I love Copyright.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving forever. Many years after the creators death, people who created nothing are still making money from it. And now we have investment firms buying the rights to songs from creators for large sums. And suddenly there is a new emperor in town when it comes time to discuss copyright terms at a political level.
One thing I know about hedge funds and investment firms; they don’t like to lose and they don’t like to give away what they have.
Bob Rock sold his shares in the Metallica “Black” album to Hipgnosis Song Fund, an investment firm, founded by Merk Mercuriadis a former label head, joining people like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Shakira, One Republic, Dee Snider and many others.
Music today, is like real estate, generating money on a consistent basis. Streaming has shown how much money can be generated if you own the rights to the songs.
Previously an album would be released, if it didn’t sell, it would be removed from shelves and replaced by something else and eventually deleted from production. Well today, nothing is deleted and storage space is infinite. Suddenly every song is available again. Well almost every song. But you know what I mean.
Remember there are two types of copyrights in music.
One for the songwriter of the song, which is known as “publishing” and the other for the sound recording, the final track which ends up on albums and streaming services.
For example, a songwriter like Steve Harris, will own this copyright or he might lease it to a publishing company for a limited term in exchange for a large up-front payment. The publisher will make their money back by collecting and keeping the royalties it collects on behalf of the artist.
The sound recording should always be owned by the artist/band who recorded the song, but in most cases, it’s the label who has it, because they paid the money to get the artist/band into the studio to record their songs and they will also own it for a larger time frame. And they will also collect royalties on this for an even longer time, still claiming they the artist hasn’t recouped.
In this Pitchfork article, it mentions that “Hipgnosis calculates that it will own the songs in its catalog for an average of 101 years before losing copyright protection.”
God damn. That’s a long time.
So Bob Dylan’s songs released in the 60’s will be under copyright all up for about 160 years.
Think about that.
And even then, there is always a politician looking for a large hand out to write and introduce laws to keep copyright forever.
Meanwhile artists still can’t get their copyrights back from the labels, even though the law states they can.
Dwight Yoakam is another artist suing his label, this time its Warner Music, because they refuse to accept or acknowledge that copyright law allows the artist to reclaim their works after 35 years.
And if you are not aware, Universal and Sony are also in the courts because of the same thing; not allowing artists to reclaim their rights.
And the world just keeps creating money out of thin air, as Tik Tok now has a licensing arrangement with Universal Music Group, along with Sony, which it announced in November. So here is another revenue stream for the major labels.
How much of it gets filtered back to the artists?
That’s why they are selling their rights for a large upfront payment. Take the money and run.