A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Fight The Copyright Powers That Be

I know this is a site about metal and rock but sometimes I need to go outside these styles.

Case in point.

Taylor Swift and her new record deal.

She left Big Machine Record’s and signed with Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group.

In her new deal, Swift owns her Copyright. In other words, those master recordings are hers.

Remember I’ve been saying those who own their own copyright will win in the end. Swift isn’t stupid, she has seen how much streaming services pay the “copyright holders” of recordings. So instead of selling her rights to the corporation for a large advance right now, she’s keeping her future songs in her bank.

But that’s assuming that her future songs will have the same impact and success as her Big Machine Records catalogue, which in this case all stays with Big Machine Records.

The big one for me is how the sale of Universal Music Group Spotify shares are distributed (provided the sale happens).

Basically the label was in a powerful negotiating position against the streaming service because it had amassed a shit load of copyrights over the years. It held the rights of songs other people had written even when those songs should have been in the public domain.

So if Universal sells its Spotify stake, the label must pay all of its artists a cut of the sale as non-recoupable. Universal’s stake in Spotify is estimated to be above $850 million.

Sony already sold its stake for $768 million and Warner Brothers sold some of their stake for $504 million. Both labels, cashed up, distributed monies to their artists differently. Sony artists got monies paid as non-recoupable and Warner Brothers artists got the monies applied to their recoupable balances.

The VOX article gives a great example of why this happens:

When an artist signs with a music label, the label advances the artist some of the money it thinks the artist will bring in. Essentially, if an artist signs a $3 million contract, the label is saying, “We’re pretty sure you’ll earn $3 million in royalties in your first year of sales, so here’s that money early.” But that means the artist doesn’t get any more royalty payments until they’ve earned back that $3 million.

Whenever an artist hasn’t yet earned back an advance, they have what’s called “an unrecouped balance” with their label. As far as the label’s accounting books are concerned, the artist owes the label money.

So when a label sells Spotify shares — which means a big payday — it’s got two possible ways of sharing that payday with its artists. It can either count the money toward any unrecouped balances, or it can choose not to.

Sony decided that when it shared its Spotify money with its artists, it was going to ignore any unrecouped balances and send them the money directly, without applying it to their advances. Warner Brothers did the opposite, and applied the Spotify money to artists’ unrecouped balances before passing any of it along. In practice, that meant Sony artists got a big paycheck out of the Spotify deal, but the only thing that a lot of Warner Brothers artists got was the promise that they were a little bit closer to seeing an actual royalty statement someday.

For Universal, Taylor Swift is forcing their hand to distribute the monies to all artists regardless if they owe the label money or not.

Swift’s spirit here is the rock and roll spirit.

So how did a country artists who crossed over into pop become a rock star in ethos by standing up to the powers that be?

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” was the war anthem for a whole new metal/rock generation. But what are the rockers and metal heads doing right now.

Metallica with their label went to court against their fans, while Swift is seen as an artist standing up for other artists against the Copyright monopolies and greed of the record labels.

Like her or not, she had issues with Spotify and Apple over payments, and then probably realized it’s her label that was the issue.

Regardless, in true rock and roll spirit she asked for her music to be removed and it was. Until she decided it was time to put it back on, at the price she believed it was worth.

Standard

2 thoughts on “Fight The Copyright Powers That Be

  1. Good for her. She should have control of her work and she has completely outgrown the need for label. Hopefully for her sake she will have a string of hits that she can benefit from.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s