few messages to the incoming powers both at the White House and in Congress. As Martin Bandier, the New York-based Chairman/CEO of leading music publishing house Sony/ATV, puts it, "It is always great to have an election -- it creates opportunities, but at the end of the day our issues look so minimum when compared with the big issues. But it would be great if whoever gets elected gets to improve the situation of songwriters." 

Israelite, who is a seasoned executive with experience of the US political system having worked previously for the Department of Justice, is on the same page as his board member: “Copyright issue are not very high profile in this Presidential election. The two campaigns have not really discussed these issues. Some would like to raise the profile on those issues but it is difficult to crack through the main issues that dominate the space.” 

Other priorities 

In other words, copyright is far from being on top of the agenda of the two presidential candidates. Representatives from the industry take the view that any incumbent at the White House will have other priorities to deal with. “I think that the President operates at a 50,000 foot level,” says Mitch Glazier, Senior Executive Vice President at the Washington, DC-based Recorded Music Industry Association of America (RIAA), who adds that the way the next President will makes his of her mark on these issues through appointments at the Department of Justice or other government units, like Obama did when he appointed the new Librarian of Congress earlier this year. 

None of the two candidates has issued a position paper on copyright issues. The Clinton campaign has issued a paper on technology issues (titled “Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation”) in which Clinton pledges for “an ambitious national commitment to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.” 

The paper states that Hillary Clinton’s priority “is to harness the power of technology and innovation so that it works for all Americans, creating good-paying jobs throughout the country. Doing this right will not only boost economic growth, it will lead to immeasurable social benefits.” In the paper, Clinton makes a case for an open internet and champions a “multi-stakeholder approach” to internet governance, while embracing “net neutrality.”

Only one paragraph in the whole document discusses the need for “effective copyright policy.” In it, Clinton says that “the copyright system has languished for many decades, and is in need of administrative reform to maximise its benefits in the digital age.” Under her administration, the federal government will “modernise the copyright system by unlocking—and facilitating access to—orphan works that languished unutilised, benefiting neither their creators nor the public.”

She says she will also “promote open-licensing arrangements for copyrighted material and data supported by federal grant funding, including in education, science, and other fields. And she will “encourage stakeholders to work together on creative solutions that remove barriers to the seamless and efficient licensing of content in the US and abroad.”

This platform, which has not yet been matched with a similar document in favour of copyright-led industries, has let many in the industry frustrated and with the belief that like the Obama administration, Clinton's will be very much pro-tech. “I don’t really have much idea what Mr. Trump’s views are on IP, but he is someone who is concerned about both the value of brand and television production,” says Chris Castle, an Austin, Texas-based lawyer, who is also a vocal pro-copyright activist through his blog Music-Technology-Policy.

He adds, “Secretary of State Clinton wrote a letter to former Rep. Howard Berman supporting SOPA. On the other hand, Google’s Eric Schmidt has continued his political data mining operation started with the Obama campaign through a company he funds called The Groundwork. The Groundwork has one client: Hillary Clinton. I’m quite skeptical that a President Hillary Clinton will take an aggressive position on artist rights."

 A Google-owned White House 

This sentiment that the current Democrat administration, which could be followed by another Democrat at the White House, has not been pro-creators and pro-copyright (after all, President Obama was the one who confined the SOPA bill to the legislative graveyard), is very prevalent within creator's circles, exemplified by the likes of Castle or performer and activist David Lowery. 

NMPA's Israelite believes that “the White House has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google during the Obama administration. We still suffer from it and we would like to change it.” He adds, "We on the copyright front would like to see the administration to have a real appreciation for the value of creative industries and what they bring to our economy. That's been lacking with the past administration."

However, Washington, DC-based Daryl Friedman, the Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer for the Recording Academy, the organisers of the Grammy Awards, who also undertake advocacy initiatives on behalf of the music industry, is quite positive about the track record of candidate Clinton, a former Senator and Secretary of State. "She has been a strong supporter of IP," he says. "We have a good record for her whereas for Trump, we don’t have a track record as he never served."

For many in Washington, DC, rather than putting too much expectations on the next White House incumbent, the focus of the industry is on Congress. "This an unusual election year and an unusual Presidential election in the US," says with a sense of understatement Ann Sweeney, SVP of Global Policy for performance rights organisation BMI. "From point of view of stakeholders who would like copyright reform to be higher on the agenda. Candidate Clinton has put out a tech paper, but that's all. While it matters who is going to be President, from a legislative perspective, and considering what we have in progress, who is in the House and Senate matters more." 

Currently controlled by the Republicans, the House of Representatives has been the epicentre of the legislative action (or lack of) during the past legislature, with the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, calling the shots. One of the rule in US Congress is that copyright issues have a bipartisan approach. All the bills are usually jointly sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat. Goodlatte has been busy in the past two years running a due process on copyright issues with hearings and calls for comment from stakeholders and the likes of the US Copyright Office. So far with without any significant output.

The industry in expecting Goodlatte to be re-elected and he still has two years to serve as chair of the Judiciary. "Copyright are complex issues," says Daryl Friedman. "Chairman Goodlatte wants to focus on areas of consensus and the fact that he’s spent so much time on these issues demonstrates that he wants to move." 

Search for consensus 

What rattles some in the industry is that this search for consensus not only within the political spectrum but also among stakeholders resulted in very few decision made. In private some industry voices have lamented at the slow pace of Goodlatte's agenda, but admit that consensus it probably the only way to get bills passed. Whether it will be a full package or a scattered number of bills remains to be seen. "A comprehensive package is a strong possibility but not a certainty," says BMI's Sweeney. "We have two more years of leadership of Goodlatte, and he has stated consistently that he'd like to lead copyright reform during his leadership, but he wants broad industry consensus."

BMI, as does sister society ASCAP, are pressing for legislative changes relating to the way they operate, namely the Songwriters' Equity Act, which would allow a fairer market review process when setting the rates applied to performance rights organisations, and a reform of the consent decrees that have been ruling the two societies since 1941. "The Songwriters' Equity Act has both Democrat and Republican support in both chambers," says Sweeney, who is optimistic that this bill will eventually get passed. 

The role of the Senate on copyright issues has been rather minimal over the past years, but Michele Ballantyne, EVP of Public Policy & Industry Relations at the RIAA, says that "there is a good likelihood that they [Senators] will want to get more involved as they have shown that they want to be more willing to play an active role." 

NMPA's Israelite concurs: "In Senate, there is less activity on copyright and there is more in play as to who will control it, but time may be right for Senate to look at these issues. Maybe Senators Patrick Leahy or Chuck Grassley would have open ears for copyright issues. 

The industry has quite a few issues on its agenda, from performance rights for performers and labels when recordings are played on terrestrial radio (Fair Play Fair Play act), to the Songwriters' Equity Act, but also the small claims tribunal that would allow individual creators to have a lower arbitration court to solve infringing cases without having to go to Federal Court. The reform of the US Copyright Office is also one of the hot potato in DC.

And, of course, there's a focus on the previous copyright act, 1998's DMCA, for which many in the industry would like to see a better and more efficient take down system. "Within music licensing issue, which are a lot of process issues, there could be a consensus," says RIAA's Glazier. "What's sure is that Congress will move on several issues where there is consensus. I don't think we are unrealistic. We can get together and fix it."

Glazier also believes that on occasions Congress can twist some of the stakeholders' arms to reach a consensus, including Google. "Google have 125 issues, and copyright is issue 57, not one or two," says Glazier. "The risk [for Google] is that Congress could be focusing on issues such as security, data and privacy, so they do have to be careful and may have some incentives to show that they can do better in other areas."

Focus on the Judiciary Committee 

The attention of lobbyists is also focused on the aftermath of the Goodlatte era, as he still has two years to go as chair of the Judiciary, and speculation is mounting as to whom could potentially replace him. The vice-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Daryl Issa, is widely expected to "have a shot at it," according to NMPA's Israelite, bot for that first the Republicans must keep the House and Issa needs to get reelected. "Issa is a very smart member [of the House], he has more of a tech community background but a he is a conservative and believes in property rights, so he should be inclined to support songwriters," says Israelite. 

For RIAA's Glazier, Issa could also be a good choice, although he is seen by many as being pro-tech. "He is the lead sponsor on the Fair Play Fair Play act and an ardent supporter of performers when comes to broadcast radio," says Glazier. "In his mind the future is in new technology, but if he sees a real unfair practice, he will go after them. It's a mixed bag." 

For a sceptic like Castle, there is little chance to get fixes on issues like the DMCA take down notices. “Given that Google employs more lobbyists than there are Members of Congress, it seems unlikely that any legislation will pass the Congress that Google doesn’t want absent convictions rising out of a major corruption probe that doesn’t seem likely to happen either. Nobody is guarding the guardians and that promises to hold true regardless of who is in the White House." 

Sony/ATV's Marty Bandier believes there is indeed a gap between the outreach of the music community and that of the tech industry. "There's only a small number of songwriters who contribute to campaigns," says Bandier. "And there are huge companies like Google and Amazon who are going to make sure that if there is a change of administration, it will go their way." 

Nonetheless, with a few weeks to go before the elections, two organisations have taken grassroots initiatives to try to raise awareness to the issues at stake for the creative community. One of the initiatives came from The Recording Academy, which is organising October 26 and vast grassroots operation, as it has done on the past years, covering the whole territory called Grammys in My District. On that day, over 2,000 artists, musicians, songwriters will visit their representatives in over 315 Congressional districts. "Two weeks before the elections, hundreds of creators will be going to their local congressional offices to talk about their business. The sheer number of participants and districts demonstrates that the music community is spread across the country, where they pay taxes and run their small businesses. This is an occasion for us to raise awareness at a local level."

Grassroots campaign 

In addition, the Copyright Alliance and CreativeFuture, two organisations that support creators, have issued letters to candidates and launched a petition, which has so far received the backing of 35,000 people, in which a few principles are outlined: creators are for an open internet but also needs strong copyright protection that rewards creativity, promotes a healthy creative economy and protects free speech. 

Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the Washington, DC-based cross-industry advocacy group Copyright Alliance, makes clear that as a trade body, "we don't chose between Republicans or Democrats, but we are interested in that whoever takes office can enact strong copyright policies. Elections are very important for us because whichever individual is elected to office, we want to make sure they have a certain respect and understanding of copyright, regardless of their party. Creators need a seat at a table when policies are made in Congress and other places." 

Adds Kupferschmid, "We will organise this petition every year there is an election. We want to get this message to all policy makers. The general theme being that we are not picking a side, we only pick the pro-copyright side. Copyright made us leaders in film, music, books, games and we have to make sure that continues."

What US music executives expect from the next administration/Congress

[This story was previously published in Music Week]

By Emmanuel Legrand

As the US prepares to vote for a new President and a renewed Congress, Music Week asked music industry professionals two questions: 1) What would be the three main copyright-related issues that you'd like to see fixed by the next President/Congress? And 2) And what is the likelihood that these issues will indeed be fixed during the next four years? Here are there answers. 

Martin Bandier, Chairman/CEO, Sony/ATV

1) One of the things I'd like in terms of legislation would be to reverse what the Department of Justice has decided on 100% licensing and allow for fractional licensing. That is clearly one thing I'd want to see, and anybody who's in the licensing business would like that too. If no one is clear if BMI and ASCAP have the right to license a song, it is an unsustainable interpretation by the DoJ of what the consent decree says. I'd also like to see the continuation of us [music publishers] being allowed to selectively withdraw copyright and the was the major reason for going to the DoJ. It made no sense in 2014 when we first went to the DoJ that we should be restrained to a 1941 consent decree so that we could not license directly certain of our songs or catalogues to all the music users. It created a fair market place create a level playing field instead of procedure that pushes ASCAP and BMI to the lower end of the value of songs.

2) I don't know what can happen. Copyright legislation is difficult to pass; there are so many variable and unless everyone gets on board, it can take a long period of time. And during all that time, this would keep songwriters in a unenviable position in terms of what the music is worth. There are too many powerful forces that have tremendous resources and spend a lot of money on lobbying. I don't know how easy it would be to get legislation at all, but we have to try. ASCAP is supposed to take the lead and will work with the NMPA and with other songwriters organisations so that everyone is on the same. But it is not going to be easy. 

Richard Burgess, CEO, A2IM 

1) Our three main issues are: Terrestrial radio rights for sound recordings; section 512 [of the DMCA] on notice take down needs to be fixed; and we need to sort out the Department of Justice's consent decrees and resolve the issue of 100% licensing.

2) Based on past history, there is no chance that these issues are going be fixed, but where we could make progress is if all the parties in the music industry agree among ourselves, and if we can come to agreement with the tech industry, but we are a long way from that. In the end, it comes down to money and how much money you can spend on lobbying. Take terrestrial radio. It is offensive that artists and labels don't get paid when music played on radio. The USA are out of line with the rest of the world and in line with Rwanda, China and North Korea. That because of the lobbying power from the other side [the National Association of Broadcasters], and the benefits they can offer to Congress people. We have to be realistic with what we can achieve. It is hard to go against them. The worst part it that it is costing America and American artists, because we are not getting our reciprocal rights an money [from neighbouring rights] are not flying back into America. 

Chris Castle, Attorney, author of the blog Music-Technology-Policy. 

1) The top three issues to me would be somewhat US centric: ASCAP and BMI consent decrees; compulsory mechanical licenses; and DMCA reform. Each has a minor fix and major fix. Two of the three relate to songwriters who are probably the most highly regulated workers in US history.

2) Given that Google employs more lobbyists than there are Members of Congress, it seems unlikely that any legislation will pass the Congress that Google doesn’t want. Nobody is guarding the guardians and that promises to hold true regardless of who is in the White House. It will take a major grassroots effort to accomplish real change. The #irespectmusic campaign is a great start down that path. 

David Israelite, CEO, NMPA

David Israelite

1) We believe that there are many issues that are ripe for change. First, ASCAP and BMI's Consent Decrees. The Department of Justice is out of control in regulating a business it has no reason to regulate. It is time for Congress to look at why the government continues a consent decree that never ends. We'd like rate standards to be set on the basis of a willing buyer and a wiling seller. We also could work with the tech community to fix the licensing system and that could be ripe for consideration.

2) There is a lot of work coming up on these issues. Copyright legislation is very hard, there are different interest and it can get messy. Next Congress will see the last two years of Bob Goodlatte as chairman. He has been engaged in long process so we are hopeful that when he decides to act we would have a chance to remove government regulations. 

Elizabeth Matthews, CEO, ASCAP 

1) Music creators today face extreme hurdles in their ability to seek a fair value for their work thanks to music licensing laws that have not kept pace with the advent of new technologies. We need to modernize the 75-year old consent decrees that govern how ASCAP and BMI operate to ensure a strong collective licensing system that continues to protect music creator rights while providing access to the music that we all love. We need a set of laws that give the PROs and our songwriter, composer and music publisher members more flexibility to adjust to wherever the marketplace takes us.

2) ASCAP is proactively working closely with BMI, other music industry stakeholders and members of Congress to develop the framework for addressing these issues. This is not the first regulatory hurdle we have faced and it certainly will not be the last. We have many allies in Congress and we are hopeful that these critical modifications will be addressed in order to protect the future of songwriting. 

David Lowery, songwriter/performer/activist 

1) DMCA reform, Take Down Stay Down type scheme; An audit right for compulsory licenses; An antitrust exemption for PROs (sports leagues have this, farmer co-ops, unions).

2) Clinton wins. No doubt. Clinton has subordinated copyright to tech policy. It's right there in her tech platform. Google/Eric Schmidt is deeply involved in her campaign. Google will block meaningful reform by exerting influence on Clinton. No hope. 

Blake Morgan, songwriter, performer, label owner, founder of the movement #IrespectMusic

1) Pass the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, ensuring artists would receive pay for (all forms) or radio airplay for the first time. Pass the Songwriter Equity Act, ensuring songwriters would receive fair market value for their work. Increase the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts by a factor of 40 (not a typo), ensuring the United States would then at least spend as much on the arts as Germany.

2) The likelihood these issues will indeed be fixed are 1: 90%; 2: 90%; 3: 0%. So, two out of three ain’t bad. :) 

Keith Kupferschmid, CEO, Copyright Alliance. 

1) We really need to modernise the Copyright Office. Groups out there are trying to highjack and make it a policy issue. It is not about politics; it is about having the tools to service the community. We hope that the USCO will have its own budget, staff, IT system and that the person who runs the Office should be a presidential appointee. We need a small claims tribunal. Small creators are individuals who have rights but no remedies because cannot they afford to go to court. This would solve the problem. And we need to work towards voluntary agreements with all stakeholders, outside from waiting for the Congress to find agreements. One such agreement could be on improving DMCA take down notices.

2) I am hopeful that all three things can happen within the next four years, and maybe more. 

Neil Portnow, President and CEO, The Recording Academy. 

1) The one consensus area in copyright is music licensing: all parties agree it's broken, and Congress' own advisor, the Copyright Office, produced a comprehensive recommendation for a fix. Within music licensing, first and foremost, we need to close the corporate radio loophole. While there are many important fixes needed to ensure fair rates, this is a case where there's not even a right. Also important that we bring songwriter regulations to a fair market standard by updating the mechanical rate standard and performance royalty consent decrees. Finally, we must fix the outdated and impractical "notice and take down" process. It takes creators away from their work and forces them to police the entire internet instead.

2) The entire copyright community has great confidence in Chairman Goodlatte and believes that after so many years of study, he will use the 115th Congress to pass meaningful copyright reform. He is someone that all sides trust to be an honest broker, so at this point, progress is entirely in his hands.

Ann Sweeney, SVP of Global Policy, BMI 

1) Our legislative agenda is dominated by the Songwriters Equity Act. It contains only two provisions, which makes it a narrow bill. It would result in amending sections 114 and 115 of the Copyright Act and would give broader authority to judges to consider all evidence when determining what the appropriate rates should be. It is important for for BMI because it would enable rates to be set from a position of full information of what the market value is. The Bill exists in current legislative session and it has both Democrats and Republicans supporting it in both chambers. And there is the reform of the Consent Decrees. One possible path is to pursue legislation for consent decree reform. We will determine over the next few months if we need more work done on legislative level.

2) The time frame for this to happen is probably the next two years, because of the leadership of Chairman Bob Goodlatte. He stated consistently that he'd like to lead copyright reform during his leadership. We are optimistic and we are dedicating people and resources to do all we can because these issues matter the most to songwriters, publishers and to the global music community. We are as optimistic as can be. 

[Read also: US elections: The music community outlines its agenda]

Friday, September 2, 2016

Revelator: Bruno Guez's royalties revolution

[This story was originally published in Music Week]

By Emmanuel Legrand

Revelator's Bruno Guez
On January 1, 2000 after celebrating the New Year in Brazil with friends on some remote beach, Bruno Guez went for a swim. As he was diving into the water his head hit the sand. He noticed a sudden inability to move and he started drowning. Fortunately for him, he managed to hold his breath and his friends came to the rescue, noticing something was not normal. 

As he laid on the beach, Guez knew something was awfully wrong. It took five hours before an ambulance came -- it was New Year's Day, after all -- and when he finally reached the emergency room at a local hospital, he was diagnosed with a fractured fifth vertebrae, which had squeeze his spinal cord. He eventually was operated but remained paralysed from the neck down, but hopefully retained some mobility with his left hand.

Overnight, his life was shattered and he had to reinvent himself. He felt something radical was needed and in 2007, after living for 20 years in Los Angeles, he chose to move to Israel to build a new life, close to his family, and a set up a new business from there.

Guez was in Cannes in June for Midem to promote his royalty and data management service Revelator. It was his first trip in a long time, but one that had to be prepared like a military operation due to the amount of logistical complications linked to his situation. And he seemed to be enjoying every moment of it. "It feels good to travel," he said during an interview at the Hotel Majestic, where he was surrounded by his father and a group of people working for him and attending to all his needs.

Being paralysed has not altered his energy and his drive, on the contrary. "I had to turn it into a competitive advantage," said Guez, who has a long track record in the music industry. He was born in Paris but after studies at UCLA, he set up in 1993 his own music company, Quango Music Group, a trendsetting electronic music label, which caught the attention of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Guez eventually worked for Blackwell's companies Palm Pictures and well as Island Outpost, a collection of seven properties in Jamaica and The Bahamas. He has also been a radio host on KCRW, a public broadcaster in Los Angeles. Between 2001 and 2004, after his accident, he was the creative director of the Cirque du Soleil.

In Israel, he continued to run his music company, and started to work on tools that would allow him to manage rights in a more simple and automated way. In 2012, he started a journey with Eli Krief and Yoni Colb from Jerusalem-based software developer Quickode, leading to the creation of Revelator, a cloud-based sales and marketing intelligence platform for music professionals.

New management tools
"I needed new tools to modernise my label," he explained. "I met with these software developers and we started to develop tools around copyright assets. Now, it takes me three clicks to do my accounts, whether I have 10 or 10,000 artists. The solution, at the start, was my solution; but I understood rapidly that I was creating a solution for all rights owners."

Guez said the changes were rendered necessary just by the sheer “explosion of data that is crushing companies.” For him, the lack of ability to process data is the main problem for most companies and rights societies. “The explosion of data is challenging for any right owner,” he explained.

Revelator, he added, is set up to finds solutions of workflow to manage complex data situations. “I did not want to manage the old way,” he explains. Very quickly, Revelator developed a rights management platform that was beta-tested with 1,000 Israeli artists. “Managing data is a good business,” he said. "So I approached distributors like CD Baby to provide them with services.”

Today, Revelator works with such platforms as Wix Music, CD Baby, Faro Latino, Africori, and collective management societies SAYCO in Columbia and ACUM in Israel. The platform currently manages royalties accounts for 51,000 artist, with a catalogue of over 400,000 tracks via labels, distributors and artist management. He has two major countries in his sight, Brazil and Russia, where he sees a lot of potential in rights management. He described his company as being at the intersection of music and technology, but never losing sights of the task, which is to provide efficient rights management tools.

When financial institutions can manage transaction in split seconds, I do not see why we can’t apply the same vision to music,” he said. “I believe we can now provide real time data and real time payment, especially micro payments and mobile payments.”

Guez said the system was as much a real time rights management service as it was an analytics platform, which rights holders can also use for marketing and strategic decisions. He continued, "We know what comes in and can allow them [rights holders] to withdraw money [accordingly]. For me, it is strategic to do that because it will bring a new model based on real time data. We will start to do that this year.”

Instant payment
Guez added that with current technologies, “there is no reason why you have to wait 60 days to get data and payment, and no need for publishers to wait up to 20 months to get info from rights societies.” The system allows users to manage millions of data-points each months. Users of the services can enter all their statements in the cloud-based service and also access a wide range of analytics through a dashboard. Unlike other services, Guez said that he built the system so that users can export all their data and take it with them if they no longer wish to use the service.

Guez said his service was not meant to compete with rights societies but instead help them improve efficiencies. "Societies should appreciate and embrace new technologies,” he said. “They should not be afraid, because the better the services to members, the happier they will be. Margins can be eroded but you can make up with volume. In any case, we are going to better value services, with lower margins, but a bigger pie. All societies should have the capacity to build a good infrastructure. And if they can’t, we can deliver that.”

He added, “There is an old guard at societies that are blocking progress to the detriment of their members. It is just a question of time. The old guard will jump.” For Guez, if rights societies do not improve their infrastructure, it will backfire. "The more rights owners have access to information and tools, the more it will generate questioning about the way societies operate. There is no reason to take 12% and give noting in return. Societies do not invest enough in infrastructure together and there is not enough communication between their systems."

Guez said he has structured the system to be accessible and open, through its API. This approach is also reflected in the company's three business models: software as a service, infrastructure as a service and platform as a service.

Full transparency
“We are in an API economy,” he stated. “We give our clients our infrastructure. Kobalt, the Orchard or Believe cannot offer infrastructure as a service. They have built their technology for themselves. You have to go through them. We do not care. We see it more like an exchange platform.”

He added, “If Kobalt cannot offer their API, they cannot be transparent. Kobalt is an old world business model with a dashboard, it is not a platform. I am not even sure they are a tech company. When you approach music like a tech company, you are a platform and you give your infrastructure and services for clients to do what they want with it.”

Revelator gets paid either through a fee for transactions or through a subscription. “We leave 100% of royalties [to the clients], we are paid by transaction or subs. It can be a monthly subscription of a track-based pricing. If a client uses the interface, it pays a flat fee on monthly basis. If the client uses the API, it is a transaction model. Our next model will be on factoring, with daily real-time payment, and we'll take transaction fee, a bit like Paypal.”

For Guez, the digital revolution has just begun and rights management is still in its infancy. “My dream is to move intellectual property rights into financial assets and become a revenue-optmisation technology,” he said. “Our thinking is different. I ran a label for 20 years but I think of it from a tech perspective. I look at things from a music perspective, but I am also tech savvy, so I come from a different angle.”

[Since the story was published at the end of June, Revelator announced it has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Exigent Capital, with participation from Digital Currency Group and Israeli early-stage fund Reinvent. Overall, Revelator has raised $5.5m since 2012.]