Performing Rights:

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William Velez, the president and chief operating officer of one of the leading musical performing-rights organization, SESAC, and former member of both the BMI and ASCAP platforms discusses in his article, “Performing-Rights Collectives: Dinosaurs of the New Millennium?”, his theories of what might happen in the development of licensing public performance rights in music in the future. His predictions were valid and as a music listener and player I can see where his concerns came from.

One of the points Velez mentions in his article is the challenge that the new millennium brings and their demand for free music. To meet this need for music at a low cost, but also keep the artists well compensated, the SESAC, a for-profit organization was created to bring that “state-of-the-art” technology.[1]

Access to music has changed drastically since the late 1900’s due to fast evolving technologies such as the internet, and more organizations have emerged to bring easy access to more music such as Pandora, YouTube, Spotify, Sound-Cloud and Apple Music. Even with these affordable newfound platforms, the resistance by millennials to pay for music at all still stands.  In the last 20 years, the overall revenue of the music industry had drastically declined and went from being a $15 billion-dollar company to around $7 billion. This shows that due to the advances in technology and digital access, the market for the music industry has decreased the value of artists music and they are not getting a fair compensation for their work.[2]

In 2015 one of the most iconic country to pop artists, Taylor Swift spoke out about the rights to their music and a need for fair compensation. The battle between Taylor Swift and Apple brought attention to this issue and because of her already established name and title, more people payed attention. Apple came out with their new “music streaming service, complete with a free 3-month trial.” This allowed listeners to access free music for 3-months and neither Apple nor the artists would be compensated while they made their decision to pay for the service in the end.  Taylor Swift was soon to respond to this by stating, “A long as they weren’t paying her and other artists royalties, the company wouldn’t have access to her latest album, “1989”.” [3]

Studies have shown that 24.5 percent of all music played in the U.S were under the genre of R&B/hip-hop.  Big names such as Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar lead the top charts due to the genre they are in.[4] It is safe to say that if we were to compare the revenue of a different genre such as contemporary classical music to the R&B/hip-hop, contemporary music will always be less profitable, as the percentage of people who listen to this genre is below roughly 5%.

Another platform that holds this same issue is Spotify. Spotify pays “$0.006 to $0.0084 per stream to the holder of the music rights” as well as whoever they are affiliated with such as their record label. I feel that these platforms offer an affordable access to music at only $10-dollars a month, with the benefit of the artists music being shared or played multiple times. Velez’s predictions of advancements in technology did turn out to be true and this ever changing “digital environment represent eternity.” [5]

Amy Miller


[1] William Velez, “Performing-Rights Collectives: Dinosaurs of the New Millenium?,” Pendagon Press no. 16 (2000): 367.

[2] “Is Streaming the Savior of the Music Industry?” Streaming Media Magazine. September 06, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.streamingmedia.com/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/Is-Streaming-the-Savior-of-the-Music-Industry-127228.aspx.

[3] Coble, Christopher. “Taylor Swift v. Apple in Court of Public Opinion.” Free Enterprise. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://blogs.findlaw.com/celebrity_justice/2015/06/taylor-swift-v-apple-in-court-of-public-opinion.html.

[4] Caulfield, Keith. “U.S. Music Consumption Up 12.5% in 2017, R&B/Hip-Hop Is Year’s Most Popular Genre.” Billboard. January 03, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/8085975/us-music-consumption-up-2017-rb-hip-hop-most-popular-genre.

[5] William Velez, “Performing-Rights Collectives: Dinosaurs of the New Millenium?,” Pendagon Press no. 16 (2000): 373.

Bibliography:

  1. 1. Velez, William. “Performing-Rights Collectives: Dinosaurs of the New Millenium?.” Pendagon Press no. 16 (2000)
  2. Sehgal, Kabir. “Spotify and Apple Music Should Become Record Labels so Musicians Can Make a Fair Living.” CNBC. January 26, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/26/how-spotify-apple-music-can-pay-musicians-more-commentary.html.
  3. “ASCAP Licensing.” http://Www.ascap.com. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.ascap.com/help/ascap-licensing.

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