Copyright is a constant in the news cycle.
Investment funds are purchasing licenses to music catalogues that make money. Streaming services have shown how much money they pay to the copyright holders which in most cases are the labels, the publishers, the few artists who own their rights and now, Hedge Funds and Investment Funds.
The three major music labels jointly brought in over $25 billion in revenue last year, with $12.5 billion coming from streaming recorded revenue alone. Spotify payments represent around a third of that streaming total. Major label profits combined in 2021 exceeded $4 billion.
Furthermore, social media services like Facebook, Tik Tok, Snapchat and the like also pay a lot of license fees to the copyright holders. Even games like Roblox had to settle a $200 million suit around licensing fees to the publishers and labels. There is a lot of money going out to copyright holders which isn’t filtering to the actual people who make those copyrights valuable.
Then again, a lot of those people are dead and their copyrights are unfortunately held by corporations (instead of being in the Public Domain) who might pay a few million or a few thousands to the artists heirs. Sort of like a lifetime pension that reverts to the spouse and then to the kids.
From a Metal point of view, investment fund, Tempo Music acquired a majority stake in some of Korn’s recordings and compositions. And another investment fund called, Round Hill Music did a deal with members of Supertramp.
David Bowie’s catalogue went for a lot and he’s not even alive to spend it. So did Bob Dylan to Universal Music Group, who is figuring out how to spend his $400 million at his age. And Neil Young sold 50% of his stake in his song to Hipgnosis for $150 million.
81 year old Tina Turner also sold her rights to BMG (a music publishing company) along with her image and likeness. “Chanisaw Charlie” from WASP comes to mind and how “Charlie” the label boss in the song, whores the image of the dead rock stars.
And the cases for plagiarism in music just keep coming.
You see, I find it hard to believe that an artist is so original and free from influence. And yes, some songs might sound the same or have similarities. Hell the whole Southern Rock genre sounded the same in the 70’s and so did the Blues Rock genre from the same period. They actually both sounded the same.
Listen to progressive music like Yes, ELP and Rush and you would start to hear a lot of similarities. It’s just how creativity works. Nothing is created in a vacuum, free from influences. Creativity is a sum of our influences and experiences.
Plagiarism cases don’t happen much in metal and hard rock circles these days, but if any of the artists have a hit song right now, well, where there is a hit, there is a writ.
Drake and Chris Brown are in court over copyright infringement. Kate Perry just won her suit. Bad Bunny is also sued for infringement. Ed Sheeran has a special team that constantly fights plagiarism court battles.
And Taylor Swift is almost done re-recording her old songs to get away from a restrictive contract in which her copyrights are owned by her original label and for some reason they had the right to sell those rights on to anyone, which they already did.
In other words, they used Taylor Swift as a bargaining chip, sold the copyrights they held in her music and took the money with no compensation to the artist.
“Frontiers” from Italy is constantly putting money out there to get famous artists from the 80’s and 90’s to record new music for them and to re-record their old songs for the label.
From looking at the metal and rock genre, “Frontiers” have the highest releases from any label that I am aware off. I guess the Frontiers execs are aware that having assets like “copyright” under their control, makes good business sense.
Those copyright assets will never go down to zero. Because streaming pays those who hold the copyrights and the money is in holding the copyrights for the life of the artist plus 70 years after death. In some countries its 90 years after death.
In other words, music is a better investment than anything else. If you buy physical property, you would need to maintain it, renovate it and keep paying bills for utilities, however music just scales. And artists will keep on creating.
And get ready for the battle between AI created deepfake songs of dead pop stars and copyright.
AI can create new songs from Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra or Michael Jackson. A company called OpenAI can generate new pop songs in the style of these artists. It’s not studio quality, more like garage demo’s as the AI creates derivative versions of music they’ve already released and new lyrics based on the songs the artist previously released.
But the biggest issue always facing artists is payments.
The streaming services have secret licensing agreements with the music publishers and the labels. These black box deals are worth a lot to the labels and publishers.
But the music publishers and labels are in these positions of negotiating power because of the works that the artists have created, however those licensing monies do not filter down to the artists.
Then again, these kinds of black box creative accounting from the labels is engrained in their system. It’s nothing new.
But I’ll sign my contract baby, and I won’t you people to know
Every penny that I make, I’ve got to see where my money goes
From “Working For MCA” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
But artists don’t see where their money goes and they haven’t seen for a very long time.
And when the labels had the power and control of the distribution chain before Napster, they could sign artists to the most crappiest deals ever. Which they still enforce today.